Been to AnE and hospital more times than I care to count, and more for our eldest son than the other four put together. Not that I mind. If there’s a problem. I want to be there. It’s just what it is, and you do what you have to do. As we head up I’m hoping this visit will be for something trivial, but that doesn’t stop the scenarios playing out in my head. It’s been life threatening too many times before.
Just the other day Tara and I found a letter I had written about an accident when he was just nine years old. We thought we’d lose him as he was ambulanced to hospital after being hit by a car. With head injuries, broken hip, ribs, and internal bleeding, we were beside ourselves. With Gilbert already with him, I drove up by myself that time and the feeling of fear and hope was replicated with this trip, but that’s another story.
The boat ambulance brought Damen from the Island and all his details were being popped into the system as we came around the corner. He looked terrible. Pale and his long, long hair sticking every which way. He could barely acknowledge us as he began to vomit. The two staff looked at him and turned back to their computers…’and vomiting’ they added to the list of symptoms on arrival. He was soon settled in a cubicle as we waited assessment. He’d had an excruciating headache for two days. He described it as a nine out of ten and the Dr decided to send him to hospital. Details taken, bloods and X Ray’s done. We waited. We were closeted in the smallest of spaces and privy to each other’s most private of times, with just a curtain to separate us.
“Do you need anything?” Tara texted. “A nighty perhaps,” Ren teased. I’m not going to get any sleep here, I answered. Got 6 cubicles. Girl beside us has pelvic pain. Just heard all her sexual activity answers. Menstruation answers. Poohs n wees answers. 😳 la, la, la, laaaaaa. The old Pacific Island lady across from us can’t breathe. Stopped her meds because she didn’t like it. Next lady sounded like she had been drinking but possibly head injury? They kept asking about what happened and inferred someone had pushed her or knocked her about. Turned out her partner had been taken into custody, but she wouldn’t say so. Kept insisting she fell. They decided to take her to a private room.
Next old guy insisted he was fine and wouldn’t use a wheelchair but wouldn’t let nurses trolley go. So she had to push the trolley slowly so he could move and she made out that was where she was going anyway. Awwww.
Then the old Pacific Island lady’s husband pushed the code red button instead of the green button and seventeen people rushed to her side ready to resuscitate. They tried to explain to him, “…you push the green button if you need us. You push the red button if you really need us”. “So I push both buttons when I need someone?” He clarified. Ummm no. That’s a hard one to explain when English is the second language.
People come and go and we hear new stories we don’t really want to hear. No faces as curtains are drawn so you can only imagine ages and faces. Then Pacific Island lady’s children and grandchildren arrive and some upset ness that erupts from time to time like a station where a train is rushing in noisily and then eerily quiet.
We discover Damen has pneumonia. That’s crazy with no symptoms, but Ok. Gee. “You guys should go, the Dr tells us at 1.30am. He’s going to be admitted for a couple of days. No point in hanging around.” We kiss him goodbye and are thankful. Pneumonia is fixable. THATS why he had such a bad headache! I was worried about brain tumours. He’s been there and had that. I was worried about brain aneurism. Not so easily fixed. Pneumonia is better. We head home and snatch the next four hours of sleep.
I got up to spa but it was raining when the phone rang. A distraught and garbled message from Amy that we needed to get to the hospital ASAP as Damen had a team around him and had needed resuscitating after his heart stopped. I remained calm. “It will be okay Amy, it will be okay. We’re on our way” I hung up and burst out crying as I told Simone, who immediately burst out crying and called Tara, who calmly confirmed she could collect Amy, hung up and then burst out crying. As Amy said later ‘Team Joe’ swung into action.
Gilbert and I drove to the hospital, Amy and the girls collected by Tara from the ferry and we were all soon at his side. Relieved that despite his cardiac arrest and the heart being in an irregular rhythm of the sort that is difficult to snap back into rhythm, after eleven minutes of the team performing CPR they were able to bring him round. Fear, relief, exhaustion, understanding, disbelief, all washed over us through the day as we came to realise how close we were to losing him.
Some of the resus team and nursing staff came down to check on him before finishing their shift and re-lived and marvelled over what had happened. How hard it was to bring him back. That’s why he was sore in the chest after the compressions. “You know how on TV they have the stand back and shock and the paddles and the whole big drama of a resuscitation? Well that very rarely happens, she continued, but it happened with Damen today. You guys are very lucky to have him with you still.”
As Gilbert bent down to hug him the tears of relief were still wet on his face. Damen looked up at him and said “I’m sorry Dad. I’ve been such a trial for you”. “No, no mate, Gilbert started to cry again. You have never been that. We are just so glad you are still here.”
We sat at his bedside while monitors were plugged in and the long week really began. In a vacuum like we were on another planet. Unaware of the weather or the news or anything outside of our bubble.
Tara arrived with day 1 Emergency kit hastily thrown together containing snacks, toothbrush and paste etc, notebook and pen. She’s been to hospital with her children enough to know.
“He’s like a cat with nine lives” I joked with Chee on the phone later and we started to count. “Stop!” I said, it was getting scary as we ticked them off.
The tests began and possible problems ticked off. Angiogram- Heart plumbing is excellent, ultra sound-looking good too. Day five MRI showed an infection causing inflamation around the heart had caused the heart to stop and when they tried to resusciatate his heart went into a chaotic rhythm.
It will take a few weeks to regain strength and the heart muscle to repair and the pneumonia to clear. We returned him to the island this afternoon and it was hard to say goodbye. He’ll be fine, I know but every now and again something reminds me how close we really were.
Talk Soon, Tricia