How was I feeling right now? Furious?
I’d just finished an emotionally-charged conversation with my partner and he had told me he had decided to take the week off work – DURING TERM TIME!
I was silently fuming – didn’t we always say that we would only do something like that in an absolute emergency? How could he be so bloody selfish? But I seethed quietly to myself until he finally left the room.
….And then I glanced down at my hands. My left hand was badly bruised and connected to a bleeping monitor. My right hand was attached to a morphine drip. There was a cardboard sick bowl balanced precariously on my lap due to the nausea of having taken some intense painkillers. And I felt so ill I didn’t care that my hospital gown was barely concealing anything beyond my shoulders.
Perhaps this is an emergency, I thought.
I’m in hospital and I’m seriously ill.
It’s taken me six months to write this post. It’s a difficult event to write about because I don’t want it to be gloomy – but every time I think about it I realise what I could have lost.
So, the story goes like this. It was July 2016, and after a day of working I found myself experiencing chest pains which got progressively worse through the night, until I decided that I should possibly ring 111 in the morning. Convinced it was probably indigestion I was astonished to find the emergency services were sending me an ambulance. Pronto! Still in my pyjamas, I sheepishly went downstairs and told Breakfastclub Dad that he was going to have to look after the boys for the next hour or so whilst I caused an unnecessary burden in the local A&E. The ambulance arrived in 5 minutes and the lovely paramedic proceeded to give me gas and air. Gas and air! Something I never thought I’d experience again, having decided that two labours were quite enough for one lifetime. I felt like such a pathetic time waster.
But it turned out, that after several tests I (somehow) had got myself a pulmonary embolism (a clot on the lung). The doctors repeatedly asked me if I’d been on a long-haul flight. And I repeated back that no I hadn’t, and I probably would have remembered if I had. I haven’t had a holiday for eight years. If I’d enjoyed an impromptu flight to Japan it might have been a significant event for me. And I couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated that I’d got the clot without the glamorous trip.
My poor partner was really worried – hence taking time off work and having to single-handedly look after the boys for the week of my medical incarceration. Although we were blessed with some amazing friends who went out of their way to help (thank you – you know who you are x)
But the thing was… and I hope a lot of working parents will understand…I realised in that hospital bed that I’ve changed. On my more positive days I tell myself I am an uber-resilient career woman who is wired to cope with whatever life throws at her. But actually, had I perhaps just become really hard? Had I lost my sense of empathy? And to top it off I realised that this armoured woman is as fallible as the next person. She’s just pretty good at pretending.
Until this point, life had been so hectic. It seemed as though the most trivial curveball would send our universe off-balance. Two full-time working parents trying to care for two small boys with no family support nearby is indeed a logistical nightmare. Everything is on a knife-edge. Everything seems catastrophic if it veers off-plan. You become hard to any form of sentiment as you can’t afford to increase your already-bulging worry list. Sometimes you forget what’s important.
And then when/if you encounter extreme personal catastrophe – time stands still for a bit and you start to think.
After my ‘release’ I was off work for some time. I got to actually attend my son’s sport’s day and drop him off at the school gates every morning. I confided to a fellow mum how spending time in a hospital bed granted me some enforced ‘me-time’ and it was almost like a spontaneous B&B mini-break (with morphine and a assortment of groaning people in the middle of the night). I told her how I arranged for my partner to smuggle in some cream cakes onto the ward enabling me and my fellow bed neighbours to spend ten minutes of sheer cream-induced delirium, throwing caution to the wind as we got crumbs and chocolate curls in our beds. And the mum? She almost looked a little jealous.
I am now fully recovered – the clot was just one of those inexplicable things.
I’ve spent hours reflecting on my period of illness and trying to make sense of it. But the only words of wisdom I can give are these:
- Take a good look at your friends and family and tell them how much you love them, no matter how silly you feel. They are worth spending your precious minutes and emotions on.
- Before squeezing in that last work email at the end of a busy day, leave it until the next morning. Dig out those notes from that time management course you attended in 2008. They really work.
- Try to keep it together the next time your partner takes some time off work. It might be an emergency…