Given all that’s been happening recently I’ve had some exceptionally bad days. But nothing like this.
I gathered everyone into the lounge room. Looking up expectantly, our five youngest kids sat amongst members of our extended family.
“This has been the best weekend,” grinned Master10 excitedly.
His two cousins nodded agreement from a short distance down the lounge. They love each other, these kids, and I love them for it.
And this weekend has been great for the kids. With their parents away they’d spent time with their grandparents, cousins and even picked up $25 each while learning to ‘gamble responsibly’ with Auntie Kerri (we’ll be having a chat some other time) who’d flown down from Cairns to be with the kids.
I took no joy in knowing I was about to hurt them to their core.
“You guys know your Mum’s been sick,” I started. “Very sick. And you know she’s had a number of major operations.”
“Four,” said Miss11.
“That’s right. Four,” I agreed. “The thing is, guys, she’s done so well. She’s really been fighting. She shouldn’t have made it past the first night. It’s only because your mummy is so young and fit she’s made it this far. She really has amazed everyone at the hospital. And her doctors and nurses have been fighting for her as well. But the thing is I am going to take you guys down to Brisbane today to see her.”
“Is she awake?” asked Miss8.
“No, darling,” I said. This was killing me. I was about to destroy the worlds of these beautiful children Tracey and I have made and intuitively sworn to protect. While the smiles of these five little kids sitting amongst the family got even brighter and more excited at the prospect of seeing their mother, I could feel the unspoken support from the adults in the room and I was so grateful they were there with us. “The thing is, Mummy isn’t doing very well. She’s fighting though,” I added, because, by God, she is. “And she’s got an amazing team of doctors and nurses looking after her.”
The faces of the older three took on questioning expressions. They finally sensed what was coming.
“Is there anything else they can do?” asked Master10.
“No,” I said, hating myself.
“Is she going to be okay?” asked Miss11.
This was it.
And then the scene in front of me collapsed.
Children screamed and wailed, and adults swept in to support and comfort them. It was dreadful.
Last night the surgeon managing Tracey’s case pulled myself and the family members present at the hospital into a private room and explained things to us.
“We’re not encouraged by what we’ve seen,” the main surgeon said. I know I’m paraphrasing here, but I was a little numb to remember exact details. They’d gone into the operating theatre early with Tracey because something wasn’t right in her stomach. Unfortunately, they’d found some perforations in the little bit of Tracey’s bowel which hadn’t been removed. “Usually we’d remove the bit of bowel in question,” he told us, “only she doesn’t have enough left for us to take more.”
And as I’ve been told far too many times recently for it to be a coincidence, you can’t survive without any bowel.
We were told it was likely Tracey would be moved to palliative care until things ran their course.
So last night I went home and drank and called the universe for everything under the sun. This simply isn’t fair, not for the kids and not for Tracey, who has only ever seen the good in people and lit up the lives of those she touches: don’t take my word for it, ask around.
But then, this morning, a glimmer of hope.
The head of the ICU unit said he wanted to continue to give her the drugs and treatment she needs.
“She’s young,” he said, explaining the surgeons were feeling glass half empty, but he was trying to be more glass half full. Not that it’s fifty fifty, or anything wonderful like that, but we’ll take the slimmest of slivers where Tracey’s life is concerned. “I think we should give her a chance.”
I like this man a lot and I’m not alone.
“Are you going to be here looking after her?” Tracey’s Mum asked him.
He shook his head.
“No,” he said, “but another doctor will be.”
“Yeah, but I like you,” said Nanny, speaking for all of us.
So as thin as it is, Tracey has her chance. There are perforations in her bowel and colon – things are not good. As the surgeon explained, they’d normally cut those out but there wasn’t enough bowel left to work with. There are no more options except healing herself, but at least they’re giving her that chance.
And I took the extra time these wonderful doctors are giving Tracey to work on giving our kids the best chance of mentally surviving this nightmare should the worst happen – I took them to see their Mum.
It was nearly as scary as telling the kids how bad things were looking. Their mother was plugged in and had tubes full of gunk everywhere, but I’m so glad we went this way.
They all spent time holding Mummy’s hand and telling her what they love most about her and saying ‘I love you’ and crying. Tracey’s eyes opened and closed throughout the entire ordeal and even though I’ve been by her bed on so many occasions these past few weeks I still don’t know if she can fathom what’s happening around her in these seemingly more lucid moments. All I know is I say ‘I love you so much’ and ‘you are my world’ every single time her eyelids part when I’m there, because if there’s a chance she can see me or hear me or understand what’s going on, I want her to understand the only thing I care that she takes away from her time on Earth is she was loved passionately and unconditionally. Her short time here has not been a waste.
But as hard as it is to see the love of my life, the woman I am supposed to grow bitter and twisted with, fighting against almost insurmountable odds to stay alive, I’ll put it out there telling your kids their mother probably isn’t going to be coming home is hell worse.
So this might not be the most articulate or well structured bit of writing I’ve ever done, but the gaps between the words you’re reading are not only filled with the tears of me and my kids, but the rest of this big, wonderful, and probably soon to be grieving family.
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Thank you to everyone who has offered kind words and support these last few weeks.
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Thank you again to everyone involved in keeping our Tracey alive and in with a chance. If you would like to do something wonderful please consider donating to one of the heroes of this ordeal – Care Flight who got Tracey where she needed to be quickly and safely. I gave them $100 as a thank you. This is a service we need to ensure continues because it saves live, keeping mummies around for their kids and hapless husbands.