Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keep Smiling - Humour #3, Hallucinations #2

Last post:                                      My Story:                                         Next One:
                                Last #HIH                                                       Next #HIH

I was sitting in the car the other day talking to Dad about this and that when I remembered a video I saw earlier that day.

It was of me, a few months ago, as I was suffering from hallucinations caused by PRES syndrome which I'd developed.

You see, during chemotherapy, little things like uncooked food, contact with other people and pieces of hair (which I was shedding at the time like a dog in summer) are deadly infection risks. And so, in my deranged state, I was so scared of those bits of hair that I envisioned millions of them floating around, trying to find any way of getting into my body.

And so this video came to be.

To my eyes, that nasal cannula - which was pumping out oxygen - was blowing the locks of hair I was seeing, and afraid of, away from me. It was like I was totally high right? And my reaction to it? Hilarious!

But when I reminded Dad of this a few days ago, struggling to contain my laughter as I gave the best imitation of my past self, I got a completely different reaction.

"Don't you realise how scary that was?" He said abruptly, looking at me in my mirth as if I was crazy.

I was shocked. My dad - usually the joker of the family - didn't think THAT was funny?

"You almost pulled out your central line a few times then! Matter o' fact, I had to slap your hand away to stop you from doing it..."

I guess going through pain and struggle yourself is different to having to watch those you love go through them... When I first watched the video, I didn't hear my mum's panic when she told me that was enough... I just saw a very delusional version of me having the time of his life.

How I take it now though is that all that was all in the past... and so it can't hurt or traumatise me now unless I let it. But I didn't realise how hard it was on my parents... and how hard it still is on them.

When you go through tough times, not just medical emergencies like me but also things like financial difficulties, stress or things like depression, you often only see your own suffering. You forget that those around you suffer just as much. 
In fact, I think at times they suffer more than you. Just because they can see your suffering, but can't do anything to help you.

I didn't want my Dad to go through that pain every time he remembered that taxing week.

But how could I make sure he didn't?

Well, I know my Dad. And I know that, like most people, he loves to laugh.

And so, after a few minutes, I broke the awkward silence that had brewed between us.
"Do you remember that hallucination where I thought I was being attacked by foxes?"

I could see him visibly stiffen as I said this. 

When I was young, probably around 10, I remember Dad telling me a story about foxes breaking into chicken coops. What I, in my hallucinogenic state, got from that was that foxes could get anywhere.

Even into locked up hospital wards at night.

And so, one night, I was attacked. Not just by one, regular sized fox, but hundreds of tiny ones! The foxes- none longer than my forefinger, but all perfect in their aspect - had somehow galloped through emergency, waited patiently in lifts and thrown themselves against my door like a living battering ram until they'd wound up in my room...

I didn't even question it. My mind had taken that story by dad and added all the sensations I needed to make it seem completely real. I could smell that smell of wet fur, could hear the padding of their paws on the ground and feel their weight on my bed as they leaped onto it.

"Remember when they all started biting me? And how some got onto my line? And me tugging at 'em to try and get them off it?" I continued. Again, Dad looked at me as if I'd lost it.

When that had happened, I'd obviously started getting a bit too hard to manage. So Dad had to call the nurse in.

I was in pain, and no matter how much they told me not to, I kept trying to grab at my central line to get those damn foxes off it.

"So do you remember how you got me to pull out of that one?" I asked. 

What happened next was amazing. 
Dad smiled.

What the nurse and Dad had done next that night was incredible. They played along with my hallucination.

"Watch, Nikhil!" said Dad. "June's kicking them all out!"

And so I looked over towards the door of my room, and sure enough, there was June, shepherding hundreds of those miniature foxes into a circle and shooing them out of the room. I whooped in joy as piles of foxes were pushed out of the door. 
Anyone who was looking in would've been shocked. What they would've seen was a nurse opening and closing a door repeatedly while an animated man pushed and kicked at thin air. All the while another man sat on the bed, glee written on his face, as he watched them do so. 

"Sleep now Nikhil, she'll get 'em off you. Don't worry, I'll make sure they're all out."

And sure enough, next morning, there were no foxes in the room - and none stuck to my central line. Dad added his own touch for that one. When I asked about it - he insisted that one of the doctors had pulled the foxes on my line off with a pair of pliers. And to me, at that time, that made perfect sense.

"I can't believe you bought that though," he said to me, still smiling.

Dad's smile as I reminded him of that night was a good sign to me. I knew that next time that night came to his mind, he'd remember my relief as I fell asleep rather than the panic he'd felt as he pushed that emergency button to call the nurse.

I knew one story though, that could turn that smile into a laugh.

"Remember that time I told Dr B about my weird symptom?" That smile grew a little wider...

For some reason or the other, the toxins in my brain that were affecting  me decided to act on the brain's smell centre on one day. Everything just smelled off... Everything I ate tasted weird...

And so when my registrar (pretty much a specialist in training) came in to visit that morning, I had to ask him about it.

As he leant over and examined my belly, I blurted out, imperiously, "Doctor, something's very wrong with me. I think it's serious... you've gotta stop it!"

"What is it, Nikhil?"

"My farts. They smell weird!"

He looked a little bemused at first, then, recovering from that announcement he assured me, "Don't worry, Nikhil, I'm sure it'll pass soon."

"But it really does doctor!" I urged.

And then, without warning, I lifted my blanket and turned to my side and said, "Here - smell!" before proceeding to let off one of the best farts of my life.

It was magnificent. Triumphant. It went on for at least three full seconds.

 If he was bemused by my suggestion that a changed fart could be a sign of some fatal disease, he was left dumbfounded when I showed him.

Dad finally cracked up as I told him that one. "You remember his face as he copped a faceful? " He managed to croak out between bursts of laughter. "He was literally lost for words."

And he was. He couldn't even look at me for the next week without the curves of his mouth creeping into a smile. I honestly think that's the reason why he was taken off my treatment team for a few weeks.

There's something about Dads and fart jokes right?

I knew now that from that moment on, whenever my Dad would remember that week and a bit I spent undergoing seizures and being rushed in and out of the ICU, he'd remember that consultation. And I knew that now, looking back, he wouldn't be haunted by the suffering he and I went through. Instead he'd be looking back and smiling.

To those of you with loved ones out there going through hard times. I know it sucks.

That feeling of uselessness when all you can do is watch on as your brother, sister, parents, partner or friends suffer... it's heartbreaking.

But know this.

You will ALWAYS have a second way of seeing things.

And when you can see the funny side of things... you'll not only keep those who are going through tough times smiling, but also yourself. And that's important.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you respond to bad news by giggling or making a crude joke. What I am saying is that, maybe not always straight away, but after some time, you can choose how you go through and how you look back at hard times...

You can remember that time where your son shouted at you to kill him, or his face, contorted to horrific positions during a seizure or when he had to have his arms completely restrained to stop him from pulling out his central line.

Or you can remember those times of laughter in the midst of it all.

That look on utter bedazzlement on the doctor's face as he was asked to diagnose a fart. The triumphant look on your son's face as the nurse ushered the phantom foxes out of the room.

In the end, those are the times that mattered.
So enjoy them.


  1. You are brave to share such personal things Nik. I hope other reader draw strength from this.....Good Luck All.

  2. You are very brave, indeed, also wiser than you know: I am mostly sure that I read your first post on delirium just before an elderly relative became sick (and delirious) so if I comment, it was after that event, and I would have been thinking different thoughts, maybe. I missed this post before, and just saw it now. It seems to me that you knew and conveyed a very strong sense of your parents' and family's love, and terror, and brilliance, and bravery in your previous posts too, it came across. I think it could be the worst feeling in the world, being honestly afraid for your child, and it takes a time to forget, but you're right: the scarier memories will fade, but the memory of the registrar-fart will last forever.


It's your turn!
What are your thoughts? Any similar experiences? Want to talk about something?