Ketamine infusion time again and the pain management ward is full, overflowing with patients carrying around their little sling bags of portable pumps. This morning six of us sit in a room attending the physiotherapy information session, it is 9am, day two. Intermittently a couple of pump packs omit beeps that tell us they are about to run out, nobody worries too much about this, we are all experienced pain patients.
The physiotherapist talks about what the various infusions actually do in scientific terms, how the Ketamine dampens down the NMDA pain receptors, these are the demons that keep getting it all wrong and fire massive pain signals that can make our lives hell; the Lignocaine works differently, I don’t remember the explanation, my mind must have wondered at that point.
The physiotherapist knows a lot about pain and is passionate about her job, she understands that some of us need to squirm and wriggle, stand and stretch occasionally to help us deal with being there. She talks about depression, most of us are depressed because of our pain, the losses and grief that comes with it; what a sad bunch we are.
I return to my room on level 5, it is always strange to be in hospital for a week, it is as if I lead two lives, one of them secret. My Ketamine dose is raised and after lunch I lose my glasses, I start looking for them, Oh, they are on my head! Blame the Ketamine, time for a short sleep to let my body adjust to the increased dose and regain some clarity. They have a ‘do not disturb’ sign they can put on your door if you want to sleep, a bit like being in a hotel really, except at Epworth hospital it is their policy to sneak into your room every hour to make sure you are still alive!
The days move along and on Friday, day 5, there is a psychology session about stress and anxiety and of course its effect on pain. There are only two other patients attending so it is an intimate group, we share snippets of our lives and the psychologist has some good ideas that we discuss. There is a box of tissues centre stage as we are all holding back strong emotions that are easily triggered into tears. Afterwards I suggest we have a coffee in the hospital cafe down stairs and for an hour we sit and share bits of ourselves as if we are close friends and have known each other for many years, it is a special time.
Sunday is here, today I will be disconnected from my Ketamine pump and go home and sleep to catch up on the lost hours. I will then depend on the ‘carry over effect’ of the infusion which is rarely as effective as when It is being fed into my body. This week I have been able to walk a few steps without crutches, get around more easily and experience what it used to be like when I was an able bodied person; this feels so empowering, if only it could be like this again always ‘I wish’.
The sun rose this morning at 6.55 but a thick fog obscured most of it, maybe this fogginess is symbolic of how I feel; a little empty, a bit lethargic, I start thinking of how I can translate these feelings into some new art when I am home, I think the colours will be muted, there will be soft lines threading across the paper, signs of the never ending cycle of life and the forces of the elements, nature and change. There will be some sort of bright light breaking through the fog because eventually it always does.