Going Home

by - April 20, 2017

August 1st, 2015. I was awake the whole night when I was moved from the MICU to a regular floor. All my gifts and balloons were laid on top of me as I was brought down to the fifth floor. I was settled in around 1 AM. I stared out the window and looked around the room while I listened to my music on my phone. Just waiting for the hours to pass, constantly checking the time. It felt like discharge was so close but so very far away. Finally my family and a couple of friends came in the late morning. I needed one more wound vac change in order to go home. Nurses and doctors came in to check on me one last time and drew up the discharge papers. They read me a summary of my hospital stay, read my discharge summary, and I signed on the dotted line. We packed all my things throughout my stay (you acquire a lot of things I guess within two weeks at a hospital). Nurses transferred me to a wheelchair and I was wheeled to the discharge loop.

The drive home was refreshing. My world had felt black and white. Sterile. Clinical. Driving with the windows down, seeing the vibrant flowers, feeling the hot air and the sunshine all made me feel normal again. My mom drove by a golf course on the way home. I watched golfers swing their arms and clubs. And I remember looking down at my arm and thinking that they have no idea how fortunate they are to be able to do that. Something they probably always think they'll be able to do. At this point my arm had almost no feeling and very limited function. Being able to wiggle my fingers was a huge victory on its own. I was just thankful to still have my arm at all.

We pulled in our driveway to our three-story townhouse. My family and neighbors gathered around me to help me get out of the car. I slowly climbed the flight of stone steps to the front door. As soon as I was inside I went to cozy up on our sofa chair in the living room while my parents set up my room. It was an 85 degree day and I was wrapped in a blanket. My whole body was off, and it was like that for a while. I carefully made my way up another flight of stairs to my bedroom. I snuggled into my bed- my favorite hello and hardest goodbye. I had never wanted to sleep on my right side so badly. It was so uncomfortable with the tubing and the machine constantly attached to me. I put on a movie and relaxed for a few hours.

Finally, after two weeks of being inpatient, I was able to take a shower. While I was in the ICU it was all body wipes and shampoo caps. I was longing to wash my hair with actual shampoo and wash my body with hot water. I undressed and maneuvered my vac out of my sleeves. My boyfriend and mom grabbed a newspaper bag and rubber bands. They fastened it around my wound to keep the water out. My boyfriend held the machine and helped me step into the shower very carefully. Every thing took so much energy out of me. I had to rest against the wall and take breaks to catch my breath just from standing. He squeezed the shampoo bottle for me and I did everything one handed as best I could. Within minutes I was exhausted. Like, I-just-ran-a-marathon kind of exhausted. This was the most my body had done on its own in weeks. I had enough and ended the blissful shower. I just couldn't stand anymore and I was out of breath. We managed to snuggle me into my big white fluffy bathrobe. He brought a chair into the middle of the bathroom. He brushed my hair and blow dried it for me. I would've done it myself but, y'know.

The rest of the day involved many naps. I was like a baby. I needed a nap every two hours and I couldn't help it. This is common among many ICU trauma patients. Fatigue and exhaustion is just so overwhelming and takes a very long time to overcome. I was not independent after discharge for months. I relied heavily on my boyfriend and both my parents for everything, including dozens and dozens of appointments. My mother helped me change, put up my hair, help me shower, shave my legs, cut my food, and put my earrings in. My dad helped me up the stairs, carry around my vac, help me around the dogs, get into a comfortable position in bed, and test my blood sugar. I am grateful for all the help and support I received.

I celebrated my 21st birthday the next day.

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