Category Archives: The Ward

How not to behave on Intensive Care (day 7/7)


10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

They disconnected me from my machines in readiness for the main ward, but I still had a drip connected to my left hand

On Day 7 of my stay on the Intensive Care Ward, I had so little recollection of the last 6 days.  Since leaving I have remembered many things, but the level of care had been just profound, yet I am not embarrassed about what I did as they prepared me for my transition to the main ward.

They told me I was going to be sedated and moved to another room, but thirty minutes later, the mind tripping I did was nothing in comparison to cold turkey or lying down after a stint of drinking

I felt I was in a room full of nurses in purple clothes preparing for a wedding.  They were toasting champagne, talking incessantly about the day ahead and occasionally my nurse came and cleansed me when she could fit me in. I still think that!

I got out of bed in my thin white tunic, grabbed my drip,  and announced I was leaving. I thought I knew more or less where I was and was sure a bus driver would allow me to go home to my bed

My first angel, the one who didn’t tolerate drinkers, was called for, but could not placate me, nor could my girlfriend.

I tried to leave the ward, but they didn’t actually stop me. They wouldn’t touch me, yet just stood in my way

Two security guards arrived, in their fluorescent jackets and they got the abusive treatment. I might even have shouted about false imprisonment and that it wasn’t far to my home (I remembered later it was four miles) but I was ready to walk.

Eventually, they persuaded me to have some more sedative, after convincing me that staying was in my best interests

Now, I don’t know what that sedative was, but it didn’t work. Thirty minutes later I was on my feet again and they were standing in my way again. This time they called my big sister and I got really told off, but it didn’t work, yet eventually she was able to convince me the buses had stopped now and it was best if I slept for a bit (she is about half the size of me and really needed a chair)

I woke the next day and remembered it all, yet I still do not know why I was like that, but I do remember I was determined to walk home in my skimpy tunic and drip

You have a lot to answer for


John Swan

from his blog of letters at


Having a bed bath on an Intensive Care Ward (day 5/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

After five days in intensive care, they decided to give me a bed bath: the next announcement was the shave. I was not able to move or think very clearly, so when I first heard the news, I felt this was than just another process

Bear in mind I was attached to a heart beat pulse sensor on the forefinger of my right hand.  And I had a drip inserted on the top of my left hand, with the extra spout in case I needed medication quickly, so I was not planning on going anywhere.  There may have been another drip!

Looking back, I must have been sedated in some way, so when two nurses came to my bed, one on each side, with a trolley each, I just watched. I did try and muster the mental energy and resolve to recall fantasies about bed baths, but despite the presence of two nurses above me in blue smart, crisp, starched, clean uniforms and well toned in every respect, I felt nothing

They removed my tunic and I just lay there, cold and embarrassed.  I told them of the embarrassment, but they didn’t seem to really listen.

I hadn’t seen these two angels before, but they methodically cleansed me and chatted above me, about things I knew nothing about and had no intention of remembering, as I was hazy anyway. They did half a side of me each, like basting chicken. I admit I do remember closing my eyes once and seeking a memorable fantasy, but this was impossible, so I just opened my eyes and watched them rhythmically cleanse me

Next was the shave, but I was getting irritated by all this activity, yet the new Matron wanted a blade taken to my face, which I had been shaving on my own each day for thirty five years or so, so I was redressed in another tunic and  my wannabee mermaids left me.

It was a familiar angel who came at me with the plastic wrapped blue razor, buttered me up and lathered my cheeks and started .  I wasn’t nervous, so much as absolutely livid this was happening, but kept silent.  For about a minute.  The sound of a scraping razor blade echoes in ICU

I wondered if she had been trained in this process and after a minute or two I started to flinch slightly, then I started flinching more.  I was told something, I cannot remember what, but I know it was a rebuke, and my girlfriend was also watching and asking me to calm down.  I flinched again at the hurricane sound of the scraping, but I couldn’t move, yet I was reminded the Matron did not want a man on her ward with stubble, which meant it had to happen, but I was losing patience

‘Watch my scar,’ I snapped and the nurse stopped

‘What scar?’ and I explained the scar on my top lip, the only place she had yet to shave and the only reason I had ever stayed in hospital before.

She had two more swipes, but I was flinching so much she eventually said: ‘no more’.

I thought she had finished, but for the next few days – until she would stand with me in a shower – her razor went back in the packet and I was left with a crude imitation of Nazi dictators moustache that was the subject of some joviality.

Its true that since I came out of hospital, over dinner or with friends, by girlfriend has recounted this story with laughter, more as light banter I hope to drift her thoughts away about the horror she had been through since my sudden illness, but it was one of the many examples of my arrogance when people were trying to help me that I snapped.  The memory of that moustache, which I wouldn’t see for a few days, will never go away.

Something else which I continue to be reminded of since leaving hospital, is how horrifying it was to see me ill and on an ICU ward.  Whilst I had the benefit of medication to get through this process, friends and families, lovers and my nephew are forever scarred by my time in hospital.  I just wish I had the mental scar of a post-hospital memory of a sexually driven bed bath, but I do not.

Interestingly, you show know no signs of liver scarring at all, so maybe it was that you were only suddenly crying tears of blood, because of a new drink I started to enjoy, which you rejected, and caused all of this pain for everyone.  Okay, I know that’s wrong.  I know i was drinking too much and you were being beaten up by my drinking, which left you exposed and on the ropes to cry blood when I went over the top, but you never told me the risks.

I will try and tell everyone else for you about how other livers can cry tears of blood

Yours truly

John Swan

from his blog of letters at

Yours truly

John Swan

Family visits on an Intensive Care Ward (day 3/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

It’s about time I recapped on a few events that led to our incarceration in intensive care, which led to your tears of blood and my predicament

I had been running from life event to life event without knowing you were crying

The main life event that caused me such sadness was my son living in another county, not least because he was 8 when he left.

Access to my son at that time was strained: I had constant flashbacks of her temper caused my her nasty texts, but had moved out and it was difficult on so many levels

Also in that year I sold my house of 20 years to procure a divorce, found difficulty adopting to my new routines, enjoyed too much solace in the bottle and was not meeting targets at work, being close to dismissal. But the other problem was I had also lost a friend. A peer, a man like a brother to me.

So my drinking habits became erratic. I thought they were okay, but one drink slowed me down.  It doesn’t matter what it was, but when I had it, I felt bad, yet I enjoyed it so much and at times of the day when I shouldn’t have.

I think the important thing to note is that I knew this drink was bad news, as it made me feel great and then immediately sluggish, but I didn’t expect hospitalisation like we had it.

If I was drinking gin, I felt great and I was able to work. Or have fun. But that other  drink made me down and its contents may well have been just too much for you and you just threw in the towel

Hence why my illness was so sudden. I had only been enjoying that liqueur for a short time and even though it tasted like the honey for the queen bee, it made me very sad almost immediately

I walked home and dragged my feet on the Sunday. I was in hospital on the Monday. Feeling lonely by the Friday. And with a temper on the Saturday, yet we were alive

It was a bad year. I know these explanations don’t help where we found ourselves, but I am determined by being open and honest in these letters about what I did to you that  others can learn from my journey

sorry, our journey x

Yours truly

John Swan

from his blog of letters at

Having a tantrum on an Intensive Care Ward (day 4/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

I now remember my fourth day in the hospital’s intensive care unit

I had to be reminded about what happened, but when I was reminded a few months after leaving hospital I felt compelled to write a letter of thanks to a man I will probably never see again

At that stage you should bear in mind how I was feeling. It was my fourth day of lying down. I was attached to drips that were injecting a combination of drugs and detoxing chemicals into my system. I still remember that pain!

Five days before I had been swimming. Walking. Having lunch with a beautiful woman

Six days before I had been off work but still handling complex personal issues, going to the pub for lunch with colleagues, having wine and food with friends in the evening, watching TV programs that portrayed drinking in a favourable light

Seven days before I may have had  Churchill like claret with my eggs and bacon, walked some hills, entertained friends for lunch, got home and popped a couple of bottles like everyone else. Made love, argued, cooked, cleaned, shaved. Everything a 50 something bloke did.

On Day 4 I wanted to get up out of bed.  I refused food. I was rude. I couldn’t understand what people were saying. I wouldn’t answer questions. Sisters were called for. Siblings. Lovers. Anyone who was close, but none helped

I was embarrassed now. I hadn’t seen my son for days.

I forget the name of the health care assistant that came to me. He was male. He sat with me for over 12 hours until I fell asleep. He sympathised with every beligerent thing which I said. He would have known I was going through cold turkey, but he understood my criticisms of the bossy nurses, the continual questions about my drinking. The innuendo they subjected me to. All of it

I told him I was strong. That I don’t get ill. I am active. Bullet proof. Proud. Unbeatable!

Yet I wasn’t, but I refused to believe it, yet he stayed with me

I found out later he was studying to be a doctor. That he would have known what I didn’t at that point. He would have known how you had cried, how you had been congested, how lucky I was to have survived bleeding out, how my body was reacting now to losing alcohol

I had no wish to drink then. But I was so angry and if I had known you were to blame I would have been livid.

That was a bad day. A memory of a day like a good painting. A fine piece of art portraying a sad unchangeable face

Yours truly

John Swan

Cold Turkey on an Intensive Care Ward (day 2/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

For weeks before I fell ill, I had been questioning the amount I had been drinking

I wasn’t concerned so much with my health in the moment, I was more concerned about my health long term, as I knew it would eventually catch up on me and I had been vowing to stop drinking for weeks, but I had been having a tough few weeks.

I had decided I would get that one meeting out of the way first: the one that would determine the rest of my life.

I never had that meeting.

I had stopped drinking before and had been cranky, a little sweaty, but that was all, yet as we both know, I never got the chance to see  how my body react to stopping drinking after that meeting as you cried tears of blood.

After my surgery my medical team had to deal with me so as to avoid cold turkey.  I was told by himself, on the second of the three times my surgeon spoke to me. It was from afar and he had a clip board in his hand. He spoke quickly and I had no idea what he was saying clinically, but I agreed with a simple nod to a course of treatment to bring my body off alcohol, which resulted in a yellow drip being attached to me, or at least I think that’s what it was.

After that I drifted in and out of normality and I have since been reminded of two things, which continue to be vague memories, that happened on Day Two.

The first was the dreaded infection, which I duly attracted on Day Two, when my temperature soared and my chances of survival were questioned, as my blood was not clotting. I have no real recollection about this, other than a lot of people in my room running around, which was a very similar room to the medical room on the first editions of Star Trek

The second was something I was reminded of when I was seeking to go back to work some four months later.

When I was in hospital, I did exercises, which included the lifting of arms off the bed whilst sitting upright and trying to clap.

They had been testing to see how much brain damage I had suffered from so many blood transfusions (needed to replace my blood when you were crying) at a time when they had begun medicated cold turkey.

I recall the test now. It took a few days for the memory to return, but there it was there. Blurred, but a memory all the same. A patient in a white tunic, strapped to an IV and a yellow cold turkey line, slouched over on a hospital bed, with people around him, trying to see if more boxes needed ticking to relegate this poor chap into another sector of care, as he tried to clap his hands.

Was it then that I was saddest? Was it then that a seed was sown within to come out of this? No, it wasn’t, as I have no immediate memory of the moment, but as I look back now, motivation to live long and continue come flooding forth.

Put that realisation together with the fact that I was getting free re-hab and the chance of a new life together with you: sometimes Liver I think you did me a favour

Yours truly

John Swan

Waking Up on an Intensive Care Ward (day 1/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

I doubt you will ever experience coming out of your darkness into a new world, but from this day on I will never drink again, you will be glad to hear.

I came round in an intensive care unit the day after your tears of blood. It looked like I had woken in a new world: white lights, white walls, hospital gowns, ceilings and silence.

It took me a few seconds to remember where I was, which I was told was remarkable: my mind should not have worked so quickly, but it did, which meant I could feel emotion.

And within a very short time, I felt the worst of emotions.

I was not tied down, but felt powerless and disabled, surrounded by machines and the steel bars of a hospital bed.

My first recollection was that of my surgeon’s face and powerful presence: he spoke simply:

“You are lucky to have such a strong heart,” he said and walked past. As he did so, he tapped my right upper arm, in what I felt was not only out of character, but a moment of affection, as short lived as a fly’s wing beat.

Then he was gone and a blue uniform replaced him. My nurse: the angel assigned to just my care; the lady who would subject a man – who a day or so before had been swimming lengths – to the worst of emotions: that of humiliation.

I was lying flat, smelling nothing.  I still felt no pain and had no idea what had actually been done to me. Machines bleeped above my head. I was connected to all of them and various drips, none of which I understood, nor had any intention of asking about.

My angel looked down on me and I asked about going to the toilet.

“Do it there and I will clean it up!” she said in mono-tone, without emotion.

“You are kidding,” I said weakly, the reality of the situation not sinking in.

“You’re not going anywhere soon, now are you,” was the terse reply. “My ex-husband became a drinker, and I soon got rid of him.”

Being typecast as a drinker after years as a respected professional did not go un-noticed, but that was nothing in comparison to the reality of the humiliation of the toilet situation. Yet, it lasted eight days. Four, five, six times a day due to my medication, my bed was changed and I was wiped clean. There was never any complaint from any of my angels, yet they never knew what it felt like for me. There is no way to easily explain it. It’s going to affect me forever, so if you think you have problems, just consider being rolled over on a bed and being cleaned by complete strangers.

At some point family arrived, but by then I was weary. Someone mentioned nine transfusions, but no doubt that was just to replace your tears. It would be another 24 hours before my angel explained the surgeon had put some elastic bands on my veins in my throat to stop you crying.

Within a few hours of consciousness, I was wheeled around to various departments for test after test, question after question about my habits.

They had a look at you, during my first radiogram, but you showed no normal signs of the damage my surgeon had expected. He then had walked off with my sisters following in hot pursuit seeking explanations about what it all meant. I never heard and couldn’t be bothered asking, but a year or so later I found out all about it and you are now in much better shape and your have lost your excess weight. Well done you! 

In my hospital bed there was no text messages, email, social media nor TV. Nothing was available at all, so I stared at various ceilings in various departments. It was really lonely, despite the people around me.

At no time did I think of you, because no one really explained what I had done to you. That came much later, after I had left hospital and was asking our local doctor about our life expectancy, which as it happens is quite good, but as I had never heard about varices, which is what a liver crying blood is called in the medical professions, there was nothing to make me think you were sad.  

So all in all, a humiliating day all round.

Yours truly

K James

Arriving at Accident and Emergency

Dear Liver
This letter follows on from my memory of when I realised I was ill, after you had been crying blood
Within what seem to me to be a relatively short space of time of sitting on the floor, an ambulance crew arrived, calmly looked around and made me ready to go to hospital.  To my surprise I was harnessed into the trolley and taken away
The ambulance crew took my pulse and blood pressure and seemed very quiet, no doubt because they knew the urgency
My friends came with me after delivering a docile dog to a surprised neighbour and we travelled with the sirens on.  I didn’t have the energy to look up, but I don’t recall vomiting again
A&E were very efficient, but soon I became a pin cushion and a large number of readings were being taken, as I stared up at a white ceiling.  A very efficient male nurse stood in front of me and helped when I threw up again, tidied me up and said not a word.  He was so well toned, slicked back hair and strong!
When I was taken to Ward 3, people were buzzing around me but when I was vomiting your tears again, I just wasn’t worried.  People came and went, they seemed to have stemmed the vomiting, then they hadn’t and suddenly things changed again. My second angel couldn’t help: the young doctor. They spoke about getting my friends who had left back from home, which I just nodded about, got me ready for surgery and I heard what sounded like an important mans name
All the time I wasn’t worried apart from one thing, namely I didn’t want the other patients to see me throwing up blood, as I was worried it would be distressing for them, so I still remember seeing your tears hitting a bowl, as I pulled back a curtain to shield my bed from the eyes of others!  I was told off about this by a nurse
You see, even though I was in a bad shape, I was still aware of what was going on, but I had no idea what was happening to me and didn’t know you had been crying.  Looking back on those moments, after what I have been told since, they were fighting to save my life, with blood transfusions and clotting drugs.  I was letting out more than I was keeping or taking in.  I was bleeding out all over the hospital floor, like a gun shot wound to the stomach, yet I felt no pain at all.  I felt nothing and I had such a low blood pressure I couldn’t think of fear.
Then a man arrived, looking cool, in control and he looked at me.  Calmly. Then said he was going to tie up some knots inside of me, which I just didn’t understand, and just left
When I went into surgery, I was desperate for a drink.  By then, I had gleaned from all of the questions I was being asked that they were trying to find out how much alcohol I drank and were blaming that for my illness
I just wanted a glass of lemonade.  I was so thirsty. And as I fell asleep I recalled putting my infant child onto a bed in a hospital ready for surgery and watching him fall into a deep sleep.  Would that be my last memory
I have so many memories of A&E, but I am not sure you need anymore for now.  All I know is that during surgery, a nurse left theatre and met my dearest friend in the waiting room and commented she had never seen so much blood
Yours truly
John Swan

from his blog of letters at