Hello, my name is Sally. My ‘souls with a story’ begins back in October 2014. There was nothing unusual about the day, I headed off to work as normal feeling well, within a few hours I started to develop severe abdominal pain and thought I had a bad bout of indigestion. It became progressively worse as the day went on and I was taken by ambulance to A&E where I was diagnosed as having a pancreatic attack. I was told by the doctor that my condition should stabilise and I would be home within 24 hours.
Unfortunately, I deteriorated over the next few days and I was transferred to the intensive care unit. My condition advanced to acute necrotising pancreatitis. The next few months were extremely challenging for both myself and my family. I spent many weeks in intensive care, underwent two life saving operations, the removal of my spleen and stomach surgery. I experienced complications on a daily basis, was nursed in bed, unable even to sit up. The outlook was very bleak, my family had been prepared for the worst and was told that I had just a 10% chance of survival.
Prior to this episode, I was fit and well, enjoyed healthy eating, walked my dogs daily, and generally lived a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I would go as far as to say I was feeling better than I had for years! To say that we all, as a family had to ‘dig-deep’ at this terrible time is quite an understatement! However, having worked for 20 years supporting people with life limiting and terminal illness, I knew that my experience, all be it extreme was not unique. During my career I have had the privilege of working in hospital and hospice settings supporting patients and families with the emotional impact of their illness. Now, I was faced with putting all that I had preached into practice to aid my own recovery.
Thankfully, after 3 months in hospital, receiving world class treatment from the NHS, and truly amazing care, love and dedication from my family, I began to stabilise. Although I had the physical battle to deal with, my family were all on the emotional journey with me, each step of the way. I truly believe that they fought the battle with me and in some ways their experience was worse than mine!
I was discharged home on Christmas Eve, very weak , having lost 3 stone in weight with considerable muscle wastage. My rehabilitation over the next year was far more challenging that I could ever have imagined. Thankfully, I have a stubborn personality and the most devoted husband who was determined to help me regain my health. I had wonderful support whilst in hospital, but very little advise or guidance after being discharged home. I feel very passionately that rehabilitation services need to improve for patients recovering from critical illness to enable them to reach their full potential.
I focused on each day and used techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to help with the emotional trauma. As I began to get stronger I set daily goals to improve my mobility and strength, going out every day from visiting coffee shops to walking in the lovely Welsh countryside.
Two words have stuck in my mind throughout this whole experience, they are ‘Hope’ and ‘Faith’; without hope and without faith, I would not have been able to remain so positive, they have been crucial to my recovery. I would like to therefore, share what helped me during this traumatic time in my life.
H.. Is for HOPE. Never loose hope for the future. Try to focus on each day.
O.. Optimism . Attitude is everything! I stayed as positive as possible and set goals.
P.. Physical activity. I kept moving ! One step at a time !
E.. Energy. I used my energy wisely and remembered to rest.
F.. Family and friends. Surround yourself with the people you love. We are all on the journey together.
A.. Appetite . Eat well !
I.. ” I CAN.”… When faced with each challenge I told myself ‘I Can’… not ‘I can’t’.
T.. Talk …talk about your feelings don’t bottle things up!
H.. Holistic healing… Remember we need to heal both physically and emotionally.
I am so grateful for all the support I received from my wonderful family and the exceptional medical team that gave me this second chance in life. I will try my best never to forget this experience, but I won’t let it define me. Life is so precious, let us enjoy each day we have together.