To hell and beyond

We were going to go to Tenerife on Oct 18th, just at the start of half term. The weekend before, my wife started having some breathing issues, and a bit of a bad back. We thought this was a re-appearance of an old back problem, and she tried some stretching, and Reiki style techniques. Friday night had been a struggle to sleep, but she had still been able to drive out on the Saturday to get her nails done with our daughter, and so we persevered into Saturday night.

This night was much worse, and she didn’t get much sleep at all, with a really tight chest, and was only able to breathe properly sitting up. Sunday, we called the Marsden to ask for advice.

They said to either come in, but we would have to wait for test results, or go to A&E – we took the latter quicker option. So at 4 oclock we threw the kids in the car with some snacks and a book, and went straight there. Luckily later our neighbours would pick them up.

In the Triage area, my wife couldn’t even stand up, and as I stood there at the counter, I remember looking back at her sat on a plastic seat, and almost seeing her life leaving her. We were rushed through a series of nurses and doctors, having tests done, and she was put on oxygen. Her intake of oxygen was down to approximately 10% of what you would usually expect, and obviously fatal amount without breathing support.

Through the night I sat by the bed, just talking to her, telling her to keep breathing. Questions were asked, papers filled in, and the background explained. The Marsden were contacted, and everyone was involved in planning what to do.

It was strange – as a husband you are pre-programmed to look after your children and spouse, but when something like this happens your focus changes. The kids were looked after, so I forgot about them. I had one focus, but when the doctors came in, that was redundant – they were the specialists, and they should do their job. What was I to do – I’m a trained accountant, but no amount of spreadsheets would help this. But I could sit by the bed, and keep an eye on how things progressed.

Eventually, I left at about 3am – the nurses told me to go. I had a very emotional drive home – not the first time in this crazy story. At home I ate a sandwich, and got some sleep, before seeing the children before school and going back in.

Things hadn’t improved, and now the feeling was that they needed to move her to a hospital that could answer what they thought was pneumonia. This would mean travelling under blue lights. When told I could see the concern in her eyes, but the nurse reassured her.

But there was a further obstacle. To do this meant coming off the oxygen piped out of the wall, and using a mask attached to an oxygen tank. And for this, a trial was needed.

It was a disaster – the portable tank didn’t give any where near enough to assist breathing. There was only one option, and so less than 24 hours after being admitted to A&E, my wife was put into a medically induced coma.

By now, my mother in law had arrived, and we were both in a state of shock. The driver and paramedic in the ambulance were great, they reassured us, told us what would happen, and did try to put our minds at ease. But still – WTF…

I pocketed my wifes rings, her bracelets, anything we didn’t want to lose and signed forms to allow the transfer, but didn’t really know what was happening. I felt caught up in a story that I didn’t want to read, and things were moving so fast. I hadn’t really called anyone – text messages help a lot – and here I was in the midst of this hell, that my friends and family were not aware of.

And the next hospital was awful. It was very Victorian – high, cold, dark ceilings, with barred windows too far away to see through. My wife was put in an ante room, off the ward, as they weren’t sure if she was contagious or not. We had to put on face masks to see her, surrounded by beeping machinery, pumps going up and down. No words can really say what it all felt like. A horror movie, a twisted mind had dreamed up. The nurses all came from abroad (God bless them all), and that meant that at times communication was limited. We (my mother in law and I) sat and waited.

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