Two words that made all the difference

I spent two weeks in an intensive care unit (ICU) after my injury. The first week was in ICU at Alfred Hospital. I have no distinct memories of that week. I do have memories of the second week in ICU at the Austin Hospital. I was still obviously heavily sedated and I remember hallucinating. I would like to report that it was some sort of visionary experience with exotic images. However I can’t. I saw this pulsating, squirming wall of dark brown, black and orange living panels, both ugly and menacing.

Every few hours the nurses would turn me to prevent pressure sores developing. Unfortunately, my spinal cord was still in shock from the fall and, as a consequence, my heart was prone to stop. This had happened several times. It distressed nurses and meant I required CPR each time. It’s no fun waking up with someone standing over you saying “Ah, you back!” So, when the doctor recommended I have a heart pacer inserted to prevent this happening it was an easy decision.

I was also incredibly thirsty. I was “nil by mouth”, so I produced no saliva. This, combined with the air-conditioning, meant my mouth was always dry. I craved ice cubes to suck on. I fantasised about frozen Coke which is peculiar because I have never really been a Coke drinker-neither before going into ICU nor since leaving it.

I became an expert negotiator. With no voice, only clicks and winks, I found ways to convince nurses to give me the occasional ice cube, breaking the nil by mouth policy. Unfortunately, within minutes of finishing an ice block, the unquenchable thirst would return.

There is one indelible memory though. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. My sister had come to visit me and was about to leave. I remember nothing of the visit, how long she’d been there, anything she might have said. As she went to leave she bent over my bed as if to kiss me goodbye on the cheek. She went past my cheek, though. She stopped at my ear. She whispered two words: “Stay Strong!”

Words have power. I sometimes forget what can be achieved with our words. Words can encourage. Words can fortify our spirits. They can anchor the ship in stormy weather. And that’s what these two words “Stay Strong!” did for me. They encouraged, they fortified, they anchored me. They were a vote of confidence! They were a simple reminder that I had the strength to get through this. Bravo!

Next time: John Flynn somehow, against all odds, started the Flying Doctors in the Australian outback. We discover his secret.

Support our supporters

Barb and Frank Ryan have been strong supporters from day 1, with Barb visiting me daily in the first months. Even now they visit once, more often than not twice a week. Frank (Ryans Law Offices) provided invaluable advice in the early days of fundraising as well as sourcing items for the fundraiser. You can contact Frank for legal advice on 0408 810 854



One thought on “Two words that made all the difference

  • Liz Marsh
    12/07/2016 at 7:53 am

    You are so incredibly brave Gerard. Your experience in ICU reminded me a little about my own daughters experience after her brain surgery. She recalls doctors and nurses floating in the air above her and not much else! I love reading your experiences, thanks again.

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