Being back home!

I arrived back home at about 12.30 on Sunday 8th November 2015 and immediately asked Helen why the colours in the kitchen had changed, it was like I thought a new kitchen had been fitted.

I had a bath and then went and watched the television laying on the bed. Life was different, I was watching the racing and it seemed all so surreal for me, everything seemed so quiet. Considering I had been in hospital with numerous machines making constant noise in the ward it was absolute bliss. I dropped off for a couple of hours and heard voices downstairs and made my way down there. My balance was so poor as I held the handrail on the stairs.

Our friend Julie was there and I kind of recognised her but it was a real shock to her as she said that when she went back home she just cried. My face was swelled up and I wasn’t the person she knew. My God Daughter Mia was there and she was 3 years of age. I thought she was 7. Julie’s other 3 kids at home were Rachelle, Kieran and Sam. It was like I had been taken back years in time as with regards Rachelle and Sam I thought they were like 7/8 years younger than they were. Kieran, who arguably I got on best with out of the three of them was someone I didn’t even know and had never heard of him. This was a clear sign that my mind wasn’t working at all.

Later that afternoon I went upstairs and I tried to write but couldn’t. To give you an example of how bad this was I couldn’t even write the number 1, I had writing like a 6 month old baby, that frightened me but it installed a determination in me second to none. For two weeks I was negative and just wanted to die but now I had another chance at life and I had to deal with this through positivity.

My wife cooked me a lamb shank with mashed potato. My face was so bloody sore, I could hardly open my mouth to eat. It took me ages.

My wife saw a massive improvement in my speech and memory and posted on social network that I was a shadow of the man I was just three days before.

I went to bed that night thinking I could sleep forever but I hardly slept, I lay there hour after hour just staring at the ceiling. My body needed to rest and my head wanted sleep. It annoyed the hell out of me.

I got up the next day and Helen had sorted my medication, I had to take 4 tablets of which two were steroids, one was an anti-epileptic tablet to stop seizures and the other was an anti-depressant. We sat there talking and she filled me in with what really happened as I had no memory really, I remembered a few things here and there but not the real truth in how I had wanted to die throughout my 16 days in hospital. I know I was a nightmare patient but I am sure all the staff realised that I wasn’t thinking logically, my brain was literally gone.  I felt that the world had changed so much, all in the space of under three weeks. My wife went out and got me some chips and this showed how bad I was. A simple portion of chips which I would normally eat in 2 minutes took me about half an hour. I just couldn’t eat, I was in unbearable pain opening my mouth to put food in. It was so frustrating.

I had my first visitor that night, a good friend of mine called Matt. He thought ‘wow I can actually talk again and put sentences together’ which I obviously couldn’t the day he saw me in hospital the day before the operation. We were sitting watching the television and joking like old times, we both sort of thought it was amazing. Matt thought I looked a bit weak still for instance when I was holding a cup of coffee my hands were trembling. Overall he said it was a massive improvement in such a short space of time. I showed Matt the scar too which he said was already healing well. I was calling myself a freak at what was happening, he agreed. Matt stayed most of the evening because it was like the ‘normal’ Andy was back. He went away thinking Andy’s beating this and what a change in the matter of 5 days.

That night I went to bed again and the same thing happened, I couldn’t sleep. I would drop off for 10 minutes every now and then and just stare at the ceiling. I was afraid to move because my scar was so painful. My swelling had gone down substantially from the horrific view I had when I first saw it post operation. I was in more or less constant pain.

The next day was the same as Monday, time stood still, the street seemed so quiet, it was like I had been transported into a total different life to that I led pre diagnosis. We went to Helen’s work and I met her colleagues, they were so nice to me. They helped Helen so much through my time in hospital, I appreciate that so much. We went over my Mum and Dad’s and stayed talking for like 3 hours. My Dad just sat staring at me, as though he had seen a ghost. I was a different person to when they last saw me 4 days before the day after my operation. It was great to see them, maybe this could put them at ease. Along with Helen, Louise and all my real friends, they must have gone through hell.

I went to bed that night and couldn’t sleep again, I don’t really know why but I think the steroids had a major impact. It could have been anxiety, I don’t know, but my god it was tiring me out at the very time I needed to build up my strength.

On Wednesday my wife took the dressing off, the photos as below:

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That frightened me, I had no idea it was that big but then again I have just had a major brain operation. My face was still swollen as you can see around my eye. This was my last day with the clips on, the next day they were being removed. I was scared, would my head always have ‘my war scar’.

About lunchtime there was a knock at the door. It was a parcel addressed to me and I thought someone had sent me flowers. It was post stamped Mansfield, I don’t know anyone from Mansfield. I opened the wrapping and all I saw was a sea of chocolate, much more my thing than flowers!

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I stood there aghast. I opened the card and I was truly blown away, totally overwhelmed. I have assisted on many training courses at work and this was from one set of students from late 2013 two years ago. It was so special, for them all to be thinking of me whilst I went through the hell in hospital was incredible. I just kept looking at the card, I was gobsmacked and this was the only time since I left hospital that I became tearful. I have had some great times in my life and that was one of them. They are just a fantastic crew from literally all over the UK, all of them are true lifelong friends.

My friend Katie visited later in the day, she was shocked I wasn’t in bed. She was amazed at how quickly I had been discharged from hospital following a major operation and how well I seemed in myself. She said both me and Helen were calm and relaxed as we told her what had happened about the diagnosis and my stay in hospital, some of which I could recall with Helen filling in the gaps. She said I remained positive even when I reflected on what had actually happened considering how quickly my health deteriorated. She could obviously see the support my magnificent wife gave me but also that I seemed much less stressed than normal. Katie was relieved that I was on the road to recovery.

On Thursday 12th November I went to have the 42 clips out and to be honest it was a total breeze.

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It hardly hurt and I was told by the Nurse Practitioner that my lumps where the scar was could take 12 months to heal. The particular area of my head felt weird, it was very spongy but the pain was going away by the hour. I really felt confident. The Nurse advised me to use Johnsons baby shampoo and vaseline, probably the most priceless advice I have ever had.

On the Friday I received a call from the University of Hospital Wales and after a brief conversation  the lady said ‘Andy, you sound fantastic’. Maybe I was a freak, I wasn’t talking like someone who just 8 days before went ‘under the knife’ so to speak. I was told I had an appointment the following Monday with my Consultant  Mr Ravindra Nannapenini to discuss my results. This Friday was the day the terrorist activities erupted in Paris. I felt complete sadness at those who went out for the night and lost their lives. This made me more determined than ever to beat this as I had been given a second chance.

I visited my Consultant on the Monday and he said an abnormally large meningioma tumour had been removed from my brain, a tumour he said I had for up to 15 years. He said I was to have an MRI scan in 3 months in case it reappears which will be removed by radiotherapy.

I felt relieved and certainly Helen did as he said that I was allowed to go on two holidays in the summer of 2016, one of which is my surprise 50th birthday holiday my wife has arranged and we  depart the UK for this next week on 11th July 2016.

This was the culmination of a month in which I went through every possible emotion you can live through. I had the belief in that I can get through this, I WILL get back to normality, from the negativity of wanting to die as my brain slowly died I was now 100% positive about the rest of my life.

Being home is great, it is WHERE the heart is!

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Life in the HDU and the Craniotomy!

I was admitted to the A & E department at the University Hospital of Wales on 28th October 2015 at about 19.00 after being forced to take the drastic action to discharge myself earlier from Llandough Hospital (see ‘The Interim’). It was a necessity that I was cared for by specialists in the Neurology department at the University Hospital of Wales, they could save me from prolonging this ongoing nightmare. My sister had driven all the way down from Warwickshire and arrived not long after we arrived at A & E and it was very emotional seeing her. Apart from two fleeting visits from my two step daughters in Llandough Hospital Helen had been my only source of family and visitor. It was time that my wider family knew I feared ‘my time had come’.

I then spent about 7 hours in a side room during which my sister noticed I was talking utter nonsense, a clear sign my mind was going. Perhaps my wife who had been there for 5 days had got used to me getting worse by the day. I was seen amongst others by an A & E Doctor and a Consultant who both explained that my brain was being pushed back to the hole in your skull leading to your spine and that the steroids had been used to stop inflammation. He explained that if the tumour had gone through the hole I would have suffered irreparable damage. It was the first time since I was diagnosed that I finally got told why an operation had to take place, it felt like a relief but also a realisation of the seriousness of my illness. This confirmed how time critical my appointment at the Doctors on the previous Friday 23rd October had been.

They moved people around in ward T4 which is the Higher Dependency Unit (HDU) of the neurological department to give me my own room and that I would be under constant observation. I felt for the first time as though something was actually going to be done.

In five days in hospital at Llandough Hospital my speech, mind, balance, strength and short term memory had gone downhill fast and all this on heavy medication to control the tumour. Unlike in Llandough Hospital where I was visited at all times I was now limited to strict visiting times of 15.00 to 17.00 and 18.00 to 19.00. Due to the lack of strength I had I was now restricted to being transported down to Concourse to see my visitors in a wheelchair with my fantastic wife pushing me.

On 29th October my sister broke the news to my Mum and Dad, what they went through on that day is something which only they can answer. My sister said to my parents that she had some bad news and that I was in hospital. My Mum thought my sister was going to say I had fallen off my push bike, but no, it was far worse, I was laid up in hospital seriously ill with a brain tumour. My Mum shouted out hysterically ‘my family’ and she said to me that she struggled to contend with this news as she thought I was so fit. For someone who had already lost two daughters it must have been horrific for her as she approached her 88th birthday. I understand she didn’t even sleep that night in her bed. My Dad was absolutely staggered.

On 30th October I was visited by my Mum and Dad and also my son Ben who had travelled up on a three hour train journey. There I was laying in my own room not knowing exactly what was actually happening to me, my Mum said I looked so young laying there on the bed. With my body in general deteriorating rapidly I was now into the unknown, I had to fight this period of my life with every ounce of strength I could muster, I couldn’t see the ones I love most suffer.

I was cared for very well by the Neurology department but all my short term memory had gone. Once a conversation ended it was like it had never happened, I could not retain any information at all and this was causing me endless problems. I didn’t know what I was doing, I did not know what the plan was and I was convinced I was being left to die slowly and I would never get through it. I was adamant that I wanted to go home and die in my own bed. My wife knew the date of the operation was scheduled for 5th November but as soon as I was told I retreated to not knowing when and what is happening. My heart goes out to people with short term memory loss.

The food was shocking, so bad I didn’t eat very much. However, not for the first time my wife came to the rescue and actually brought me in my favourite kebab on the Sunday. That really felt like the final meal for a man on death row, I felt like I was dying…………….slowly.

I had my first Psychological assessment the day after and I was put on anti-depressants as I repeatedly wanted to discharge myself, in a nutshell, I was in a hell of a state……….nothing like the normal me.

I then spent a couple of days in the main ward, known as B4, and every day patients would come in and the very next morning they would be taken away and I would never see them again. These were people under what is known as W & W (watch and wait), when people have fixed appointments for an operation rather than getting the treatment straightaway. The difference with me is that I had been hospitalised since my diagnosis and surgery was extremely urgent. It was this that made me more or less self-destruct, thoughts running through my head, why are people going the following morning, why on earth am I being left waiting, day after day, nothing happening and if the worse happens I AM not dying in hospital I want to die at home. This is why many suicidal, negative thoughts entered my mind. I was repeatedly told by nurses and my wife but I could not retain any information, I simply did not function.

On Wednesday 4th November my wife became aware there was a problem with my liver function test results being too high due to the anti-epileptic drugs I had been on at the University of Hospital Wales and due to this there was no way the Anaesthetist would carry out the operation. This was a life or death moment, I wouldn’t have survived without this operation.

I underwent a Psychological evaluation that day as I wanted to be discharged. It was during this that I couldn’t recognise simple words and pictures and it was declared that I wasn’t fit enough to make my own decisions. I was definitely a vulnerable person physically, psychologically and emotionally. With this established there was a D O L (Depravation of Liberty) put in place to avoid me making a decision to discharging myself. Without the D O L I could have just gone……….but in hindsight, I couldn’t walk.

I had many visitors on my daily wheelchair ride down to the Concourse and to all of you who came in (Michelle, Nicola, Dom, John, Claire, Yvonne, John, Mum, Dad, Matt and Nikki) this kept my spirits up. However, I was still noticeably going downhill rapidly. My speech was non-existent and the day before I went under operation Nikki realised I was only ok when she said ‘you thought you could get away without seeing me, no chance’ and I smiled at her, it was a sign to her I was at least functioning, all be it not a lot.

The next day was the 5th November 2015, bonfire night, how ironic as all this happened around the country I had to have my very own firework nullified. It was a day I will truly never FORGET! Firstly, I was due to be operated on early in the day but because I had eaten a mini mars bar I couldn’t. Despite my wife clearing out all my food the previous night she had left the tiniest of packages in my bag and I had managed to find it because I was starving as I wasn’t allowed any food.

I then wanted to be discharged, I didn’t realise that this was the DAY! My wife was contacted as I was refusing a blood test and injections, what were they for went through my mind?

A nurse admitted that I had been treated disgracefully as the results of my liver function test were waiting to be picked up and she realised I had to be operated on, this man simply cannot go on like this.

My wife enquired about whether my speech will come back and they just didn’t know until I had the operation what consequences, if any, there will be.

As I was readied for my operation I just remember my bed flying down corridors and in and out of lifts with a porter and two young female nurses driving me so to speak. A Doctor then started talking to me when I arrived in theatre and fitted various drips. It was when I was injected in my left arm I drifted off for the most important ‘sleep’ of my life. I was in a very bad way, I had that very day said to my wife if I had a choice live or die I wanted to die, down mostly to going in for an operation with barely any of me working. I regret saying this and upsetting my wife but I felt like my whole body had shut down and I would never recover. This was the last time I would be awake with the tumour in full flow.

How on earth my wife coped whilst I was in surgery for nearly six hours I don’t know. She went home and updated all of our friends on social networks and their concern was simply incredible. She rang the hospital twice and both times she was told I was still in surgery. She then made a decision to go to the hospital after about four hours and wait in the Neurology waiting room until she got the nod about my surgery. That is all she wanted, for 13 days whilst I lay in two hospitals her mental strength in the face of adversity was amazing. If our roles had been reversed I would have been like a quivering wreck, she displayed calmness personified as she waited in obvious agony for the nod that I had hopefully come out of surgery. If the unthinkable had happened and I hadn’t pulled through, obviously I wouldn’t have known, but she would have to live with that for the rest of her life. I have the utmost respect and admiration for her.

I came out of surgery about 21.30 and I was transferred back to the same theatre preparation room where I had drifted off. A young male Doctor appeared to be shouting ‘Andrew, Andrew’. My head was banging, he probably wasn’t shouting, and when I finally came round not really in the land of the living I was then asked a number of questions ‘What is your name?’, ‘Where are you?’, ‘Where do you live?’, ‘Where do you work?’, ‘What day is it?’, ‘Are you married?’, ‘How many children have you got?’, the questions were endless. The only answers I could give were my name was Andy and I lived in Cardiff but that was enough for them, my brain had given two positive answers.

I was then transferred back to the HDU and my wife came in and I came around heavily sedated and smiled at her, to her that was enough, she now knew I had survived. She deserved this after going through hell for 13 days. I then drifted off and this was probably the best sleep I had in either hospital, but understandable due to the massive operation I had just undergone.

The day after my operation was my Mum’s birthday and as the Consultants and Nurses did their morning rounds I came face to face with my Neurologist and will never forget his words ‘I GOT IT ALL OUT’. I felt relieved and I was more determined than ever to beat this experience. The tumour was a Meningioma and was 10 x 9 x 4.5 cm in size. To this day I still don’t understand how something that size can fit into my head.

I remember later that morning I stumbled to the toilet, my balance was shot, I walked like someone severely drunk but wanted to keep my dignity and walk there myself, I couldn’t use a bedpan. I looked in a mirror for the first time and oh my god the shock was horrific. I resembled a person who had been severely beaten up, so much so that I didn’t even recognise myself.

My Mum and Dad came in about 15.00 that day along with my sister. Yet again it was tearful but it was my Mum’s birthday. I think she had been given the best birthday present she could ever have, her son had survived the operation despite the unwelcome view of me. I will never forget the look on my Dad’s face, he looked frightened for me and in all the time I had known him I had never seen him so emotional. Tears were flowing, the emotion of me being in hospital for what was now 2 weeks just fell out, I was a shadow of the man who had lived on this earth for 49 years.

My wife showed me cards sent to me and Facebook messages from the night of my operation. I just cried and cried as each and every one meant so much. I had no idea that so many people would show such an outpour of concern and love. They say you know who your real friends are at the time of a crisis and this was the day, it was incredibly overwhelming for me

The very next morning on 7th November I had my drain taken off my wound and the catheter taken out, it was like I took a massive step forward. However, I was in so much pain with the swelling on my left side I could not eat a thing, not even a single corn flake. The Consultants and Nurses did there morning rounds and I heard the best news I could have as I was told I will probably go home the following day. They knew I was severely depressed and that my wife would be there to care for me, home was where I belonged.

This news cheered me up no end I could now see that my life would in fact exist out of the Neurology department at the University Hospital of Wales. I had one night left and I didn’t sleep a wink. I sat on the floor for hours as the time dragged, each minute seemed like an hour. I think I was afraid to go to sleep in case I never woke up. Looking back maybe it was this anxiety ‘I will not wake up’ which had stopped me sleeping in 15 days. My bag was packed at 04.30 and all the nurses were astonished.

On Sunday 8th November my wife arrived at about 09.00 but we had to wait until about 12.00 for the medication I needed to be sorted. Time was dragging, I had to escape. I was incredibly anxious in case they changed their mind I HAD to get through the entrance. We then got the nod it was done and I got up and walked very gingerly out of the secure Neurology department for the first time in 11 days. As I left the hospital I breathed in the fresh air, I saw real people, I saw cars and life suddenly became liveable again.

I had finally broken free from the worst 16 days of my life and the demons caused by what had laid in my brain and it felt so bloody good.

The Interim!

I attended the Doctors at 08.40 on Friday 23rd October to be seen by my GP Dr Thomas. My wife Helen showed him what she had written down regarding things I had said and done and explained her concerns about my health and that I couldn’t wait for the outpatient department following my appointment with him on 14th October.

Dr Thomas carried out a number of observations on my reflexes and obviously realised I wasn’t right. He rang the medical emergency unit and immediately wrote a letter which we were to give to Llandough Hospital who he said were expecting me. He explained that I should go home and pack a bag as I would probably stay in overnight.

As I left I still wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, it was a typical ‘loss of mind’ motion. At home my wife was rushing around trying to get going and I was extremely complacent about it, far from the normal reaction of myself. I wasn’t in a rush, I didn’t understand the urgency………………at the time.

I arrived at Llandough Hospital about 09.45 and bumped into an old friend Roger who I hadn’t seen for over ten years. I started chatting as though I had just walked into a local shop, it was like reality for me had gone underground. My wife was completely the opposite, in a hurry to get there.

I was registered and my first appointment was having an ECG which I apparently found funny as the clips kept falling off my chest. I apparently passed that test.

I was still very relaxed, not knowing the real reason why I was there, I just thought ‘oh well the doc wants me to have some tests’.

I then went through a CT scan and an X-Ray which to this day I do not remember undertaking. I was then taken into a room and spoken to by a Consultant with a Doctor, my wife and five trainee students in attendance. I was subjected to lots of observations on my reflexes and all over my body. It was discovered I had a weakness in my leg on the right hand side. In that room there were times when visibly my speech began to go, I knew what I wanted to say but the words would not come out. By taking your speech away is a scary episode I can tell you that.

It was in mid-afternoon when the Doctor sat in front of me and my wife and explained that they had found a large mass on my brain and that they had to keep me in, to which my immediate response was ‘I am not staying overnight’. She sat there and just shook her head. I simply had no idea what was happening to me I didn’t truly understand what a large mass really meant. The X-Ray which I had was done to see if what they had found had metastasized and luckily it hadn’t. This at least confirmed that it had not spread. I understand through my wife that she explained it was operable, it was contained and it was thought to be benign. The reason why I had to stay in overnight was that due to the size of the tumour I was at high risk of having seizures. My wife was quite relieved as she had suspected for a week that something serious was wrong with me and at the very least they would diagnose what it was. The brain tumour was now in full flow, within two weeks from the initial headache I was deteriorating quickly both mentally and physically.

I was admitted as in patient as I would have to have an MRI scan at that hospital before I could be transferred to the University Hospital of Wales. I was immediately put on steroids and anti-epileptic drugs as this medication would control the tumour and reduce the life threatening chances.

It was the day when my wife saved my life. If I hadn’t gone to the Doctor’s that day and subsequently to the hospital, I would have probably died or been left severely brain damaged by the end of the weekend. My wife had wanted me to go back to the Doctor’s since the previous weekend but I had said let’s give it a few days. It appears my stubbornness on not going when she said earlier on in the week could have potentially cost me my life. I thought I only had a headache and didn’t feel well, I had absolutely no idea it was far worse. I just battled on as we all do in that position.

I had never known anyone who had a brain tumour and nor had I been associated with anyone who had suffered a brain tumour. In all honesty I thought you died if you had one.

I was referred to West 6, a ward for people who had respiratory problems. I was unique as in being diagnosed with a brain tumour I was now laying in a ward amongst 14 other people who were in the right place for their treatment. I didn’t fit in, I shouldn’t have been there………….that was my thought.

I think it is when I was left for the night by my wife that depression set in, inside I felt mentally I had died, I felt as though my body was going to follow suit. I wondered what I was really doing in here but to be detained made me think it was the worse. I was now beginning the biggest fight of my life.

It was the following morning on Saturday 24th October when my sister Louise rang my mobile. I answered the phone but could hardly speak. She was ringing because my son Ben had got in touch with her saying he hadn’t heard from me. I managed to mumble the words ‘ring Helen’ out. This was a repetition of the previous day when you open your mouth and the words just cannot come out. My sister rang my wife and got the full story of where I was and what had happened, it was a total shock to her. A decision was made not to tell my Mum and Dad at the outset, they were in their late 80’s, all of us couldn’t see them go through the stress of this as having lost two of their children they surely could not lose another.

Over the weekend I didn’t sleep very well, mostly down to a reaction to the steroids but also because these gave me non-stop hiccups. It makes me laugh now but I needed all the energy I had to get through this whole nightmare.

On Monday 26th October I asked a nurse whether I had brain cancer and she said they cannot confirm or deny it. However, a fatal opportune conversation almost immediately between two nurses at the end of my bed and the word ‘Velindre’ came up. I knew that was a cancer hospital, I felt I was being lied to. I was devastated beyond belief.

I could still walk so I took myself out of the main hospital to try and get my head round this. As I sat outside looking out to the countryside I envisaged that I was dying. I hadn’t said goodbyes to my family, my friends, just everyone I knew. I was in floods of tears, it was the most emotional time of my life and I had no control over it. In my mind the end was nigh and it was frightening. It was at that moment a nurse who had recently started working as a trainee at Llandough Hospital and worked the previous day in the ward where I was came by where I was sitting and I just collapsed on her. She was just amazing, she consoled me so much……………my guardian angel at that point in time. She was working elsewhere in the hospital and even turned in late for her shift after helping me. Two days later she came in to my ward to see how I was, that was appreciated so much. I don’t know what her name is but she is very special in my eyes.

I had an MRI scan on Tuesday 27th October and continued being in the same ward. This wasn’t right, great nurses and brilliant care for me, but I needed to be in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, that was where the Neurology ward was. I needed specialist treatment as my speech, mind and memory were going day by day. I was going downhill at a rate of knots and I was lucky I was on medication. If I hadn’t been in Llandough hospital I don’t think I would be here today.

I had many text and social network messages from friends and work colleagues and I tried my hardest to reply to some, the majority of my replies did not make sense. I could not type, I could not spell, I was basically forced to give up replying to them. Looking back at some messages I have seen it is funny NOW, however, what the recipient thought I do not know, in a way it was like I was saying my final goodbyes. I will say the love and concern I had from all just blew me away. It was the hardest realism ever, I am sat here enjoying a great life and seeing it all taken away.

It was on Wednesday 28th October that my case took a massive turn. I was at my wits end, every other patient was being seen for 5-10 minutes and I was just dosed up with medication and the regular tests. I felt like it was just prolonging my death in hospital. I broke down completely to my wife, I told her I wanted to die and became really depressive talking suicidal. My time was up I thought, I wanted to die to ease the pain and not prolong my mental agony. A nurse Lee sat with me for an hour and he was a great help, a man who was doing such a difficult job with distinction.

I told my wife I have to see my Mum, I needed to say goodbye to the woman who had been my inspiration. I was adamant I was going to discharge myself. Helen feared for my mental state and promised I would see my Mum. She rang my sister and explained her concern for my mental state and suicidal tendencies and my sister set off straight away on the long journey to Cardiff.

My wife was incredibly upset and said to the nurse Amy and a Doctor that this can’t go on. She said it is unacceptable and told them ‘Can’t you see what this is doing to Andy’, She said I needed to go to the University Hospital of Wales. Amy and the female doctor had a private chat and then the curtains were drawn around my bed. They explained if I discharged myself I couldn’t have any medication which I had to have. They advised me to go home, have a shower and enter A & E at the University Hospital of Wales making out I had a headache. I 100% had to be there before 19.30. This was imperative as it was procedure that Llandough Hospital would have to submit the paperwork into the system to say I was discharged and this was her finish time. Amy said by law the University Hospital of Wales cannot refuse me treatment and if the paperwork had gone in the system I would have to go through the whole process again. They had given me the chance and we had to take it.

At 17.00 we left Llandough Hospital and unfortunately got caught in heavy traffic. We had to get there and we did. It was a traumatic five days, I had got far worse, mentally I had gone, but my life needed living.

The calm before the storm!

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I start this blog in October 2015 which is when I began a total life changing period.

I began the month in really good health walking and cycling a lot and I actually felt fitter than I had ever been since my early 20’s. I had got a promotion at work and in general life was great and I was able to carry out both my personal and working life exactly as I wanted.

On about Friday 9th October I woke halfway through the night with what I thought was a partial headache, nothing major, and as I rarely suffer a headache it was nothing to worry about at the time. My wife gave me pain relief tablets which got me through the day and helped the headache ease. I just didn’t feel right, you know those days when you just don’t feel your normal self!

This carried on over the weekend and my wife thought that I may be suffering from stress induced migraines as earlier in 2015 I was off work with stress.

I returned to work on Monday 12th October and as each day went by the headaches continued and my work colleagues realised that I wasn’t the ‘Andy’ they know. I didn’t recognise this because as each hour went on unknown to me I was slowly losing my mind, I wasn’t functioning properly, my whole life just became totally different.

I went to see the Doctor on Wednesday 14th October and he said he would refer me to the hospital for a MRI scan which will be in about 2 months and recommended I took Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. The latter wasn’t strong enough so it was time to use Helen’s medication she used for her extreme migraines.

It was two days later on Friday 16th October I went out with work on a job and there were fears from my colleagues about my health. They thought I may have had a stroke although I didn’t show the signs of a stroke. It was that night that I first notably confused my words according to my wife and this continued over the weekend. She began writing down things I was saying.

I remember on Saturday 17th October I was having a coffee and a bacon sandwich with two friends and I realised I couldn’t speak as freely as I did. This was when it first hit me that maybe I really had something wrong with me aside from the headache.

I now know that my wife feared that something serious was wrong with me and she actually suspected I had a brain tumour. As the weekend progressed I got worse continuing to get confused and misplace my words over what I was actually seeing. I was on a quick descent away from normality.

My wife wanted me to go to the Doctors again but I said let’s give it a few days. She didn’t have the legal right to make an appointment and needed to get either my verbal or written authorisation before taking things into her own hands. I emailed BUPA on Monday 19th October and completed a web online form explaining my symptoms and that I wanted an MRI. I knew this would cost me thousands but I couldn’t wait if this really was a life or death situation. I was promised a phone call within 48 hours – nothing was received until I had a phone call 38 days later.

My working life continued as it was on 19th October and I went away to London on the Tuesday 20th leading in to Wednesday 21st October. I remember talking in a café bar whilst there to a student I had previously helped in their training and I said something which she laughed at. My initial reaction was that she had been incredibly disrespectful to me but did I know what I had actually said, I now feel I didn’t. Looking back now, the tumour was now really accellerating, however, I had no idea what was laying inside my head.

On Thursday 22nd October my wife woke me up when she went to work and she said I was like a little boy lost, tucked up under the covers. I wondered what I was doing that day and she said I had work. I told her I would go in late but would stay in bed for another hour and she thought I wouldn’t go in.

I set off for work at 10.15 as this was mainly due to the hours I had done the previous day and just after I left my house to catch the train I had a text off my Manager who asked if I was going in. I replied saying I was on my way in to work but went to the cashpoint at the garage. I put my card into the machine and when asked for my pin number I had absolutely no idea what it was. This frightened me. For 30 plus years I had used the same pin number but on this day my mind was totally blank, I had no idea what it was. I went in to work not feeling that well but I had a duty to go in as it was my job. I spoke to a good friend at work for about an hour and she said I was like a frightened little boy cowering in a corner and I was saying ‘my time is up’. It is like I knew something was seriously wrong and this is it, this is the day. I have no recollection of this although I do remember speaking to her. Another good friend told me to my face, Andy, there is something wrong you have to go to the GP’s. When she said this I immediately text my wife and asked her to do what she could for me, this was the MOMENT when I realised I wasn’t just unwell. I feared for my life, I could feel everything of me just ebbing away. My wife went to the Doctors that afternoon and was told to ring the following morning.

The next day was Friday 23rd October and this was the date when I woke up and I wouldn’t return home for 16 days. My wife rang the GP’s up at 08.00 and said it was an emergency and after giving them the symptoms I was given an urgent appointment for 08.40. I actually didn’t feel that bad when I woke up but in a matter of hours I would truly find out what was wrong.