I Thought I’d Lost Her

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When I took this photo it was constipation we were treating and Tracey forbid me from posting it. I’m looking forward to her ripping a fart up me.

If you’ve been looking at the BFLI blogsite or Facebook page the last couple of days and wondering where I’ve been, the answer is to hell and back.

Through it all I told myself I wasn’t going to cry until Tracey was okay. I was determined they’d be tears of joy.

What started as a guilty treat because all our kids were farmed out deteriorated into something far worse than greasy take out.

What started as a sharp pain in the stomach while we waited in the KFC drive through Tuesday afternoon has seen Tracey deteriorate until she was literally fighting for her life.

What started as a suspected muscle tear quickly deteriorated through a diagnosis of constipation then suspected cancer until my wife was being rushed from Gympie hospital through to Nambour in the back of an ambulance while being given blood because it transpired she was leaking all her own into her stomach cavity from an aneurysm on her small bowel.

To make matters worse, she fainted in the hospital and gave her head a crack on the wall, apparently injuring her neck.

But I still wasn’t panicking. I have faith in doctors and modern medicine and science in general. ‘There’s never been a better time in the history of our species to get sick’ is something I’m always saying.

“Are you following us down?” the ambulance driver asked me once Tracey was secured in the back of his vehicle with another paramedic and a doctor and a lot of bags full of red stuff. I nodded. “Well, don’t try to keep up. We’re moving under lights and siren.”

That gave panic a foothold.

I raced up to my car and took off down the highway. I don’t know how many of you have been overtaken by a fully lit up ambulance knowing someone you love is inside fighting for their life, but for everyone who hasn’t I can tell you it is surreal.

On arriving at Nambour I was shown up to a waiting room. The news wasn’t fantastic.

“It’s touch and go,” I was told. “She came in very unstable. You can’t lose and replace that much blood without consequences.”

I was still holding it together. Calls to keep family up to date and messages to close friends gave me something to do. I refused to give free reign to my emotions because I wasn’t going to entertain the idea of losing her. I did, of course. Constantly. But I also constantly demanded I think about something else.

“There’s no way she’d trust me to raise our kids by myself,” I told anyone who’d listen. As I was the only person in the waiting area this was, perhaps luckily, restricted to hospital staff, most of whom I’ll assume have had a thing or two to do with mental illness so they let it slide.

Fortunately I’m the king of distraction, as evidenced by the size of our folding pile, but I could feel myself ready to burst.

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In my bid for distractions I freaked myself out a little at around 4 in the morning when I realized I wasn’t alone. There were two blonde women downstairs sitting staring out the window. With the same colour and style of hair, and the fact they didn’t move, I thought maybe I was seeing something paranormal. Then I realized they were kids’ highchairs and I needed more coffee.

Looking back I think maybe the universe was paying attention. Or maybe the hospital has a Patch Adams who steps out of the shadows every now and then as a diversion. Either way it worked.

A banging/rattling noise made me look up from my phone. Through the glass I could see a perplexed man on the other side of the door which keeps everyone out from the procedure rooms. While I watched he rattled the whole structure again then stood back and frowned. I could seriously see the cogs turning.

He half turned, spotted the sign saying ‘swipe here’, or similar, and jiggled the mass of cards hanging around his neck in that general direction.

There was a buzz, after which he stepped forward and tried the doors again. This time they gave way and he triumphantly stepped through as the doors clicked shut behind him.

Dressed in his ‘scrubs’ and with his hair in a sort of bandanna, he gave off the impression of being a doctor. Until he looked awfully perplexed again.

“Do you know where the theatres are?” he suddenly asked me.

“Downstairs?” I told him. I’d been told if the keyhole procedure didn’t work Tracey would be taken downstairs to theatre where a second team was already waiting to open her tummy and deal with things the old fashioned way.

“Yes, but how do I get there?” he asked me in a manner which suggested he expected proper answers, if you please.

I pointed ever so slightly to his right.

“You could take the lift?” I suggested tentatively.

He turned his head to where I was indicating.

“Oh,” he said, clearly surprised.  “I did not see them.”

And then he was gone.

Which I remember thinking at the time was a really good thing, because I couldn’t get the image out of my head of him standing in theatre facing a wall and demanding to know where the patient was.

It did the trick. This was my first genuine smile in several hours, and though I felt guilty about it, I was also grateful for it – as I was grateful for any chance to push away what the pessimistic part of me saw as inevitable.

The keyhole surgery to stop the bleed by lodging tiny coils on either side of the damage went really well, right up until the moment it didn’t.

A coil went the wrong way and lodged in a main artery. Fortunately they retrieved it, but not before a blood clot formed and the artery had some damage. Now the artery was closed and blood was cut off from the bulk of her bowels. They had eight hours to fix it but no vascular doc to mend it all.

So mid operation they hooked her to some machines on wheels and she got a free chopper ride to Brisbane (she’ll be pissed she didn’t get to enjoy that) where another team of experts were on hand to make an incision into the artery to remove the clot and then patch things up with a bit of vein from her leg.

At this point she had lots of blood back where it should be and the leak had been taken care of. But with all this blood being a problem stuff, part of the bowel was looking ‘unhealthy’.

I didn’t care about that. Only that by some miracle, and a whole lot of science and medical cleverness, she had survived the night.

Things were left to settle and then they took another look inside.

Before her second operation today I’d been warned of the possibility of a colostomy bag, either temporary or permanent. She didn’t need one, although they did take a couple of chunks out of her bowel.

“It can be a bit of shock when you see her with all the tubes,” people have told me at every turn. I’ve been assuring them next to the shock of all this being necessary at all, the sight of medical equipment is not worrying. In fact, I want them to bring in one of everything for her.

Then I saw Tracey lying there with all these wonderful machines surrounding her and a nurse totally focused on the bags of fluid going into and out of her. It was a joyous sight and I don’t think Tracey looked more beautiful to me even on our wedding day.

“How is she?” I asked.

“She’s doing well,” the doctor said, coming over to talk to me. Her voice was calm and encouraging and I wanted to hug her for that. Except for Patch Adams, hers were the first eyes I’d seen which didn’t look nearly as worried as mine. “Her pulse and blood pressure are up but we’re working on that: we’re giving her more fluids. Sometimes it can be from pain and the fluids help. Otherwise there are medicines to help get it back down.”

My eyes might have leaked a little bit when I saw Tracey, and they certainly would tick all the criteria to qualify as happy tears, but I was and am determined to save most of my crying for when she finally sees me. That’s the moment I’m needing. That’s the moment I’m holding out for.

But I could feel myself giving in to the emotions this roller coaster of panic has created.

I needed a Patch Adams moment again, only I had to find it in myself. Fortunately I am, as I say, the king of distraction.

“I suppose everyone asks if you’ve got the machine which goes bing?” I asked rather stupidly.

“No one’s ever asked me that,” the nurse grinned. “You can if you want.”

And so I did, and I got to laugh for only the second time in 24 hours. Only this time I wasn’t feeling guilty about it. We’re so close now. Not out of the woods entirely, but we’ve found the path. They think maybe tomorrow they’ll bring her out of this sedated slumber.

You might think I’m a little silly to hold it in until Tracey wakes up, and maybe I am being unnecessarily stubborn, but the simple fact is I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather share what will be one of the happiest moments of my life with.

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A bird’s nest on the hospital right outside the window of the ICU waiting room. A less distracted person might have missed that. You can’t quite see it? Trust me, it’s there. And I hope you never have reason to get a better look at it.

Can I just please throw out a big thank you to all the medical staff involved, from all the surgeons to the nurses, at each of the hospitals, and to the paramedics and the chopper pilot. You saved her life, each and every one of you in that chain, and this family is in your debt. Again, thank you.

70 Comments

  • So sorry to hear about this shocking situation. Please know that I am praying for your dear wife, yourself and your children. Looking forward to hearing a good report about all this 🙂

  • Hi Bruce,
    It does sound like you have been to hell and back! Hopefully Tracey is starting to feel better and you have managed to get some sleep, it is always such a stressful time when loved ones are sick. Thinking of you and your family and sending warm hugs and lots of positive thoughts.
    Regards
    Nicole

  • Good luck and quick recovery to your long suffering wife ? I’ve done this to my hubby too, emergency and almost dying, just couldn’t let him raise the kids on his own….he wouldn’t survive it! Lol ??? Its hectic but the medical world is amazing. Again good luck and i wish your other half a quick and minimal pain recovery ?

  • Wow. I don’t know what to say but I’ll be thinking of you and your family. Looking forward to reading how much trouble you’re in for posting that photo.

  • Sending prayers of thanks and more for a fun and speedy recovery. I have spent to many hours on the side of the doors Tracy is on and it is just as scary. Please do not leave it too long before an update but also do hesitate to post on the fakebook page if you need anything brought to the hospital for you… decent coffee a distraction anything.

  • As a long time listener/first time caller, I just had to reach out and tell you how much my heart aches for you for all that you have been through this past couple of days. I have 6 kids of my own and my husband and I have loved reading your experiences, you are known as “my Australian friend” around this house. All our love to you and your family at this time, your wife is so talented and darling. I hope everything is so much smoother for you over the next little while, and that your distractions continue to hold you up.
    All the way from Utah, United States,
    Yours,
    Sarah

  • Sending best wishes and thoughts for a speedy and safe recovery from New Zealand. Can only imagine all the ‘feels’ you have been through – hope it is all positive from here on in xxx

  • Oh Bruce! That would have been terrifying for both of you! Glad Tracey is on the mend. You wrote your own Patch Adams moment in. I think Tracey would be a bit terrified of a colostrum bag….Could mean another new baby. Maybe a colstomy bag 😉

  • Oh Bruce, yoy are a strong man keeping it together.
    Wishing Tracey a quick and as painlessly as possible recovery and may sje back giving you a run for your money in no time.
    Thinking of you and all your kids at this time sendingyou lots of hugs xo

  • Having been through a similar experience myself, I can understand a little of what you are/were feeling. Hang in there, it’s gonna get better. You have lots of people who are on your side. I know you don’t share my god thoughts, but I’m praying for you anyway.

  • My heart goes out to you, Tracey and the kids. This has been a horrible experience for all of you. None of you will come out of this unscathed, but my wish for you is that your love will be stronger and deeper than ever, and that you all find a greater love of life and an appreciation of its gifts. Hugs to you all.

  • Omg Bruce. I was crying reading this. Tracey is one strong lady and can over come anything. The love that you both share is amazing and this will bring you only closer. Hope that she gets better soon. Thoughts and prayers for u all and hope the kids are ok.
    Nicole Turner

  • Care about u both. I’m so thankful things r improving. Ur family deserve a long and beautiful life together. Praying for u guys and hugs to u both.

  • Love to you both Bruce. I really feel your pain and heartache. I was right in your seat in Nambour Hospital this time 4 years ago. My son had to have emergency surgery due to Crohns disease complications. This was days after he turned 21 and less that 3 months before his wedding! We could have lost him, but didn’t.Surreal really is the only word! When he finally woke up I too was blessed to be able to cry, laugh and crack inappropriate jokes with him. After chucking some bad bowel bits in a bucket, he did get a stoma and a bag (Not what he’d planned to be wearing on his honeymoon!!). The stoma was reversed last year, and although he has to be very vigilant with regular blood tests and checks he is doing great and about to graduate as a high school science teacher. Was a tough start to marriage, but what a tight unit they are! He’s 25 next week, lots to be thankful for. Sending love

  • What a shocker. Praying for healing, strength, and a couple more PA moments. I hope the happy tears come very soon.

  • Wow, it’s not too often that your titles match the reality of the story but this one certainly did. When I first started reading and got to the part about just the two of you & KFC I was thinking that you shared the 10 pieces for $10 and her gallbladder blew up but obviously the reality was so much worse.

    I hope Tracey’s tale continues to improve and you get sufficient caffiene & attention to continue to do as well as can be.

  • Crap!!! You lot don’t do things by half , that’s for sure!! Hope the hospital stay. is quick and trouble free. Looking forward to some interesting stories about you in charge of the recovery at home!! ?

  • I hope Tracey recovers quickly. Not too quickly though, she needs time to enjoy sitting on the couch and everyone pampering her for awhile!! Best wishes to you all over the next few weeks!

  • Oh Bruce very sorry to hear about Tracey. Hope she’s back on her feet quickly and glad she has you. Just a warning don’t show her this too soon. You mistook colostomy bag for colostrum bag. She may burst stitches laughing at you. Xo

  • Thinking of you all!! Tracey joins my two kids in the chopper hall of fame!! Those guys know there shit!! Anything I can do to help give me a call!!! Even if it’s just entertaining josh!!!

  • I remember Tracey from when she used to work at Kingston’s – she was always the one I liked to deal with because she was such a lovely person. When I read your post, Bruce, I just had to send Tracey my very best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery – and I hope she gives you hell for posting the photo, because that will mean she has completely recovered.

    To Tracey – love and prayers.

    To Bruce & Kids – stay strong and make sure you love and support each other.

  • Glad part one of this story has a happy ending. Looking forward to hearing the next happy ending, and the next, and the next…

    Peace to you, to Tracey, and to that beautiful mob of yours.

  • i know we are a bit away from you, but at this moment you are only a blink away, all our love and prayers and please call us if we can help in any way as the old saying goes keep your chin up love ann and eric.

  • Hi Bruce,
    Sending best wishes for Tracey. Thinking of all of you and hoping a fairy turns up with tissues and a beer when Tracey comes out of the coma and you get to share a smile and relief together.

  • I can’t stop thinking about Tracey today. I hope she is okay.

    Bruce, if she has any unfinished sessions that need editing please contact me and I can help complete them. Thinking of you all.

  • I hope Tracey’s recovery is quick. The RBWH ICU staff are great! I had a stay there a bit over two years ago. Unfortunately I did wake up with an ileostomy (like a colostomy only off the small intestine – which was thankfully reversed six months later.) I understand how scary this has been for you. I remember the looks on my loved ones faces and I thought it must be worst for them than me. Hang in there. Sending best wishes to your whole family. xo

  • Bruce, I hope things are looking a bit better by now. Sending best wishes to all of you. Waiting and hoping for good news.

  • To dear Bruce you are a crazy batfan like myself and I know that caped crusader has got your back ! Tracey is the most beautiful down to earth woman I know ! I love the crazy chats when she’s trying to wrangle a group children family photo that’s decent !and she’s telling me that’s ok with her calm beautiful face ! She’s amazing ! We are thinking of you all , sending loves and hugs to you guys and your family !
    She’s the robin to your batman ! The Angels out there would never let anything happen to that duo !

  • What a horrible time you have had. My thoughts are with you and your family. Stay strong. And good luck for the time when you will playing nurse maid at home to Tracey.

  • Oh crap Bruce! I’m glad to hear that she’s coming out the other side…I hope she continues on the improve without any setbacks!

  • Ohhhhhh Bruce!!! Sending all my love, thoughts, hugs and kisses your way. You are right though – Tracey would NEVER trust you to raise that lot on your own!

    Let me know when I can come visit!

    MWAHHHHH

  • Hey Sir Bruce, sending you and your family best wishes for a speedy recovery of Tracey. I know what it’s like to chase an ambo down the highway with a loved one inside. Keep focused, be strong the kids and Tracey need you. Maggie

  • Sending you and your family prayers of thanks and quick recovery for your wife. It is always scary when a love one goes through a medical emergency. Blessings to you all. Waiting for good news of your wife’s full recovery.

  • To u all love and thoughts . To Tracey you will soon be reading all your messages from so many that have u in their thoughts..

  • Wow, wow wow ….. Everything is going to be fine all my prayers for Tracey, for you and for your beautiful children who, I’m sure, are all being incredibly brave xx

  • Oh Bruce. Have been out of FB loop for ages and wasn’t aware of your family’s fears. Don’t worry mate – I just cried for you. Sending powerful healing thoughts to Tracey. And a big hug to you and the kids. Look after yourself.

  • What a horrible experience for both you and your family. You are absolutely spot on with now being the time to require emergency surgery with so medical advancements. My thoughts and love are with you all. xx

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