The attentive amongst you will have noticed that I have been quiet lately. Posts have been going up of course – but they are the ones I scheduled a long time ago.
I have had other things on my mind.
Two weeks ago my wife went into Hospital to have a Aortic Valve and Aorta replacement. I dropped her off at Kings College Hospital and had to leave her. She was booked in for the op the next day at 12pm. The care was superb. Then and throughout. She was due to receive a new type of valve – described as the RollS Royce of replacement valves. The surgeon was one of -if not the top – in the country.
None of that helps when I was on the train heading home while she was left there. But I was not allowed to stay and I had to get back and take over looking after our kids. Grandparents are good but they have their limits 😏
It was the culmination of a stressful time. I had just started a new job – only been there 3 months and now I was having to ask for time off. On top of that we then received news that our youngest – who has autism is likely to be transferred out of his new school. The one he had been sent to because it was recommended as being the best school to deal with his needs!
It never rains…..
So the next morning I was up early. Got the kids off to school and onto the train back to London.
It was cancelled! No problem! I had left early just in case of something like this – the next train would get me there with 10 minutes to spare. So I am on the train trying to calm my nerves and Rachel’s with texts to say I was on my way – when they announced suddenly that the train would now not be stopping at Denmark Hill! Instead it would go straight to Victoria from where I would have to get a train back to Denmark Hill.
Shit! This meant that I was not going to make it. My wife was going into the most important operation of her life without me. An op that there was every chance she might not come out of.
I was not happy with Network Southeast at that point – to say the least.
I finally got there at 12.30. Rachel was still there! The op was delayed. Some good luck at at last!
So an hour later she went in and I got to see he off and wish her well.
She was in for 5 hours. During that time I wandered around the Denmark Hill area and had lunch though I couldn’t eat much. While I did that the surgeon went to work.
He cut open her chest, sawed her breast bone in two and then spread open her rib cage. This apparently puts a huge amount of pressure on the shoulder blades – almost to the point of breaking them. The nurses told us afterwards that when he saw Rachel’s ailing valve he was shocked at how bad it had become. He said she had been extremely lucky that it had not failed already. She had had a lucky escape there.
The operation went well. The breastbone was stitched back together with wire – which will remain there, the rest was done with normal stitches that will dissolve in time. Once it was over she was sent to the cardiac recovery unit where I was allowed to see her at last.
This was when the emotional wave hit me. To see your loved one with so many wires and pipes and dressings, looking so helpless is scary as hell. She was still deeply asleep, she had a breathing pipe down her throat which I knew she would have hated had she been awake. Even in her drug induced sleep she was trying to get it out and the nurses had to hold down her arms gently.
The care in this ward was again superb. The nurses had to watch the patients constantly. Never taken their eyes off them. They had little time for me but that was not a concern, it was how I wanted it.
Watching her there like that was hard, there was the fear mixed with the relief that she was through the worst. I was worried about how much pain she would be in when she awoke. Worried about what the future held.
But on top of that were memories. I had seen her in a very similar state before. All that came flooding back and I was back in another hospital room watching my newborn son die in my arms.
I nearly didn’t get through it all then. I was waiting for the time when they would wake her up and remove that breathing pipe. Then I knew that she would be more comfortable and that she would know I was there for her.
Before that time came though – visiting hours came to an end and they would not let me stay. they were very strict on that.
So I had to leave he to wake up alone and in a strange place. That was hard. It was a hard getting on the train back home – the only thing that helped was that I knew my kids needed me back home.
Yet this was just me – I was not the one who had been through the operation. I could not begin to imagine how Rachel was feeling – how she would feel when she awoke.
When I got home I rang to find out how awaking her had gone. The breathing tube was out and she had gone straight back to sleep. That made me feel a little bit better.
Over the next 6 days the nurses and doctors imposed an efficient, hard but caring regime in order to get Rachel back up to speed. She went from beings very drugged and unresponsive to walking around the ward in a surprisingly quick time. The staff were very understanding and took everything we said seriously. They were superb. We trusted them completely and therefore were able to accept the way they pushed her to recover.
She is now home. Still very fragile but improving slowly each time. We have had a close call, a brush with death. Rachel is under the influence of a lot of drugs so there are bad dreams, even hallucinations but she is already looking forward and feeling hopeful again.
For my part, it has made me think deeply. There are changes I need to make – just need to figure then out – and stop the everyday trivia from getting in the way of making them.
I would like to conclude this ramble by saying a few things. One – a big thank you to all the staff at Kings College Hospital- especially Professor Wendell, and to our local Doctor who picked up the issue in the first place – an issue I suspect had been there for a long time but missed by her previous Doctor.
Secondly, an equally big thank you to our family who have all been there when it counted. Helping out with childcare and housework!
Thirdly – thanks to my new work colleagues for being so understanding.
Finally – I would just like to say – well done to my wife! I am so proud of how you have handled it with bravery and grace. I doubt I would have been as good.
But then – that’s why I married you 🙂