Having worked as a graphic designer for many years, in 2001 I went into business with a partner and within a few years I decided to go it alone and had diversified into filmmaking as well. I had several excellent clients and was doing alright for myself.
I had a minor health issue, a hiatus hernia, which required medication that had undesirable side effects and was advised that I could have keyhole surgery to rectify it. So, at the end of 2006 when I had completed the year's main contracts, I went into Blackpool Victoria Hospital to undergo a Nissen Fundoplication. I anticipated being out of hospital within a couple of days and was looking forward to a major new assignment in the New Year. Unfortunately, things did not go according to expectations and on the evening after the operation I was experiencing pain across my abdomen and chest which was more severe than I had ever felt before. The self administered pain relief was exhausted, the nurses could not find replenishments and I was directly told to shut up because I was upsetting the other patients. They refused to attend to me and left me in agony. I requested that they call my girlfriend but they refused as it was after midnight. I eventually called her myself almost falling out of bed finding my phone. I had to call her mobile phone and my home landline (she was staying in my flat as she had taken time off work in Scotland to be with me) quite a few times before she answered. I have very little memory of what happened next. I was anaesthetised and woken up to sign a consent form. The next I remember waking up feeling like I had been hit by a bus. I had tubes coming from everywhere, two from my arms, two from my abdomen one from my penis and one from my neck. I was barely able to move.
It was clear that the first operation had gone wrong and I was later told that I had been stitched up with a hole in my stomach so when I had been fed, the food was leaking into my abdominal cavity. Over the next few weeks I was subjected to the most painful and humiliating treatment from the surgeon who had performed the original operation and was in excruciating pain. I had pneumonia in my left lung and mass fluid retention in my lower body. My scrotum had enlarged to the size of a very large grapefruit. My penis was engorged by my scrotum so that the catheter just disappeared into it. I was unable to get out of bed for two weeks and when I finally made it to the bathroom for the first time, I was shocked at what I saw in the mirror. I looked like an old man and my mouth was green inside. I was told that I had a systemic fungal infection and was prescribed quite nice tasting but evidently extremely powerful anti-fungal medicine which I later believed had destroyed all the bacteria in my digestive system.
When I was just about able to walk unaided, I was allowed home. It was the day before Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, I went to my sister's house to have dinner with her family and my Mum. The smell of food made me feel nauseous. I pleaded for a tiny portion but got a full plate. I was able to eat a single sprout before I felt sick.
I was unable to walk more than a few yards without becoming totally exhausted. I had chronic diarrhoea and was glued to the toilet foe most of the time - probably going over forty times per day. Ridiculously, I still had the new project in my sights and in early January, I made an attempt to start work. I needed to visit the client but could not drive so I took the bus. It was pretty evident that I was going to be unable to do the work and the job went to somebody else. Worse still, I was not able to do any of my regular work feeling that I was letting clients down I eventually had to close the business.
My savings were depleted and reluctantly, I had to ask my doctor to sign me off so that I could claim benefits not realising that I could have done so months earlier.
I made several attempts to walk into Blackpool town centre, about a mile from my flat, but was defeated by my need for the toilet before I made it half way. And so it continued for most of the year until the boredom of my digestive imprisonment drove me to despair. I managed to find work with a company who provided transport for children with special needs. It was about two hours work in the morning and two in the afternoon. I explained my situation to all the parents and each assured me that their bathroom would be available should I need it. I was probably too proud to ask and somehow managed to hold on every day until I got to the school. I was given the security code for the main door and once the children were safely unloaded I would dart to the toilet.
Whilst this was far from my preferred line of work, I found working with the children very rewarding and the modest responsibility was extremely satisfying. But economic factors were to interfere. Fuel prices were rising dramatically and only about six months after I started, I was made redundant because the contract my employer had on the route I drove was losing money. Explaining my circumstances to the Job Centre was not easy. I did not want to be considered too unwell for work but I was definitely not well enough to do a full time job and most of the jobs on offer were well out of my range at that time.