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Interview 17

Age at interview: 49
Brief Outline: Her husband was admitted to ICU because of a brain aneurysm. She spent eight weeks visiting him in two different hospitals, sometimes staying overnight.
Background: Sales assistant, married with two adult daughters. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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In 2004 her husband was admitted to ICU because of a brain aneurysm and later developed a lung infection. He spent 5 weeks in ICU, 1 days on a ward and was then transferred to a second hospital for surgery, where he spent 2 weeks. 

While her husband was in ICU she visited him every day. When he was transferred to a second hospital, which was some distance from their home, she stayed overnight in the hospital for the first week and then drove there daily for the next 1 weeks. She praised the care, support and information she received from ICU staff and the support she received from family, two of whom were nurses. She was concerned about her husband's care in the ward, where he spent 1' days before being transferred to a second hospital, because there were fewer nurses per patient and they were extremely busy. She didn't eat very well during the time her husband was in hospital and lost a considerable amount of weight. 

Her husband is now back at work part-time in a new, less demanding job. Although his illness has had an impact on their finances, she feels they are closer as a family and now appreciate life now.  
 
 

She wanted her husband to be able to breath by himself but it was difficult to focus only on this...

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And he was in hospital in ICU for five and a half weeks? 

Yeah. 

What were your thoughts and feelings right from the beginning, in the middle and to the point where then he was well enough to be moved? What were your main concerns? 

Just to get him right again and all I wanted, all I kept wanting him to do was come off the oxygen so that, because I was trying to work towards getting him to [another hospital] because I knew that they couldn't fix him completely, if you know what I mean. Not that he was broke but I knew that he had to go to [another hospital] to get this thing clamped or whatever, the blood vessel in his head clamped. Because until he'd had that done he was never going to be better. It could have bled again and I knew he wasn't safe until he got there and had that done. 

So all I kept thinking was to the next stage. Let's get him off the oxygen. Let's get him off the C-PAP. Let's get him breathing on his own. Let's get him to [the other hospital]. Let's get him fixed but that's all. But like I say every time we got somewhere something would happen. He'd have to go back or he'd have to go back on the oxygen to give him a rest overnight because he was tired and because. And then they had to give him two, I think that it was a lot of blood. Not one, two lots of blood because obviously they were taking the blood samples off him to see the state of his chest. And because they were only taking small amounts every hour but all the small amounts were adding up. So when they gave him a blood transfusion he perked up for a couple of days and that was better. 

But I just kept hoping for the next stage really and thinking, right we've got through that. Now let's get. And I'd say to the nurses, 'So once he's on that C-PAP how long does it?' And I'd ask them questions. 'How long does he have to stay on that for? What do his oxygen levels have to be before we can take him off that?' And I'd ask them what, you know, when they were taking the blood samples if that's good. 'Can he come off that now? Can he go on C-PAP?' And I'd stand at the end and they'd explain things to me and show me stuff.
 

 

Her life was so focussed on the hospital she hardly slept, worried every time the phone rang, and...

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I was just so tired and your mithered to death, your mind is so mithered. But you're just completely focused. Your whole mind is focused on the hospital and absolutely nothing else. That's all you can think about is getting there and I mean, they had my mobile phone number. I used to be on the beach with my dog at six in the morning and if my mobile phone went off at a funny hour I'd jump out of my skin, you know, because you knew it was. And if it came up private number I just knew it was the hospital and even though you just jump out of your skin and answer it. And to drive from here to hospital and try and concentrate when they're saying to you, 'You've got to come here.' And you've just got to completely think. You know you've got to really switch your brain off. And I've got to do this and you know you've got to do this. You know you've got to get through this. So it's you, you just push and drive yourself to keep going. 

Did you get much sleep in that five and a half weeks? 

Oh God no. I'd sort of sleep for maybe three hours and wake up and then maybe be awake for an hour or so. You know you think about the day and then you'd nod back off again and then, like I say, I used to be on the beach every morning at six with my dog. 

To be honest with you I wasn't very patient with people because I used to think they'd come out with stupid things and stupid statements and ask so many stupid questions when it was as plain as the nose on your face that the man was really sick. You only had to go there. They shouldn't, I don't know I felt like I was being mithered but my family know me so well that they didn't mither me because they know that I would probably bite a chunk out of them [laughs]. I've got a lot of patience with children and that and animals and everything normally. Not with grown-ups. I'm not very patient with grown-ups [laughs].
 

 

Throughout her husband's illness, she always believed he'd survive, even when he'd improved and...

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One nurse said, 'Do you know you're amazing', [laughs]. You know because I never lost my hope and I thought' But I really do believe that if he was going to die he'd have died in the field. I mean he died twice in the field and they brought him back. The helicopter people, medics, brought him back. You know he nearly died up there in the hospital but they brought him back. So if he was going to die, you know, I mean he's not a bloody cat is he? He'd have been dead in the field. I said, 'He won't die. He'd have died ages ago if he was going to die. I'm telling you he will not die.' And, you know, I really felt. I think if he was going to die I would have felt it and I'd never ever felt one, when even he was at rock bottom I never felt that he was ever going to die. They must have thought I'm balmy but there you go. 
 

 

She downplayed her husband's illness to her daughters because she didn't want hospital visiting...

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She downplayed her husband's illness to her daughters because she didn't want hospital visiting...

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I kept things back from my daughters because I didn't want the hospital taking over their lives. I wanted them to have something in between. I mean like one of them's got a little boy and the other's got two, the baby and a little girl. And I didn't want. It was monopolising and taking over my life which it should have done, he was my husband and I know he was their father but I kept things from them [laughs]. And I was there one night and it was like 10 o'clock and [my daughter] phoned up and she said she'd phoned up Intensive Care and one of the nurses shouted, 'It's your daughter.' 'What's the matter with my dad?' And I said, 'Nothing why' and she said, 'Well if there's nothing the matter with him why are you still there', you know. So I said, 'Oh.' I think I told her a lie. I think something was going wrong and I said, 'Oh he's just, I'm just on my way now he's just, I'm just waiting for the next blood check' or something. But I mean like I just used to try and keep some stuff from them because they didn't need to know everything. I mean things were bad enough anyway without everybody, you know. It was just chaos really. 

And did they know how seriously ill he was or that...?

Yes they did, yeah. But I used to try and play some bits down a bit, you know with. And if they rang me and said, you know, 'He's going to die, something's really wrong here you need to get up here'. Then I would have rung them and said it but if I thought perhaps they were being a bit overly cautious which sometimes I thought they perhaps were then I wouldn't ring them. I'd, although I know they were the experts I used to think, 'Well you know, we've been here before, I'll hang on a bit'. And then he'd pick up. 
 

 

She often unplugged the phone because she needed some time to herself in the afternoon before...

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Did you have to come home and call other people to tell them what was happening? 

Yes. The phone never stopped going and that drove me mad because we used to have to unplug the phone to eat a meal. My sister stayed here with me for the whole time. She'd look after my dog and the house or if I had to go out in the middle of the night she'd be here in the house, you know. And she stayed with me the whole time. But the phone used to get on my nerves. And I know it was only people that cared but you'd have to explain yourself over and over again. And I used to think well if it's anybody important, only the important people had my mobile phone, so I used to unplug it just so as we could get a bit of peace in between four and seven before we went back up there. Or sometimes I'd come home if [my husband] was alright 4ish, and everything depended on his bloods you see. When they took the bloods and the gases and everything and if they were alright then I'd leave. So your life is just revolving around that completely. You don't have a life of your own. You just revolved around that [laughs]. 
 

 

She felt more reassured when her husband was transferred to a specialist hospital, because he was...

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She felt more reassured when her husband was transferred to a specialist hospital, because he was...

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Then he went out of the intensive care then and down onto the ward and we, like I said, we were waiting for a place to come up at [the second hospital]. And he was on the ward for a day and a half and I got there at 11 o'clock on the second day and I phoned my brother that night and I said, 'You've got to get him. You've got to take me to [the second hospital] I don't want him there. He's not to stay there. Take me to [the second hospital] tomorrow. He's not staying on that ward. It's disgusting'. 

So anyway he took the day off work to take me to [the second hospital] the next day but I went into [hospital name] onto the ward and as I got onto the wards, the registrar came up to me and said, 'We've got some good news. [Your husband's] being transferred to [the second hospital] tomorrow'. Oh no it was that afternoon. So I said, 'Oh that's good'. And then I followed the ambulance that he was in to [the second hospital]. And then I stayed in [the second hospital] for a week in the nurses' quarters there. They were a bit like a'

Was it a relatives' room? 

No it was like, it was like hotel but it was just like nurses quarters but it was for relatives. You had to pay to stay there. Yeah. 

So he was in the general ward of the first hospital for a couple of days? 

Yes. 

What was your main concern when he was there? 

Well I just thought that he wasn't being looked after and after being so seriously ill and coming through so much, I used to go then. You never saw a nurse. They were just too busy. There was, they were just all student nurses on the ward. There was too many people. He was in a side ward again because he had this MRSA and there just wasn't enough people to look after. There wasn't enough qualified nurses to look after somebody who'd been so poorly. And I didn't think he was getting, it's not that I wanted him to have loads of attention again but I don't think he was getting looked after at all properly there. 

Could he do anything for himself? 

No, no. 

And were you going there?

I was going there and helping to drink his tea. I shaved him. I washed him and then I'd go back at teatime, the same thing again. Make sure he had his tea and I'd sort the telly out for him. Suppose the nurses did go in and I think an occupational therapist had gone in there to see him. And [my husband] was still very muddled. He wasn't at all with it. He, you know, he was still. Up until days when he was in [the second hospital] he was still really. Obviously he had been sedated and heavily sedated for so long it, you know, they just weren't wearing off him. It must have took a week or two weeks to wear off him. 

So then he was transferred to the other hospital?

To [the second hospital] then yeah.

So I knew he was safe. So I was sleeping better then. And because I knew he was safe and because I knew that I'd been to the hospital and it was, it was spotlessly clean and when you see so many nursing sisters floating round. And there were still student nurses there but they seemed, they weren't harassed. There was more nurses to less patients. There was, you know, probably about eight patients, ten patients on [my husband's] ward whereas in [the first hospital] there was about 30 odd patients to those four nursing staff that are up there. So that's why. It wasn't their f

 

Travelling to and from the hospital, including parking, had been quite expensive and, because her...

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Travelling to and from the hospital, including parking, had been quite expensive and, because her...

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I think the whole time that he was in hospital and it cost me '23 a day to go to [place name] between the petrol, to putting money on his television card, between him phoning me, between perhaps taking bits up there and going through the tunnel each way, it cost over '20 a day. And because he wasn't working and he wasn't claiming sick pay for all that time, we went through '3,500 of our saving paying, just paying the bills really. Yeah. And just getting to see him every day at [place name], yeah. 
 

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