it’s been a while since my last post. There are reasons.
It’s four days to Christmas.
Let me bring you up to speed.
So, on November 16 my husband picked up his trusty cane and made his careful way to the car so that we could go visit his doctor to see about a wound in his leg that wasn’t healing – that had, in fact, been going steadily worse and worse over the course of four or five days and was now well into the stage of probable infection and possible cellulitis. The doctor sent him to the ER. The ER people admitted him to the hospital for a mega dose of intravenous antibiotic.
After four days in the Big Hospital they transferred him to a smaller place, a rural hospital in a nearby small town with some 23 or so inpatient beds, where he could receive some physical therapy to, so to speak, put him back on his feet. Sometime during this transfer, the cane which I mentioned earlier simply disappeared. I know it was in his hospital room in the Big Hospital because I saw it there; it was NOT in his room in the Little Hospital when I went THERE to see him the next day. A few perfunctory phone calls were made but the cane was GONE. Vanished.
It had history. It was one I bought him when he first returned from the brink after the stroke of 2003. It might have been a Christmas gift that year, even, not sure now. It was a nice wooden cane, walnut maybe, and by now it was carrying seventeen years of scars and memories. It had carried and supported him all that time and all I can say is, its disappearance gave me a pang. “It’s only a cane”, my husband said, “although I did treasure it because you gave it to me.” But he felt it too – it was a tangible symbol of seventeen years which were sometimes not easy ones. But it was gone.
He spent the next little while in the Little Hospital, recuperating, it seemed, nicely. It was as though the system took the cane as ransom and gave back a recovery period which seemed to lead to him coming home on December 9 – everything was in place for that.
On December 6, a Sunday, I went to visit him at the Little Hospital. I took a new story to show him. He was bright, alert, steady as always, things were going to be a little tough for a little while but we’d faced worse, he was coming home on the Wednesday, it was all set and sorted.
On the morning of December 7th, the ransom ran out.
I usually don’t even pick up the phone when the caller ID feature just says “wireless caller” because it’s usually a robocall trying to either scam me or sell me something. But this time I pick up the phone and I get the doctor taking care of him at the hospital. He says to me, “your husband stopped breathing.”
So did I.
I don’t know how I got there and it is a miracle I did not hit anything on the way but by the time I arrived at the hospital he was – post vicious but necessary CPR that left him with an agonizingly painful chest – coming back to himself, a little. But there was nothing the little hospital could do for him at this point. He was turfed back into an ambulance, and back to the Big Hospital he came, this time to the ICU. He was attached to various IVs and wires and monitors, and they stabilized him. He had an angioplasty procedure which opened up one blocked artery. They moved him out of the ICU onto the cardiac ward some three or so days later, when a bed opened up, and back I went to see him, a couple of times.
The last time I went to see him, it was on another Sunday, the 13th – and I sat with him for a couple of hours. Again, he was awake, alert, chipper, we laughed together at silly things. The second angiography procedure, for a second blocked artery, was up on the board in his room for that Monday at 3 pm.
They took him into the procedure on Monday morning instead. When the phone call from that doctor came, I knew immediately something awful had gone wrong – when they lead with things that CAN happen you somehow know that they are going to end up with “well that did happen”. The second artery’s blockage was more extensive, they tried to go around it, and they punctured the artery in the process. There was bleeding in the pericardial sac, and now there was a drain in his chest to make sure that didn’t accumulate. He spent Monday unconscious and intubated. It was only on Tuesday that he swam back to consciousness, and he spent the next few days in the ICU hooked up to everything in creation again. They inserted a pacemaker. They took him back up into a room on the cardiac ward five days later… and at some point I realized that the hospital had taken another ransom, another tithe. My favourite hat was missing – a hat I last saw in the hospital, visiting him.
Cane. Payment for cardiac arrest resuscitation, for a successful first angioplasty.
Hat. For returning him from the brink of that second procedure.
I don’t know how many lives he has left, or what I can offer in exchange for a gift of them. My life has become a pagan ritual, offering sacrifices for boons, whispering “don’t leave me alone” while wrapped in dark solitary midnights, sitting in my living room and cupping my two hands over air as though I was holding his own phantom hand there and whispering “stay with me” .  I wonder what is the next thing that will be demanded.
In other news, I did cyber-enhanced time travel this morning. By the power vested in all of us by the magical internet, a Zoom meeting was set up – between me and a school friend whom I met when we were fifteen years old and whom I last saw in person it must have been thirty years ago now (I know. I am emphatically not old enough to have known anyone for that long…) She brought in another school friend of the same era. We talked about setting up another meeting for Christmas, with all of us in various forms of lockdown in the plague era. Grown women, senior women, even, coming together… after forty years… it was time travel. It took me back to a different age. An age where all I had to worry about was passing my O Levels, and nobody was sick, and nobody was dying, and the world didn’t have the plague, and everything (from today’s perspective at least) was gentle and serene and sane.
I miss that. I do.
I’ll go back to preparing pagan sacrifices now. I had a definite Christmas Carol moment there – days of Christmas Past (with all the schooltime connections), Christmas Present (dealing with situations in the here and now, like husband’s heart issues, elderly mother issues, fixing the car issues…), and Christmas Future, wondering what the next thing I need to offer up on the altar might be, for everything to be okay.
In a handful of days it is going to be a whole new year, and we are officially moving into the third decade of the twenty first century. I never knew the future would be so perilous, back when my friends and I were schoolgirls together.
I wonder what lies waiting round the bend.