I had a chunk of memory fall out of the sky this afternoon and smack me in the back of the neck – which was already feeling stressed with my brain being in a weird space as it was. The chunk of memory was of being in hospital when I was first diagnosed with diabetes – or rather it was from a swathe of time early in the weekend that I just have not been able to reliably recall or reconstruct since all the excitement hit. This may be a bit graphic for medical type stuff, so if that upsets you please miss the next paragraph as it makes me squirm thinking about it. The chunk of memory seems to have been dislodged by reading an article today about a DJ who ended up in hospital with necrotising fasciitis.
I remember the fever and flu-like symptoms and my legs ballooning and turning red – I vaguely remember friends rallying round late night while waiting for an emergency appointment in the morning – I think? I don’t remember much beyond snatches of conversation, a blink of an eye and talking with a GP, then being sent straight to A&E. I do remember having at least one set of drips in – and my parents were there, and my being very concerned that something was even more wrong than the doctors knew. I remember that my legs were bound and wrapped in bandages, and yet as soon as I put my foot on the ground I was leaving wet dark yellow viscous residues on the floor in the shape of my feet – and I’m pretty sure the only reason I wasn’t shrieking was whatever painkillers were already in me. There was a sweet smell of rot – and I remember grabbing my dad as he was the nearest and saying – “All I can smell is rot, and I’m pretty sure its me.” And that’s the last I remember – at least until I opened my eyes with two surgeons standing over me and telling me they’d got my kidneys and liver working again, and did I know I had diabetes.
Sixteen years later, I still have very visibly dark scarring on my legs. I don’t know the details of what they had to do, but apparently they did it on the ward because there wasn’t any time left. We only really found out about what particular bug had decided to complicate the number of things that had all decided to go wrong at once by reading the charts and asking pointed questions. Apparently its the type of bacteria that lives for years in the body waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc and could have been with me since my many bouts of tonsillitis as a child. No one knows, and frankly its not worth tracing back to find out.
My brain being what it is, I can feel and smell it all over again – even as a memory – as well as echoes of the pain, though that could just be the aches of being fifty years old joining in to spread the love. As I look down at my legs, it makes me ever more grateful both for the extra years I’ve had because of the swift actions of doctors, but also for the ongoing care of the NHS – even if it does sometimes feel like gentle bullying for my own good to keep me on the straight and narrow.
My brain has obviously decided that I can cope with this memory now – and perhaps its a timely reminder to not take anything for granted. I’m pretty sure my loved ones will say there’s little chance of my doing that – and that alone is something I’m grateful for.