“Can we watch The X Factor?” Miss11 asked me last night.
I’d gone home for a flying overnight visit. This whole experience has been tough for our little people. They’re expected to carry on with things like school despite the upheaval of their worlds. But a week is too long without a huggle from a parent. Tracey does the best ones, but as she was busy stressing us out they settled for mine. They needed me to be there for a few hours to put their minds at ease, and the truth is I probably needed it more.
I gathered all my munchkins and we went home for a meal at the table and a night of sitting on the couch watching tv, talking and playing board games.
Then the six of us eventually settled into our queen size bed. Yep, six of us. No, it didn’t work well.
“Why are you holding my foot?” I demanded of Miss11 at one point.
“Ewww!” she squealed. She thought it was Miss3’s hand.
After multiple kicks to the head and groin I gave up at 1.30am and snuck into one of the single beds. I figured I could maybe manage six hours sleep. Nope. Miss3 woke everyone up at 5am because she couldn’t find her dummy. An hour later she was the only one who’d managed to go back to sleep.
But as exhausted as I was today, I felt recharged. I felt a little more normal. I felt I could come back down here to the Royal Brisbane hospital and handle the stress of things a little better.
I was wrong.
Arriving just before lunch, I went straight in to see how Tracey was doing. Instantly all my newfound calm was put to the test. And failed.
Most of what I was witnessing was the same as when I left. The racing heartbeat. The worryingly high temps. The distended belly. The bags and tubes full of muck and all those wonderful drugs. Even the shivering wasn’t new, although I have to say since it started it’s quickly become the thing I hate most. In a special little part of the world on the fourth floor of this hospital, where so much is controlled and managed and monitored, it seems totally out of step and therefore scary as all heck.
Somehow she looked more frail than ever and like a punch to the kidney it very nearly dropped me.
Worst of all, when I enquired of the staff how Tracey was doing they didn’t use the wonderful word ‘stable’. Instead, when I asked, the nurse said, “…well, she’s the same.”
I’m getting pretty good at hospital speak and I know same isn’t the same as stable. When you pack so much hope around a single word you notice its absence.
Suddenly all the calm I’d been faking for the last twelve days ran aground and I was marooned on an island of doubt in an ocean of fear. That’s poetic speak for I was scared shitless and started to cuss a lot in the men’s loos where I went to throw up.
The one moment of relief I had at this point was a chat with a social worker which my brother arranged with one of the staff he knows.
“What can I do for you?” the lovely, chatty lady wanted to know.
I had no idea. So that’s what I told her.
“I have no idea,” I said. I didn’t really know what her job was. “What have you got?”
Now I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t the first thing she mentioned.
“I think you could probably apply for an escort allowance,” she suggested cheerily.
“I really don’t think that’s necessary,” I told her. After seven kids you learn to hold off for months at a time and not complain. “I mean it’s only been about two weeks.”
Turns out it wasn’t what I, and I’m sure I’m not alone, thought. It seems I’m the escort for Tracey while she’s down here. Of course, now I’m wondering if I can start billing my wife for my services when she’s better.
And then, just when I’d had a bit of a chuckle, the news seemed to get even grimmer. In a fortnight of riding this roller coaster it seems today we’d come to the corkscrew section.
The surgeon told me today’s scan of her belly came back showing signs of some ‘unhealthy’ bowel. That’s hospital code for dead or dying. The lack of blood flow was taking its toll and now they were about to do the thing they told me, only a day ago, they wanted to avoid if possible because the risks involved the possibility of doing more damage than good: They’re going back into her belly to see what’s actually going on and to probably take even more of her inner workings.
And the news got even worse. The section of bowel in question is in a difficult spot which won’t allow for the option of a colostomy bag.
My eyes welled up and I could sense a moan begin to work it’s way up from the pit of my stomach as I felt this wave of panic begin to swell…
…and then it stopped and I was calm again. In fact, all the stress of the day seemed to evapourate.
This thing which has been building in me today when I stood beside my sweetheart’s bed and watched her shiver her way past 40 degrees is doubt. For days the doctors and nursing staff have been trying to work out why Tracey’s temperatures have been so high and coming up with theories but nothing concrete. They’ve been running tests and scans but to my eyes for the first time since she was rushed to theatre nearly two weeks ago my gorgeous wife has been languishing in uncertainty. She’s always been at serious risk of losing her life, but this is different. While they’re working on fixing something, there’s hope. I’ve been a stress ball because it’s felt like there’s been no momentum.
And suddenly I understand why I’ve been able to hold it in, and why I very nearly lost it today. When Tracey was being medevaced all the way from Gympie hospital to Nambour hospital and finally here to the Royal Brisbane her life was in the balance and I was shit scared for her, but I maintained a calm because I knew she was where she needed to be and had the right people trying to save her life. She had the best chance we could give her.
Now suddenly tonight there’s direction again. Today felt like I was in a V8 Supercar and had lost it on a tree lined corner. Now someone competent has taken the wheel and is wrestling this beast back under control. There’s no guarantee it’s not going to end in tears but if anyone can save this wreck they can. The doctors believe they’ve found what’s been hindering Tracey’s improvement and we’re finally moving forward instead of sidewards. Yes, there’s risks – huge risks – and yes of course they worry the hell out of me, but not as much as waiting for her to get worse.
So here I am, sitting in the ICU waiting room again, hoping and fretting, but mostly holding it together. My brother is here with me, and Tracey’s sister, Belinda, and their parents, Ken and Carmel. We’re all worried but I can see the same calm in them I feel and I think it’s for the same reason.
We’ve all been in to see Tracey one last time before her surgery. Her eyelashes looked lovely and her cheeks were rosie red (from a reaction to the pads they’ve had on her face for the last ten days keeping the ventilator in place, but we’ll take that). She looked peaceful and beautiful. Even in her sedated slumber she looked ready to take on the world.
Come on, Tracey. I know you’ve got this. You’re young and in good health and have so much living still to do.
And besides all that, you know better than most the kids need someone responsible to raise them.
“Shit, it’s 9 o’clock already! I’m sorry guys, I can’t let you stay up any later,” I told the kids last night. The X Factor didn’t even look close to running the final credits. I turned off the telly and herded them towards the bedroom. “I can’t believe Grandma lets you stay up so late to watch this.”
“Oh, she doesn’t,” Master10 grinned at me as he jumped into our bed with his siblings. “She records it.”
You probably would have known that.
See you soon, Tracey. Stay strong x
LATEST NEWS: She’s asleep and looks wonderful. No bag. It’s 4am and the surgeon won’t be avail to talk until after 9am – we’re taking that as a good sign and are going for a sleep. Every time she clears another hurdle I’m cheering her on. Thank you to everyone who has given us support. I read the comments in the threads over and over, and I can’t wait for Tracey to see them. Mark my words, she’s going to be so embarrassed everyone’s made any sort of fuss. It’ll be great! I’ll update everyone here once I know anything more.
LATEST NEWS: Thanks for your patience, everyone. We’re on ICU time here. We’ve had a meeting with one of the fabulous doctors here at the Royal Brisbane and he’s gone over how things stand. She’s stable – that wonderful, wonderful word. They’ve taken a lot of her bowel, and what’s left is highly inflamed and in poor shape, but he explained if things were as bad as we’re obviously imagining he’d tell us. “The situation isn’t hopeless,” he told us. “It is not without hope.” Some bowel had died and that can cause organs to fail, but it didn’t. “We’re still only dealing with the one problem,” he told us. Which is good. We’re back to square one though. She’s staring down the barrel of a minimum of two weeks in intensive care so it looks like I’ll be calling the ICU waiting room home for a bit longer – I wonder if they’ll let me hang some pictures? So they’ve managed to pull us out of a spin and grab control of this machine again, and now we’re belting headlong towards the next corner.
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.