On the other side of the medical divide

Well, it's been an interesting 2 weeks...at least I think it's been two weeks, I'm sorta losing all sense of time and space....
Dan has been through two bouts of massive bleeding from esophageal varicees, both of which should have killed him. 17 units of blood, more of FFP and platelets, induced coma and intubation in ICU, balloons inflated in his esophagus to attempt to stop the bleeding which were almost as life threatening as the bleeding itself....And then as the girls leave to go home for a break, he sits up (sedated and intubated) and struggles to call out and reach them with his arms...so they take out the tubes and the balloons, thinking he'll probably now just bleed to death...but the bleeding stops. And he starts breathing on his own. And bites his teeth together when the nurse tries to suction his mouth out and says loudly "No!" So he is now on a medical ward, confused and drowsy, surrounded round the clock by the women who love him. His step daughters, their partners, his street sister Libby from 40 years ago who he introduced to me many years ago as "the other woman in his life" grin, my Mum, and me...
He's struggling and arguing every step of the way...partly due to the cerebral irritation from further liver damage due to blood loss and heavy duty medications...not to mention being intubated for 3 days in a chemically induced coma...
But also because he is one of the most stubborn men alive.
An ex street kid who put himself in a boys home after his father tried to kill him by throwing him overboard in the middle of the pacific ocean...who has survived so many near death scenarios that it's just bloody ridiculous...
I mean his life, for those of you who have heard bits of it over the years, reads like a modern day  boys own adventure novel doesn't it? And I guess that explains why he is fighting so hard now against all sorts of ridiculous odds....
I've spent these two weeks mostly sitting beside his bed holding his hand...First in ED the first time around with him alert and terrified after he had rung me from the car vommitting blood on the way there...and now with him semi concious and grumbly, but still reaching out for my hand when I let go for a minute, until I pick it up again.
I've been in and out of the hospital, taking turns with the girls and now with Libby, Goddess bless her loyal soul...there's only so much time you can sit in hospitals wondering if someone you love is going to die...eventually your own live body calls and you have to go eat and sleep...and now also go back to work as being a casual, I don't have sick leave I can use to pay the bills....

There's something so ironic of doing the supportive bedside watch for my ex. I mean, I love the guy, always have, always will, but we broke up two years ago by mutual agreement for many many reasons...and yet, when it comes to the crunch, he's my family.
It's been so hard being on the other side of the medical fence for once...being in hospital as "family" instead of a nurse....esp as I have worked both in the emergency department and also in intensive care...
It's given me some rather nasty insight into the sheer frustration of dealing with medical staff as a family member. Being ignored, fobbed off, and sometimes even flat out denied information...and having to over and over make them realise that Dan is not some loser alcoholic drug addict who is always been knocked off and confused, but a beloved family man who was never an alcoholic in that sense, hasn't touched alcohol at all for over 8 years, let alone anything else, and up until a short while ago was working full time in a very physical job clambering around roofs...
I feel as though I constantly need to defend him, this agravating ex of mine who I have argued with and yelled at till I could no longer live with him in one house....And here I am defending him, trying to give these unthinking people a sense of who he really is, describing over and over how strong and handsome he used to be, how intelligent and witty and charming he usually is....
OK, bloody minded, cheeky, sarcastic....but sooooo caring and loving as well.....
He has always had such a sense of drama though too...and it's not missing here...I mean apart from the overly dramatic, :"You're dying, no I'm bloody well not!" ridiculousness of it, we've also had to deal with the almost soap opera black comedy of his crazy obsessed lesbian flat mate in amongst it all. I mean, seriously, it's just all a bit much.

I've watched family brawls at the bedside so often as a nurse in ED and ICU...and it's really hard dealing with being dragged into one myself....
We're such a close knit family, and I'm friends with his other ex partners/wives, as I am with my own...and we've never made any distinction between biological sons and daughters and step ones...all connected, supportive, loving for all the chaos...
When he moved out he moved in with a lesbian friend of mine...and she became increasingly strange and a tad hostile towards me...and we all warned him that she seemed to be getting a bit obsessed with him....but he shrugged it off saying she was gay after all and it was only short term till he had his own place etc etc...
But somehow here I am turning up in ICU after finally finding out he was in hospital a second time, 10 hours after he'd been admitted...
Merryn has called me from Bathurst after receiving a weird text message from his flat mate...so I drive down to Gosford ICU to discover him unconcious and intubated and the staff hostile and questioning me who I was and what I was doing there:
 "I'm his ex wife and his next of kin, remember, we went through this last week! Why didn't anyone call me or his daughters when he came in last night?"
"But his partner has been with him all night by his bedside!"
"What partner, he doesn't have a partner!"  A few hours later the girls turn up from Bathurst and numerous rounds with social workers and doctors later we have the story straightened out...and the girls furiously put a blanket ban on her being let into ICU or be given further medical information.
And then the creepy text messages to the girls start...and eventually other friends turn up with long emails she's written to them, with stories of their hidden love and devotion for each other, and endless creepy obsessive sagas that just don't make any sense and have so little to do with any kind of reality... and looking at it now a bit more clinically as a mental health nurse, I'm beginning to realize that my son in law is right, and that she is actually displaying classic symptoms of someone suffering from a delusional manic episode with a baseline of bipolar disorder. Though I am still no nearer to knowing how to deal with it in amongst all this intense emotion and drama... And it makes me so angry seeing the girls torn between their love and grief and worry for their step dad and intense fury at this woman who is insisting on creating more and more distraction and crazy drama in amongst it all...
She turns up at the hospital with acquaintances of his, who snarl angrily at me and the girls about what nasty people we are...and his boss turns up too, with yet another twisted saga she's been told, and I realize his flat mate has his phone and has been ringing his friends one after the other....
At this stage I just burst into tears...again.
I so don't want to have to deal with her, or any of this shit. Or the fact that this drama has been unfolding in front of my professional colleges and extended circle of friends....
And in the meantime we're all sitting there holding his hand as he stays alive against all of the doctors predictions...
Friends turn up in the waiting room, and we sit together and cry and bring each other cups of coffee and food as we wait for his to pass over....friends all around the world light candles and send energy or healing or prayers in their own way following whatever beliefs and paths they follow...and the clock ticks past the evening hours the doctor had predicted he might make it to...and from there we're back at the beginning of the post....
So now we're there...he's out of ICU, no longer sedated, breathing on his own, observations stable against all sorts of odds, my mad shaman survivor ex has decided to hang around for a while longer....and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I don't know where it's going from here....I guess it's up to him. His confusion scares me as much as it brings me joy to see him alive with his girls and grandsons around him....will he get better? will he hold on for a bit till he's done what he needs to do and then let go? will this strong willed man struggle back only to be stuck halfway? What will I do then?
I have no answers, no predictions and such intense emotions I no longer know what I'm feeling....
Spent the morning sitting with his and my dogs at the waters edge looking at waves and boats...letting the calm of the water he loves so much sooth my soul as Bear and Tikaani enjoyed being back together again and wrestled on the lawn....We'll see where the journey goes.....


Comments

  1. Oh Ambrosia... I am so there for you - I've only just seen this post and by now hopefully he is back in the land of compos mentus - what a whirlwind ride you've had and so alien being on the other side of the nurses station.... I had that experience personally when I fell off (read knocked off) my motorbike and all that long term hospitalisation entailed.... I do hope by now he is back giving every one shit...
    Love you heaps
    Always
    Harmony x0x

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