Doing The ICU Cha Cha

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“Just talk to her,” the nurse told me today as I stood next to Tracey anxiously stroking her hair and fretting. “There’s no right or wrong things to say. Just let her hear your voice.”

Which was nice of her to say, but within a minute I was getting in trouble for what came out of my mouth and feeling obliged to apologize to my lovely wife.

I think I owe you all an apology too, although it’s for something totally different.

Last night I posted on Facebook what I thought was some game changing news. Tracey’s been fighting a mild temperature all week and I thought they’d found the cause:

GREAT news tonight. Urine test picked up an infection which they’re treating. Hopefully that will get her temp down to a more reasonable level.

I was obviously very excited. So excited I woke early to race in, thinking I’d walk into her cubicle and Tracey would be grinning at me.

But things were a little crowded around my wife’s bedside this morning when I arrived and the doctors there explained they were considering opening her up and having a look around. The reason was in big numbers on the screen. Her temp had skyrocketed to 40.5.

I had to correct my previous Facebook post:

All gone to shit again. Temps are over 40 and they’re doing a scan and considering going back in to check on things. Waiting on more news.

That’s how quick it changes. Every time I update her condition on my blog I’m thinking my next post will be announcing how Sleeping Beauty woke to her Prince Charming to give him a right bollocking, and instead there’s a new dip or turn I hadn’t foreseen. Unwittingly I sort of gave you guys a seat on this roller coaster instead of a just pointing up at the scariest or more amusing bits from the ground. There are times when you’re on top of the world before you suddenly plummet so quickly towards the ground you leave your stomach behind.

I saw this meme and I thought – that is exactly how it feels, cuss word and all

The good news – and don’t I need that – is the scan they did today in preparation for the operation showed things are the same if not better in her tummy. Better is a word I get very excited about hearing because I can pack a fair bit of hope around it. That meant the surgeons didn’t want to go back in there and mess about. More good news, because if they thought they should they would.

They think the cause of the latest high temperatures problem is, what with all the fiddling about in there, a bit of bowel isn’t getting enough blood and is releasing ‘dead’ germs (if it was live germs, the sort in all our bowels, she’d get real bad real quick and they’d know what the problem was for sure) and her body is fighting them. They might need to go in and remove the unhealthy bowel. They might not. With blood thinners they’re pinning all our hopes on the bowel fixing the blood flow issue itself, but it will take time. The doctor says the best we can hope for at this point is a couple of days of the same.

Same is good, even if it’s not great. Same means not worse. I’ll take that.

Meanwhile, we all anxiously wait for Tracey to get busy and do all the healing work herself.

“She’ll do it,” I assured them, “but she is a bit of a procrastinator. She’ll probably just leave it until the last minute.”

Dad jokes. Lame and, in this case, designed to disguise the fact I’m shit scared. Petrified.

As of this minute her temps are finally back down to where we’ve been thinking they’re too high all week, and that’s with a shitload of drugs and having her effectively packed in ice like prawns at the deli.

But they’re still describing her as stable. Admittedly they’re saying it with a lot more anxiety causing ‘buts’ than earlier in the week, however the word is still thankfully being used so I’ll take that too. Her lungs are still doing great and she’s still strong, as evidenced by the amount of sedatives they need to pump into her because she keeps fighting her way to the surface.

Which I love in a guilty fashion because on the one hand I want her to sleep through this and meet us on the other side when everything is better, but on the other hand I get to see her eyes when she opens them. When they’re open it even feels like she might hear me when I talk to her and tell her how much we all miss her. I tend to talk dribble, and I’m a lot less self conscience now about what I say in front of the nurses. I do struggle for a topic outside of ‘I love you’, which let’s face it is the main thing I really want her to know – she is loved. I effectively whisper sweet nothings in her ear and hope at some level she understands.

Then other times it feels like I’m just rattling off lists of names.

“Your parents have been in, and Geoffrey and Charlotte, and Belinda and Jason. Shane’s here now and Shelley came earlier in the week.” I’ll go into where the kids are staying and read their beautiful, if now very ratty looking, note again.

Sometimes, despite the distant, unfocused look in her eyes, it feels like she’s wanting to say something.

“Don’t try to speak. You don’t have to,” I’ll tell her. “I know everything you’d want to say. You just rest and relax and let yourself heal.”

And sometimes, despite being told it didn’t matter what I said so long as I’m talking, I totally botch it.

“Tracey!” I exclaimed. As I’d stroked her hair I’d suddenly noticed something on her temple I thought she’d be interested in.”You’ve got another grey hair!”

“Hey,” hissed the nurse. “Enough of that.” She was shaking her disbelieving head at me, but I gathered from her next comment I’m not the only bloke she’s admonished over the years. “I’m really starting to think we need to hand out an instruction book to husbands in here.”

So I’m sorry, Tracey, if somewhere in that pretty head of yours a part of you frowned at me today. And we both know you did.

But the fact is I love that grey hair because it’s yours and I’m pinning all my hopes on a future where I get to see you upset by a lot more of them.

I’m a pessimist. Tracey is the optimist. But I just keep thinking, what would Tracey say about now?
If you would like to do something wonderful please consider donating 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 this week as a thank you. This is a service we need to ensure continues because it saves lives, like my wife’s, and keeps mummies around for their kids and hapless husbands.


  • Thank you so much Bruce for taking the time to up date us all on your blog on how Tracey is going, l am so glad for you that they do not need to go into Tracey’s tummy, please continue you to update us if you can, as you have alot of people waiting to hear how your family is going, l will keep praying for you.
    All the best.

  • Hugs again tonight Bruce. If you find another grey hair, take the blame for it! My daughter says one for each child (I have five), now I think I adopted an orphanage.
    If she is fighting the sedative, she hears you and wants to be with you. Keep talking to her, get a book and read it aloud, even if it is the latest photography magazine or the daily newspaper. Anything you do is right, as long as you are doing it for Tracey. Go through your old blogs and read them out aloud. The familiarity will be comforting, and your voice will be soothing. Eventually even the longest rollercoaster comes to an end.
    Bless you both. Here’s to a better day tomorrow.

  • I’d love for you to keep on letting us know what’s happening, if you have the energy and the time. It’s great to hear that others have been visiting to support you and sit with Tracey. Thinking of you from Sydney, with all your other friends around Australia and beyond!

  • I for one, am happy to Cha Cha with you through this ordeal, you are not alone and I know as a nurse/ mother/ human being, I believe that you will all come through this. Much love and prayers for you and your whole family. Hang on to all of the funny moments, they will be the stories to tell Tracey when she wakes.

  • Keep fighting Tracey, your almost there. I have you and your family in my thoughts and heart and looking forward to hearing the news of when you are awake and with us again. Xoxo

  • Hi Bruce,
    When I was lost for words I would read to my son when he was in icu. Does Tracey have a favourite book? Music can be good too.
    Love from my family to yours.

  • Bummer hope Tracey’s temp regulates and gets to a normal level
    Though good germs are not ideally preferred it is ironic they are looked on as good!

    No more talk about grey hair or mortgages LOL!!

    Praying all this time is giving Tracey the needed rest for her body to recuperate and heal

    Love the cha cha meme ICU is like that all looks good so take 3 steps forward and then all of a sudden it can be 2 steps back
    Hope Tracey will be cha cha charing all the way forward very very soon

    Love the duck meme too !

    Praying for Tracey that she is well on the way to recovery

  • I found your blog one post before Tracy got sic.
    I visit dayly to see how its all going, sounds like you have it the bottome of your down swing and are on your way back up.
    I look forward to ready the post where your all on your way home and Tracy is kicking your but over the grey hair. Lol
    Stay strong

  • Thank you again Bruce for the update. Stay strong and don’t fret about bringing us along for the ride. It is what it is.

    Totally nicking that duck meme.

    Love to you and the family.

  • What a journey you are going through at the moment. A totally useless expression we use in my family is ‘chin up young player’. It gets funnier each yeah with each passing grey. So chin up.

    I think reading the blogs is a good idea but might be too emotional for you. On which case reading a book to her is a good idea.

  • Hang in there Bruce. You may feel alone but trust me you have all of us there with you. I too have a love/hate relationship with ICU but they know their s#!t and it’s the best place for Tracey right now. I hope with all my heart things improve and your little family can be all together again doing your little family things. Sending love and positive vibes for a full recovery.

  • You are certainly in the finals of “Dancing with the Stars” and I know Tracy will be practising with you to win at the finals
    I am the neighbour and friend of your Aunt. What possibly seems to you at the moment as a distant half forgotten memory of holidays on the farm, your Aunt and I remember your holidays and socialising with my two older children Leesa and Sean as very pleasant memories.- just another subject when you are speaking with Tracy.
    Please remember me to Tracey even though I have not had the pleasure of meeting her personally.
    When you visited in the holidays and were adventuring with my children and the two Ferris boys, I always considered you as part of my extended family. One of “my kids” for however long you were you were around
    So we are all on your side of the audience and cheering for you every time you and Tracy gracefully step to the sometimes quick and unpredictable beat of the music

    • They were good holidays. Whenever I’ve seen someone with your surname come through work I’ve asked if they’re related to the Elphinstone’s from Bororen. I always think about all those calves you hand raised and how your daughter refused to eat dinner because she suspected it was her goat. Have I got that right? Thanks for the message, Jeanette, it’s so lovely to think about better times 😀

  • Thoughts are with you Bruce. The only thing I can say of any use is “Bugger of infection! it’s time to let the girl wake up and get back to being “normal” family.”

  • Just wanted to say I’m thinking of you guys. We had a very tumultuous ICU journey with my Mum so as I read each of your posts I can relate in someway to your roller coaster ride and the emotions you may have.
    Sending good vibes, hang in there x

  • Bruce just keep being yourself Tracey wouldn’t want you to be anyone else thinking of each & everyone if there’s anything I can do for you please let me know love to all even if it’s a game of bridge xoxoxo ???

  • Hi Bruce and family you are never alone we are with you all the way stay strong , when its over you will be able to laugh at the things you said while she was asleep and she will laugh with you , can you sing ? she would probably get a kick out of that Regards Del & Bob Grant

  • I know you don’t know most of us, but we are here for you; whether that’s riding the roller-coaster or doing the cha-cha. Can’t help with the ducks, though. Those damn things have a mind of their own….

  • I’ve been on the ICU rollercoaster as well (the NICU version) and it sucks. I don’t necessarily think telling Tracey about the grey hair is a bad thing, if she’s anything like me it’s probably motivation to get the hell out of there and fix it already. Best wishes to you and your family, and I hope today has been a better day.

    Also be careful driving – I swear they need warning signs around hospitals, I used to be in tears every damn night going home. Honestly they should probably make it a 40kph zone for at least the first 5 km.

  • Why don’t you try reading Tracey her favourite book. That way she knows you are there and you don’t get into trouble from the nurses. Just a thought. Hang in there, there are lots of people praying for her and all your family.

  • We’re on this roller coaster with you Bruce and you definitely do not need to apologize for it! I will continue to hope, send love and pray for you all! And I look forward to the day when you are able to share that she has opened her eyes and told you you’re insensitive for pointing out her greys 😉

  • Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers! I can just picture Tracey coming out of sedation, looking at you Bruce and saying, Did you say something about grey hair?
    Stay strong!

  • I don’t even remember how I found your blog. But it always makes me smile because your always so real. Never more so than now. I’m praying for you all.

  • I hope Tracey’s condition starts to only take forward steps soon. Sending positive vibes and well wishes, though I am sure Tracey could manage just fine with only her own will power.

    Being there for family in the ICU is terrible – it’s never simple and things can change so quickly. I didn’t realise how stressful I found it until my dad’s 3 week stay was up and I could breathe again. Make sure you have someone to look after you when they bring her out of sedation and she moves to a ward. When it’s no longer necessary to hold it all together, you’ll let it all go.

  • I’m a silent appreciator of your witty column (and your wife’s wittier comebacks!!). I went to high school with Tracey and I really wanted to let you both know that you’re constantly in my thoughts. Bruce, you’ve married a tough chick – she’ll sort those ducks for you! Sending you all my best wishes and support xoxoxo. Am looking forward to hearing good news 🙂

  • I am very touched by what you are writing. Tracey is very lucky to have you as a hubby! I am a doctor and we often suggest that loved ones write a ‘diary’ for the person who is sedated like your sleeping beauty, Tracey. The main idea behind it is for Tracey to have something to relate to when she is talking back again! A lot of people find it quite difficult to get their head around the fact that they haven’t been aware of whats going on around them (and with them) for weeks and it might MAKE her take things easy when she realises what a fright she gave everyone. But mainly it helps people deal with what is quite an intimidating situation. Little things like ‘Nurse xy came to wash you this morning, the doctors did their rounds and said….then I had a chat to you and was sure you were trying to answer back but couldn’t quite yet, then they moved your central lines..’ Just anything that happens, listed day by day.
    Keep strong, she will be fine. It’s her way of making sure you get a few grey hairs as well!

  • Hi Bruce, so sorry to hear about Tracey. I do hope she pulls through OK. Thank you also for acknowledging CareFlight. I just wanted to let you know that the link you have is for CareFlight NSW and it was CareFlight Qld that transported Tracey. (I understand that its confusing but although we are both charity aeromedical organisations, we are separate) and I want your donations to go to the correct charity. Our friends in CareFlight Qld do a remarkable job and I know they will also use your donations to help save more people in South East Qld. Their website is:

    All the best to your and your family from CareFlight NSW.

    • Thanks guys. It’s still helping in the same wonderful way. I’ve changed the links now. I hope you got some great support.

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