Monday, May 16, 2011

A Week In The Life Of

It's been a long, long seven days. This time last week we were trying to make time go as quickly as possible. While Farmdoc was in the operating theatre the rest of us were trying not to think about all the things that could go wrong.

On Monday he had a quadruple bypass and woke in Intensive Care at four am on Tuesday with no idea what day it was. He wiggled his fingers and toes and tested his brain. Yep, all intact. He'd survived.

On Wednesday he was transferred to the ward, feeling fine. We called it Walking Wednesday because he walked for the first time. But then his heart, swollen from all that had happened, went into fibrillation, pounding so fast and so hard that the bed shook. He was returned to the ICU.

He came back to the ward on Friday morning, the fibrillation somewhat controlled, but he was confined to bed. He was white with exhaustion and too sick to eat.

Then yesterday, Sunday, he made his physio debut - out of bed and walking around the ward. Afterwards, he was flattened from the exertion and still had the occasional fibrillation episode, but it was a start. Today was even better. He had his first shower in a week and the last of his tubes was removed.

It's been a weird week. I haven't been able to concentrate on anything. I wanted to record this experience but I couldn't write. When I had a chainsaw accident I sat up in bed and wrote down every awful moment, every variation of pain. When my mother slipped into dementia I recorded her loss, minute by heart breaking minute. I can always write. Not this time.

And it's funny too how when something big happens you fixate on the small things. Last Monday, when Farmdoc woke from his operation his wedding ring was missing. No one seemed to know where it was. I was distraught.

I knew it didn't matter. He could go without a ring or we could buy a new one. Just as long as he was all right. But I couldn't shake the feeing that it was important.

 We asked about it almost every day but it didn't appear. Then this morning he told someone that because his operation was on a Monday today might be a good day to check again on the operating theatre floor; perhaps some of the same team would be on duty.

And down it came. In an envelope labelled with his details. It's foolish of me I know, to care so much, but it seemed catastrophic that it was lost and it seems like a good omen that it was found.

I was 19 and Farmdoc was just 20 when I slipped that ring on his finger, 43 years ago, though he wasn't Farmdoc then - just a skinny medical student. And he hadn't planned to wear a ring. Neither of our fathers was a jewellery wearer. But one day we came across my mother's late parents' wedding rings in a box of trinkets and we decided we'd have them resized for us. So these gold rings have signified love and commitment in our family for a long time.

I was emptying his bottle of pee into the toilet the other day and the words 'for better or for worse' sprang into my mind. Is this what they mean? I wondered. But it didn't feel so terrible to me. Not nearly as bad as seeing him sunk in misery, too exhausted to care. That was truly the worst.

What a week. I'm glad it's over. The surgeon told us the recovery is in two stages and that the first six weeks will be the hardest. I guess that's one down and five to go.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Change of Heart

I had planned to follow up my last post with one about life in the very slow lane. Autumn is so mellow and lovely in Mole Creek. But then our lives took a strange turn. Strange for us though at the same time very ordinary. Banal even.

For many months now Farmdoc has been complaining of intermittent indigestion when he exercised. A kind of dull ache behind the breast bone. He has a family history of heart disease - his father died at 56 - so his first thought was that now it was coming to get him. I knew better. I was positive it was his hiatus hernia. So when he had a stress test I wasn't even concerned, though I knew the thought of it was keeping him up at night.

In the end Farmdoc was right. He has the disease. And the angiogram he had ten days ago showed that although on the outside he is lean, fit and healthy, on the inside he has the arteries of an obese junk food eater. His arteries are so blocked that he needs coronary bypass surgery.

Now we are back in Melbourne with the surgery scheduled for Monday. I'll spend the afternoon of Mother's Day by his side as he's admitted to hospital. The next day he'll be on his own. Apart that is from a team of highly trained and experienced professionals who will take him apart, replumb him and then put him back together again.

The hardest part will be on Tuesday morning when he wakes to his newly broken body and must begin the process of healing and rehabilitation. This is especially apt for him because rehabilitation is one of his special interests. He used to say its aim was to turn patients back into people. Now he will have to do the same for himself.

His family and friends will be there for him every step of the way. We wish you well, Farmdoc.