Andrea's story

I have been married over 30 years have 2 children a son of 28 with his own home and life and a daughter of 19 a student with a busy social life.

We were all trying to get on with life after the birth and death of our first grandchild, my sons' daughter, realising Christmas was only 3 weeks away I was trying to do what mum's do to get Christmas for the family.

I went upstairs thinking of icing my Christmas cake unaware that my husband had taken up part of our bedroom floor to replace the pipes for our new central heating, went to put the light on but did not make it; I had a flying sensation, remember sighing and landed on my lounge floor at the feet of my daughter.

I remember my husband in the background hysterical not like him at all, I couldn't breath properly and my daughter screaming on the phone for an ambulance, I had a piece of wood in my side and dirt and grit in my eyes and mouth and thinking why do they not get me up? Then the house is full of men in green, my son and my daughters boyfriend are lifting my sofa over my head, I then had the cold night air on me and in an ambulance, they keep telling me I will be ok, why can't I breathe.

A and E there were people in and out, blood test, sick and talking about what they should do, still can't breathe , why don't they do something, then I am in a corridor, then back in a cubicle!

On a ward now, told I had broken all my ribs on left hand side, that's why I can not breathe as they had punctured my lung. Next was periods of strange sleep, not being able to wake up but knowing who and what was going on around me, tugging at my body, machines, tubes everywhere, cold dry liquid going down my throat.

Suddenly feeling I was moving and cold fresh air on my face, still unable to wake up. Then it felt that my body was being rocked gently, floating, why is a nurse reading me a card from mum, she died 4 years ago.

I lie and recognise nurses' laughter, why are they talking about what they did on Christmas day, who had been to Waitrose and bought strawberries, who is going to take her son away for New Year?

Next came the awful dreams, why did my husband allow me to be here, why won't he take me home, I need to go home everything will be ok then, I will be safe and well. My worst was my own funeral, being an ex-florist, checking the flowers and cards looking down, being on a conveyor belt, got to get out of here, kicking out at the metal flowerstand, the cold metal on my foot, seeing my children's faces, got to get out of here, if the flower stand will push over they will know to get me out of here.

Had a strange feeling of cold fresh air on my face again, didn't think I would feel it again.

This strange sleep goes on, my husband is with me, couldn't speak to him, my son keeps stroking my hand, why doesn't he speak to me, my daughter speaks to me but her voice is strange, her boyfriend keeps kissing me and saying goodbye, my friend is only small, why is she always on the floor when she talks to me. I need to go home, why do they not take me away from here, don't want to be flat on my back, being sick and all this stuff in my mouth, with the cold dry liquid they put down my throat. How I want to speak again, tell them I am going to be sick, they say I can have the tube out of my throat soon, must be able to go home soon, I am awake more now.

Now I am told I am doing well, can go to a ward, it is a side ward, so I have TV, and family can visit at times around the unsociable hours they work.

Life in my side ward is very different to intensive care, I had conversations with my consultant and some of the nurses as they stood in the doorway, must be the MRSA I have got, I had lots of days when I was very low and depressed this was hard for my family, as they were so happy I was still alive, and could see progress that I couldn't. My family and close friend keep telling me I am a strong woman and have dealt with a lot in my lifetime and that I could get through this. I would have said the same before the accident, but this is such a deep hole; it was the cards, letters and visits at this time that helped to get me through.

Had a conversation with my consultant, from the doorway again, he told me he would like me to have surgery in Oxford on my two unstable fractures in my back, this was 6pm at night, he would be back first thing in the morning for my answer, I thought I was getting better and would go home soon.

In my life I have had to make some awful decisions and quite major ones, as with those, I chose to follow my gut instinct, after talking through the pros and cons, such as nerve damage risk, I said no, either way I would be flat in bed for another 6 weeks.

This time was a roller coaster, when I was up I could appreciate my life and family, the downs were awful, I had deep depression, felt useless and trapped, the log rolling every time I need to move, the vertigo, eating and drinking lying down, felt as if it was for ever, my nurses were great but could not change how it was. The chats with the Hospital Chaplain and his lady visitor were wonderful, full of understanding; they did not have hurt eyes like my family, just cared as another human being.

At last progress, I was fitted for a brace, with it I could sit up for short periods, when it arrived no one had seen one like it before, two nurses, physio, my husband and a screwdriver finally they worked it out, a back plate, to be slipped under me, sides clipped on, then attach the front, tighten it round me, great with part healed ribs, but ok it's progress, at last I could see life from an adult height, my husband and daughter got very good especially when I was going to be sick. This must mean I can go home soon.

My next stage was the tilt table, they made it sound wonderful as I was slid from my bed onto a narrow bed, attached to it by strips of Velcro and slowly tilted to an upright position, I felt sure the two skinny legs with loose skin covering my bones where good legs used to be would never hold me again, and the vertigo was really strange.

Daily physio now, must be able to go home soon, at last they are talking about walking frames, and could my husband have a home visit to look at what I need, I am quite sure I will be fine once I get home.

The day came, home to a bed in my dining room, commode and a visit from a nurse once a week, lots of health problems to sort, very hard to watch my family struggle to do what I had always done, my husband returned to work, as his firm had given him so much time off when I was in hospital. My daughter announced one day, and much to our better judgment, she had left college to look after mum, but said she could go back later. How she had grown up, looking after me, a 3 bedroom house and three men, the carefree student with a social life was now getting up in the night several times as I was sick or needed the loo, attaching all the brace pieces and hauling me up. We all had so much to deal with like the time when I was able to wash where I could reach I wondered why under my left arm was so sore. I was then informed I was spraying deodorant on the place where I had been stitched following the removal of a chest drain I had been given. My husband then remembered to tell me that I had to be given a blood transfusion. If only they had kept a diary everything would have been so different.

1year 11months on, my daughter has her life back, her own home, me trying not to ask anything, my husband has now taken early retirement we muddle along together, my son has also moved on doing what he wants to do.

We decided life is for living and have cruised on QE2, seen wonderful places we would not have seen if all this had not happened, I really do believe things happen for a reason, I know I will never be the same as I used to be. I have a well traveled wheelchair and walk short distances with a stick. Even with a good GP and family sometimes it is not enough.

The follow up with Mo on the Intensive Care Unit was wonderful, someone who knew what I was saying, how I hate my scar from my tracheotomy. I now have all my lovely new friends at ICU steps we can all talk together and have an understanding you only get from being there. I still have bad days, dark days, when I find it hard, but with my husband, a good friend and sometimes a good cry I somehow get the strength to carry on with the day to day things and to face new challenges, but remembering nothing stays the same. When I had my last appointment with my consultant I was told to go away and get better he was pleased with my x-rays and my decision not to have surgery was a wise decision but I would still have pain.

I do look at life differently now, I am aware every day could be my last and just one minute of one day can change your life forever, I still need a lot of help, support and care, have days when I am quite poorly, but I am so grateful for the skills of everyone who nursed me and my priorities have changed. I was so sure that if only I could go home all would be ok, I have and had a lot of new health problems it never occurred to me that when all my breaks had healed I could have so many problems because I had been so very ill, and I certainly found out who my true friends are and who really love me.