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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Memoirs ~ 1 ~

My First Milpark Admission 

It was my first admission at Milpark, or perhaps it was the second? All my memories flow into one another and after countless hospital admissions, it's difficult for me to remember them all in the order in which they occurred. It was one of my first hospital admissions at Milpark, after having to carry out my treatments at the Government hospital, commonly known as the Joburg Gen (Charlotte Maxeke). The Cystic Fibrosis ward at the Gen, ward 497, is staffed with fantastic nurses and through private donations has a very comfortable set up. Each room has a microwave, bar fridge, tv and a cozy duvet, far more than you get in private hospitals! Despite the great facilities I couldn't wait for the day that I could begin my treatments at Milpark. Maybe it was because I was still young and not used to being in hospital for 2 weeks at a time on my own, but the rooms at the Gen always felt full of sadness and suffering. I hated every single day I was there and I counted down the days that my medical aid would kick in so that I could begin a new chapter at a private hospital.

Back to my first admission, or one of the first at least... I was of course, very nervous as I always am with change. The rooms were nice, not as cozy and personal as the Gen but they definitely felt "happier" with a view of a beautiful little garden just outside. Far better than the 9th floor view of  nothing but concrete below! We used to refer to the rooms at the Gen as the suicide rooms because of the terrifying fall that was easily accessed by simply opening the massive windows each room had.

I sat on my bed and admired my new home for the next 2 weeks and thought to myself, "this is the hospital, and perhaps even the room, that is going to change my life". Milpark is where lung transplants are done and I was referred there by my amazing Cystic Fibrosis doctor at the Gen who knew that my current lungs had a limited amount of breaths left. I was so used to my treatments and I was terrified that Milpark and my new Dr there would change things up but luckily Dr Cathy still oversaw my treatment at Milpark, so nothing changed!

A nurse walked in with a long stretch of stickers trailing from her files. She began asking me question after question and sticking stickers on every page as she went. She gave me 2 wrist bands with 'Cystic Fibrosis' and 'Diabetes' written on them, which I gnawed off shortly after she left. As a short term patient wearing wrist bands is fine but when you are in hospital for 2 or 3 weeks, the last thing you want is an annoying band on your arm on top of all the other tubes coming off of you!

The biggest difference that I noticed was that at the Gen, I was told which meds I would be on and I was shown how to mix them, then all I had to was go to the dispensary room and make up my meds whenever it was time (Usually every 8 hours). We were taught to take control of our meds and to be our own nurses and I loved that! In private hospital the opposite happens, you are discouraged to do your own meds, you are taught to trust the nurses and to not ask questions. That wasn't going to work for me, especially after watching the nurse draw up my meds in a way that I was taught to be very unhygienic! Dr Cathy explained to the Milpark nurses that I do all my own meds an that they must just bring me whatever I need and leave me be. And so they did! I would 'order' what I needed and I had organised a table so that I could prepare my own meds and carry out my treatment on my own. When you have a chronic illness, I believe that this really is the best way to do things! It kept me busy in hospital, it made me understand what I was taking and what my body could tolerate and it made me feel at ease that all my medication was given correctly.

Cystic Fibrosis is such a complicated disease to treat and without going into to much detail, the reason I felt at ease doing my own meds rather than letting a trained nurse take care of things is because of how complex the regime is. I used to have 1 or 2 IV antibiotics which would have to be mixed in a certain way and ran continuously with the meds being changed every 8 hours. That means that if the nurses where busy when you had to have your meds changed you risked your veins clotting and your IV line having to be replaced. It also meant that at 2am a nurse would have to come into your room, put the lights on, wake you up and change over your meds, whereas when I do it, I prepare my meds before bed and when my alarm went off, I do a quick change over and go back to sleep. Far easier! The only disadvantage is that when I was really ill, it was very taxing on me to have to do everything on my own, but by then my mom was around every day and she took over the role of nurse.

Back to day 1.... The nurse left me to my room and to my thoughts. A few minutes later a knock on the door followed by a 'hellloo, can we come in?'. In walked twin girls, slightly younger than me, one in a wheel chair and one not. They introduced themselves as Caleigh and Dominique and told me that they too had CF and had just started coming to Milpark. They said that they had seen my name on the board and had asked the nurses about me. They were very inquisitive and funny and I was charmed by their visit, especially since I hadn't met many other CF patients before. I would see them around the Gen but because we always had our own room and were discouraged from seeing each other, I never really got to know any of them really well. I asked why Dominique was in a wheel chair and she answered "Oh I just found this in the passage so we're just messing around with it". I loved how bubbly and fun they were, such a change from the 'sadness' at the Gen and I felt even better about my Milpark days ahead. The twins got my number and said they would chat to me later as they had to go and have their physio.

About an hour or so later I got a message from them and that was the start of our great friendship. We messaged each other all day every day,"Ooh did you hear that noise", "OMG can you believe this lunch", "The physio is on her way to you", "Shall we walk down to the cafe". They turned my hospital stays into an adventure and we always tried to plan our admissions at the same time so that we could be there together. We had to wear masks when we saw each other as CF patients can swap harmful bugs so it's important to keep your distance and just be careful.

With their bubbly nature and confidence we made more and more friends. I was always too shy to go and chat to someone new but the twins made sure we always went to go see whoever was admitted.

My Milpark days, despite being some of the hardest days of my life, were also some of the best. I have so many memories from section 7 and I often relive them! Sometimes, I even miss them.

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