I just dropped Marc off at the Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment Centre behind Halton Hospital to have an operation on his foot, so I am channelling my nervous energy into writing next week’s blog post. He is having a fairly major (in our eyes anyway) procedure done, which will hopefully put his feet at less risk of breaking down due to pressure sores because of his clawed toes. He is only a day case, so he won’t need to be there overnight, but just entering a hospital makes me uncomfortable these days, so dropping him off was difficult, to say the least.
The toes on his right foot are clawed. (This is jumping ahead quite a long way from the place the blog is currently up to.) This is because his feet were deprived of blood supply during his initial trauma, so his toes became necrotic and were actually at risk of being amputated for quite some time. He has struggled with them ever since he came out of hospital and has already lost half the big toe on his right foot and a little off the top of the next toe. The problems he has had with the toes have meant that he had ended up with the remaining toes on his right foot curled over, thus taking all the pressure because he walks on the tips of his toes rather than the flat sections of toe he should use.
This has already led to one wound on the tip of his second toe not healing for almost nine months, and he risks constant battles with the same issue if the consultant does not operate. The operation will remove the cartilage from between the middle bones on the three central toes and put wires down the centre of each one to straighten them. The wires will remain in for six weeks, during which time he will have to keep them elevated and avoid all infection. When they are removed the toes should be straight, therefore causing fewer issues as Marc won’t be effectively walking on the tips of his toes all the time. He will never be able to bend his toes again, but at least he shouldn’t have the same ongoing problems he has been experiencing for the past two years.
A clean, safe environment
So I drop him off. Knowing, in the logical part of my brain, that he will be in and out of surgery within an hour. That he will be home with us tonight. That the consultant does operations like this every day, that they are second nature to her. That the hospital is a clean, safe environment for him to be in, and that he needs this operation.
But that doesn’t make it any easier.
We set off at 7.10am, leaving the children with Marc’s mum, who is going to take them to school. The children, as I have said before, seem to sense that something is not normal, that the adults in charge of them seem somehow more stressed than usual today. They make their own breakfast and get dressed quickly today, instead of needing to be called several times, nagged and shouted at until they make it downstairs, fuzzy headed with sleep still and grumpy for their breakfast.
The dangers life can bring
I wonder what the effect of this is on them. They seem perfectly normal, biddable, smiling their goodbyes at us as we leave, but I wonder what is going on in their heads. Particularly Daniel, who asked his dad exactly what time his operation was because he is by nature very precise and needs to know the details. We have not scared them with any statistics about the risks of anaesthetic, but still, he knows what happened the first time his dad ended up in hospital, and what could have potentially happened. He is now nine, and has a far better idea of the dangers life can bring.
We drive down the back roads towards Runcorn, always extremely quiet, but even more so, since rush hour has not yet begun. It is a beautiful, sunny morning; under other circumstances we would be happily joking and laughing together. We are not particularly tense, not outwardly at least, but the atmosphere is different. The journey to the hospital only takes fifteen minutes and we are soon pulling into a space in the car park. We walk across to the entrance, moaning about the unfairness of car parking fees for people who are sick and need to attend a hospital. Upon entering the building, it seems almost deserted.
An alarming amount of people
A voice from behind startles us, and for a moment we are confused, but it turn out to be the man who should be behind the reception desk. He smiles and politely gives us directions to the check in desk on the second floor. We remark that the building is a new one and is very clean and modern, as we decide to take the stairs, not the lift. Marc jokes about the fact that he will need to use the lift later on, and certainly won’t be managing the stairs the next time he moves through this building. We make it to the second floor, where there is a waiting area and we are told to sit down until called. There are already an alarming amount of people here, despite it being so early. Clearly no one can sleep in on the day of an operation, no matter how minor.
Marc is called over and checks in his details with the nurse, then returns to sit with me. He has been put first on the list, which means he will be in surgery at 8.30am. I know this is special treatment of a kind, because of all he has been through, and I am glad of it. A few minutes later he and another patient are called by a male orderly who will take them downstairs to the ward. I turn to leave, but the orderly insists that I come with them “to see where he will be”. He is extremely friendly and professional, and puts me at ease. We make a joke about the size of Marc’s medical notes in comparison to the other lady who is going down with us. I’m not kidding: they are ridiculous. He has probably has a 30cm depth of files, all bound up with elastic bands, and every medical professional we see marvels at their size.
We enter the ward and put some hand sanitiser on. The orderly takes the female patient to her bay. While we stand and wait for him to return, I begin to notice all the ‘hospitally’ things. The board at the far end of the space, with all the patients names written up in marker pen. The nurses’ station in the centre, the hub of all activity. Various bays leading out of the central area. A doctor wandering around, checking the board. Blood pressure monitors and cuff on a stand nearby. It is all horribly familiar and I shudder. Marc knows exactly how I am feeling.
Then the man returns and ushers Marc and myself down to a bay at the far end. It is well lit with large windows and has four beds, one of which is occupied already. The bay itself is even harder for me to inhabit: the hospital beds, the large blue tall backed chairs beside each one, the board behind each bed with the relevant patient and consultant name written up, the basic hospital gown lying on the bed, the type Marc wore constantly for such a long time and which I came to despise, waiting for my husband to wear again. I don’t think he is so happy about the thought of donning the ugly gown either, but he doesn’t say so. Instead, he sits on the chair to the side of the bed and waits. When the nurse, Gaynor, enters a moment later, he smiles a greeting, his usual friendly self.
I interrupt before she can begin and ask what the procedure for later is. Whether I need to call them, or whether Marc will be able to text me once he is back in the land of the living. How long I can expect the procedure to take. How long it will be before I hear from him. She reassures me that he will be first down, so probably back on the ward by around 10.30am, and will be able to text me then and let me know he is ok. To give me further instructions as to when I can pick him up and what kind of care he will need afterwards. I don’t stick around. The first time Marc had a toe operation I naively assumed I would be able to stay with him, for some of the time anyway. I know now that I am not welcome. That relatives get in the way. That I simply need to leave, and come back later when it is all over.
So I kiss and hug him goodbye, trying to convey everything to him in that hug. That I am rooting for him. That I will be thinking of him all morning, until I know that he is safely back from the operation. That I love him with all my heart. That I know he is going to be ok. That I know he is strong now, stronger than he has been for the past two years, but that I am lending him my own strength too. Leaving it behind me at the hospital, to help him through. All through a hug which lasts around 2 seconds because there are people observing us, and a nurse who has a job to do.
Then I turn and leave. I pass the lovely orderly on my way out, and share a silly, flippant remark with him. I press the green exit button on the ward entrance and pass through the door, opting again for the stairs. I return to the ground floor, which is waking up a little more now, more people milling about, the car park starting to fill. And I make my way back to the car, smiling as I pass a man on his way in to the hospital, wondering if he will be having an operation today too. I get into the car and I am shaking, and close to tears, taking deep breaths to steady myself, determined not to cry.
I have had no breakfast, and despite being on a diet where my usual breakfast is a small bowl of branflakes, I drive to the McDonalds close by (going the wrong way first and having to retrace my route because I am not concentrating properly) and drive through, buying three hash browns (my guilty pleasure) and a cup of tea. I park in the car park outside and make the tea, consuming a hash brown while I do so. Somehow the drive to McDonalds and the conversation I have with the server over the intercom calms me a little. I know I can’t manage face to face contact yet though. At least I don’t feel like I’m going to cry anymore.
The same nervous wait
Then I drive home. And start typing this. Since I got back at 8.20am I have received several text messages. One from Marc’s mum, who has safely dropped the children at school for us, and who is now going home to endure the same nervous wait that I myself am experiencing. One from a friend who has seen on Facebook that Marc’s operation is today, offering her good wishes and telling me to just ask if I need help with lifts to clubs over the next few weeks. This is in addition to several I received last night offering similar help with meals, lifts, childcare… the list goes on.
And a couple from Marc, telling me that he has been prepped and is ready for the op. That he has been warned again that it is essential that he keep his foot above his heart and avoid infection if he wants to keep all of his remaining toes. That he loves me and doesn’t know what he would do without me. And the last one, saying he will ‘see me on the other side.’
The longest post ever
I know now that he is in that operating theatre as I type At 2176 words, this is by far the longest post I have ever written for my blog, and it is completely fuelled by nervous energy. I am waiting for my good friend Kate to come round so that we can go for a long walk and then have a cup of tea to pass the time and distract me from my thoughts. She knows that I will struggle to get through the morning without being driven insane by worry. I will probably go and make another cup of tea now and wait anxiously for 10.30am to arrive, upon which point I will panic if Marc hasn’t sent me a text immediately.
But I know we have been through worse, and we will get through today, as we have so many other trials, together, with the support of family and friends, and come out eventually all the stronger for it.
See you on the other side.