A Brave Face

After leaving the hospital I went to collect the children from after school club. I must have fed them somehow, though I can’t remember whether we went home for a snack or whether I resorted to McDonalds. Either way, we set off for what would be the last visit they had with their dad for the next four weeks. None of us knew this at the time, obviously. I am of the definite opinion that the ability to see into the future could never be a good thing. I have no idea if I would have coped had I known what was in store for us all.

The evening visit was actually marginally better than that afternoon had been. Marc seemed more ‘with it’, although I think the previous dose of morphine had worn off somewhat, and he was able to make more sense than he had done previously. We were told that, in addition to using the hand sanitiser on the way in, we had to wear aprons and gloves to go in and see him, to avoid catching or passing on any infection. In the afternoon I hadn’t been asked to wear either, so it seemed a little odd to be doing it now. Anyway, we went ahead with it and at least it provided a little distraction for the children, who found the huge adult-sized aprons hilarious and spent around ten minutes trying to adjust them so they didn’t trip over at every opportunity.

Needing distraction

I may have brought in something with me for the children to do. Hospital visiting is stressful and dull enough for adults, but for a four and seven year old it is almost torture. After spending a few minutes asking what all the strange equipment in the room was for, opening and closing the little locker which held all Daddy’s things, moving the stand holding the drip without realising that it was attached to his arm (and being shouted at for doing so) and giggling at the seat-which turned-into-a-toilet, they became bored pretty quickly and needed to be distracted.

We met a few nurses who were popping in and out to change the drip and remove some of the general detritus from the day (a tray of uneaten food was the thing which concerned me the most). They were friendly, which made for a bit of a diversion, but generally most of my time that visit was spent trying to keep the children from running riot in the room of a man who was in pain and didn’t really need two cooped-up children disturbing him.

Full of questions

Marc seemed brighter. I have no real idea why. It may have been that seeing the children cheered him up, or that he was putting on a brave face for them that he hadn’t managed for me alone. Either way, when we left just before the hour was up, he seemed much more able to answer questions. The cheeriness of the nurses surrounding the ward, coupled with the fact that there were far more people at evening visiting so the hospital seemed a more bustling and cheerful place, I felt a little better.

We left Marc with the promise of visiting again tomorrow, although I was already wondering whether I could get a babysitter and come alone, to avoid having to be concerned about the children being bored for the whole hour. Perhaps, I thought, he might actually be well enough to come home and there would be no reason for visiting. We said goodbye and left the hospital, the children relieved to be leaving but full of more questions about the people we had met, the aprons, the equipment and hospitals in general. It seemed to them like the evening’s visit had been a bit of an adventure, out of the ordinary and fairly interesting, but not upsetting at all. They definitely didn’t seem to realise that anything very serious was the matter, or that they might have to visit Daddy again.

The usual routine

When I got home I went about the usual routine, minus Marc. I had cancelled the rehearsal for a play I was directing with the promise that, by Thursday, I would be ok to block Act One Scene Three, as Marc would surely be home by then. My parents had just arrived home from their holiday, so once the children were in bed I called and spoke to them for a while, letting them know the situation with Marc and asking how their holiday had been. I don’t remember a lot about the conversation, except their surprise that Marc was actually in hospital, and the fact that my mum had come home from holiday with a pretty bad cough / chest infection which she felt quite run down. The conversation ended and I promised I would keep them updated about Marc the next day.

I must have sent Marc’s mum a text to let her know how he was. I don’t think I spoke to her: she had been at work that day and as she works very long days I know she is always shattered when she gets home. I tried to fill her in on the facts without worrying her, and repeated that I would fill her in the next day when I knew more. In conversations since then, she has said that she wasn’t especially worried at this point. She was a little concerned at her son being in the hospital, but hadn’t suspected that he needed anything more than rest and fluids to get him back to normal. I think my own perspective, being the only adult at close quarters for the duration of his illness, was more realistic, but I could only see this as I was witnessing everything first-hand.

He’s fine!

My final communication of the evening before going to bed was with the ward which Marc was on. At around ten pm I called them, asking for an update as I had been told I was welcome to do. I have since learnt that news you receive on the phone from a ward at any given time is completely dependent on who you speak to, and with no prior knowledge of the ward staff, I spoke to whoever answered the phone. To this day I have no idea who it was, but I suspect that it was not a nurse, but a Health Care Assistant who knew little of Marc’s case.

I asked how he was. The woman I spoke to, once she had established who I was asking for, said that he was fine, much better. She even tried to bring him to the phone to speak to me, since his single isolation room was almost next to the nurse’s station where the phone is. I don’t remember actually getting much out of him, but I do remember the woman’s final words to me.

“Oh he’s fine.” she said. “So much better than he was earlier!”

I took this as a good sign and felt comforted, on climbing into bed alone, that he was finally on the mend. I turned off the light and went to sleep, feeling comforted that perhaps he would be home in the next couple of days, and that the nightmare was almost over.

At 2am I was woken by the phone.

I struggled into consciousness and groped for the bedside light. By the time I had answered it, the line had gone dead. I found my glasses and put them on, trying to come to and work out what was going on. The phone rang again. This time I made it. The voice on the end had only a brief message:

“Is that Mrs Littlemore? This is Warrington hospital. Your husband has become very ill. He’s really struggling. The crash team are with him now. You need to come.”

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21 thoughts on “A Brave Face”

  1. Oh Clare, how traumatic that must have been for you.
    My heart goes out to you, you must have felt so alone.
    I really admire how you have coped with all of this.
    I know and sympathise with Marc being so ill, but as usually happens people forget about carer’s.

    I feel it is good for you to be doing this blog. I am sure it will help you to get a lot of tension out of your system. Also it will give you something to look back on and be thankful that you managed to come through it all as a family. I am sure it has made you stronger together. God bless.

    1. Thanks Anita. I agree that writing about it is a good way to remember it (as traumatic as it was, I really don’t want to forget what we went through) and also to work through it with a bit of perspective. It was hard enough to cope with life day to day in the middle of it all without trying to process what was happening, but seems a little easier no to digest and deal with as I look back on it. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. Now I’m crying, for you, for Marc, the children, his mum, his brother and I’m reminding myself to stop panicking, that I’m not actually there (thank goodness). Bless you for having to go through that. I can’t imagine your journey that night.

    1. It was quite a scary one, that’s for sure. I am glad that part is behind us now. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    2. Thanks for reading and commenting Sheila. I really appreciate it. Thank goodness we got through it and are all here to tell the tale. I’m hoping that the story might eventually help others in a similar situation.

  3. That’s given me chills Clare. I’m so glad I know the ending to the story otherwise I don’t think I’d sleep. Really enjoying reading the installments from a writing point of view but not from a real life this really happened to us point of view! So glad Marc is going in the right direction but I know it’s a long journey. Xxxx

    1. Thanks very much Kim. Everyone has said the same! I think its good to tell the whole story now, as so many people knew a little part of it but not the whole thing. It’s helping to give me some perspective too.

  4. Clare I didn’t really know what had happened to Marc so reading this is a big eye opener. It must have been horrendous to see him so ill and not be able to do anything to help him. It is a testament to your family structure that you were able to get through everything and keep the children in their routines at the same time. Thank goodness we know how well he recovered and is still recovering now. I am so glad you decided to write about your experience so that we can fully understand your struggle and incredible battle at the time, whilst respecting your bravery and honesty through this blog. I hope this brings a sense of closure for both yourself and Marc and is something the children can read later and understand just how strong you all were. Marc you have an amazing family and support network and I am extremely grateful that the outcome was such a good one.

    1. Thank you Christine. Writing it is really helping me to work through the experience and I’m hoping it might be of use to others who find themselves in a similar situation in the future too.

  5. Oh Clare, bless you and Mark for what you went through!! Also you are such a good writer I am gripped! don’t think I can wait till next week ….. Thank god I know that we have a happy ending xx

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Suzanne. I’m glad you are finding the writing interesting and the story gripping. Good to know there is a positive ending though, you’re right.

  6. Having experienced a similar call and having made similar calls myself to loved ones it must have been so awful for you.

    1. This night in particular was one of the worst, in fact I had to stop writing at the point where I did so that I could collect my thoughts before going on to write the next part where I got to the hospital. It truly was the worst night of my entire life. I can’t imagine ever having to make that kind of a call, and really feel for all the medical staff who have ever had to deal with family members at such a difficult time.

  7. Very moving! Really clear how your emotions were constantly changing. Great clarity on feelings now as you reflect , although minor stuff like food arrangements totally engulfed by concern for Marc and the kids. Struck again by lack of self pity- what an admirable attitude!

    1. Thanks Pauline. It really was keeping the children’s lives a normal as possible that helped me to keep going – I didn’t have a choice. I think perhaps without them to occupy my mind, I might have acted quite differently.

  8. As I promised Clare I’ve signed up to your blog. I am still feeling the shock of reading your story so far, it is incredibly moving and beautifully written of course. x

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments Kath. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on the blog.

  9. Your writing skills are telling this story really well, exactly as it happened. I sometimes find it difficult to read, especially as I know the next chapter…..

    I remember this day well, I’d had a good day at work, catching up with my friend Jan, sharing fish and chips for lunch, casually mentioning that Marc was in hospital. I got home at 8, settled down for an early night.

    Then, at 2am the phone rang……….

    1. Thanks Linda. It’s strange how the different people involved remember different things about each part of the story. Marc remembers almost nothing about this night – I think he was so ill it was all he could do to keep going. I also can imagine your terror as the phone rang – much like mine when the hospital called me – a phone ringing in the middle of the night is never a good thing.

  10. This is incredibly moving Clare and I’m crying reading this. Having your perspective on things is really interesting and your words are brilliant. I’m just so pleased that Marc is on the right track now xx

    1. Thank you Elinor. I am so pleased people are responding so well to the story. I think now with some perspective it’s important to document what happened while I can still remember it so that I can look back at what we went through later on. I really appreciate you taking the time to read the blog and share your thoughts.

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