We all have things we fear. Pressure sores are something that I dread. I've been paralysed sixteen years but I am lucky enough not to have suffered with these serious complications a spinal cord injury can cause. I think being so active helps, and undoubtedly using the electrical stimulation bike that keeps muscle on my legs and improves my circulation - also perhaps spending many hours prior to my accident sitting in a saddle has given me tough skin. I have had injuries though- usually from poor transfers, and I have to treat these with care.
Last week, whilst checking my skin with my hand, I felt a nasty wound. It scared me to death not helped by the fact I found it just before going to sleep- it was midnight and I was in a hotel near Stansted Airport. A call to 111 and a plan was made for the next day. The fear of being on bed rest and miss the busy autumn or even worse, a long stay in hospital which isn't uncommon, was churning around my mind.
I had an early flight to Glasgow the next morning, after just three hours sleep, with the aim of going to A&E before arriving at the venue where I was the Keynote Speaker.
I bought a dressing at the pharmacy and my wonderful friend’s assistance was needed to whole new level.
How do you get a dressing on your bum when you are sat on it ? Not an easy feat, let me tell you! Pulling my trousers up is challenging enough.
So we were in the in the accessible toilet, I was leaning forward..
‘Is that position good?’ I asked my friend, as I have no idea where the wound is exactly and if I am off it due to no sensation.
'No' my friend replied.
Together, we tried to work out how to do this. I would try to lean over more using the loo to balance and holding on tightly.
'Is that a better position?' I asked again
I hope no one was listening at the door 🤣
Eventually, due to being at the edge of my wheelchair I slithered on to the floor.
The big worry with an open wound is infection, it is essential to keep it clean, and there I was lying on a toilet floor next to the loo at the airport, still twisting and leaning to prevent the wound touching the floor.. in the process I leant on the alarm and set that off!
Once we had told the staff that I was ok but would love some help in five mins or so, my friend could actually attempt to get this dressing on to protect it as best as possible until we arrived at A&E in Glasgow.
She went a little quiet and sympathetically broke the news to me that there are two sores not just one. Well, I was heading straight to hospital at this point once I got lifted off the floor that was, as it made me think it was a pressure sores and very serious .
Not long after, my friend had another inspection and she said ‘hold on- it’s not a sore - it is your anus’
So there I am - paralysed from the chest down, lying on the floor by the loo at an airport with my trousers down and Tena pants on- laughing so much it hurt.
All of a sudden, one wound felt a lot better because the false alarm of having two- I was almost celebrating having just the one!
Isn’t it amazing how laughing is the most stress relieving thing ever? I remember my days in Intensive Care and the Spinal Unit, between the tears was laughter, and it got me through some pretty dismal times.
The nurse in Glasgow was brilliant and I was relieved that it appeared to be an injury- although they can still be issues - get infected, not heal etc .. but at least it wasn’t on a pressure point. Close but not actually on my sitting bone.
A spinal injury is the ultimate test of friendships- and my word, I have amazing ones… although I am glad my friend realised it was my anus and didn’t put a dressing over it!
I arrived at the event with plenty of time to spare so the organisers kindly gave me a room in the hotel where the conference was, so I could lie on the bed and get my weight off the wound. It also gave me chance to relax before my speaking slot, which to be honest, my presentation was the easiest part of this trip!