Day 14 – two weeks in and I am really wishing I had been writing each day during this crazy period, but the truth is I have been far too exhausted and emotional to even switch the laptop on.
So, let’s recap, it was two weeks ago today, a warm and sunny Sunday in North Wales. I spent the day in the garden, digging out the old plants, tidying the borders, good therapeutic work, after weeks of uncertainty about hubby’s health. Delayed admission to hospital to begin to mend his broken heart, he has become more and more poorly, these are worrying times. This Sunday I persuaded him to join me in the sunshine and he sat on the bench, chatting and watching me dig and toil. It began to feel almost normal. My phone, for weeks glued to my body awaiting the most important call of all, was on the table indoors. We heard it ring and I dashed, just too late, I had missed it. Luckily, I had the hospital numbers on speed dial and within minutes we learned that at last there was a bed!!! We were on our way to the rainy city where people could operate and fix his heart.
The drive there was tricky, sat nav got us most of the way and good luck did the rest. Unfamiliar roads then, have quickly become second nature. Soon he was allocated the precious bed, I wanted to take a photo of it, such a rare thing. Then, I left him, in the good care of people who understood, I felt emotional and a bit shaken but I was optimistic that soon he would be healthy again. I would get my strong and capable husband back. The person I can rely on for everything, from carrying shopping to driving distances, my friend, my partner, I have missed him.
When we heard later that night that the operation could be done the next day we were both thrilled, we hoped that this will be sorted soon. Alas it was not to be, not this time nor the next time or the one after that. Each operation cancelled at the last minute, it seems hubby is not well enough for surgery. I cannot explain the feeling of hopes dashed time after time, the worry and concern. We had thought admission to hospital would be the beginning of becoming well, it seemed at times that he was actually getting worse not better. Problems with other organs are detected, they need more doctors, more tests, on and on and on it goes.
During this last two weeks I have visited daily, sat beside his bed time spent talking and sometimes watching him sleeping, he is exhausted by breathing and lying in bed. I have spoken with nurses, with doctors, they all agree, he is not a well man. This is very tricky. I am eighty miles from home in a once strange city that is now becoming very familiar. I have been wrapped up with the love of friends and family who have offered their homes, their support and their time to take care of me, and yet it is all difficult. I have driven miles and miles between beds, toting my wardrobe in a suitcase, most of my life is in my car. Nothing feels right.
Visiting times are long and yet the time passed quickly it is almost restful. Sometimes I just sit, holding his hand, other times we can chat and laugh. Once, last week I managed to take him off the ward in a wheelchair for an hour of normality in the café downstairs. We were hopeful things were improving, but a week on we are no further forwards.
I know they can fix him, I understand more about hearts and surgery than I ever wanted to, I understand the importance and the irony of him having to be 100% well to have an operation to make him well. None of it matters, we will do this.
I think the most difficult thing is the isolation, that despite the love and care people are offering to me, I still feel completely alone. I am responsible for getting myself to and from the city, for talking to the doctors and trying hard to understand what is really going on. They say the operation may happen this week, I am trying not to hope, instead consoling myself with the facts. He is in the right place, people are caring for him and we are no longer trying to manage on the hill.
I no longer lie awake at night listening to him coughing, checking his breathing, for this I am grateful.I am grateful for other things. For the kindness of strangers, the man at the reception desk late one night in a hotel across from the hospital. I couldn’t face driving another mile, he found me a room, with kindness and a smile, he did the best he could to get me a good deal. As I type this I have just checked out of that room, I kept it for an extra night, the luxury of walking across the road to the hospital to visit has been fabulous. I came into the bar area to sit and wait until visiting time, and the same kind man offered me a coffee. I set up my laptop, writing has always been a great way for me to pass time, and within minutes another member of the staff team brings me a coffee to the table. Little things, they mean a lot.
As with every experience I look for the lessons. I know that this is nowhere near over, that at best I have another two weeks or more to spend in this city, maybe a lot longer, and yet already I have been reminded of the good in the world. People who go just a bit further, the nurses, there have been more than one, who have hugged me out of sight of the ward, who don’t pretend it is all ok, they know it is not. This is day to day stuff for them and yet they make me feel special. I wonder if they know what a difference they make? Then the doctors, again, there have been many, who sit beside us, and sometimes just with me, they explain over and again the issues, answering question and helping us to understand what is happening. The young registrar who coped well with my tears, moving me to a private room and spending time to reassure me, they have this covered.
Back on the ward I watch other wives, mothers, daughters and partners sitting beside beds, all hoping for the best. The Mum that is two years in to her son’s admission, who visits daily and does everything she can to keep him calm. The wife who sits for hours reading aloud to her husband, he cannot talk to her, or move for himself, but I am sure he can hear her. All of us share smiles, and stories, in the day room and across the beds. Part of a club that no one wants belong to, we keep on keeping on. Another lesson for life.
I tell hubby often that this is but a moment in time. We shall get through this, and life will go on. We will walk again along the Welsh coastline, in warm sunshine and laugh as we always do. Grateful for this life we have, we will watch our family grow and prosper, and we shall grow old together. One thing I know is that I shall never, ever again take life for granted.
So, back to the beginning, it is Day 14 of this adventure. I shall walk across the road shortly and visit, hopefully we will chat and he will be on good form. Today he is getting a visit from our precious Granddaughter, which I hope will lift his spirits, her Mum and Dad are driving up from the countryside to spend time with her Pops. This means the world to me.
I have no clue what next week will bring, we may well be in exactly the same position as we are today, and this is tricky for someone who loves a plan. I am learning what is actually means to take one day at a time, to have no control over events and to have to go with the flow. It is all I can do.
I cannot write all this without talking about the NHS. The treatment offered free of charge at the point of need is simply the most valuable asset we have. We need to hold it close and fight fearlessly against those who want to change things. The people I have witnessed this last two weeks are hard working and skilled, of course they are, but more than that, they are part of a team, a culture that could never be built again. The different uniforms, from the suits of surgeons, to the scrubs of theatre nurses, the greens, whites, blues of the nurse’s shirts, each showing the part of the team to which they belong. Every one of them using their skills to make the machine that is the NHS work. The sum of their parts is greater that each individual, another lesson for life.
I will not be part of the generation that wastes this, that casts it aside in the name of profit. I will stand and fight every inch of the way against the media barons, the politicians and the business people who are circling above like vultures, waiting to pick the carcass clean. A young doctor told me yesterday that the NHS is the best thing about this country, a country he has chosen to move to, to work in, and somewhere he can see the value of.
I think of my Dad’s family, of his sister who died in childbirth, along with her baby, because the family could not afford a doctor, and his eldest sister who lost a leg for the same reason. I think of my Mum’s Dad, the Granddad I never knew, who died of a heart attack as a young man. His son became the first man in the family to live beyond fifty, thanks to heart surgery and the NHS. These are real people who lived within living memory, and I know that without a fight, this world will come again. So, it is time for us to stand up and to say, enough, we will not allow you to take this away from us. My Granddaughter is just three years old, I want her Grandchildren to have health care, free at the point of need, forever.