Friday, 9 March 2012

Lost in February

This is just a very brief outline of what’s been happening these last few weeks and explains my absence from Twitter. Of course it would be impossible to include a blow by blow account of all the traumatic events that took place. But what I can say quite categorically is this. Without a belief in the God of my understanding I would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Thank you to my wonderful friends who have supported me through what I can only describe as a living nightmare. They know who they are.

The weather was cold and bleak as we headed north up the A19 to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough on the 6th February. My husband’s operation for a triple bypass and aortic valve graft had been cancelled for the 17thJanuary and rescheduled for the 7th Feb.
The operation was vital. He was a heart attack waiting to happen, said the consultant.  At the pre-assessment we were told he’d be in hospital between five and fifteen days, and knowing E, he’d be out in the five.

The operation was cancelled again on the 7th because of an emergency that had cropped up at 4am. Don’t know a lot about surgery – but you don’t want a tired surgeon slicing open your chest & decoking your ticker! I asked E did he wanted me to fetch him home and take him back the next day? He said no, they’re going to operate the following day, so I’ll stay.

The day of the operation was a tense one for me. I telephoned to see if he was back from theatre, having been told at the pre-assessment how long the op would take. They said no, he’s not back yet. I knew instinctively something was wrong just by the length of time he’s been down in theatre. Later that evening they said, yes he’s back in the recovery room, telephone in the morning.

The next morning I rang. “Your husband had complications, excessive bleeding and oozy connections. He’s still on a ventilator – we’ll try again soon; see if he’ll breathe on his own.”  This went on for three attempts over thirty six hours. By now I was going out of my mind; unable to think straight, sleep, eat, or function on any normal level.

I was by his bedside in intensive care – talking to him, willing him to breathe. I knew he was there... somewhere... floating beneath the surface; able to hear my every word. I begged, willed, and prayed for him to breathe. Eventually, he did. There were tears of joy from me and his children.

Three days later his heart went out of rhythm – they had to restart his heart with those electric clamp-type things - and once again he was back on a ventilator. I remember saying. “I love you, darling, if you can hear me squeeze my hand." he squeezed it!
My husband spent two whole weeks in intensive care. While there he was prayed over and wept over, by me and his six children. There cannot be a man more loved than he was during that time. 

The day I rang (as I did every morning at 6am & every night at midnight) and they said he’s been moved to high dependency, the relief was enormous.

At the moment he's fed by an NG tube. Yes, I know all the medical terms now – wish the hell I didn’t! These last five weeks I’ve learned how to read those heart monitors that you see on TV.  I can read blood pressure charts, pulse rates, oxygen levels, artificial feeding, calorie & nutritional value. I know the James Cook Hospital like the back of my hand.  Believe me, when E comes home, I don’t want to see inside another one for a long time!

I travel the 50 mile round trip every day as I have done every day for almost five weeks. Patients & staff now know my face; smile and say hello as I make my way to Ward 28. I get home about 7.45 in the evening, heat up a ready meal; food I’ve never eaten in my life, but I can’t be bothered to prepare a meal for myself. Everything’s usually homemade. My husband is waiting for a transfer to a hospital eight miles away. He’s waiting for a bed.

The stroke he sustained has left him with a paralysed left vocal chord and unable to speak, and the inability to swallow. I’m expecting him to make a full recovery in the next few months - I refuse to buy into doctor’s negativity. They always paint the worst picture for some reason, a reason I’m not particularly interested in. I’ve learned over the years, they don’t know everything; much less so of the human spirit, from whence recovery springs.

Three days ago, E was waiting eagerly for me when I arrived at visiting time. He had a pen paper ready. He wrote: what is the day? Date? How long have I been here? I said four weeks, he wrote, I’ve lost February.  I’m hoping for a soft landing, he wrote, and smiled. He'd have had a softer landing jumping out of an aircraft without a parachute!

I’m so looking forward to my darling E coming home soon. We’ve had 37 years together and there’s many more to be had. We’ve a life to live – and believe me, we’ll not waste one a precious minute of it. The house is on the market tomorrow – our cabin will soon become a reality, and the campervan is ready for the road.

Apart from that - I miss my cup of tea in bed every morning. 


  1. Liz, darling. Have really missed you and have been thinking about you and your husband a lot. I hope he continues to improve. I am so sorry that you have had such an awful time lately. It's very brave of you to write such an emotional and open post. I know you will stay strong and positive. Sending you a big hug!xx

  2. So sorry it's turned into such an ordeal Liz :-( I've been thinking of you both every day and sending good thoughts and prayers for a complete recovery. Your love and believe will be his greatest medicine. Xxxx

  3. Have just joined your blog so knew nothing of this. Your story bought a tear to my eye. Praying for you and your hubbie. I agree with you, the doctor's don't know everything and the human spirit is strong. Mx

  4. Huge hugs to you and E, Liz. Sending healing thoughts and wishes for continued progress. Much love xx

    1. Something I recalled recently when I was a little girl at Sunday school. 'More is wrought through prayer than the world could ever dream of.'

      Thank you for sending healing thoughts - I believe all good thoughts are prayers. xx

  5. I wondered where you had gone on Twitter, Elizabeth but never dreamed you were living through a nightmare. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband and family.
    It is amazing what the human spirit can accomplish, even when science doesn't know the answers.May you all be home together again soon.

    1. Thank you, Gwen. Prayers have sustained and brought us thus far. xxx

  6. Elizabeth, I stumbled across this post on twitter (Debi Alper's retweet, if I recall correctly) and read your bravely honest words.
    My heart went out to you as I read. Tears rolled down my face.
    You see, my husband is struggling with serious heart problems...
    Thirty-eight years we've had. We want more.
    We, too, have changed our lifetstyle. No more big house - and guess what? It's wonderful! I sometimes think about the massive bedroom furniture I used to spend hours polishing. I loved it.
    I don't miss it. Not one bit.
    I'd much rather play gin rummy with this dear man - or take off on an impromptu drive through the mountains - or make bread pudding from a recipe in my mom's WWII cookbook...
    I know to many this may sound simplistic.
    You and I know better.
    And I know some find this type of discussion off-putting.
    You and I know better.
    It's life-affirming.
    Tiny Tim said, God bless us, one and all!
    I think He already has; we're no longer wasting moments.
    Jen Fishler

  7. Thanks, Jen. Can't wait to have him home and smother him with love. I'm sending you and your husband my love and prayers.

    Expensive do this this praying, gone through a 125 tea lights so far! xxx

  8. Dear Elizabeth, I was so sorry to read about the terrible time and your family have been having, but really appreciate your taking the time out to tell us. You have been sorely missed on Twitter.
    I hope that your husband is on the mend and will be home soon. Despite all that's going on, I'm sure he realises what a lucky man he is - he has such love from you.
    All the very best.

    1. Thank you, Janet. He's had a very rough ride & I'm so grateful he's survived. xxx

  9. Hello Elizabeth, I've just joined your blog and read your post. Have missed you on Twitter-sorry to hear you've been going through such a difficult time. Best wishes to you and your family and I do hope that your husband recovers very soon.X

  10. Wow. What a time you've all been through, not least E. And I've been glad to learn via Twitter today that E has his voice back! Fantastic news and, as you said above, it shows the power of the human spirit to recover and prove them wrong. I have a lot of experience with strokes (my mum) and, first of all, they said she wouldn't walk, which she went on to do - and drive, shhh! We are many years down the line now. And strokes are cruel, striking randomly when the person is doing all they can to lead a healthy life. So mum had more of the buggers. She can barely speak but we've all learned to lip-read her strange, lopsided mouthings! And it is testament to her spirit that she's carried on being herself as much as she can for over 12 years now. Her favourite wall pictures are of... Colin Firth! My dad also came out of an operation to amputate leg (diabetic) with a stroke and it's a terrible heart-rending business. Love helps, as you say. Wishing you all the best for the future and keep faith in your own spirits - not forgetting the Larger Spirit of your understanding. You are an inspiration. Take care ... TT x