I woke up. Or did I? I wasn’t sure I’d even been asleep. But then I remembered a dream…..or was it a nightmare? I must have slept unless, of course, I was daydreaming, but a daydream is usually about something good, like a holiday or becoming a pop star.
In my nightmare, I was neither on holiday nor was I becoming a pop star. I was, in fact, running away. Running from what I don’t know. Then I was on my hands and knees clawing at the little gaps in the pavement where moss and grass grows. I was tearing at the grass and the dirt flew up in my face and went up my nostrils.
I’d woken with the sniffles. In my dream…..nightmare, I was dragging myself along. Pushing my bleeding fingers into the gap between each paving slab and heaving my body, which was a dead weight, along the pavement. Inch by inch, dragging and heaving myself, looking at each crack as I passed over it, trying to get away from whatever was chasing me.
So, I must have fallen asleep at some point, and I woke with a tickle up my nose and covered in sweat. I hoisted my aching body out of bed and went to the bathroom. Couldn’t pee. I was severely dehydrated….. must remember to drink more water, so I just sat there, head in hands, waiting for at least a few urine drips to prove that I was still alive.
Looking in the mirror, I did not recognise the eyes staring back at me. Dark rings around them, sunken into their sockets. I rubbed my hands down my cheeks, but it made no difference. I looked just as sick as I did one second ago.
I hadn’t looked like this since I was a teenager clubbing with my college friends all night long. I hadn’t felt like this either since I’d had German measles except that there were now no spots, and I didn’t itch.
I splashed my face with cold water. Maybe that would wake me up. But I hadn’t been asleep, had I? I hadn’t slept properly for weeks, months even, or so it seemed. I was living a nightmare. A walking, sleeping, waking nightmare.
I drank a cup of black coffee and ate half a slice of burned toast. I couldn’t taste either of them.
What happened after that I haven’t got a clue but somehow, I ended up in A & E. I didn’t plan it. It just seemed to happen. One minute I was at home in the kitchen with the smell of coffee and burnt toast and the next minute I was in A & E, staring at the blue curtain surrounding the bed.
I had the most horrendous headache…..must remember to drink more water. There was a small glass of clear liquid by the bed but better not touch that…..just in case. The sides of my temples were throbbing. In fact, I thought that anyone who looked at me would be able to see the pulse at the sides of my head going in and out, in and out as my blood, fuelled by adrenalin pumped its way around my head and then my body, or was it the other way around. In my confusion, I wasn’t quite sure.
I saw my reflection staring back at me from the blank, grey screen of the monitor next to the bed. My dark, sunken eyes had been replaced by red and swollen ones that were constantly watering. I tried not to rub them, but wanted to clear my blurred vision.
When I spoke, it seemed as if my voice was coming from some Dalek on the other side of the curtain, talking in quick bursts of pizzicato like some practicing violinist.
When people spoke to me, the sounds were muffled, as if everyone was speaking some foreign language and I had to keep saying pardon. My head was so mixed up, I found it hard to untangle what anyone was talking about.
My throat felt sore and swollen with enlarged glands at the base of my neck, and I was sure my tongue was also beginning to swell. I didn’t know whether to take an antihistamine tablet but I don’t like taking these unless I really must and so I declined that idea. Anyway I was too tired to even bother.
I recalled drinking a cup of coffee, but I was still thirsty….. must remember to drink more water. I craved sleep. All I wanted to do was curl up in my own bed and fall asleep for maybe one hundred years, like Sleeping Beauty. But they’d cursed her to sleep and although I felt as if I’d been cursed, I just wanted to sleep, that’s all. Is that asking too much? Eight hours shut eye, as Dad called it, on the trot with no interruptions.
My legs ached, and my feet were throbbing. I was sure both were larger than normal. My knees hurt too, and I was finding it difficult to walk and climb stairs. Far too many stairs in this building. What was wrong with me?
I was sweating profusely and blushing for no apparent reason, or was it flushing? Hot flushes? No. My age ruled that one out. My hands were shaking too. I hid them behind my back so that no-one would notice. I could feel myself gritting my teeth and making my jaw ache. I had no way of knowing what was going to happen next or even what to do next. My brain was one huge, foggy mess. All these symptoms can’t possibly be because of dehydration….. must remember to drink more water.…..or lack of sleep. Or were they?
Stress maybe. Yes, definitely stress. My workload had quadrupled recently, and that was through no fault of my own. I’d been called out in the evenings, early mornings, and sometimes worked long into the night when everyone else was asleep. Ah…..sleep. What is that word? What does it mean?
I’m still thirsty….. must remember to drink more water. I’m still hot. I want to take off all my clothes or have a cold shower. What’s happening to me?
Here I am in A & E., my eighteenth patient lying on the bed. As the only doctor on duty, I want to say to this pale faced, frightened woman, you look how I feel but I can hardly muster up the energy. What a day.