The old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder, seems to be more realistic than I have always thought. So as I felt as I lay on a bed inside a hospital ward just two nights before this blog is written. But how did I end up there in the first place?
It is all to do with my aortic valve replacement operation just over four years previously, as a treatment for a regurgitating aortic valve I had, so I was told, since I was young, perhaps even from birth. Although the procedure was a complete success in itself, life-long repercussions remain. This includes taking anticoagulants, in my case Warfarin, for life, along with beta-blockers and diuretics. However, it was a decision taken by one Cardiologist at Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot, that I can come off the diuretics. I thought a first that was wonderful. Then the problems began. I began to get short of breath every time I exerted myself from a state of rest to exercise. And that could be as simple as climbing a flight of steps.
It was when I came to the stage of even finding walking difficult without gasping for breath when Alex my wife begged me to see a GP. Yes, begged. The same as five years previously when I kept on waking up in the small hours of the morning wheezing and having a sensation of drowning, as liquid rattled in my chest at every breath taken. Back then, as this time around, I paid a visit to my GP after much persuasion - er - nagging - by my wife. Yes, I am aware. We as men have a sense of embarrassment about seeing the Doctor. Being male myself, I tend to believe in this universal sense of awkwardness, which I think arises from the belief that our symptoms are not serious enough to waste the Doctor's time and be fobbed off - "On yer bike, pal".
But an out-of-hours Doctor I did see, and this female, who looks to be fresh out of college, saw straightaway, that I was panting and looking unwell. And that was just after walking a few metres after sitting for half-an-hour at the waiting room. After a talk which consisted mainly of answering a pile of questions, she made a successful diagnosis of my condition and was able to see that I was suffering from water retention, which was responsible for the shortness of breath. At that, she decided for me to visit Royal Berks A&E in Reading, and to arrange for an ambulance to take me straight there. I protested, asking her to put me back on diuretics and continue as before. Instead, she insisted on a visit to a Consultant as a more appropriate need.
I phoned my wife, who immediately summoned a taxi. She waiting for my arrival at A&E for quite a while before I finally arrived. She was my comfort while reclining on the gurney, watching nurses and doctors walk past in both directions, along with patients being wheeled away by a porter, the never-ending hustle-and-bustle of a typical A&E department. It was several hours later when one of the doctors entered my cubicle to announce that I will be kept in overnight. My wife panicked.
This is because whenever she feels distressed or experience a rise of negative emotion, various things happen. One is a severe backache caused by the tightening of her muscles, immobilising her. Normally, I can quickly get her out of her condition, having learnt from experience, along with an administration of a strong painkiller such as Co-Codamol or Oramorph. Another state her emotions can lead her to is a seizure, remaining conscious but a tightening of her throat or neck muscles threatening asphyxiation. I have learned to get her out of that condition too, by applying CPR which I had previously learned as a poolside lifeguard back in 1972/3. On another occasion, she can get into a kind of body lock, when although still remaining conscious, she goes into a deep unwakeable sleep-like state which takes a while for her to recover. Such is her threefold neurotic disorder arisen from a series of long-past psychosomatic circumstances.
In a state of sudden panic, she tried to phone through to a couple who have been friends for a long time, and who also took her in while I was recovering from my heart op at Harefield Hospital in Uxbridge. But the ringing went unanswered. Then realising that this was a week when schools were shut for half-term and many were away on holiday, we knew then we were on our own.
And so she booked a taxi for home while I was wheeled to one of the wards. It was a while later when I knew that by then she should have settled in, was when a nurse lent me a hospital mobile phone and tried to contact her several times and the phone remained unanswered, that a deep feeling of helplessness and hopelessness filled my soul. All night through.
Being in a hospital ward, there were constant interruptions as nurses walk in to take blood pressure measurements, including from me. The welcoming darkness dispelled every time a patient turn on his bedside light or the much-needed silence disturbed by conversation, whether between patients or to staff, the situation was never ideal for a good night's sleep.
And visions from an overactive imagination.
My imagination was indeed running wild. I kept seeing visions of my beloved lying on the floor, paralysed. Unable to move, her throat muscles tightening as if strangled by an unseen force. With nobody to help her, she finally gives up the ghost by asphyxiation. Or lying on the floor with her back muscles curved in tightness while suffering from extreme pain. And with both front and back doors locked, no one can enter the house to assist her. Furthermore, she has my house keys. That means even if I were to leave the hospital ward to get home quickly, she could be lying unconscious and there is nothing I can do short of a literal break in.
|Main Entrance Royal Berks Hospital, Reading.|
It was as if I was teased, a target for fun-poking, ridicule. I tried to imagine what would a life of widowhood be like. Worldwide travel again? A return to being single? None of these brought any comfort, but rather a source of torment. I could circumnavigate the globe many times over. But none of that would make up for the love and affection we have always exchanged. The only person in the world who sincerely thinks I'm good-looking, gorgeous, a rock of security, someone who she adores, a representation of Jesus Christ. If she goes, then the empty void left behind will be impossible to fill - the wretched feeling of loneliness would be too much to bear - unless I experience a miracle.
Perhaps we are both in need of one. If only Jesus Christ materialise in front of us and promises he would grant three of anything we ask for. Immediately, without hesitation, we would ask for a restoration of health, assurance of salvation for us and our three daughters and perhaps financial security as a top up, but not on the expense of trusting in him for our daily needs.
Around breakfast time, I again tried to contact my wife over the phone. And yet again no answer. I kept trying, but this carried on as if stubbornly refusing to acknowledge my call. Eventually, in sheer desperation, I cried to God to bring her back to the hospital ward. I kept on repeating my prayers, regardless of whether they were heard by others in the ward or not. My heart was pleading, pleading...
As we parted during the previous evening, she promised that she would be by my side before nine in the morning. But it was already 10.30 and I was still alone. I tried to shut out any thoughts that she could be unconscious, or even dead, back at home and carried on pleading with the Lord to bring her over safely.
At 10.45 my wife suddenly appeared as she was wheeled in by a porter. The sudden sense of relief as we hugged was almost unimaginable. It was then when I piled thanks upon thanks to God for his goodness. About an hour later the Consultant came in to visit to put me on a permanent prescription of Bumetanide, a diuretic medicine I was taking before it was discontinued. He then said that we were free to go home after the medicine arrives from the hospital pharmacist. Indeed, I was thinking, if that young GP was on the same track of thought as I was on the previous day, we would have been spared of all this, as well as the cost to the NHS. I can only assume that as an apparent junior, she did not carry the authority to put the diuretic back on prescription without a more senior consultation.
It seems that as a married couple, we have a lion's share of tribulation, and that aimed specifically at our health. My wife's neurotic disorder brings just as much anxiety to me as well as my heart condition brings to her. We both worry for each other constantly, life on a knife-edge, a constant emotional turmoil. The most frequent-asked question is, Are you okay? I could ask that several times within a couple of hours.
It wasn't long since I came across a poster on Facebook. It read An Empty House is Never Burgled. This reminds me of a thief, a robber or burglar. Who are thieves and robbers? Apparently, it's the Adversary, according to Jesus' own words recorded in John 10:10. A thief only steals if the intended victim has something worthy to be taken. An empty, unoccupied house is of no interest to the burglar! Apparently, Satan must be constantly hungry, for he seems to go after the fruit, that is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As the apostle writes in 2 Timothy 3:12, anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, or simply will have trouble.
We tend to think that persecution only means being hated by unbelievers - to be chased, thrown into prison, forced to deny the faith, tortured, killed. Hmm! I cannot see any of that aimed at any of our churches here! Maybe Paul the Apostle had got it wrong, or times have changed since his day. Or maybe the word applies to a far more universal term of suffering - to have trouble, to suffer some kind of tribulation.
This makes far more sense. By means of the Holy Spirit living within us, we produce good fruit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Indeed, Satan is constantly hungry and he will steal. Especially the fruits of love, joy and peace, but he'll go after others, particularly patience when driving in traffic or stuck in a superstore checkout queue. Often God does not stop the spiritual crime, although he allows it to go only so far.
|Our love will be forever...|
I look at our own marriage relationship. I'm happy to say that it 's strong, stable, robust. And believe it or not, I think that the tribulations aimed at our health and wellbeing have played a role. And I think absence makes the heart grow fonder. During that night at the hospital ward, all I was concerned was that she was okay on her own at home. Not that I never go out on my own, of course, I do, just about every day I'm out on my own, whether it'll be for a few minutes or for several hours, or even for much of the day. But there is a world of a difference, for example, between a gym and sauna session and being confined at a hospital ward bed.
The Adversary may attempt to steal as much as he can from us, even our lives, but our love for each other will remain forever.