I may have mentioned it before, but I will say it again. The 1st of May is a day where things happen in our family. On a smaller scale, it's the wedding anniversary of an aunt and uncle, it's my grandmother's birthday if she were still alive, it's the day my sister-in-law finalised the purchase of her first house.
But the big things are these... it's my sister-in-law's birthday and also the anniversary of my father-in-law's passing nine years ago. It's a day where no one is quite sure what to do, mourn or celebrate. Births, death, weddings, first houses. The 1st of May.
A few years ago on 1st May 2006, I had my own personal experience with the things that happen on the 1st of May. I thought I'd re-share these experiences with you today, especially as I had quite the small audience the first time around:
It started off as heartburn, like I wrote in my previous blog. At 2 o'clock in the morning, and I just couldn't get back to sleep after that, and I stayed up and read my book, like I already wrote. That's when things changed. It was morning my husband had gone out to do some errands later in the day, and I was still pretty tired but I was feeling better. The pain wasn't there as much (I could still feel something) but not painful. I thought it'd be all right to have a muffin for breakfast, and some settlers to get rid of that feeling in my stomach. But it didn't work. Everything just became more and more painful, and I found myself in the downstairs loo violently vomiting, not once or twice but three of four times, just more and more until they became dry painful heaves. Boy woke up (from the sound?) and I just couldn't pick him up. That was the worst feeling ever, that my son needed me and I couldn't do it. So I sat there sobbing, 'I just can't do it' and patting him until he calmed down. I like to think he knew I was in a bad way, but probably not. Luckily, my husband came home just then and said let's go to A & E...
I barely got a chance to say goodbye to my little boy. It just hurt too much for me to think of anything else. I regret not taking the time then to give him a little hug or something. I had to sit in the car for a minute before my husband was ready, and I was so hot and feverish at that time that this seemed to be the most unbearable thing ever (ha! and this was only the start) Luckily the hospital isn't too far away from where we live.. but every little bump in the road or turning jostled my stomach and made me want to heave some more. I got out of the car (as delicately as I could) and hobbled my way into A & E. I'd never been in there before, I didn't know what to expect. Thinking about it afterwards I guess I was expecting a scene from ER, and no wonder I was disappointed. Anyway, maybe for once in my life I wasn't being melodramatic at all, I limped up to the lady at the counter, and managed to wheeze out 'I'm .... in ... pain' expecting what? for her to jump up and put me in a wheelchair maybe? For her to call a doctor possibly? At least for her to have some compassion and feeling, maybe ask how long I've had the pain? No, she looked at me, bored as could be, and said in a voice I'll never forget 'date of birth?' This was followed by 'Name?' 'Address?' and 'Place of birth?' before she told me to take a seat. I had a look around and it was like 30 feet between me and the nearest seat. I really didn't think I'd make it.
So, in the end, I made it in to see a doctor. A few of them, I think, and a surgeon. There was more vomiting (they tried to give me something for the pain, my stomach wasn't having any of it) and waiting. For the most part I think a lot of that time was spent with me whimpering in pain and making little noises. I know I'm kind of a baby about pain, but this was different. I didn't think I was going to get through it. They admitted me into the hospital (and I was thinking this was a bad case of heartburn!) and when the doctor (surgeon? who knows) came to see me, he said 'so, you have pancreatitis' (the suspense is over!) 'pancreatitis is very serious, it could be fatal as it could cause organ failure...' how should I know what he said after that he said it COULD BE FATAL. I start to think all sort of things. I'm 23, and I could be on my deathbed. I didn't kiss Boy goodbye before I left. How did my life get to this point? Could be fatal, could be fatal, could be fatal.
So, I had pancreatitis (which means inflammation of the pancreas). Yes, it was serious, but in no way was I near my death at all. I was in a lot of pain and it could have been a lot more serious than it was - but it wasn't. And you know what the treatment is for pancreatitis? Wait it out. Just wait until it's finished being all agonising and painful, and then the doctors can do something. So I was doped out on morphine for those first few days, but really, it wasn't helping that much. Just gave me some strange, strange dreams. Being in hospital can be incredibly humiliating and degrading. I had gone from having a nice weekend visiting the garden centre, playing with my son, to being hooked up to an IV drip, with a catheter, waiting desperately for someone to give me my next morphine injection. But it could have been worse. Apparently, pancreatitis is brought on by two different things, gall stones or alcoholism. If it had been alcoholism, things could have been so much worse and my story might have ended differently.. the pain and the risk would have been far greater. For me, they had to wait until the inflammation was less so that they could operate and remove my gall bladder, which they did successfully. 10 days in hospital, but at least I won't have to go through it all again (no gall bladder means no gall stones which means no more pancreatitis). I didn't have to worry that my son wasn't being cared for (he had his daddy and his grandma, bless them both) though I did miss him terribly. But he's OK. And so am I.
I didn't want any visitors except my husband, my son and my mother-in-law. People offered, but in those first few days, when I had the catheter in, it was just too much for me to think about - people coming in and seeing my bag of urine hanging off the side of my bed. And I was still in pain during those days. I don't think I know anyone well enough (husband aside) to start crying in front of them. So I said no to them all. They took the catheter out once they thought I was able enough to hobble to the toilet, but even then they told me they had to monitor the amounts I passed. Everytime I went to the toilet, I had to ring the nurse's bell, and say 'I've just peed, go have a look' That was hard. It seemed like all my dignity was being stripped slowly away from me. But there were funny times as well, and I had to hold on to those while I was in there. Once, I remember I had to go to the loo desperately, but there weren't any of those bedpan thingys in my toilet, that I had to wee in, so one of the nurses ran off to get me some more. I was just standing there, with my IV next to me, wriggling a bit, swaying sort of trying not to think of just how badly I needed to pee, and another nurse walks past my room, smiles and says 'It's always nice to have a little dance'
I had some mighty odd dreams while I was in hospital. That first night (the night with the MOST morphine in my system) I swore I woke up with a bad case of multiple personality disorder. I was seriously worried that I had spoken to a nurse or someone while I had these other two voices in my head. In fact, I think my brain was altered in some way whilst there, permanently. Everytime I think of my operation, I think of surgeons pitching a tent under my skin and zooming their remote controlled cars into my stomach to remove my gall bladder. It's more interesting, I'm sure, to what actually happened - and the memory makes me happy.
Books read just before or during my hospital visit (and therefore will always remind me of this experience):
Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (just before)
Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox
The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
And there we have it. The 1st of May strikes again. I cringe reading what I wrote back then, not only because it's written so poorly, but because of the horrific nature of the whole thing. I remember the agony I was in, the loneliness of my hospital room, the humiliation of having a catheter, the despair of being away from my not-yet 6 month old son.
Since then, of course, our family has had no major incidents or anything interesting to report. I hope it continues in that way. This year, my sister in law, her husband and my gorgeous nephew are down for a visit. I'm hoping this day will bring nothing but smiles and laughter as we spend a quiet evening with family. I hope that for you too.