I was reflecting on my last blog post in May 2018. Nine months after I wrote that post about self healing, I was admitted to hospital for emergency life saving surgery and consequent hospitalisation for another 7 months. Had my surgeon not been as capable as he was, there is some doubt that I would have survived at all. I had gone from excellent health and looking after myself with no medications, to being very sick and on some incredibly strong medications. I took nutrition through artificial means - TPN - and at one stage lost count of the tubes coming out of my body. The amazing thing is even though I remember the experience as being horrific at the time, I have largely forgotten the pain and much of the actual experience. There were some very dark times emotionally until one day I began to accept my situation and stopped trying to control it. From that moment, things turned around. I was still taking the same medications and subject to some pretty heavy procedures but my attitude had changed. I still visit the dark places occasionally but they’re not quite as dark and not there quite as often.
One of the lessons I learned from all this is that sometimes we have no choice but to accept medical intervention and in fact are very fortunate to have it offered. In so many countries, medical assistance is limited, unavailable or unaffordable. In my case, all my care was provided by the Australian Government including five return trips with the Flying Doctor service from a rural outback town to a the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
Never one to accept help easily, I found myself relying daily on the kindness of friends and strangers. There must have been hundreds of people in that 7 months that had a hand in my care and subsequent recovery. I spoke of becoming self aware in my previous blog, but nothing could prepare me for the self awareness I was to experience while infirm.
Our bodies do not define who we are - not even close! Too ill to read or bother watching television, for many months I simply thought. I observed the struggle of many others and how each individual dealt with their unique situation. I spoke to my carers and realised many of them had their own very real struggles that they were dealing with.
There are two people who went above and beyond. One is my a very dear friend who I have known most of my life and is like family, who stepped in and cared for my very sooky German Shorthaired Pointers and generally cared for our house, check the mail while we were in Melbourne. The other is my wife. We have been together 11 years. On Valentines Day I was admitted to hospital, and on our first wedding anniversary (we were married as soon as we could after same sex marriage was legislated in Australia) I was in an operating theatre fighting for my life. She was at my side every single day whether it be in the local hospital or in the city hospital which is five hundred kilometres from home. Many days I was too ill to communicate but she was there to help me and take some strain off the understaffed nurses by helping me wash, bringing food when I was able to eat, and changing my bed. She asked for nothing and gave everything. When she first went to the city she was petrified of trying to work out how to get around (we are after all country people). One of my step daughters put her own life on hold and accompanied her for the first few weeks to give her the confidence to cope - showing her how to use the public transport system, organise travel and emotional support. Her daughter sat with her every day, reassuring her, when I was close to death’s door.
Being married made it so much easier in so many ways while in hospital. If we hadn’t been married my wife wouldn’t have been allowed to be at my side in those moments when my life was in the balance. People wonder why it is so important for those in same sex relationships to have the option of marriage! For many months now and like so many other relationships, my wife has done just about everything for me including dressing my wounds daily and running of the household. I can’t imagine how hard and tiring it must be to live two lives simultaneously, so hats off to the carers of the world! . They are the unsung heroes for sure!
Only now after 2 months out of hospital, am I able to cook occasionally if its not too complicated, and water the indoor plants. I have little energy but was recently able to start practising music again for a few minutes each day. With the advent of home delivery and online ordering, I can at least contribute by doing the grocery shopping.
At the end of the day, when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself I am instead inspired by these wonderful human beings who taught me so much about giving and loving without expectation. I can never repay what has been done for me but I can aspire to be more like these wonderful people.
I would especially like to thank Vizard House which provides affordable accomodation in Melbourne, for the families of hospital patients.