For most of us life is hard enough. We all run along in the treadmill of life in our own way. Me, I try and make the best of it even on the bleakest day. The last three weeks have been a struggle. My father is in hospital, he has had life saving open heart surgery, his surgery was fairly extensive; a triple bypass, a valve replacement and a pacemaker. He has been in intensive care, moved onto high dependency and now graduated to the specialist cardiology ward. He still has a long hard journey ahead of him. My Papa is made of strong stuff, he will fight all the way. I am finding it hard, seeing him lie in the hospital bed looking so frail and lost when I am so used to seeing him going around the family home like a busy bee. To let you understand my Dad is not one for sitting down, as you would say he has a ‘glass ass’. He likes to keep busy, making sure everyone is looked after when they visit him. There is always coffee and a sandwich on offer.
Ive been feeling a tad worse than usual over the last few weeks too. On the medics advice Ive increased my steroids. Whats keeping me going and giving me strength? Love. From particular special individuals: my hubby Steve, my sons Tony & Stuart and my granddaughters Alexandra & Grace. They are my shining light, all of them fill my heart with warmth and love. They light up my life even on the darkest days. And make me smile – Always. I love them so much and am so grateful to have them in my life.
I had an appointment at the Western General Hospital with a consultant I have never seen before. The Team she is with is The PACT Team. This is Patient Experience and Anticipatory Care Plan Team. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss my health problems and for the consultant to take notes and later write up a care plan which can be accessed by A & E staff and out of ours doctors, to better understand my health problems and my preferences. Once the plan is written up a copy will be sent to my consultants, my GP and myself.
It was rather a daunting experience, chatting about any possible imminent admission to hospital. The consultant was lovely, and she explained everything. It gave me every opportunity to talk and ask questions. We discussed what brings me into hospital and what is best for me and what staff would benefit from knowing. She asked me some very personal questions and I gave her truthful answers. It was easy to chat to her, she was kind and caring. She turned the computer screen round so I could see what was type written about me. There it was in black and white: various medical conditions that affect every day life. Just for a moment it was once again like hitting that brick wall. I looked at the screen the words were a blur. Seconds later we were chatting…………
Do I think I will benefit from the care plan? Hell, Yes!! The Doc took note of all the problems; e.g. carcinoid syndrome, profound hypoglycaemia, labile blood pressure, gastrostomy feed tube (leaks), poor co-ordination, photosensitivity, hydrocortisone replacement therapy, lanreotide injections every 21 days etc. etc, etc. And she made a note of what staff need to have available for me. Fingers crossed Im not in anytime soon.
Depending on what I’m in hospital for and how poorly I’m feeling has an awful lot to do with how many visitors I can tolerate, or need, and who these people are. When I was in The Royal Infirmary with sepsis after getting my gastrostomy tube fitted the first week I felt really ill, was in high dependency and only had Steve visit, when I started to feel slightly better my boys, brother and sister visited too. As I progress, my nieces, nephew, cousin, godson and friends visit. My goodness just shows you how long I was in hospital, the amount of visitors I had. The chatter kept me going, news of what was happening in the outside world keeping me informed and entertained. Although I do have to admit, on the days there were between three and five visitors at my bedside I found it quite difficult. I was tired and couldn’t keep up with the conversation. One to one I can handle, more than one voice in my lug and the noise is scrambled. I find myself lying back and letting my visitors converse between themselves. What some folk don’t realise is both talking and listening can be very tiring. A twenty minute conversation can deplete me of all my energy. Leaving no resources in reserve for later. Even for someone as gabby as me a day of complete silence can be a necessity to get those reserves firmly back in place. Not all days are like this, Some visits are much needed and a total boost, they are the brightest part of the day and when I share some of my most intimate statements. It’s the actual blethering that builds up my energy, gives me that extra oomph. 😀😀
My last hospital stay was only a couple of weeks ago. I was in Ninewells, Dundee. I was feeling a tad rubbish and tired. I was in a friendly room with another five ladies. My first visitor was on the Sunday night. It was my friend Susan. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while. It was so fantastic to catch up. There was so much to talk about. Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer just four months ago. She got the diagnosis two days before Christmas. Courageously she has fought this awful disease, had her breast surgically removed. We had so much to talk about. We chatted away, shared experiences, talked about our children and spouses. Laughed out loud that the others in the ward knew we were happy to be together that evening. The wonderful thing was that when either of us said we understood how the other was feeling we really did know how each other felt. We trust each other’s judgement and certainly don’t feel put out by offering advice. Susan made jokes about ‘feeling a right tit’ – I bantered back and we laughed loudly. You could see the other patients in the ward looking. They obviously heard our entire conversation, after all I take after my mother talk fairly loud and there’s not much distance between beds. There were two ladies in particular wondering is it ok to laugh?, should I join in at all? They were intrigued in what we were discussing. On the odd ocassion you could tell there was a thought that popped into their head, surely Elizabeth shouldn’t be saying that, or That lady visiting – is she joking. Susan has chosen not to go for reconstruction surgery. However, she has picked up her new boob. It sits perfectly in her bra. And from the outside with a bra and tshirt on you wouldn’t know which one is the new addition. She proudly stood hands a kimbo whilst I admired her new figure. We discussed how it looked and felt. What a fantastic option it is for a woman in her early 50’s. She did get offered surgery with build up breast at the same time as the mastectomy. This would have meant several more hours in the operating theatre and longer recovery time. For Susan she made the right choice. She is comfortable with her body. Her hubby is supportive, loving and caring and her daughters have been just grand. Friends have rallied round and supported, helped out and visited when required. Susan is upbeat and doing well and has already gone back to work. We talked about all this too at the visiting. As we blethered, one of the other patients came over to my bed to talk to us for a couple of minutes. Jan has leukaemia, I think it helped her to see us joking and laughing. Taking a happier outlook on life no matter how bleak things can seem at times. This was one of those days that the visitor most definitely recharged my batteries and gave me that zest for life that we all so much need.
The 1st of March 2015 was a rather eventful day in our house. Our loving Labrador, Bella gave birth to eight puppies. Ever faithful Buddy looked on as she delivered each individual pup. One year on and we are still in contact with five of the owners. We hear how they are progressing. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you helped delivered these little guys into the world and now they are part of another family. We get to know what joy they are bringing to others and what their role is now they have left the nest.
March 1st 2016 celebrated their 1st birthday. I sent a message to the families to say happy birthday to the dogs and hope that they were well. I got messages and pictures back. It makes me feel good to know that the dogs are loved and well cared for. And I am more than happy to be in touch and have made new friends through our dogs having a litter of puppies.
Kai had a birthday party, with dog friends invited. Kai got presents, cards and cake. A lot for a one year old dog. ‘a couple of the pics from Kai’s party. He had a great time, ran rings around everybody. Was hard to get some pics with the bedlam going on. He had 3 doggy friends in all going bonkers lol Wee Millie the cocker spaniel is knackered. He’s totally spoilt but we love him to bits.’ Kai lives with a lovely couple who keeps up updated on his progress. He is a lucky boy to be in this family; well loved and will always come first. You can tell by just looking at them that they were meant to be. Kai fits into his home so well. He sits on the sofa, looking around like lord of the manor.
Sandy went to live with a couple with a little girl. He is loved to bits by the family. I got a message that said ‘Hi Elizabeth we are all doing well. Nobody can believe that Sandy isn’t one yet because of his height. He has the square nose like his Daddy. We will have to bring him to see you all, but will ring first. This photo was taken at Halloween, he loved his spider, it only lasted a day. Sandy loves cuddles and up at the school he barks if people don’t come over and pat him. He’s a case, he patrols the back garden and barks if he sees something he is not happy with. He loves the trampoline, you should see him and Aimme jumping on it, they are great pals’
Jake is a lovely Labrador that lives with his human parents (who love him very much) and two pussy cats. He is a cuddly dog, who loves to be pampered and snuggled in. He is like his parents and is quick of the mark in running around and playing with toys, but equally likes to lie in and if you didn’t know them better you would think they were lazy and thought they were lying there all day. Jake likes to tell you what he wants. His folks sent me a message with a photo of him sitting up straight and it said ‘that is the baby telling you he wants this’ and then a photo of him outside. Clever dog.
Gunner, is the only fox red Labrador exactly like his daddy, some of the others have similarities, but Gunner is a dead ringer for Buddy. Gunner has gone to live with Louis & Keith, they have a boxer bitch, Brandy and a couple of cats. Gunner has fitted in perfectly. Louis and Keith have become our friends. They pop down to see us, with and without Gunner. Louise and Keith came to see me in hospital, they couldn’t bring Gunner so brought a beautiful framed photo, this fair cheered me up and let the staff see one of the beautiful dogs Bella has given birth too. Its been a win win situation. Louis and Keith take Gunner and Brandy on lots of outings, the dogs enjoy lots of walks . Gunner is also getting trained to the Gun with Keith. Merely as a hobby, both man and dog appear to love it. Gunner is very protective like his Dad and follows Louise around the house and sits and waits whilst she has a bath, etc.
Harley, had a lovely birthday. He got a cake and presents, as you can see in the photographs. Harley left us at 6 weeks old. He gets well cared for by Sally. He has another Labrador as a companion, his name is Cooper. Sally has taught Harley well, he does what he is told, gives paws on command, rolls over, does all sorts of wonderful tricks. Harley loves long walks and running around with some of his other furry friends, but I think most of all he likes to get very wet and muddy: just to keep Sally on her toes. We have kept in close contact and I get kept up to date with all his progress. Sally has brought Harley back to ours for a visit. They have visited to meet up with Gunner and had lots of fun with their parents, Buddy and Bella. And they have visited for a quieter visit, just Harley & Sally. Where Harley has had a cuddle and played with Buddy and Bella for a while.
It was a big decision for us to breed Buddy and Bella last year. Would we manage with the pups with the way my health is the way it is? How busy Steve can be for work? We talked about it at great length. Then decided to let nature take its course. They mated on 1st January 2015 and Bella gave birth on 1st March 2015. I’m not going to say it was easy. Once the puppies got to the three week stage and they were needing weaned onto porridge, it began to get a bit of hard work. But the first three weeks, Bella kept them clean, fed them and to be honest you hardly heard a peep out of them. When they started eating the porridge they were like little gremlins – yum yum yum. Got to say though, all well behaved, and kept to their own bowls. The key was organisation. Steve’s cousin, Anna, from Suffolk, came to stay with us for one week, she was a great help, washing floors, feeding pups, etc. Steve and I had most of the feeding and cleaning down to a routine, Steve did all the manual heavy work. I will admit it was hard work, however it was worth every minute of it. The cuddles from the little puppies, the joy and warmth we get from both Buddy and Bella. When the day came for the new owners to pick up their pup and take it home, you could see how excited they were, the looked at the puppy all doe eyed and eagerly told us of the items they had purchased for their new addition and how they could not wait to get home and show them their new bed.
When my phone texts or I get an email to say how well one of Bella and Buddy’s pups are doing I feel a sense of warmth and a big grin comes across my face. My dogs are special to me and I’m so pleased their children are have a special place in the hearts of the people they live with. I’m so happy we had a litter of puppies. The company of my own dogs, the new friends and hearing how the pups are getting on and developing into fully grown dogs is great for me. There are days I don’t feel well enough to go across the door. The contact with others, communicating, happy stories – it all makes the world a better place.
Im so happy to be home. I feel free from the clinical walls of the ward. When I walked into our home on the Friday evening I really hoped to myself this would be it, I would be home now till out patient appointments. Certainly no more in stay hospital visits for a while. I missed my home life. Since October my abode was a hospital address – it felt like a lot longer and I am feeling like things in my life are slipping me by. Life is hard enough for everyone. When you have a chronic illness you learn to live your life as a different ‘normal’ but when you have a chronic illness and something else is thrown into the mix – such as I was in hospital for all those weeks, or worse still when I also was so ill with the damn infection I didn’t know what day of the week it was. Life gets even more difficult and complicated.
As human beings we all have difficulties to deal with in everyday life, and it’s all difficult in its own way. And sometimes one problem can lead to another. Steve and I had our sons in our early twenties, we had to be careful with money when they were toddlers, however, we did our best and they always knew they were loved. We learnt a lot from that period in our life. Some people have relationship problems. Others it’s their job. I personally believe the biggest stress on a person, relationship or a family is illness. Itcanputaterribleemotionalstressonanyoneatamomentsnotice. Itcancausesuchupsetandanxiety. Anger. Financialstress. The worst feeling in the world can creep up on you: loneliness.
Who gets lonely when sickness strikes? Whether I’m at home or in hospital I have people around me – it’s still possible to feel on your own when you are surrounded by others. At times you just feel no one understands how you are feeling or what this damn disease does to you. I may be talking to someone and they hear my voice but are they actually listening to what I’m saying. Whilst I was in the hospital I missed my home and my family terribly . Although everyone in the hospital is in the same boat – at times you can feel rather isolated and alone. For my hubby loneliness came in the form of actually physically being on his own. The duration of my hospital stay. Steve was at home on his own with the two Labradors. His routine was taking care of himself, the dogs, the business, and running back and forth to the hospital to see me. He never felt he had enough hours in the day. He never once complained about being tired but you only had to glance at him to see he was exhausted. As he walked into the ward in a sluggish manner rather than his long confident strides, he had dark circles under his blood shot eyes. And as we discussed our day’s events he yawned several times through the conversation; quite unlike Steve, who is always usually full of beans and ready to take the lead. After visiting at 8pm Steve would leave the hospital with my washing and head for home. There would be plenty to keep him occupied. Something on TV, house chores, the dogs, paperwork, returning the answer machine messages. Steve would text me as soon as he got home, quite often we would send each other several messages back and forth and chat as if we were in the same room, one evening Steve video called me whilst I was in the hospital , it was great whilst I was in my hospital bed I was also in my front room. Watching my dogs reaction as they heard me call their names was fantastic. Steve and I are used to doing most things together. So the reality of it is when Steve came home from the visiting he did all the necessary – but longed for it not to be needed. And me to be home. He said the old cottage was quiet and empty, and despite him having so much to do he was bored. Steve sent me a text one evening and in part of the contents was the words the house is lonely, cold and quiet without you……..I miss you. These words helped me get better quicker. They made me feel wanted and I knew exactly how he was feeling.
The knock on effect of illness is huge –
well meaning people get in touch to ask how everything is. Which is lovely, however, sometimes the added pressure of calls and texts can take its toll, other times they are just what you need.
Financially: I could go on forever – extra trips to hospitals, parking, fuel, Washing, time of work – or no work at all. Need I go on.
Upset and anxiety. There are days you just want to cry, everything and anything you feel or say is wrong for that moment. That day you can’t put your foot over the doorstep.
I feel I’ve been fortunate I’ve never been too angry. Always tried to turn a negative into a positive. And thankfully anxiety is not something that has got a hold of me. I take every day as it comes and what comes with it. I have learned to treasure what I have in life. Be grateful for all the good things I do have, and believe me there are many good and happy events surrounding me. Sure I can’t do everything I used to be able to do. And certainly I don’t move around as quick as I once did. I have adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. What we used to do in a day perhaps takes us a week. The outing, the trip to the shops and the visit to friends was once done in one day now I have to do things in stages and they will be spread over three days with a day or two in between for a rest day. My pace of life has altered accordingly – slowed down considerably. Steve and I have wonderful Sunday afternoons together. And evenings by the fire chatting. We take time for each other and converse. And it’s wonderful, I love it. ❤️❤️. We perhaps now see things, do activities and sit and talk like we would never have imagined. So while it can be lonely and stressful there are still many plus points. For me I can honestly say that after all these years my hubby and I still really do love each other. We have two sons, we love very much and we are grandparents . My thoughts – life is for living and enjoying. Sure it can be hard. But isn’t it difficult for everybody at sometime. I believe if something is worth having it is worth fighting for – such is life.