Earlier today I shared a lift heading down to the first floor with two ladies I’ve been sharing the ICU waiting room with for days and I was reminded of a saying my Dad was fond of using to justify not buying me something when I was a kid – I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.
We haven’t said much, these two women and I. Some eye contact and a few nods of acknowledgement, with an occasional mouthed ‘hi’.
You don’t know who’s getting good news and who’s getting bad so you tend to keep respectfully to yourself.
That’s not to say I haven’t spoken to anyone. An eight year old boy named Xavier and I spent two hours today discussing the pros and cons of various superheroes and which superpower we’d like.
There were rules. Only one power. After much speculation we decided on telekinesis.
“That way we can get drinks from the fridge while we watch telly,” I told him. “And we can levitate ourselves so we can fly.”
It was a pleasant diversion.
Tracey is doing really well. Scans have all come back okay and her heart is strong. There’s no sign of pneumonia, which I was warned is a very real concern with respirators, and we’re waiting on bloods reports. I was told tonight there’s every chance she’ll be off the respirator tomorrow. Of course, I’ve been tossed that bone a number of times this week and every time they don’t it’s like a kick in the feelings, but I’ve learned to be thankful for what I’ve got. You ever think your life sucks go spend a few hours in the ICU waiting room. If you manage a tour of the actual ICU wards I wonder you’ll ever complain about your life again. The walk through the ward to Tracey’s bed means passing rooms with glass walls and signs saying authorisation by two people is required to enter. Behind the glass people are full face masks and the very grimmest family support. An odd mix of not wanting to be seen as a misery voyeur and survivor’s guilt puts a stride in your step so you can pass them quickly.
I asked a nurse how they handle all this. She said they hold it in and cry on the drive home.
Which I totally get. The ten minute drive between the hospital and my brother’s, where I’m staying, has two constants. The first is one of the two songs playing on the radio during the trip will inevitably be Coldplay’s Clocks, Robyn Schulz’s Sugar or Ellie Goulding’s On My Mind. They must be on high rotation. And the second constant is that at some point my eyes will well up and I will do a Wookie impersonation, letting out a long mournful moan which seems to come from deep within. It’s odd – I can go all day at the hospital just fine, but that drive….
The staff are wonderful. There’s no getting around it. And for all they’re doing what they can for Tracey, they still take the time to check on me. I was asked by a nurse earlier in the week if I needed to arrange things at work for some time off.
“Actually,” I said, “that’s not going to be a problem because I’ve just resigned. Last Friday was my last day and thanks to Tracey I got to chuck a sickie. From now on I’m a full time stay at home dad and she,” I said, pointing at Tracey, “is our main breadwinner.” We both looked down at my lovely wife for a full two seconds before we burst out laughing. “Yeah, it’s not gone entirely to plan so far.”
Although you know that thing where you’ve got to be careful what you wish for? I was sort of wishing I could finish work early and that once I was a SAHD I could convince Tracey to spend more time in bed.
But jeez you look for those humorous moments in a place like this. You ferret them out. I caught an interview on the telly with Woodley about his new show (coincidentally called Woodley) and they showed a clip where his wife is giving birth and I swear they heard me laugh three floors down in the cafeteria. I’m pretty sure it was genuinely funny skit but I do wonder if I’d have guffawed so heartily in my own home if Tracey and I were sitting on the lounge together.
Every afternoon or evening I’m told they’ll probably wake my Sleeping Beauty and every morning the plan seems to have changed for one reason or another. Today Tracey’s return was postponed so they could move some of the drips and feeders from the left hand side of her neck and hand to her right. She’s had a mild fever since coming out of surgery a week ago and they wanted to eliminate this as a cause.
You’ll be pleased to note I’ve been doing what everyone has been advising and talking more to my lovely wife when I’m by her bedside but more than ever I’m convinced I make things worse. I’ll walk in and she’ll be peacefully lying there amongst her machines. Then I’ll say hello and suddenly her unseeing eyes will flicker open and she’ll move her head and look totally mournful and lift her arms upwards and inwards like she’s trying to reach her respirator. Actually, at the beginning of the week she could barely move them an inch and now she’s got much more reach. Another couple of inches and she’ll be able to take a swipe at me.
I know this sounds, in an odd way, like she’s happy to see me. But the fact is it feels like I just stress her out. They usually pump some more sedatives into her and I skulk away for another hour or two so she can rest.
Which does mean I get to have superhero chats with eight year olds while watching Rabbids. He reminded me how much I miss my own kids but, like I say, it was great.
As was the discussion with an elderly lady who was sitting waiting for her sister to pass away.
“She’s lived,” she told me. “And neither of us wants to be hooked up to machines. We’ve talked about it. I’ve told them,” she said, indicating the ICU wards, “but they’re doing it anyway. We’re okay with moving on. Do you believe in heaven?”
“I’m agnostic,” I told her. “I believe I’ll find out what’s going on when I die. Maybe there’s an afterlife of some sort. That would be nice.”
“I don’t believe in a lot of what they say,” she said, and it soon became apparent who she meant. “Too many scandals. My late husband was religious and a deep thinker,” she went on. “He wondered if there might be different dimensions.”
“That’d be nice,” I said. “I think physicists are working on looking into those sorts of things, so maybe.”
It was a great chat.
They haven’t all been as good.
The two ladies in the lift had obviously just received some upsetting news. They looked devastated.
“We’ve just been told she’s brain dead,” they confided when I enquired.
What do you say to that?
I don’t even know who ‘she’ was but my heart went out to these two women and their families, and I was reminded how, only a week ago today, I went so very close to being in a similar position with my Tracey.
Interactions like these remind me to bide my time and be grateful – I can still walk without shoes but I couldn’t stand being without Tracey.
She’s doing as well as can be expected, guys, and she’s survived where 90% of people who go through what she has don’t.
I’ve decided I’m impatiently happy to wait until they bring her safely back to me.
So many people have been sending messages of support and I can’t thank you enough. Still others are asking to send money, and although I am truly humbled and quite frankly amazed at your generosity I can’t in all good conscience take anything. It wouldn’t feel right. BUT, if you would like to do something wonderful please consider donating a couple of dollars to one of the heroes of this ordeal – the Care Flight which got Tracey where she needed to be quickly and safely. I gave them $100 today, and I have no doubt it won’t be the last money they get from us. It’s a service we need to ensure continues because I can assure you it saves lives and keeps Mummies alive for their kids and hapless husbands.