Recently, I spent a few days being completely cared for. I was allowed to do nothing for myself. Forced to lay in an uncomfortable bed, unable to get out being tied in via neck and arms to machines and tubes, with more tubes coming out of my body. And all the time I was intensely aware of every single passing second. Every beep and gurgle, ever waft of air and alarms, oh the alarms. My senses were hyper alert in an environment that had simply too many parts clamouring for attention. Yes, I was in a hospital. At least this time, it had been a choice. Now, I don't tell you this to garner your sympathies. All that should matter to anyone is that I am now out and recovering very well thank you. No, it's because I relearned some incredibly basic ideas about leading ourselves and leading others. Why we hate to be trapped in a bed or any environment and how our stress is made extreme by the more basic and fundamental (perceived) threats to our life. My experience this past week in the hospital will be little different to anyone in intensive care or high dependency. You have just emerged from a traumatic experience. Shock is the most useful term here. Shock to have come through, shock that things worked well, didn't work so well and shock at the discovery of each new tether to the bed. With each tube, you have lost a little more personal control. The alarms, the incessant alarms clamouring for attention. Like the front cover of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, these bid you not to panic but to keep calm. And then there are the monitors. Those glorious machines who flash and hum and beep and shriek. And of course, your readings are above and behind you. Out eye line. Noise emerges and you have no clue what it means. It just sounds alarming. You try to look around and make no sense of anything except red or yellow flashing lights. All you can see are the machines of others in the room. Of course, if you are in a private room you may have the benefit of less clamour, but then you won't have much company either. Seeing others are like you makes it just a little more tolerable. The gentleman opposite spent the night going through a traumatic and frightening instability at exactly the same time as I did. I can hear my alarms, feel my heart thumping, fluttering and pounding whilst watching his very very frightening numbers and his wretched face peering back at mine in the terror of the moment. The nursing staff, whilst not completely blase, really behave as if this were perfectly normal. Which for them, it is. They see this day after day after day. I am seeing it for the first time. There's me looking at a guy who's heart might explode in front of me, and honestly, I had no clue that your heart could clock that sort of rate and pressure and not explode. I'm not just not asleep, I am so awake that every fibre of my being is screaming at me. The nurses tell me that it is better to allow myself to become less sensitive, less worried. That my own stress is making it far worse. Of course, I know that this is true. That I am also in the middle of a panic attack, let alone atrial fibrillation, but I cannot turn off any of my alertness. Oh the blessed relief of sleep, but it never comes. I finally dropped back into sinus rhythm at 8.30 the next morning. The choice of drugs had, at last, done their job and I knew that recovery was somewhat more certain and a glimmer of hope began to emerge. I might actually make it out of here. Those of you who have been where I was, know exactly what I'm talking about. As I learned from my fellow inmates, whilst some are more sanguine having been through it before, the feelings and responses are essentially the same. You can tell on the faces of those who have just one single tube removed. Prior to this, they were as miserable and sickly as everyone else, and suddenly their whole countenance lifts. Immediately they look better. And, so long as it was a good decision to remove that tube, they remain a tiny bi
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