“Hello Arthur, I’m your Daddy”… I pause the video. I’ve watched the full video only three times. Every other time I pause the video after those five words. I don’t need to hear what comes next. I’ll never forget what I said next in the video, I know it word for word.
I chose to say “Hello” not “Goodbye” I’ve not listened to those five words for months. I probably shouldn’t even open the video, as I suppose it’s quite morbid to look into your own eyes and see your own fear and guilt. I’d accepted that death was a possibility and in many ways I wasn’t scared. Instead I was scared and feeling guilty that if I did die Arthur would have to grow up dealing with having lost his Father. I really wanted him to have a good childhood and not suffer because of me.
I don’t know if the video would have made a big difference. Needless to say I’m glad that it wasn’t needed.
Angela was on her way to be by my side before the Surgery. However things were happening fast and they wanted to operate as soon as they could. A nurse had suggested I “say my goodbyes”
A few days earlier I was happily at home, amazed at how quiet a life outside of a hospital is. Angela was looking after me, i’d even spent some time saying hello to well wishers before being whisked back to bed by either my Mum or Wife. And then I vomited. No warning, no sickness… just a strange sensation like someone pushing into my stomach. After a phonecall I found myself back in hospital on a surgical assessment ward. My tired bruised hands and veins were subject to more needles, more x-rays and another CT Scan.
“Yes Pseudocyst is back, however what really worries us is that it seems the necrosis on your Pancreas has spread and the pancreas itself looks very inflamed with multiple blisters” Things we’re heading downhill and it was made clear that there would be no waiting for the nice gentle surgery through the back of my ribs… for an extra measure of alarm they wanted to wait a day until they had enough time to operate and with the best surgeons.
The following day on the assessment ward was full of ups and downs. The ward was short staffed, I was in a bay with five other patients served by a single newly graduated nurse who also looked after a bay behind hers “Jenny! Jenny!” came the call as patients called her throughout the day. One scared patient on our ward refused all treatment, I had a chat with him and set him at ease to the point whereby he at least let a nurse take his pulse. Another patient kept dropping things. Nurse Jenny* was struggling.
My consultant had told me i’d need a blood transfusion before the operation. I wish i’d simply said “Sure, fine by me!” instead I asked why it was needed, as he started to speak I put two and two together… they expected a lot of blood loss. The Transfusion would go on right through the day and into the surgery. The consultants had told me things had gotten serious and the mortality rate was high… but they were just words, now I was now getting really worried
Shortly a Doctor came to ask me to sign some papers, just routine stuff allowing the hospital to operate. She was a kind middle aged doctor and put me at ease, she helped put the pen in my hand. I was very weak and in pain. Struggling to use the pen I started to tick boxes to confirm i’d understood the various details of the operation… and then there it was. Clear as day a box to tick confirming I understood that the surgery could result in my death. I know they have to put these things in, but I asked her anyway. “The risk is high isn’t it?”
“Given what’s happening to you, yes” came the answer.
“I’ve got a little baby boy”
“What’s his name?”
“Arthur, he’s perfect and he always smiles. I didn’t really want children, but he’s perfect. I won’t see him again until after the operation will I? What happens if I refuse to have the operation?”
“We think that in a day or two you’ll be dead Martin. The rest of your organs will start to fail and there will be nothing we can do. It will be too late”
“That’s not much of a choice” I was very weak. My signature was barely a scrawl. I was scared.
“You will see him again”
I was in tears. Nurse jenny came to speak to me. She has a young daughter, a toddler. She mentioned that patients sometimes like to write letters or make videos. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to write. I was barely strong enough to hold my phone and record a video.
The day continued and I became calm. I felt like I’d signed away all my worries and fears and was feeling quite at ease albeit with a few butterflies. Another consultant came to see me and told me they we’re having one last meeting in readiness for the operation. He told me which members of the team would be performing surgery. I was happy to hear it included some of my favourite doctors.
An older nurse looked over my medication chart. She looked worried and called over Nurse Jenny. The older nurse asked if Jenny had forgotten to fill in the medication chart. Jenny’s face dropped and she looked at me and then at the bag of blood running into my arm. The nurse crossly asked Jenny “why haven’t you given him them?”
My mind raced… the drugs… they were supposed to give me drugs to prevent a reaction to the blood. The nurse called over the Sister. The Sister called over a registrar and a call was put out to get on of my consultants down to see me. Jenny was distraught. The Nurse who spotted the mistake clearly didn’t like Jenny and wasn’t hiding the fact, even the Sister was less than pleased.
“Look I feel fine there has been no reaction” I pleaded
“You need a lot more blood and we cannot safely give it to you unless you’ve had the right medicine” The sister explained
“Are you saying you can’t operate?” I asked, my mind was now racing. If they couldn’t operate today when could they operate?… and how many days until I died according to the doctor who’d asked me to sign the forms?
“I don’t know, that’s why we’ve called your consultants back”
By now a kinder colleague had come to Jenny and tears we’re welling in her eyes. But it seemed she was still being reprimanded.
“Please don’t blame her, have you seen how chaotic it’s been in here today? Jenny it’s not your fault I don’t blame you!” I couldn’t bare to see what was happening to her. I also knew that it wasn’t her fault alone. As a new nurse there were roles she wasn’t yet allowed to perform and the older Nurse had been less than helpful throughout the day as Jenny had called her to help with jobs she couldn’t yet perform alone. My consultant arrived and took away my charts with the sister and registrar doctor.
Jenny was left at the end of the bed. “Jenny, i’m going to be fine.” She cried anyway.
The consultant approached. “It’s not ideal. You’re not going to have as much blood as we’d hoped. However we always plan to give more than is needed and as we said before we’ll continue to give you blood during the operation. Try and rest, we go ahead tonight”
If you receive a letter of apology from a company these days it often reads “We’re sorry to hear that you are unhappy”… that’s not an apology. That’s simply saying “we really didn’t want to hear your complaint.” Jenny however did apologise. I can’t exactly recall what she said, the words were not important she was genuinely sorry.
“I don’t want her to get into trouble for this” I told the Sister. Looks we’re exchanged. I know there are procedures. For the rest of the day the mood on the ward changed. Drama over I tried to sleep.
Time was pushing on and I was told i’d be taken down soon. Angela arrived… I can’t recall what we talked about. The patients in the Bay wished me well. The Patient who refused all help thanked me for chatting to him and Jenny stayed after her shift take me down to surgery with the Porters and Angela. We got as far as Angela was allowed and we hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes, i missed holding her hand already! Angela told me she’d wait. We went further into the Theatres and I waited in a small bay with Jenny while the Theatre nurses looked over my notes. Jenny was still worried. “I’m going to be fine” I told her.
I think by now I told everyone I met I was going to be fine. I’ve never felt so calm… I’d decided that quietly passing away was better than multiple organ failure any day. And who knows. Maybe I’d even survive!
Hello Arthur, I’m your daddy and I love you very much…
…I’m very sorry. I want you to know that it’s ok to be angry. And it’s ok if you hate me for leaving you. But I do love you…”
There is more, I mention some details and tell him his Mummy will try and answer any questions he might have.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. And I didn’t have to. I’d win this fight. Just not the war… I didn’t know it yet but I was only half-way through the war.