Last orders

My name is Vikki and I am not an alcoholic. However, recently life threw me a massive lemon and now I am no longer allowed to pair it with tequila.

It all started with a stomach ache, one bad enough to stop your Nutella addiction in its tracks. A few G.P.’s later this leads to seeing ‘Mr Specialist’. ‘Mr Specialist’ weighs me, I had lost a few kilos and secretly high-fived myself even though I knew this was a sign something was not right. The words ‘endoscopy’ and ‘colonoscopy’ get bandied about as if they were as common as a blood test. Well let me assure you, they’re not. They involve being off your face on anaesthetic and having cameras shoved down your throat and up your arse – super sexy stuff I know.

On the day of this procedure I was already having an internal breakdown as preparing for the latter involved drinking a concoction which resembles the urine of some very dehydrated individual, and forces you to set up camp in your bathroom the night before with no reprieve. Luckily though, one of my best friends is with me. She is great at crisis management, which in my book means being able to say to me, “Vikki get a grip!” in the nicest possible way (I may or may not be scared of her).

So, the day comes and I walk into the room, refusing to take my underwear off as I want to have at least some dignity while I am still conscious, because I will definitely have none of that left in a moment (sorry to whoever had to deal with the underwear situation). Once that ordeal is finished they give me a sandwich. I am high as a kite, blabbing on while my friend escorts me to the car to be on my merry way to bed.

An hour later I wake up, something isn’t right, after stalling and thinking paracetamol can fix this, even though I feel like I might die, I ring ‘Mr Specialist’. By this point I am in floods of tears as he tells me to head to the hospital, this was the beginning of my ‘last orders’.

“I am going to faint or spew, so I don’t know what you want to do about that.“

I sit in the waiting room with a sick bag, swearing under my breath as they take me into the emergency department. There are about 15 people there, all asking questions, and sticking needles in me whilst I alternate between swearing at them and apologising profusely. The first laugh comes when they send me back into the waiting room; in a gown, with a drip and a sick bag, I am too ill by now to give a shit that everybody in there is probably frightened at the state of me – picture a stage 9 hangover after scoffing down something greasy right before jumping on the Waltzers. I think I am imagining things when ‘Mr Specialist’ rocks up. He tells me that basically he thinks I have some extra tube thing in my body and they poked at it during the endoscopy which has led to my early Christmas gift of 2016 – acute pancreatitis!

For those of you, including myself (until last month), who are not familiar with this gem of an illness, this is basically the sort of pain which makes you think you could get hit by a truck twice or give birth to three babies one after the other with zero pain relief. The sort of pain which makes you think that if you were in the back of an ambulance because of it, you would rather they just opened the doors and launched your gurney out into the traffic at 90km/h. Eventually, they wheel me into the high dependency unit, which I don’t even flinch at as I am so high on morphine they could have told me I was the Queen and I would have offered my hand expecting them to kiss it.

Meanwhile, my crisis management friend has the unenviable pleasure of informing my mother about what is going on. My mum responds to my friend and says something like, “Tell her she is brave and give her a hug”. At this point, compared to me, that chick in The Exorcist would seem a safer bet. Nobody was attempting a hug.

I am desperate for water but that was out of the question. The treatment plan was no water, no food, and enough drugs to keep even the most prolific cartels in business for years to come – if only I could get in on that action. I need an X-ray, so I get dragged into a room whilst sobbing and clutching my sick bag, only to get my tits squashed against some machine while the superior X-ray lady tells her minion, “Yeah they give them loads of morphine but basically it just makes them spew heaps” – the more you know!

I smile in between spews and thank them for that glorious experience, all while trying not to trip over the many wires attached to me and ending up with a concussion on top of my disintegrating insides.

I start to wonder why I am in the high dependency ward. I mean, it’s only my pancreas, do I even really need it? Well, because I tend to give life a good go in all areas, I manage to get my enzyme level up to 42,000 which, as some helpful hospital person informs me, isn’t really recommended. The usual level in a healthy person is …… 250! Now THAT is why I am in high dependency! Google helped me immensely when trying to self-diagnose – turns out I am dying of some rare and incurable disease… Thanks Web M.D.! But now I know my diagnosis and realise that the doctors are watching me to see if the rest of my organs are shutting down…

I start to panic. I really don’t want to die in this hospital; it’s a shithole, I don’t have my red lipstick with me, and I haven’t seen my mum to formally apologise for being a bad child and making her pay for my Starbucks every Saturday when I was ridiculously hungover. I have too much stuff to do, I haven’t met Lena Dunham yet, this is just not my time!

Next round of intervention is an ultrasound. I am already dreading this as I know they will make me lay on the side where my insides are basically falling apart – not at ALL painful!  My new BFF nurse wheels me down to the ultrasound people. I am in immense pain, to the point that I am biting my arm while she does the ultrasound. My BFF is in the corner on a chair, face in her phone, she looks up and says, “OMG pancreatitis sounds horrific! I will save this from Google and show you later”. I stared at her, then the ultrasound women looked at her with an added ‘I will punch you in the face’ type of expression. I replied and said something like, “YEP” through my arm biting and teary panda eyes.

People visit, I can’t really remember them, and my days were spent with the following thoughts – those flowers are gorgeous, sleeping, those flowers are gorgeous, sleeping, maybe I should reply to my mum?, I really want a pizza, what day is it?, I can’t lie down, why has that dickheads family brought him Maccas? Where’s mine??

During my discussions with the various doctors and other staff, I realised they kept asking me about alcohol. In the beginning, I was fine with it, I understand that for some people this can be brought on by alcohol abuse, however, after the tenth time of explaining why I had this I started to get pissed off. I drank as much as the next person. I never really thought much of it, alcohol was a big part of my social life in Scotland, and in Australia it was just what we did on a weekend. I was told by ‘Mr Specialist’ I would never be able to have a big night out again. A part of me panicked, I was known as a loud person, the life and soul of the party… can I still be that person?

I realised that when I was released from hospital, things had to change. Truth being told, I have never been that scared in my life about what was going to happen next. Weirdly enough, sometimes the universe gives you a few favours when you need them, even if you can’t see it at the time. I am content, and a few really good things have happened since getting sick. I’ve also realised that I don’t need to drink to enjoy myself, and others don’t need me to be drunk to be fucking hilarious.

I am grateful I am here, thankful for my friends and family, and extremely happy that my ex-BFF nurse was not my consultant, as that would have not ended well.

So here is a toast to ‘last orders’, and enjoying life without the Sunday dread, the empty bank account, the sorry texts, and to being the happiest I’ve been at life’s party without the tequila.