High Dependency Unit at Christmas

So the end of 2013 wasn’t great.

Ok, I’ll be honest. It was shit.

My fiancé was extremely ill over Christmas. As in hospital and strapped up to heart monitors ill.

Ever since he left university to go and look for a job, he hasn’t felt well. His course was very stressful and, due to his chronic illness which is affected by stress and hormone changes, he was not in a good way even back in October.  We thought when he left his course, he would naturally get better. And he did.

Sort of.

He started to become really tired. We thought it might be an adrenaline crash. I even wondered if he was getting down about not having a job and feeling terrible about dropping out of university. But it seemed to be more than that. He had fevers. His appetite was gone.

We thought it was the cold. Then some sort of bug. Then we wondered if it was the flu. After all, that was what the doctors who he went to see twice told him. But it didn’t seem like flu. After all, he seemed to be able to get up and about at times and, from what I hear about flu, you can’t do that if you’ve got it.

Then he started to throw up and he couldn’t sleep. We don’t live together so I woke up with a text telling me he had been taken into hospital at 1am in the morning, released and then taken back in at 6.30am. All I could do was wait by the phone for more news. He couldn’t text me either since he left his phone at home so I could only rely on updates from his mum. The doctor said it was a bad case of the flu and sent him home again.

The week before Christmas and two days after his last hospital visit, he was taken back in. Again, I relied on news from his mum. Only when I was about to finish work, I found out he was admitted into the medical high dependency unit because he was septic and his blood pressure was dangerously low.

When you have a fiancé with a chronic illness, hospital visits become a bit of a norm. This was not. I can’t describe what I felt like when I saw him lying in the hospital bed, IVs in his arm and things attached to his chest, monitoring his heart.

The club tennis champion. The guy who knocked down walls in our house. The man with all of the energy in the world.


They didn’t know what it was. All they could tell us was that it was bad. So bad he had to come off his normal medication which was strongly advised against.

He sounded like he was going to cough up his insides and couldn’t get up. He would shiver and his temperature would sky rocket so quickly.

The second night I went to see him, he told me that the woman in the opposite bed from him had died overnight. That was the kind of place he was in. I think only then did his situation hit him.

Day after day, they still couldn’t tell us what it was. Everyone was lovely, asking how he was. I would tell them everything I knew, which was very little. More tests came back negative and we had to wait and wait on the crucial ones. Everyone said I seemed to be coping very well. It was only in the car, driving to the hospital, did I let my imagination get the best of me.

I would sit with him and his family and force myself not to wonder what it was. Force myself not to notice that he wasn’t getting better and that actually, he might be getting worse. It was only a matter of days but nothing else could occupy my thoughts.

When I came to visit, I would have to pass the ICU. The sorry faces I could see through the glass in the door made me walk faster every time. Even with the little Christmas tree in the ward, it looked like death’s door. I would keep my head down and pray he wouldn’t end up in there.

Eventually, he seemed to get mildly better. They moved him down to another, busier ward and his frustration seemed to propel him out of bed and will himself better.

Five days after he was admitted, they told us it was glandular fever. The kissing disease. How laughable. It seems that glandular fever is particularly hard on adults, especially ones which taken medication to deal with another problem which affects blood the same way the virus does. Two days before Christmas, he was released. Only now does he seem to be getting back to his old self. A pity he has to face the job hunt and a building site of a house (which is improving day by day but still a lot of work).

Thinking back on it now, it doesn’t seem like a long time to wait to find that out but then, it was torture. Your mind boggles over the symptoms and always thinks the worst.

What if this medication doesn’t work?

What if it gets worse?

What if I lose him?

When you don’t know what is causing it, when your loved one is in high dependency with  people who are dying, it is a constant thought. Even for only five days (and I know other people have it so much worse) it is very hard to not burst.

Needless to say, I’ve had better Christmases.


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