Stable Is My New Favourite Word

Miss11's simple but heartbreaking message for her Mum.
Miss11’s simple but heartbreaking drawing for her Mum – I can feel the anguish in the ‘oh’.

Today was going to be the day.

Today was going to be when they brought Tracey out of her induced ‘slumber’ and back to reality.

And I have to confess I was really hoping it would be, because today was our fifteenth anniversary and I reckon that would have been the bestest present ever. Although it’s probably just as well she’s still under, really, because it’s occurred to me just now I haven’t bought her anything.

But in any case, it wasn’t to be. The doctors decided that despite her being stable they wanted to do another echo test on her heart. The one from the outside wasn’t clear enough, so they took some pics from inside her esophagus. Pleased to say nothing untoward showed up.

They’re also growing cultures and doing tests on the bits of bowel they removed, thinking maybe she has a disease which can explain why a woman of 37 has suffered something usually reserved for people who have well and truly retired. As they have told me there are treatments for what they’re thinking might be the cause, I find myself in the unusual position of wishing she gets diagnosed with a disease which, up until a week ago, would have had us horrified and crying.

As things had stabilized I went home to talk to the kids on Monday. They suspected something was up, obviously, but all they really knew was Mum was in hospital because she couldn’t poo.

The older two had sort of put together it was a bit worse than that though, so I took them aside to have a chat before taking on the other three. None of the kids had seen either of us since Thursday afternoon.

“Where’s Mummy?” Master10 wanted to know. He was angry, while Miss11 took out her frustration by crying at me. “What’s going on?”

I explained the difficulty their Mum’s been having (understatement), along with the idea that she would be ‘waking up’ soon and moved somewhere they could come and see her.

This wasn’t good enough for Master10.

“Why did you lie to us?” he wanted to know.

With the verbal dexterity of a politician I assured him we didn’t lie, we just hadn’t known what the truth was yet. Their Mum had simply been in hospital and things were looking grim and then better and then grimmer and then better again, and it was a big enough roller coaster for us adults, with all our life experience, to endure, let alone young kids.

“But,” I assured them, “things have settled down now and I’ll call you every night before bed to tell you exactly what’s been going on during the day. No more hiding things.”

“That’s all we ask, Dad,” Master10 said indignantly and looked to his big sister for support. She backed him up by sobbing some more. “That you tell us the truth.”

But after today I think he understands why we did what we did. He read the local Gympie Times today which reproduced my original post about this whole worrisome affair, and told me over the phone he was glad he didn’t know we thought Mummy might have had cancer and that he wouldn’t have coped very well with that. Not surprising, really, because we didn’t either.

But I think he finally appreciated why we kept him out of the loop.

It’s odd how quickly my days have formed a routine. I wake, remember, feel panicky, followed immediately by guilt for not being at the hospital already. Then I anxiously check my phone for messages from the hospital. Genuinely relieved there’s nothing, I shower and head out as quick as I can, grabbing a coffee and bacon wrap from the cafe down the road for the 10 minute trip in because the first thing the nurses will ask me when I get there is am I looking after myself. I try park where I can see the car from the elevator area (because I now know from experience walking laps of a seven story car park to try find your car is not fun), then half run up to the fourth floor where I buzz myself through to ICU, get an update and phone family.

Then I sit in the ICU waiting room, checking in on Tracey every hour or two.

I don’t know why I think I need to be so close to her in case something happens. There’s a common sense part of me which realizes here or home or at my brother’s (where I’m staying) makes no difference – I’m only a phone call away. But for some reason it does matter to me.

Lately I’ve taken to combing Tracey’s hair, which I find calming. You watch, it’ll be the thing Tracey complains about when she comes to. The kids won’t let me comb their hair at home because I only tend to do it when we’re racing out the door on the way to school and I can pretty much do an entire head, knots and all, in two strokes.

I’m told it hurts, and their screaming seems to back that up.

But I like doing Tracey’s because it feels like I’m helping, plus I can lean in and talk in her ear or kiss her forehead.

I never stay by her bed for too long, although they say I’m allowed to. The problem I have is a tendency to chat with whoever the nurse is watching over her. My upbringing simply won’t allow me to ignore them. It would feel rude. And so I worry I’ll distract them from their job. I’ve been assured this won’t happen, but I can’t shake it.

ICU is confronting in that it’s at once uplifting and vital, and yet so full of sorrow. Sorrow seems like a book word, but it’s sort of apt in a place like this. Misery too.

A news report came on the other night where a Broncos supporter was crying because of her team’s loss, and a woman sitting in a group nearby shook her head at the screen at said rather eloquently, “You silly bitch, you don’t know what it’s like to have something to cry about.”

I’m at the point when I’m told good news I almost feel guilty – I try to hold my joy in when I’m in the waiting room out of respect for those who can’t experience what I am: hope. Because on the one hand you have the majority of people who, like Tracey, have defied the odds and have a fairly good chance at taking up their lives again. And, obviously, on the other hand you have people who won’t. I’ve sat next to at least three families who have said goodbye to their loved ones: an 82 year old man, a grandmother and 37 year old mother of two whose bone marrow transplant wasn’t enough to save her – she was the same age as Tracey. FFS that’s a world of emotions right there.

Like me, people who have good news to pass on to family members but don’t want to spend too long away from the waiting room seem to do it in the hallways, lifts and loos.

And the good news today was that while they didn’t allow Tracey to come completely to the surface, she did glance at me and, I’m sure, know I was there because her brow furrowed. She looked just about as scared as I’ve ever seen her, but for just a couple of minutes, even though it didn’t look like she could focus, the glassiness had disappeared from her eyes.

“Talk to her,” the nurses encouraged me. “It’ll calm her.”

“Are you sure?” I asked them. “Because that has not been my experience in the past.”

Only then they decided they needed to do more tests and put her back to sleep, and she was gone again.

Which I’m sure is just the sort of excuse she’s going to run with.

But the fact is, love of my life, you’ve not once wished me a happy 15th anniversary today and that, I’m afraid, is something which will probably be brought up for years to come – or at least until I do something just as unforgivable or thoughtless to cancel it out.

I give it a month.

I can’t wait until tomorrow morning, Tracey. Like the kids on Christmas Eve, I’ve come home from the hospital to go to bed early just so it can come quicker.

Before I left home I asked the kids for a message I can read to their Mum when I'm sitting with her. I reckon she'll know this by heart when she wakes.
Before I left home I asked the kids for a message I can read to their Mum when I’m sitting with her. It’s looking ratty now because it never leaves my pocket and I reckon she’ll know this by heart when she wakes. My favourite is Miss8’s: Dear Mummy. I cried for you. I really hope you’re good. And by the way, I sorted out your underwear – they’re purple with lines on them.

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.


  • Praying for a quick recovery! Having stayed in ICU waiting for my daughter to recover, I know the emotions you described very well. Keep strong, Tracey and the kids need you.

  • Bruce, such a great idea to give money to Careflight – they really do marvellous work. I hope Tracey surfaces today and I imagine it will be very emotional for you both when she does.

    I don’t know if it helps but it sounds like you have explained things well to the kids. It isn’t wrong to drip feed information particularly at a time when you aren’t sure yourself what is going on. Master 10s inital reactions are a normal part of reacting to that kind of news but you probably know all this. Remember to look after you too .. hard as that is right now as you are focused on your wife.

    I’m thinking of you all and wishing Tracey a good and steady recovery.

  • I so love your blog and was so upset for you and your gorgeous family when I read about Tracey. I am praying for you guys that everything is good. Take care and God bless

  • Thank you for the update, I’ve been thinking of you. I hope Operation Wake Tracey goes smoothly. Then you can start to look forward to Operation Bring Her Home. Sending “Zen” hugs.

    • Thank you for the update Bruce. Oh Tracey, please hurry up and wake up. My love and prayers are with you everyday. I miss chatting with you 🙁
      Love to all your family xxx

  • Happy Anniversary Bruce and I hope your sleeping beauty Tracey wakes up this morning.
    I saw an Ambulance Helipcopter landing at the Base hospital yesterday and I said a prayer.
    The note is perfect.

  • Thinking of you all at this tough time. Through it all, Bruce, you still manage to write something that makes us laugh (and cry). You seem to have it all under control, on the outside at least. All the best for good news today, we will be looking for your update.

  • You brought tears to my eyes Bruce!
    The staff at rbch icu are awesome!! They have saved the lives of two of my little helicopter passengers in the past!!
    Thinking of you both, and the kiddies!
    Sending rainbows and butterflies!!

  • No words are adequate. I feel for you and your family and join my prayers for Tracey’s speedy and complete recovery with everyone else’s.

    And just for the record, no fair making me laugh and cry in the same article 🙂

  • Bruce you and Tracey and your beautiful family are continuously in my thoughts and prayers. Stay strong (you are amazing). Hope Tracey is waking for you and praying for an eventually complete recovery for her. Praise to the Dr’s, Care Flight and YOU for being there for her. All of Gympie is rooting for her.

  • Oh Bruce you have me bawling. I’m so sorry to hear what you are all going through, Tracey especially. I’m praying to The Lord Jesus for your family and for a quick recovery for Tracey. Love and Kisses to you all.

  • oh Bruce, it’s so scary! In 2008 I sat by my adult sons bed as he was in an ICU not so different, yet half way around the world, as he lingered in a coma for 5 weeks (not induced) after an accident. Trust me, the nurses have their shit together, you won’t distract them. It’s good for Tracy to hear your voice and to feel you hold her hand…. They say in a coma the hearing is the last to slip away & the first to return, so she will be reassured by her voice. Thinking good thoughts for her.

  • So pleased to hear Tracey is stable, the next best thing to being awake or better which I am sure will come. Take care of yourself, I am sure Tracey is aware of your presence at her bedside every day.
    Lots of love to you all …….. Klara

  • Bruce It is so good to hear Tracey is on the road back to you and you children. She is an amazing woman and if anyone is going to come back just as strong if not stronger its Tracey. Love and prayers from my family to yours and hopefully she will be awake for you all tomorrow xxx

  • Lots of love to you and Tracey Bruce, not to mention your kids at home worrying about her.
    I hope for you both tomorrow is the day she can start to surface xx

  • The thing about your blog Bruce, is that we feel like we know you and your family – having followed your honest and hilarious journey through life and parenthood. Having a family myself I can only imagine what you are going through. Your story has touched us- we are praying for you, Tracey and the kids for a speedy recovery! Kia Kaha (Stay strong)

  • I am in tears reading this. I truly hope for the best outcome for your lovely wife. Sensin5 live and strength to you and your beautiful kids.

  • Hi Bruce – I’m an agnostic pastoral carer in one of Brisbane’s big hospitals – possibly the one your wife is an inpatient in. The best piece of advice I can give you is to stay with and talk to Tracey.

    I’ve been in a couple of comas myself, and I remember my loved ones talking to me which gave me immense comfort. You’re right – stable is golden. I’m thinking of you and your family and sending all the positive vibes I can your way. I hope you’re getting adequate support, too because it’s so important for the loved ones of patients to be supported in such a foreign and often scary place.

  • I am so sorry your family is going through this. I am a mum with an incurabe case of the big c (blood cancer) for 7 years now, and I know another mum who was in a coma with suspected heart problems at age 37, she’s fine now. You r doing a good job with your kids. I’ve not read your blog before, but reservoir Dad tweeted your situation today. If you need some contact with a mum (and hubby) who spend way too much time in hospital, but come thru each crisis ad sways maintain a strong love for our children, write to me. In hospital you need take things with a grain of salt, I have had many poor prognosis talks, all wrong. You guys will know, “the vibe” of the patient is pretty accurate I find. I hope you all find a new normal soon. Xxxx

  • P.s. these times in hospital do create a lot of litte extra expenses we find. Please do let people help you out with some money if they offer, it’s done with love and can be a good support for times when hospital stays are long. You will get a chance to help others out in the future. It’s your turn to be nurtured with whatever support comes your way. Do talk to Tracey, you might be able to build up more each day. Reading the kids letter, or bringing photo albums in so you can describe the photis and those happy times will give you something to say. Your voice is important. Maybe treat it like a gym callenge and increase your talking time each hour. She will certainly want to hear how each child is, and who s caring forthem etc. Maybe you can use your phone and have the kids record voice memos you can play to Tracey. There’s no right or wrong here mate. xxx

  • So glad to hear Tracey is doing well! What a difficult way to spend your anniversary. Keep on healing and thank you for the updates, your family is so loved!

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