In October 2011, busy working mum-of-three Ruth Sapsed had emergency neurosurgery for a rupture close to her brain.
“It all happened so fast. From being at the heart of everything – work, family, friends – I suddenly felt so cut oﬀ. While the ward was incredibly friendly, emotionally I found being in hospital extremely diﬃcult. It was hard to relax properly, especially with my girls and husband. I really worried when the girls were there and wanted to protect them from all the shocking sights and sounds.
I didn’t know where to go to take my mind oﬀ things. The heat, light and bustle of the hospital concourse felt overwhelming, so I spent hours in bed watching TV, thinking about getting home. I needed a quiet space to be – somewhere relaxed and less institutional. Not bright lights, endless noises and disruptions. One day I even walked to the perimeter fence in my pyjamas, gazed at the ﬁelds and thought about walking oﬀ. The hospital does a truly exceptional job to get bodies like mine working again. But I felt the emotional experience could be improved – to treat and nourish the mind, as well as the body. A garden full of natural colours, living things and distractions, would have been lovely.
In 2015, my symptoms returned and I needed a re-run of the operation. It was a big blow and the anticipation was horrid. I didn’t want a day longer in hospital than I needed. After the operation, I was constantly looking to escape to peaceful spaces. This time, with all the new buildings everywhere, it was harder to ﬁnd anywhere to go. One day, after searching for a good spot, I found a step outside to perch on with a coﬀee. I just wanted to feel the air on my face and soak up the early Spring sun. The view was a building site but at least I was outside – which made it easier to focus not on being ill, but on getting well again.”
It’s very clear that emotional wellbeing plays just as important a part as physical wellness on the road to recovery.