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  • Writer's picturePeta

What happened to me in hospital?

This weeks' episode is a little bit different. I asked what my Instagram follows wanted me to answer and well it turns out you wanted to know why I was so sick when I started high school.

Just a warning before we get started this week, this one is a bit of a heavy episode. So if you have little ears around or you're not feeling up to an emotional story this week, I completely understand. But if you are, I hope you enjoy the episode.

You can ask Peta a question via:


You can follow Peta's personal account on Instagram @petahooke


Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:00] Just a warning before we get started this week, this one is a bit of a heavy episode. I'm not going to lie. If I'm being really honest, I cry through this one a little bit. So I really hope the audio is OK. I fixed it up as much as I could, but I prefer to be authentic and honest about how I really felt versus sounding like a robot and talking to you without any emotion. So if you have little ears around or you're not feeling up to an emotional story this week, I completely understand. But if you are, I hope you enjoy the episode.

[00:00:47] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast, answering your questions on what it's like to live with a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I love answering your questions. This week, the question came from Instagram. I put a poll on my Instagram and it turns out this is the most requested story you wanted me to tell.

[00:01:14] If you'd like to ask me a question. There are three ways you can do so. One from my Instagram @petahooke. Two by email at Or three, by my website OK, without any further ado, let's get into it.

[00:01:48] This week, I'm going to tell you the story of what happened to me in hospital. Now, a little bit of background on this story, I spoke about it last week when I was talking about fitting in at school. I said I was very sick when I entered seven and a lot of you on Instagram wanted to know why. So here I am telling you why I was sick when I entered seven.

[00:02:16] It was the first week after school holidays in July 2002. This operation's quite difficult to explain because it's sort of two in one. I had to have staples in my knees and I also had my hamstring stretched. So I have two scars on the front of each knee and I have two scars on the back of each knee from this operation. This was in the hope to make it easier for me to be able to walk. So my mum and I are sitting in the hospital room waiting to be admitted for my operation. The anaesthetist walks in and asks me what sort of gas flavour I would like. I don't know whether this is just a children's hospital thing that they use to try and flavour the gas that would put you under for the operation. I chose, because of course I did, I chose the chocolate flavoured gas. Spoiler alert it tasted awful. Did not taste like chocolate as I'm tasting it right now in my mouth as I'm talking to you. So I kissed my mum goodbye, they wheel me into the theatre. They put me on the operating table, they put the gas mask over my face, I look into the anaesthetist's eyes, and they asked me to count backwards from ten. I always got to about five and started panicking that the gas wasn't working, but I can never remember saying four so it must have kicked in fairly quickly.

[00:04:05] The next thing I remember, I was in recovery. I come too before my parents were allowed to see me. The nurse with lovely and asked me to wiggle my toes, asked me whether I could feel it and I could. The next thing I remember very clearly was me in a lot of pain and I mean a lot of pain. As I said, I clearly remember feeling the nurse's hand on my legs when I got out of the theatre. But as the hours wore on, that feeling then disappeared. I was sort of dozing in and out of consciousness, and I remember in the middle of the night, like two-thirty in the morning, and the nurses saying, yeah, we're going to roll it in and she's going to have an MRI. I never had an MRI before. Let alone only 12 hours after a major operation in the middle of the night. So they put me in that big MRI tunnel, they said to me, your mum will stand at the bottom of the tube and you can look at her for the whole period. I'll never forget the vision of my mum standing at two-thirty in the morning looking up at me, telling me it was going to be OK. I do clearly remember as I got out of the MRI and they lifted me gently back onto the bed. I remember my mum being told by a nurse when they thought I was completely out of it, that they thought I had bleeding on the spine and that the MRI results would give them a direction of what to do next. Thankfully, I didn't have bleeding on the spine. It was something else.

A photo of the old Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne
Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital in 2002

[00:06:08] The nurses were now concerned that while I had, had feeling in my feet when I came out of the operation, I no longer did. When you have an operation, you experience anaesthesia in the part of your body that the operation was carried out on. So I was numb from the waist down in preparation for the operation, so I wouldn't feel the operation taking place, but my anaesthesia wasn't wearing off in the normal manner. I was numb from the waist down and couldn't feel anything. And the reason for that was at least I was told at 12, this was the reason, So who knows whether it is? But this is what I was told. I was told that when I was stretching my hamstrings, something went wrong and they damaged my nervous system. I now had chronic nerve pain and my nerve endings in my body no longer knew how to work and they had to fully recover.

[00:07:18] When your nerve endings are damaged, they no longer understand what certain sensations felt like. The sensation of pain apparently is easier to comprehend for the brain, but the sensation of things like soft touch or softness or gentleness is more complex. The feeling of someone brushing past me, gently touching my legs or even a breeze would send me into complete agony. I was comprehending every sensation I had as pain. I experienced the feeling of someone stabbing me with a knife in my body continually. I experienced the feeling of somebody dragging me over hot coals. I experienced a sensation of somebody stabbing me with glass. I experienced the sensation of somebody poking me with hot cigarettes or something worse than that, but that's the only thing I can sort of attribute it to. I was told that the likelihood of what happened to me was one in a million. And guess what? I was that one in a million.

[00:08:42] So the drugs worked up until a point they had to be special drugs approved by the government and sent from Canberra down to Melbourne. I walked in, I shouldn't say that - I rolled into that hospital not being able to swallow a small tablet of panadol. To walking out five weeks later, being able to swallow like 20 tablets at once. I have to apologise to my fellow children in the hospital ward with me. I wasn't able to get a private room, so I was sharing, I think, with six other kids and I don't know how they coped with my screaming. Apparently, the pain level that I've gone through is the equivalent of going through labour. And the labour didn't stop.

A multi-bed hospital room
An example of the type of room I was living in

[00:09:41] With taking all the medication, I lost my appetite completely. I didn't eat for almost five and a half weeks. I didn't eat anything. Nothing stayed down. I didn't go to the toilet for a number of weeks either. My system was in complete disarray. I can remember vaguely the doctors coming into my room and using a blunt needle, like a sewing needle or an ice cube and trying to document whether the numbness in my body was receding. It was, but it was doing it in really odd ways.

[00:10:27] I want you to imagine yourself standing up and at your waist level, I want to fill your body with water so you're half full with water up to your waist. The water is numbness, so as the numbness recedes, if it was a body of water, it would recede in a level manner. This didn't happen with me. For some reason, like at the front of my left thigh, I started to regain feeling. But on the back of my left thigh, I couldn't feel anything. It was really weird. And then like a small patch on my right ankle, I could feel, but I couldn't feel anything else. It was a long, long period of my life.

A girl in a wheelchair wearing AFOs
At the age of 15 still having to wear AFOs to protect my legs from getting knocked

[00:11:25] I was starting to feel really sorry for myself. I started to understand that this was my new reality, that the doctors couldn't tell me when I would feel better, that we would just have to wait it out and get through every day. So what did my mum do? Somehow or another, she had the foresight to say,.

Peta's Mum [00:11:51] "I'm going to put you in a wheelchair and we're going to go for walks around the hospital".

[00:11:57] My mum pushed me to the kids' cancer ward. That day in the kids' cancer ward formed me as a person. I was in so much pain and feeling so sorry for myself, but I really experienced clarity, meeting the kids with cancer. Those kids, without having to say it, made me realise how much joy there was in the world. They're all also happy playing with one another, having people that understood what they were going through. But it really made me realise, as a 12-year-old, how lucky I was. That, yes, what I was going through was really shit. I had the opportunity and the possibility of getting out of that hospital. A lot of those kids weren't going to be ever leaving.

[00:12:57] I've carried that with me ever since. While I spent five weeks in hospital and it took until I was about 16 to feel like myself again, I knew I was lucky. I was lucky that I was born into the family I was born into. That I was born with a disability that I had. That I was born with the severity of disability that I had. And I was lucky that I had the possibility of getting better.

[00:13:36] I don't know about you, but I need to take a deep breath after telling that story. That was a big one. I hope you enjoyed it. I promise next week will be a lot brighter and chirpier and more on brand. But I love the fact that my Instagram followers told me that they wanted to hear this story. So I hope you enjoyed it, everyone. Until next week, bye.

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