The difference between rest at home and rest in hospital is remarkable. I noticed as soon as I came out of my windowless room.
Whilst in isolation, all I did was potter around, read, write, eat, wash, and sleep. So when I had visitors – I had eight altogether, the last one who came unmasked with a big hug, my first in eight days – I (mostly) had the energy to chat and laugh with them. Reaching a Zen-like state was that simple.
Post-discharge was another story. On Tuesday after lunch, I got dressed ready for my mother to take me home. Even before the official discharge call, doctors and nurses were getting ready for my departure – they had come in unmasked the previous night, and told me the antibiotics dose they were administering would be my last.
(Of course, just to be sure, they also ran a CT scan, and then one more dose of antibiotics, before I got dressed.)
After the blandness of the isolation room, the colours of the world beyond – the unit that brimmed with patients and visitors, and the warm, sunny corridor outside – leapt forward anew. I basked in every one of them.
Yet the moment I crossed that one corridor, my head began to spin. I got sweaty and couldn’t hold myself up anymore. I had to ask to be wheeled to my mother’s car instead.
I have since discovered how easily my energy saps whenever attending to my children’s needs (especially in the mornings), standing too long, or witnessing any sort of emotional stress.
When that happens, I sit down immediately and just zone out. That has really helped me conserve energy for the rest of the day, although it hasn’t been easy.
My children, being so young, still don’t understand why Mummy is taking so long to recover. I guess I will have to keep having the conversations. Both kids’ schools are willing to give extra emotional support, but the onus will always be on me, as their mother, to explain.
I have been very, very lucky. My official diagnosis was Neisseria Meningitidis. I could have lost my CI, my limbs, my eyesight, got into a coma or died. Instead I was walking, just, on my third day in isolation. (Albeit after prising myself into sitting upright of course, with a lot of determined grunting and clutching the bed rails as much as I could with my weakened arms.)
That first time, when I put my feet on the floor, my body felt almost like a leadweight on jelly legs. The next day, I was shuffling more, and my bowel movements were clean.
(Believe it or not, I had to wear a nappy early on despite not eating for three days, but resolved to flush it all out by drinking tons of water. Come day four or five – it was over. Nurses were very impressed.)
Now I am home, I can see that the road is long – but I know I will get there. Full recovery is expected to be six months to a year. Thankfully I have no chronic health conditions. Historically, I barely have had complications arising from my illnesses; I have a strong track record in recovery. Prognosis is good.
Although social care has had to be organised piecemeal, I have welcomed every kind of extra support going – schoolfriends’ mothers, a regular carer, my own friends and neighbours. I am sure everything will come together in time.