My Emergency and Life Accident

“Have you got food poisoning?” I shouted from the top of the stairs as Sophie stooped down to meet her six inch heels, breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of escaping their grip! It was 2am. I was feeling unwell, very unwell. Gut-wrenching, abdominal pain, nausea and a migraine that would knock over a race-horse.

Sophie and I had shared the same chicken curry earlier that evening after a fun night at the OMiG Awards where Digital Training Institute was shortlisted and where we first introduced little BobbyB to the business of business.

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But this was ending not so well, and I had a 9am start to film short pieces to camera for our eLearning courses over at Webiket. I needed a quick fix and an explanation.

Sophie was “feeling perfect”. Hmmmm, she’s had a good night. I’m having not such a good one. My temperature soared and my mood plunged. Dr. Tom as I like to call him, had perhaps mis-diagnosed food poisoning after my investigative methods with Sophie.

“Gall Bladder,” he quipped. “Yip, you’ve all the symptoms, upper abdominal pain (quickly correcting me when I pointed to my stomach under my rib-cage!) Just give me some painkillers, I can’t stand this. Suddenly the possibly offending curry made a sudden appearance and the cold sweat start to drip off my brow.

I looked at the clock, 3.30am. This was not helping my stress levels. So with two hours sleep under my belt, I showered, dressed, add extra make-up and made my way to meet the film crew and my business partner for a half day of filming. This was swiftly followed by a speaking gig at an education conference where I would address delegates on cyberbullying and then join a panel to debate our views.

I survived the filming, albeit, feeling too hot and considering I may have over-indulged on the pain relief. But the show must go on. With 20 minutes for a quick bite to eat, I didn’t or rather couldn’t really consume or digest it. So I abandoned it and gulped water. Up on stage, I turned to the panel member to my left and queried as to her body temperature. The moistness on the back of my neck and back becoming apparent only to me. She chuckled at me, “Are you having some sort of a hot flush?” I clearly wasn't looking too ‘hot’ (colloquial in Donegal for ‘good’}).

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Anyway, the show went on and I was up first. Great, 10 minutes, no script. Body in bits and the mind under-performing. Media in attendance – check, photographer, check, 100 eager delegates, check and 3 expert panel members – check – all watching on.

But the JSB show went on and some commented I had done well. Well was definitely not how I was feeling but the show went on. My business partner and I went straight to work for three hours to edit our eLearning courses and then joined the conference delegates for their pre-dinner reception and dinner. I gulped two cokes in quick succession feeling like the sugar boost would stimulate wellness! Jesus, it didn’t.

I opted for the non-menu option of melon for starters, took more drugs and within seconds of dinner and chat, had to make my excuses. The fresh air was welcome but time was against me. I needed to lie down and do what I didn’t really know, but I had to be vertical. I scurried to the car and put down all four windows. It was 9pm and the night air gave my lungs some relief from the pain. About half way into the 10 mile journey home, it happened. An escalation in pain, inability to breath and a sense of faint/collapse coming on. I was still in ‘control’ of a 2-litre Saab and we had to disconnect. I called Sophie. “I think I’m having a heart attack, I need to go to hospital.” She was expecting me home at any minute so I couldn’t not just arrive! She started to query my whereabouts and this was just too much so I hung up abrubtly. Instead I waved down an oncoming car and to my surprise they stopped.

30 minutes on a pavement at the bus stop, an ambulance drive to University Hospital Galway. The loyal troops arrived into A&E. Tom and Sophie concerned but slightly amused by the drama of it all. They knew I wasn’t very well when I refused to watch my celebrity/professional crush Vincent Browne on the telly, his usually familiar and welcome tones just made everything worse. “She’s really not well,” declared Sophie, almost like a proper medical diagnoses.

After being triaged and given two paracetamol I was wheeled out to the A&E waiting room (aptly named) and waited, waited and waited for seven hours. “All I want to do is to lie down!" And then it arrived. The most welcome trolly I’ve ever seen and felt in my life. I thought to myself, "why do trollies get such a bad name in the Irish media?"

After securing my much sought-after trolley the Doctor took blood, got me to recount the story above and ordered an x-ray. At this stage we were looking at a dodgy gall bladder. Good I thought. That’s straight-forward and anyway, dodgy gall bladders are in the family. I continued to chart out how this particular story would play out and the timeframe until I would be back in action. #JSBsshowmustgoon

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19 hours after arriving in A&E I was upgraded to a ward, albeit on my trolley. But hey we were friends. I didn’t care so much. I arrived to light chat and friendly banter. It wasn’t long before I was peaking around the curtain from my second-rate trolley to the two faces in the 4-bed ward. On peaking I also noticed a wonderfully first-rate bed by the window. Oh I’ll be getting that soon, I thought. Again writing the next chapter of this tale before it even plays out!

I was soon put back in my box and had to get the eraser out when told that the bed “was for emergencies”. “Oh” I said. I’m clearly not an emergency. But couldn’t I keep it warm until the said emergency arrives? “No” it’s political.

Jeez, a political bed! That was a first for me. And I will tell you in case you're lost - the friendly and sympathetic nurse did not mean for an esteemed politician. No it was part of 'hospital politics.'

Aw well, it wasn't all bad, I thought. There is folk to talk to and pain relief on demand. I eventually got the 'political' bed too so things were looking up.

Later in the evening the same friendly nurse began to feel sorry for me as I tried miserably to do the foetal position in said trolley with some tears of misery falling onto my cheeks.

It didn’t take me long to enquire as to the ailments of the other two patients, how long they were resident at Corrib Spa and their expected stay. I liked them. Nicki (alias) was a Garda and in her mid twenties. Andrea (alias), a retired teacher and in her early 50’s had obviously struck up a bond, so would they let me in, I wondered? I can’t not interact and engage. There’s so much to talk about!

And it was positive. They welcomed me into the fold. We quickly re-framed our hospital stay. We christened the hospital Corrib Spa and our short retreat consisted of a professional detox, enforced and supervised relaxation, and happy pills to keep us motivated. Yes it would be the concept that would carry me through the stabbing pain, enforced starvation (how could they lie to me and tell me to fast for an ultra sound that was never going to happen over the weekend). That enforced starvation lasted from Thursday to Monday. Alas, remember the professional detox I spoke of? Yes it involved saline and other good stuff right into to the veins. (I don’t even want to talk about my veins. You know those protruding blue things in your arms? Yeah well, actually they are not really veins, cause God damn it they couldn’t get blood out of mine)!

So back to my new Spa-mates. These ladies have the spirits of angels and I had met my match in chatterboxes. Nicki quickly discovered that BobbyB wanted to be a Garda when he grows up (along with a superhero – hmmmm he may be moonlighting on the job!) and so arranged to have her Garda hat and jacket brought in for Bobby. This was despite the fact that she was more ill and poorly than Andrea or I put together!

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In return I gave Nicki a signed copy of my book! Well she is a Garda afterall! Never miss an opportunity, me! Seriously, she appreciated it! And promised to read it when she was feeling better.

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Andrea on the other hand was obsessed with our lack of food and decided that we should talk endlessly about food, alcohol, dinner parties, cooking, dining and you get my drift.

This was all against a backdrop of us losing copious pounds on our enforced fast. Luckily were all in the same boat. The catering team had an easy job on our ward. Not so much as a cuppa for the first four days.

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Then we had a visitor. Yeah a newbie in our four-bed ward. Time to investigate an interrogate. We explained the rules of Corrib Spa and how she would benefit greatly from the professional detox and enforced rest coupled with our comradeship. Maggie (alias) was a TV producer in her late twenties and soon as she arrived in she was shipped off to theatre. She completed the team and was a great addition. We talked late (10.30pm - yes that’s late in the Corrib Spa), laughed so hard Maggie’s stitches threatened to burst. In the meantime I remain undiagnosed and was chewing pain killers like jelly tots. The arrival of the drug trolley punctuated our day. I soon realised we all sounded like medics, understanding dosages, ingredients, side-effects and possible cures.

Three quarters way into my Corrib Spa retreat I was medicated to help my bowels along. “How can my bowels move if I’m not eating, for goodness sake?” I know I didn’t listen in science but I at least know that much. There ain’t anything to move along. But they are obsessed with your bowels in the Corrib Spa. I was actually contemplating asking for a colonic irrigation – a sort of meeting in the middle approach. It did lend itself to my concept of the professional detox!

Anyway, I took my senna and in exactly 80 minutes (I also discovered that medics, like police, love you to know your timings so I watched the clock religiously) the constant abdominal pain began to ramp up, and rapidly. I exited my bed and made my way quietly to the bathroom, being considerate to my sleeping comrades.

Positioned and ready, the pain intensified, I grabbed the bin and opened it, I felt ill. Oh I felt weak, I couldn’t speak, I tried to call for help. I looked up and the emergency red cord was wrapped over the shower rail. How was I going to reach it. I mustered enough energy to grab it. But I didn’t hear any bell or alarm. I thought it was lights out, they wouldn’t find me until morning. Then as soon as I had that thought I had our night-shift nurse bang on the door – “Open the door.” I stumbled and fell out of the door and she caught me and suddenly there was what looked like a scrum of medics. I was no longer in control. I was whispering in a whimper about the pain. I could sense concern but I felt safe. But then I felt weaker, my breathing shallowed, I began to shake all over. “Pulse 25, BP 40 (or was it the other way around). Stay with us Joanne. Joanne come on. Breath. Don’t sleep. Stay with us.’

“The pain, I mouthed, please.”

“We can’t give you pain relief until we stablise you. At this stage I could hear my comrades huddle to my left, shouting me words of encouragement. The drama made me scared.

“Will I be ok?”

“Yes Joanne you will!”


She didn’t promise me.

I don’t know what dying feels like, but I felt like I was really dying. Not hangover or food-poisoning or migraine dying, but actually dying, exiting this world.

I cried then. Loud sobs like the child in me was let out. I was scared and didn’t want to go.

I saw Tom, Sophie and Bobby and worried how they would cop without me. They needed me. I couldn’t bear them suffering. I asked for Tom.

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Amdist bed-side scans, blood tests and oxygen and whatever else, it all lasted almost two hours and then Tom arrived. I was stablised and weak. I was afraid to close my eyes. I just wanted morning to come. I wanted to see the sun rise.

Thankfully I did see and watch the sun rise. I dozed but I was afraid to sleep.

The doctors diagnosed a vasovagal attack after a procedure earlier in the day combined with my pain. I was monitored and minded. They minded me so well.

I live life to the max. I live every day like it’s my last. I appreciate being healthy and alive and I want to make the most of it. While some people tell me it’s not good to do so much, I work hard because I enjoy it, not least it’s an economic necessity.

But I did have lots of thinking time in the Corrib Spa. I was too ill for devices or external noise. I didn’t care what was happening outside those four walls once I saw Tom and the kids each day and my daily phonecall from my ‘worried sister’ in Donegal who actually drove down to bring me home from the hospital to Barna, a short 8 mile drive.

So what did I learn?

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  1. There are great, fun people in this world and I met three stars in the Corrib Spa – we are organising a reunion – at a restaurant! Haha J
  2. I’m not going anywhere quite just yet.
  3. I’m going to continue to live every day like it’s my last.
  4. I will continue to give my everything to my little family who complete me.
  5. And I’m going to continue to do stuff. Cause that’s called living!
  6. Cast aside the nay-sayers and negative commentators, life's too short!
  7. Stop allowing people who have no insights into my life to annoy me with their crude judgements.
  8. Ain’t I glad I don’t do gossip and am happy for other people’s successes?
  9. Learn and practice being good to JSB.
  10. Just have fun and laugh every day.

Actually most of that I knew. I’m just going to continue on that track.