Chapter #1 Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails 1990

heart surgery

 My name is Lucy
 I was in the Post Office with Becca
 I had a fit
 I have had…
 a CT scan
 a chest x-ray
 full blood works
 My memory is about 10 seconds
 I am staying in hospital overnight
 The doctors do not know what happened
 I will be alright
 Bassalot loves me (and he has eaten) and he is coming back in the morning

I read the hand written note I was holding.

I read it again.

And again.

My memory was 10 seconds, if that. I was in a hospital bed in a cubicle and Bassalot was sitting next to me. I seemed perfectly happy and calm. I felt safe, I guess because Bassalot was there. I was very accepting of the situation I found myself in.

And I had the note.

Every moment now started with that note. I remember nothing except reading it and knowing Bassalot was sitting next to me. I don’t know how many times this happened but gradually my linear time sense returned and my memory began to reassemble from the note forwards. Apparently, I kept asking B what had happened, over and over (and over) again. I’d listen to his response, over and over (and over) again, and then ask if he’d eaten (?) presumably over and over (and over) again. Eventually, he’d written the whole thing down for me, and this seemed enough for me to reboot and accept that my life now started from this point.

So to flesh out the details a little.

Monday morning started much like any other, picking through trays of shiny trinkets, to package up orders for an E-bay store. The afternoon, I’d spend working in a friend’s shop, where I’d get to do a no holes barred window display of skulls, fashion and music. Just a few of my favourite things. I could then spend the rest of the day chatting to the eclectic crowd who frequented the emporium for ‘fabulous shit’ as the flyer advertised. Top day in my mind.

At the E-bay store first I was in with Becca. We sorted out the orders and left the shop with everything packaged up to go to the Post Office. We were both heading the same way so strutted out together, bumped into a friend of Becca’s on the way, and crossed Victoria Road South.

Try as I might, this is the last memory I have before realising I am lying in hospital.

Cue note:

 My name is Lucy

Yes, my name is Lucy. I don’t remember ever not knowing this. My sense of self was never in question, just my ability to remember what had happened to me that day. I certainly didn’t remember, for example, that I hadn’t been to the toilet for about 10 hours.

 I was in the Post Office with Becca

Now I really don’t remember that to this day. I remember leaving the shop with the mail and crossing the road outside the shop on the way to the Post Office. I remember seeing Becca’s mate and walking a little way but nothing more. Apparently, we got to the Post Office and stood in the queue chatting. We made it to the counter where I embarked on telling Becca a joke. Highly unlikely as I have no memory for jokes and hence don’t play the stand up comedienne very often. At some point I slumped forward as a dead weight onto Becca’s shoulder before face planting the Post Office counter with my forehead. I rebounded a full 180 degrees to land backwards on the Post Office floor giving the back of my head a big thwacking in the process. Probably for the best I don’t remember any of this.

 I had a fit

So I did apparently have a full blown seizure right there on the Post Office floor. Loss of consciousness; foaming at the mouth; fine shaking movements; turning blue and weeing in my jeans and then going completely rigid. Becca, bless her, I hadn’t even known her that long had my head on her knees while the Post Office staff were saying did I need an ambulance. Becca screamed of course I did, I was blue and very very quickly a paramedic car arrived.

I hadn’t always lived in Portsmouth. Portsmouth and Southsea are on an island, joined to the mainland by three roads. As a teenager my friend and I had cycled from Oxford, down through Portsmouth and then on to the Isle of Wight. The weather had been dismal but as we reached the edge of the Southdowns, the clouds parted and the sun picked out the glittering metropolis of the island city at sea level below us. I was sold! I applied to Polytechnic (as it was then) and never left. Incidentally, when I got there I was told there’s a bubble over Portsmouth and once you move there you never leave. I can’t dispute this so far.

The view of Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill

I loved my first year in Portsmouth. The freedom for me was unlimited. My Mum and Dad are the most incredible parents and have given me such a grounding in life with structure and security. I don’t fear life or death but am certainly not frivolous with either. I’ll try different things generally if I trust the other people involved. I literally left my thatched cottage chocolate box village life in middle England and arrived in the conservative naval city of Portsmouth.

P.S. this isn't actually my house but the court house on the High Street where Midsummer Murders is filmed - i kid you not!
Not actually my house but the court house on the High Street where Midsummer Murders is filmed – I kid you not!

The nearest Accident & Emergency department is just off the top of the island and consequently there are always medical vehicles parked in handy locations around Portsmouth. Luckily for me, one such vehicle was particularly close to Albert Road that Monday morning. In amongst the melee of Post Office would-be customers trying to come in and buy stamps and send parcels, the paramedics worked their incredible magic. A full size ambulance arrived and I was whisked away, apparently kicking and screaming by this point up to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Becca had got in touch with Sally who had Bassalot’s number. Without a moments hesitation he saddled up his trusty Golf mark IV and ‘competitively’ cantered West to the hospital, overtaking two ambulances on the way…

He was already at the ambulance bay when I arrived in my fluoro pod. The back doors opened and Becca flew out and B could see the full extent of Lucy rage inside. Someone had had the good sense to tie my legs down but that didn’t stop the top half of my body from lashing around in a windmill like motion my tuff little drummer arms up to their own shit as usual. Poor medics, honestly, just trying to help and save lives. Don’t worry, they said to B, she’s in a state of heightened anxiety, we see it a lot. He offered to help and come in and calm me down but they assured him it was all under control. It wasn’t. They asked if maybe he did want to come in and speak to me. Apparently he leant over, touching me on the shoulder, and said very calmly

‘It’s Bassalot here, it’s all going to be alright’.

At which point I smiled and calmed the fuck down. The paramedics thought it was a lovely thing and probably a huge relief on their part.

They asked B what medication I was on.

He said I wasn’t on any medication.

Ok, well what illegal drugs might I have take.

Again, B assured the team that I hadn’t taken anything illicit that morning.

Well, and looking over at me with my tattoos and blue hair, what legal highs is she on?

Bassalot looked the paramedic in the eye and said look you can trust me. I’ve known Lucy for 23 years and she is definitely not on any legal highs or any drugs. At which point I decide to smile cheekily and make some kind of ohm sign with my hands whilst saying ‘Cosmic man!’ I really don’t remember this either. Neither do I remember constantly trying to take my top off and laughing in a raucous Sid James manner whilst B calmy and reassuringly asked me to not keep getting undressed in public. I mean seriously – what had I taken??

Bassalot told me later about another young lady he’d seen in there with red hair and tattoos. She didn’t have anyone with her. He’d given her a big smile and later on the sound of her beeps said she was no longer fighting with the rest of us. It took a lot of tequilas to get that story out of him.

 I have had
 a CT scan
 a chest X-ray
 full blood works

Well, apparently I did have all those things and they showed up nothing. I was tickety boo fine according to any tests they ran that day, although one print out I came home with did indicate a lead fault in my heartbeat. Didn’t seem to be anything to worry about.

 My memory is about 10 seconds

At this point I guess they put me in a hospital bed and the whole sorry state of my lack of memory became apparent. Various nurses asked if I’d like a sandwich to which mostly I answered politely no thank you. I was asked if I needed the toilet to which I replied no I was fine. Bassalot stepped in and said actually I probably did need the toilet as I hadn’t been for about 10 hours. When I finally was brought a comode I very professionally and impressively damn near filled it! Amazed nurses looked on. At least I’d regained control of my bladder after my moment in the Post Office earlier.

So Bassalot wrote me my note. I don’t specifically remember the first time he handed it to me but I certainly remember holding on to it all night. I’m not sure when I actually got my memory back in control. I might have read the note 50 times in a row but everything I needed to know was contained on that one piece of paper. It had a past and a present and a future and anchored me back into my life again. My universe was reassuringly small. I wasn’t thinking anything beyond my hospital bed and Bassalot being there. I wasn’t concerned with the magnitude of what may or may not have happened to me. But the present seemed ok and in my tiny world there was a semblance of understanding.

 I am staying in hospital overnight

At some point Bassalot had to leave me there. By then, I was settled and smiling which I think made it a little easier for him. Also, the nurse who had come on duty had asked all the nursey questions, have you eaten, been to the toilet etc. B had repeated patiently that I probably had no idea as my memory was about 10 seconds. At which point new nurse turned directly to me and said with a twinkle in her eye:

‘You better not be giving me any trouble tonight!’

B felt he had scored gold. Finally, someone actually understanding that my memory was flaky at best, but taking it in enough good humour that he felt we’d get along. Apparently he left around 9pm. I, accepting as ever, settled down for the night, courtesy of the NHS, with lights and beeps and talking. I was wheeled between wards about three times during the night as beds were re-assigned and my status went from high observation to she’ll be gone by the morning. Gone in a good way as in going home.

I woke up on an all women’s ward. I felt fine, knew who I was and still had my note. I was given a towel and toothbrush to take to the bathroom and freshen up but was still in my gown. I checked and I still had my pants on. I was told the consultant would be round for a chat but I’d probably be discharged after that.

 The doctors do not know what happened

Well they really didn’t. The consultant came round to all the beds. He was with a flurry of younger doctors. He asked how I felt and again, reiterated the point that with the blue hair and tattoos they presumed I was on legal highs. He very much looked me in the eye at this pointed statement and I said ‘Well, it’s a fair assumption.’ He seemed ok with this answer.

It was only a fair assumption based on my looks though. Had my black out happened 4 months earlier when I was still a store manager for a health and beauty chain, I would have been dressed for work on a Monday morning. Blonde hair in a pony tail, tattoos covered and nose stud waiting patiently at home for when I finished work. Legal highs would not have been the first assumption.

As I was later to discover, I had a narrowing artery and that day I had suffered a cardiac event that wasn’t picked up by the CT scans and blood works. I look quite young for my age so no one thought to check my heart. Had I been brought in as a 60 year old man with the same symptoms, my heart may well have been the first organ to have been tested rather than an assumption of an early morning legal high habit. This is in no way a criticism of any of the medical staff. We all make assumptions about the many people we meet throughout our lives and mercifully, whoever arrived first on the scene that day saved my life. Assumptions or not.

I was brought a bag containing my clothes. Pee smelling jeans which I kind of had to put on, and a really nice jumper fashioned into a cardigan by paramedic’s scissors slashed straight down the front. I was beginning to get a measure of what had actually happened the day before and how lucky / unlucky / lucky I had been.

 I will be alright

What an amazing thing to write for me. I WILL be alright. I blacked out for no apparent reason and the consultant said I would be booked in to have a brain MRI scan at the first fit clinic. I shouldn’t drive for 6 months but otherwise was free to go and carry on as normal. The back of my head felt a little spongy. But I would be alright.

 Bassalot loves me (and he has eaten) and he is coming back in the morning

I guess it’s a thing when you get a bit couply. Do you get your own meals, always try and eat together or be really rad and spur of the moment. Where I’d worked in retail for so long with wildly differing hours from day to day, often we didn’t eat together. And often I would get in from work and ask the question “Have you eaten?” I didn’t realise it had become quite such a default though. I wonder if he’d have said no, he hadn’t eaten, what I’d have done about it yesterday.

And, of course, Bassalot does love me and he came back to get me in the morning.

Look out for chapter #2 Over the Hills and Far Away at ten past six next Monday 2nd September!

Chapter #2 Over the hills and far away – the mission – 2009

heart surgery

I’d been getting stomach cramps quite badly before Post Office Monday.

For Christmas, the previous year, some friends of mine had given me a mountain bike as a present. It was Pat’s and had been in her attic, not doing very much. Her boyfriend, a keen mountain biker, had given it a more than professional service and they’d handed it on to me. I always cycled to work and my old bike had seen better days so it was a most excellent present.

After the obligatory Christmas day test ride, speeding round the circuit with the other eleven year olds, my new steed had been parked until my first day back at work after the festive period. As I worked in retail this was 6am on Boxing Day morning.

Anyway, as I cycled, I got quite a pain. Just below my ribs on the left-hand side and down my left arm. I was more crouched over on this bike than my last and put it down to cycling in a different position and maybe a spot of, ahem, Christmas indigestion.

However, the pain carried on.

Over time I experimented with altering the seat height, swapping my bag onto the opposite shoulder, cycling slowly, sitting more upright etc. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell if anything was helping or not as I didn’t get the pain every day. When I did get it however, it was usually at the same point of my journey, after a slight incline. This was unusual in Portsmouth as being at sea level it’s mostly very flat. At the point it happened there was handily a bench and I would pull over and take 5 until the pain subsided. After this I’d be fine. I didn’t get the pain at work or when cycling home. Cycling to band practice and then drumming in the evening was also pain free. It was for this reason that I wasn’t too concerned. I very rarely had breakfast and had generally had a beer or glass of wine the night before. I explained it away as some sort of culturus bifidus unusualness which wasn’t really life inhibiting enough to bother doing anything about.

My job at this time was as Store Manager of a health and beauty store in a busy shopping centre. I loved my job. Retail is a pretty thankless and underpaid career. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I, and plenty of others like me, do love it. You get to meet people and play shop, with like minded retail loving suckers. And you get to move stuff around all day which, according to Nick Cave, is something creatives love doing. It can be a really good laugh. Tiring, relentless, hard on the feet, unsociable on the hours, rubbishly paid, sometimes thanklessly demanding from head office as well as the rudeness of some customers. But day to day, it’s a very life affirming real time existence dealing with real things and real people.

One beautiful sunny morning my new area manager Maggie arrived. There were the standard expectant customers, two crates of delivery and a flagon of dirty hand washing water. Just another day in health and beauty retail. We administered beauty treatments on the shop floor to wow the customers with our wares but the sinks on the shop floor weren’t plumbed in. Hence we were forever carrying large water carriers of clean or dirty water between these sinks and the taps in the back room.

Maggie and I went through various things in the office and then she suggested we went out for a coffee.

And there it was – that epiphany moment. Sitting in Nero’s coffee shop opposite Maggie, and having a sudden and striking realisation that I would be losing my job within the next 6 months. I’d had a similar feeling before. Sitting around a campfire drinking cider and realising that my first marriage was over. They were both moments of absolute clarity and presence. A singularity of understanding. Interestingly, although both realisations were devastating at the time, neither of them have actually done me much harm in the long run.

The last I knew from the previous business owners, was that our store was doing really well and I’d been given a pay rise and keep up the good work kind of feedback. Bring on a complete structural change of the company. We’re talking CEO, head of retail, new loss prevention department and a shuffle round of area managers and here I am, face no longer apparently fitting in the new shiny corporate world.

I was being bandied with phrases such as ‘If there was another store we could send you to….’ and ‘I wouldn’t want to lose you but…’ and all the while she kept saying eat your pannini it’s going cold. Eat my fucking pannini! I felt sick to my stomach as all this had come completely out of the blue for me. She’d bought me lunch and was now psychologically unhinging my world. I had no words or appetite. In recognition of the fact that she may have had a human soul immovably encased in her icy neo liberalist exterior (there, I’ve got that out of my system), at one point she did have a tear in her eye. I reached out and touched her hand. I am most definitely my own worst enemy.

Maggie proceeded to efficiently fill out three pages of pre written objectives for me:

Thou shalt not make thine own signs for thy shoppe

Thou shalt not request a higher stationery budget per month than thine allotted amount (despite dealing with 80% more customers on a regular basis than the majority of stores in the region)

Thou shalt achieve a conversion of 30%…

This was clever. Conversion in retail speak is the number of transactions that ker-ching through your till as a percentage of the number of people who ker-plunk through the front door. We had two doors. Simply closing one door would decrease the number of people entering the store and up our conversion but I wasn’t generally into playing durty retail to fix the figures.

As Maggie waffled on I really did sit there thinking holy crap, I am being performance managed. I know how this works. I get my objectives and will have a defined amount of time to achieve them. Most of this is pretty achievable but the conversion is cleverly the one thing I can’t see myself changing at my store.

We were well placed in a busy shopping centre. People flooded in all day. 30% of potential customers entering the shop and actually buying something may not seem like much of an ask. But an average conversion for a lot of shops is more like 10%. Ours was currently 16% measured by a footfall counter over the two doors to record how many people entered the shop. We could have 1000 people through the door in a day, in groups of friends, families, coach trips, so to do 160 transactions in a day for luxury and mostly giftable goods rather than anything essential is actually quite a win. And as a team we worked our butts off to get those sales.

I could fight this or I could walk away.

The thing is I couldn’t really see when I’d have time to fight. I was already working way over my contracted hours most weeks just to keep up with the expectations of the company and the shopping centre we were based in.

I went home that night and told Bassalot who laughed and was genuinely really proud of me. For all my coloured hair styles and punk rock drummer attitude I’m actually pretty well behaved and a really hard worker. For me to be performance managed did just seem completely ridiculous and, I guess, was gonna be an experience. I supposed I would have to look for another job. I’m sure B wouldn’t still be laughing when my money ran out and I ‘needed’ more boots…

Maggie left. I hated her. I’ve only hated one person in my life before. Slagwhoreworm, who was the culmination of epiphany moment #1, at the end of my first marriage. Bassalot says hate is a very strong word. And, of course, he’s right. I don’t want to hate any other human being. We’re all getting by and dealing with our own shit in our own way.

But Maggie was so inhuman about her delivery and, now I think about it, she never offered to help or guide me to her way of doing things. Just immediately came in and threw the book at me. I’m not naïve enough to think it was only her decision. My going was part of a bigger strategy in the competitive neo-liberalist world we now seem to inhabit.

But honestly, I can truly say that if anyone deserved a good hating that day, it was Maggie.

Chapter #3, Angel of Death is available now!!

Chapter #3 angel of death – slayer – 1986

heart surgery

Maybe if I lost my job I’d have time to sort out niggling health issues.

The pains I’d experienced were getting more noticeable. As the weather got colder it certainly affected me most mornings. I used to go ice skating with a friend called Freya. I’m not sure we did anything that resembled ice skating but it was good fun to slide round the ice for an hour chatting. I noticed it when I was ice skating as well. Maybe it was the cold.

I made a careful effort to feel exactly where the pain was when it came on. It was always in the same place, just at the bottom of my ribs on the left hand side. A quick google to check my anatomy map told me this was pretty much where my stomach was. So eventually I did go to the doctor and say I had a stomach ache. She gave it a good prod to no avail as it wasn’t actually hurting at the time. She prescribed some anti gastric juices meds and off I went. Freya had had similar pains in her stomach and arm which was acid reflux and on the tablets, her pains went away.

Anyway, the tablets seemed to be working.

Seemed to be. Or it could have been that I was getting a lot of lifts in to work with Bassalot. This was directly because it was less painful than cycling. I loved cycling. Purely as a means of transport rather than for pleasure at the weekend or anything. I loved cycling, like a bat out of hell, especially cutting through the cross wind on Southsea common on the way to work. Sometimes it was so windy that it seemed to whisk the oxygen away from your face as you tried to breathe it in. My point being, that the physical exertion brought on the pain. So, after a while, if I could get a lift, I would.

The doctor sent me for an endoscopy. Wow. Poking a camera down my throat right the way into my stomach to see what was going on. I was more than a little fascinated. I realise by now I had become properly concerned about the pains. So although the nurse thought I was scared about the endoscopy, it was actually the possible results that could come from the procedure that was phasing me.

I was surprised that I was taken into what looked like an operating theatre. I think there were three people in there and they brought in a large can of Nitrous Oxide a medical grade version of laughing gas also used in cream chargers. The tiny metal refill canisters which were generally found littering campsites at festivals. It is called laughing gas after all and the second most commonly used recreational drug in England and Wales after cannabis.

I really failed to grasp the significance of this or how much it would have helped the situation if I’d inhaled a whole lot more that afternoon. They told me to take a few good lungfulls and then they’d feed the camera down my oesophagus and into my stomach to have a good look around. The important thing was to relax. Gottit. I’m pretty good at doing what I’m told.

I had it down. Camera; gullet; literally. Hardcore is my middle name, but honestly, that was pretty intense. They dimmed the lights and I remember being lain on my side and one of the guys actually putting his hand on my cheek. It felt really comforting although he may have been holding me down if I was kicking off, who knows. It felt exactly as you might imagine having a camera on the end of a tube slid down your throat. Mind you I am glad it wasn’t up my arse. But now I get what the nitrous oxide was for and given my time over again I would have had a damn sight more few good lungfulls before taking that on – or in.

After the procedure I was chatting to a neighbour, Janice, who had also had an endoscopy. I told her I had found the whole thing quite uncomfortable, at which point she said ‘Oh I had plenty of gas, I couldn’t feel a thing’.


I was genuinely actually quite taken aback. Janice, to whom recreational drugs would have been a complete anathema had got shit faced enough on laughing gas that she hadn’t felt the endoscopic camera worming down her intestine. Janice, devoted Daily Mail reader and Brexit voter had literally had the hit of the whole fruit compared to me. I vowed to do better.

The result: my oesophagus and stomach were absolutely fine, no sign of any cancers and my stomach lining was peachy. Brilliant! But also left the question, why did I get such bad pains. I’d managed to build it up in my head that this was the test that would reveal all. My maternal grandmother had died of stomach cancer before I was born and, let’s face it, who isn’t drinking too many units of alcohol these days. But I was OK. As I left, one of the guys said it sounded as if the pain might be skeletal. So back I went to my GP’s.

Meanwhile, I was being performance managed to within an inch of my sanity at work. It was almost a laughable situation (were it not so serious). I’d started at this store as an Assistant Manager and then become Manager. I’m probably not really a manager in the corporate understanding of the word. Sure, I can manage things. All my paperwork’s done on time, I’m considerate to my staff and their lives outside of work, I get a kick out of chasing targets and beating them and coming up with engaging ways of doing this as a team. Have I mentioned I love moving things about? In retail this is called merchandising, and without a doubt, this is something I am shit hot at. But, I am not a bitch. And in retail, more and more, this is what you are expected to be as a store manager. One regional manager at a previous post even told me this.

“I expect all my visual managers to be bitches.” I might as well have packed my bags then.

I had my first hearing. Myself and Maggie and a witness and note writer, our new company Loss Prevention Manager. He was ok, I knew him from before as a store manager. I could take someone along myself if I wished. I had joined a trade union, in a bit of a panic, but it was too soon for them to become involved in this case. My rep did give me really good advice though on the telephone. My other option was to take a work colleague. I didn’t want to take anyone who worked with me at my store. I hadn’t told them about my performance management. They didn’t have much love for our area manager anyway and I always resisted making it an us and them fest with head office. It wasn’t productive to the working environment. At work I generally wanted to do a good job and get back to my life outside retail. And the time I got to do this in was getting less and less. I did ask a manager from another store to come to the hearing with me. She was lovely and agreed straight away. At the final hour though I realised I didn’t really want to put her through it either. It was her company too and she’d have to keep working there after I’d potentially left. I didn’t want head office to think any less of her for siding with me. So I repped for myself and did a bloody good job.

As I had been given about twenty objectives on epiphany day, I had the exact homework I needed to do. I took each point thrown at me, researched the facts and figures I needed and basically had a well evidence backed answer for everything. And it wasn’t even cocky, flappy or lying. It was fact.

I was given another, much smaller list of objectives and told I would get a date for the next hearing in about 5 weeks time.

Once again I am my own worst enemy. I am infinitely capable but will never push myself forward. In front of another human being mostly, as I don’t see myself as any better or worse or more deserving than anyone else. But I am small and blonde and female and am treated very much as such. I won’t say I don’t play to this as well. There’s a certain amount of I can get away with anything precisely because I’m small and blonde and female. But it really goes against you in any position of authority. People become genuinely alarmed if I start making decisions and the small blonde one becomes ‘difficult’ or ‘feisty’. I think that being capable and good at my job means getting on with it and not shouting loudly about what you’re doing all the time. But you really do have to shout loudly at work or you get walked all over. I think even Maggie started to see that I was actually doing a good job in desperate retail circumstances but it was never going to work out between us. Interestingly, the company managed out the managers from the three highest turnover stores. I was one of a cull. And now not one of those stores is still there.

I would say that from the first hearing I had met every one of Maggie’s ridiculous objectives – except improving conversion. She lowered the goal post from 30% to 20%. This was actually way more achievable, but, like I say, I was pretty much over the whole fight by now. I felt massively unjustly treated like I can’t really put into words. If I think about it too much I am still venomously angry. I knew I was in a very fortunate situation. Bassalot would support me if I didn’t have another job to go to. I don’t have any children or dependants who rely on me and my wages and ultimately I could always go to my parents for money. I don’t, but I know they’re there. I am really aware that not everyone has that and I am so angry that corporations can play with people’s lives. For some people what was happening to me could have been a complete financial and personal disaster.

I told the team at work a limited version of events and that if our conversion didn’t get to 20%, I’d had it. I’d decided to leave by this point anyway. There was no way on this earth that I was going to sit through another hearing and justify myself to that unpleasant human being. My plan was to wait until the date came through for my next hearing and then hand my notice in. The team were amazing! Through fair means and foul our conversion crept towards the mythical 20% and the whole situation was becoming more and more surreal. I was good at this and still being managed out.

Physically I was a wreck. Bassalot says every year at Xmas I finally crawl home on Xmas Eve and he rebuilds me and packs me back off to work inevitably on Boxing Day or the day after to deal with the sales. Normally at Xmas I was a feisty wreck but this year I was a broken wreck. The constant crap I was getting for everything we were achieving was like some sort of bizarre reverse punishment.

The date came through for my final hearing. I phoned Maggie first thing in the morning. There was no answer but she phoned me back and I did the deed and handed in my notice. I arranged to stay until December 20th. My first Xmas not working in retail for about 15 years. Maggie said did I feel better now I’d told her.

In my head:


Some people.

Because I hadn’t really told the team what had been going on, my leaving genuinely came as quite a shock. One girl started crying tears of happiness for me for getting out which was pretty sweet. She left a couple of months later. It was all a bit of a haze. I played the game for the final five weeks. Still conscientiously trying to get everything done. I had no wish to leave any of the team with shit to deal with after I’d gone or the new manager, whoever they might be, for that matter. Maggie got in a new assistant manager a week before I left so I had someone to hand over to. Then Maggie announced she would be coming down on my last day. A Sunday. The Sunday before Xmas.

I know people have real traumas that they have to go through in life. Bassalot’s charity, Music Fusion, is testament to some of the circumstances that young people have to grow up in. However that Sunday was genuinely one of the worst days of my life. By this time I was empty inside. Actually hollowed out. Maggie arrived with chocolate and flowers. Really?? I just sucked the whole thing up. We did a hand over and store walk with the new assistant manager. We needed signs for the post Xmas sale and Maggie said, just print some up. Print some up??? Her own objectives meant so little to her now. I was lost for words. I don’t think I heard anything else she was saying and within half an hour she’d left anyway. I had a bit of a sob in the loo. Nobody, and I mean nobody, reduces me to tears. Way to go Maggie.

I stepped out to greet life beyond corporate retail.

Heart stuff gets a bit more dodgy next week – chapter #4 Evil Magnet, here Monday 16th September xx

Chapter #11 whatever doesn’t kill you is gonna leave a scar – marylin manson – 2009

heart surgery

Ten past six and I haven’t even gone into theatre yet. I’ve been waiting ages.

I look down and see a little bit of blood on my chest dressing.

Chest dressing!

Sneaky fuckers, they actually drugged me outside the operating theatre – it’s happened! Everything now is post bypass surgery.

The clock on the wall was directly in my line of sight from the bed. It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. Definitely ten past six. The big hand couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with the ten past marker. It seemed like a good time. Presumably ten past six that evening. I looked under the hospital gown again. Everything looked incredibly neat. A narrow dressing stretched from about where my eye can first see my chest and snaked off to the left under my boob. ‘We’ll try and keep the scar as little as possible’ ‘?’ ‘?’ There’s a blood spot at the top and the bottom just so I know what’s underneath.

Night time was painful. All kinds of painful but armed with a morphine drip which I seemed to be able to request on tap. And my other best friend, simply a small plastic cup of water armed with a bendy straw. I must have been being watched all the time although I wavered in and out of knowing what the fuck was going on. One nurse in particular was always there gently altering small taps in my neck and administering on request. I didn’t abuse this free drugs situation but neither did I suffer.

I became aware of another male patient opposite me and under the clock. There was another clock on a pillar which I could see from the corner of my left eye. I kind of hope there was one over me so he knew what time it was too. Directly opposite me seemed to be the main doors to intensive care. There were lots of people wearing the green uniform of surgeons and bank nurses going in and out of double doors. Presumably going in and out of theatre – but I am just guessing. I don’t have a clue about hospitals. Some of my friends are nurses and I am completely fascinated about how someone for a job can get up and go to work knowing peoples lives are at stake let alone cardiac surgeons who may have to saw through three peoples rib cages in a day.

One of the girls I used to work with in window dressing had previously worked in an aquarium and their biggest worry from any cock up was that ‘fish might die’. I can safely say that in my roles from fashion designer to window dresser to drummer at no time might ‘fish have died’. The thought of making decisions at work where ‘people might die’ as an outcome to any kind of mix up is quite mind boggling. All credit to medical staff everywhere.

Things that happened during the night not necessarily in the order that they happened:

Bassalot ‘phoned. To my right was a dark blue curtain and this seemed to be the edge of the beds. Important stuff was happening to my right. The ward and patients, were all to my left. People busied about and measured drugs and watched screens and talked and a phone rang. A nurse came round the corner of my unit and said she had someone to speak to me. It was about 9pm.

“Hello petal, you’re beautiful and I love you. How are you?”

Not one for gushing and emotion I said “Yeah, pretty good, considering what I’ve just been through.”

‘I’ll be there and see you in the morning. I love you.’

He’s a good boy.

At some point Dr O, my surgeon, appeared beaming at the end of the bed. He seemed pleased. I was pleased. All was good.

The patient opposite me was not having too good a time. As my mental state adjusted to being in intensive care I’d deduced he could have been the cardiac patient in before me that morning. He was awake and talking and had got to intensive care before me. He was only across the way so I could hear that his heart operation had gone well but his kidneys weren’t yet functioning which is apparently a thing after heart surgery. They were talking about putting him on the machine. His wife / girlfriend arrived very a la footballers wife, skinny blue jeans, tall boots, blonde hair and blousy and she sat by him. They seemed pretty close. His bed seemed massive and to be high up and almost at a 45 degree angle. There was lots more space around it for machines and equipment that in a standard ward which added to the largeness of the whole scenario. He also filled a lot of it sideways and his arms were spread out beyond that. He was also quite sun tanned.

At one point I woke up and couldn’t bare to be on my back any longer. Working it out now I’d probably been on my back since 9am on 6th October and was kind of trying not very successfully to wriggle. I asked the nurse if I could roll over which they helped me to do by about 45% and wedged me there with pillows longthways down my body. It was pretty good.

Later this also got pretty uncomfortable and I wanted to be back on my back, which again was pretty good.

A lady who I’d been aware of who seemed to be organising pharmaceuticals came over to the bed at some point. She had the most amazing head dress arrangement all pinned beautifully and massively around the kindest and wisest female face I think I’ve ever seen. She was all smiles and saying how sweet I looked in the bed and how perfect my hair was – not messed up at all. I knew it had been the right decision to wash my hair pre op. She was actually the same pharmacist who came to see me when I was discharged to give me my take home meds. I said I’d remembered seeing her in intensive care and she said she remembered me too mostly because I wasn’t a 60/70 year young gentleman who would have been the usual suspects on the cardio ward.

I’m only sumising now, being more au fait with hospital shift patterns, that it would have been about 6am the following day that my lovely night nurse said she would give me a little wash. I was pretty impressed as it would have been the last thing on my mind even with Bassalot’s promised visit. Warm little soapy pads soothed my back, shoulders and smalls followed by warm wash off pads doing the same.

I was ready for the day.

Catch up next week with ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ here at ten past six  on Monday 4th November – peace and love! XX

Chapter #12 just can’t get enough – depeche mode – 1981

heart surgery

I don’t know if there are windows in wards but there’s definitely mood lighting going on in the ceiling to delineate night and day for those of us who aren’t so sure. So the lights were definitely on now, the pace had picked up. Mr I’m married to a footballers wife so could be a footballer’s predicament seemed to remain the same. He was visited by the same anaesthetist who had administered at my operation. In fact he had many consultant type visitors and his significant other was still there sitting by his side. There was one thing where they pulled the curtains around him and said she could stay but suggested maybe people didn’t always like to stay for ‘this’ so she left for a while but was soon back.

My new nurse had amazing curls of hair and seemed more based at the foot end of the bed. Night nurse always seemed to be ready at my head end. New nurse wasn’t nearly as generous with the morphine either. Well, I may have just got in the habit of asking for it every time I woke up which was generally when I was in pain. She just said no. I was stumped.

I was also excited that as it was now tomorrow, Bassalot would be visiting any moment. He would presumably arrive on a white steed with a slight ethereal glow through the double doors straight ahead of me. I was keeping my eyes on those doors.

Among many others who came through those doors tho was Little Mouse. She was dressed all in black with her hair pulled back into a pony tail. She skittled about the floor covering a lot of ground, without getting in any ones way and also came up to see me.

‘Can I take your breakfast order? You are on light snacks so you can have cereal or toast.’

What the actual?? I’ve been bathed, which would have been the last thing on my list following having your chest sewn back together and now I was being offered breakfast, similarly a crazy idea in my situation surely??

For some reason I’m just not a breakfast person. I always had breakfast at my mums. It was there so I ate it. Generally cereal or toast from the kitchen or, if we had people staying, cereal or toast in the dining room with little spoons to go in the jam and honey pots. When I moved to Portsmouth to go to Polytechnic I barely managed to pull together much more than a cheese and bean toastie and never in the morning. When I ran Spanbodywear I was generally too excited about what colour furry legwarmers I’d be sewing that day to devote time to breakfast and in the demanding world of retail why would I get up any earlier than my shift demanded in order to eat? A coffee maybe but that was about it.

So, generally, I don’t do breakfast.

Me: ‘Oh no I’ll be fine thank you.’

Little mouse: ‘You really can have whatever you like, what do you usually have for breakfast?’

Me: ‘No, no, I’m really fine.’

Little mouse: ‘Just a small bowl of cereal?’

I’m a drummer in a punk band. I have a look that can melt the eyebrows off a silverback but obviously not right now.

Me: (resigned) ‘Ok, I’ll have a bowl of corn flakes please.’ So polite. I did grow up in a village on a very short leash from my mother. I am inherently polite to everybody, even complete wankers, as I genuinely do believe everyone has a right to their own opinion and way of doing things. There’s a saying ‘Don’t judge another until you have walked seven moons in their moccasins’. Moccasins aside, I always try and not judge anyone else even if their viewpoints are entirely different from my own. I will never know how their life and experiences have shaped the way they view and experience the world. I’m not even convinced we all see colours the same, or smell smells the same at a functional level, let alone when our emotional attachments to certain colours and smells come into play too. So I couldn’t be rude to Little Mouse. She was doing her job.

Little mouse: ‘Would you like milk and sugar?’

Me: ‘No, no, just the corn flakes.’

As soon as corn flake gate was over my mind returned to the pain that had been slowly building. I’d forgotten in the night that the pillows placed down my left hand side to give my back a rest, had been removed, bar one which was now under my bum to stop me pile driving down the bed at it’s jaunty 45 degree angle. As it had now been there for so long and possibly forgotten it had become a bit of a crumple zone for me to mesh into and become a little contorted over time. I asked Nurse Curls again if I could have some pain relief but she said light-heartedly:

‘Here you go, here’s breakfast, try a bit of that and then see how you feel.’

A regulation table was put across my midriff. The bed was raised a little more. Sharp intake of breath as something (obscured by the table) seemed to suck a little more comfort out of my chest and I was faced with a bowl of dry corn flakes. And to the left of it, Little Mouse, at about the same level saying adorably:

‘You didn’t want milk or sugar so I brought you a portion of honey.’

And she had! Just there, next to the corn flakes. I loved her then for such a kind gesture although I didn’t actually want corn flakes or honey and I was really in pain. It felt as if two skewers were ramming in my stomach and supporting most of my weight to boot. Nurse Curls and Little Mouse both had so much hope for me in their eyes that I would eat the corn flakes and everything would be fine. For them, I stuck my hand in the bowl, pulled out a corn flake, and ate it.

It was the first food past my lips for about 18 hours. I had no saliva, cracked lips and now a dry corn flake in there as well. I think a small tear escaped.

Little Mouse: ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like a leeetle milk with that?’

Me: ‘I don’t think I can face any milk right now.’
I tried again and fairground game stylee dropped my fingers, claw like, into the bowl (I think there was a spoon in the bowl but I’d decided to go feral for this one), and defiantly pulled out maybe 3 or more corn flakes and put them into my mouth.

It was no good. I gave up. The corn flakes just plain and simply weren’t working. Little Mouse wanted them to, Nurse Curls wanted them to, hell I wanted them to.

Me: ‘Please could you put the top of the bed back flat as I’m in so much pain.’ By now tears were freely flowing from my eyes, which I shut. I breathed purposefully out through my mouth interspersed with sharp intakes of breath also through my open mouth. I’m sure I was kind of whimpering as well although not crying. I don’t think drummers generally cry. Just hammer on things. The bed being put back did actually offer a huge relief coupled with the face of Nurse Curls holding 2 Paracetamol and a Tramadol which would soon kick in and all would be right once again.

Nurse Curls: ‘Here you go. Let me know if you need another Tramadol and we’ll get those tubes out of you. That can often help with the pain.’

Me: ‘Phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’

Yep, I remember the skewers… they’re coming out to a Chelsea Smile, chapter #13, 11th November 6.10pm – see you there xx

Chapter #14 no rest for the wicked – new model army – 1985

heart surgery

I needed a chest X-ray before I went back to the ward. The thing about private healthcare is that everything comes to you. In a normal hospital I would have had to have located the X-Ray department, taken a deli style ticket and then waited for my turn in a queue. In private land, the whole X-ray picture taking machine was wheeled into intensive care and parked in front of my bed. I had to have the photographic plate pressed up against me for which they managed to sit me forwards even more and prop it in between me and the bed. Job done.

There he was! Finally my knight in shining armour arrived at the double doors. I was bathed, two tubes free out of four and feeling pretty good. Nurse Curls was battling with the sticky tape holding in whatever was going into my neck. She managed to separate the sticky from my now not-so-pretty-and-steadily-matting hair, give it a bit of a clean and applied fresh sticky over the robotic bundle.

Little Mouse was there again. I knew obviously resistance was futile so politely listened to the ‘light bites’ lunch time menu and tried to apply rational thought and went for an omelette. Full of protein-ey goodness surely just what you’d need after a night in intensive care. ‘Any ham or mushrooms or cheese?’

“No. No. Just plain would be wonderful.”

In the wait for the omelette, B calls me beautiful on more than one occasion, which in my state is some deal. And I know he means it. I’m not a corpse for a start, which for the past 6 or so months has been a possibility. I do also know that I’m incredibly lucky to have such an attentive and honest partner. He said that Dr O had phoned him at about 4pm yesterday to say that all was done and that I was currently asleep in intensive care and when was the quickest he could be there. He’d said in about an hour and was there to view me, wrapped in plastic with a deep sleeping face on. He’d told the nurse then that I was beautiful and alive. Good result.

Little Mouse arrived with a plate of omelette. True to style at the Spire we’re not talking a one egg omelette here – this was a plate filler. But I still really didn’t have an appetite. To please Little Mouse I gainfully cut a mouth sized corner and chewed non-enthusiastically. It really was all I could do. The remaining 2 6/7 of a plate of eggs sat sadly on its plate Sorry chickens, I really am, but I have been through a lot.

By this point, they were quite keen to get me out of intensive care. Presumably the next cardio patient would be on their way out of theatre and needing a bed after all. Football guy was in no way ready to give up his berth so I was slowly but surely eased off my mattress, swivelled round and before I knew it was sitting in a wheel chair.

At this point I still had a wee bag, a smaller chest drain, neck attachments and various wrist and arm inserts as well as oxygen being funnelled into my nostrils through two little plastic tubes just like I’d worn in the oxygen bar at Bestival. I think just for a little dignity, while my hospital robe flapped around various inserts, Nurse Curls drew the curtains around my cubicle. She then left Bassalot and myself and the omelette alone while she got paperwork etc together in the main part of the ward.

I kid you not, Bassalots hand came up like a robotic arm, picked up half the omelette and shovelled it into his mouth. I’m not sure if he knew exactly what he was doing, it had been a tough night for him as well after all. I was just fairly pleased the omelette hadn’t gone entirely to waste. When Nurse Curls came back, butter wouldn’t have melted in that big grin-ey and omelett-ey mouth.

The two of us, well fed and made-to-look-presentable were handed over to a porter (one of the guys who’d picked me up the day before) and off we wheeled back to the ward. Bassalot’s phone went off with a ‘ninja’ sample and subsequently he and the porter got onto the topic of Die Antword, otherwise, I arrived ‘home’ without incident.

The nurse helped me into the chair in the corner of my room and I started to take stock of my new surroundings. I’d changed rooms for a start. I was now room 2 rather than room 3. It later transpired that while I’d been under the day before, pretty much all hell had broken loose weather wise and maybe, just maybe, the windows had blown in on my original room. There was certainly a lot of work going on around that area for the next couple of days.

My new room was fairly identical, small 3D printed Bassalot was standing on the bedside table, Pussy Deluxe was hanging on the back of the door and my fashion magazines appeared to be intact on the table.

I was putting a brave face on it but obviously I was pretty spaced. Despite having devoured half my omelette, B was ready to sample the delights of the canteen so he left me to it to go hunter-gather.

I (not that far removed from the modern world) found my phone and dialled my parents number. I called their landline and my Dad answered, professional as ever, saying “Hello” and then repeating the number I had just dialled. I hadn’t thought that my mobile number wouldn’t necessarily be programmed into their caller display unit so when I said “Hello, it’s Hannah…” there was a long pause as he absorbed this information and slowly and disbelievingly said “Hannaaah – how amazing!” It was obviously the last thing he’d been expecting barely 24 hours after heart surgery for me to be on the end of a telephone. Up until then Bassalot was the bearer of information. Dad probably wouldn’t have expected to speak to me directly for days. I’m so glad I called and will always remember the love and disbelief in his voice.

Before he left, B had tuned my TV on to 6 music which was far nicer to listen to than the bright lights and brash tones of daytime TV. Familiar sounds lapped around my vision as I flicked through the latest editions of Elle and Vogue. Velour pyjamas are big now – wouldn’t you know. Lauren Laverne was inviting people to get in touch and say where you were listening to 6 music from. I did run this through in my mind as quite an unusual listener. Hospitals trump most situations right so I’d probably have made it on air but at the same time I wasn’t sure people would want to hear about a gruesome operation, and did I even have the energy to actually dial the number into my phone. Or feel brave enough to talk live on air.

The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary, drifted from the radio. It reminded me of going to record fairs as a kid and rummaging through flouro coloured self made cassettes of bootleg recordings of gigs. My train of thought drifted to a guy at school who had a complete library of bootleg cassettes for sale. I’d bought many and had made him a mix tape in return. I was visiting my friend in a neighbouring village where he lived and so I posted it to his house. I remember I nearly knocked and for some reason I didn’t.

It turned out that night his girlfriend was missing and there was a massive police hunt for her. A guy walking his dog found her body in a barn a few days later. She’d been suffocated. It was truly awful. A massive whodunnit followed. It’s kind of ironic as the village where I grew up is now one of the locations for Midsommer Murders on TV. Roadblocks were set up and motorists were questioned in all the small villages. It was pretty much decided that a goth had done it and there was a less than convincing photo fit in the local paper that looked like any male goth I might have known at the time. Even more ridiculous as it turned out the ex local police chief’s son had committed the murder.

I didn’t go to the funeral. I don’t like funerals. I presume nobody does. The only funeral I actually want to go to is my own as some sort of finale party with my friends and family (assuming I go first of course and am not the one left at the end).

I thought about Heather. A really good friend of ours who had committed suicide at Christmas a few years ago. I didn’t go to her funeral either. We’d been camping that summer, a big group of us from back in the day and Heather had been there as an integral part of the shared flat brigade.

We had a great weekend with her as we were part of the naughty or no kids corner. The whole weekend was beautifully nostalgic and chilled out with people who we all felt incredibly comfortable with. We’d all shared flats and houses in our 20s so to be honest there were no secrets anymore between us and it was a priviledge to meet up with everyone again. My abiding memories of Heather will be her laughing as she tried to get her salvaged chucka tent back in its bag. And sharing a couple of ciders on a hot afternoon. And (many years before) having my first go on a drum kit ever with her back when she was a chisel jawed guy named Chris. All these memories I cherish and I selfishly didn’t want my abiding memory to be of her funeral but with no Heather present.

I’d indirectly thought a lot about suicide as a kid. Not for myself, but about it as an act. My Dad was a teacher and another teacher at his school had drunk some kind of cleaning product to kill himself and had then presumably been in a supreme amount of pain and told his wife. They rushed to hospital but nothing could be done to save him. I thought long and hard about him, his pain, his thoughts, his wife and the doctors. I cried so much for all of them. It must have been really hard for my Dad too. There was no real conclusion to my thoughts other than that life is not a given. It truly is a precious and incredible thing. And death is final. Absolute. I’ve got no proof of heaven. I just think you stop and am ok with that. But boy was I gonna make the most of the days I did have.

I also thought a lot about the moment when I woke up after my heart bypass operation. Ten past six. As there was just the snippet of the thought in my mind when I went under, that that might be it. And I’d been ok with that too. But now I was back. I was definitely back.

Heavy times but all good. Definitely back next week too, 6.10pm, 18th November with next chapter #15 ‘Paper Thin’. Have yourselves a good week 🙂 xx

Chapter #15 Paper Thin – hot water music – 2001

heart surgery

The first forty-eight hours in that hospital bed were a regimented cycle of visiting nurses. There was Celeste whose real name I have to use because how cool a name is that! It really suited her as well. She was supremely elegant, like a ballerina and drifted around as you would imagine the Marie Celeste to be drifting into a moonlit pirate cove. There was no fussing with Celeste, just calm.

Then, so you didn’t get too calm, there was kung fu nurse. She strode into my room, full of business. Whereas really you’re encouraged to do as much by yourself as possible, as I tried to sit up she magnificently hooked my neck in the crook of her elbow and swung me upright as if I were a rag doll. It felt completely professional, if a little unexpected. She brusquely told me that one pillow was in no way enough and would be back with another two. She soon was and laid them at the top of the bed, each beautifully slightly overlapping the previous one in a line. She was so believable that I was convinced this was going to feel amazing. Although when I did actually lie back it didn’t feel as if I’d lain back at all and was in fact, still in a seated position. I slowly got rid of one pillow and then the next over the course of the night, slightly terrified she’d return and hook me into another position of punishment that I could do nothing about. She also talked loudly on the phone for most of the night outside my door.

There was a slight Korean nurse who loved my little cute mouse slippers but was terrified by the wildlife noises coming from the trees outside my window. And the lady with the convincing Transylvanian accent who had first asked me about ‘the bloodz’ was also a regular carer.

Every four hours I would have my temperature checked via my ear, my oxygen levels would be read, blood pressure checked and the amount of fluid in my chest drain flask measured. Also medication. I was on regular doses of paracetamol and sometimes Tramadol and anti nausea drugs as required. It was a strange pain when it filtered back as the drugs wore off. As if a massive weight was pressing down on my chest. I guess even though I was asleep for the operation, my muscles were still feeling the effect of being held apart for a few hours so access to my heart was possible. It was a pretty real feeling that I had actually been ‘open’ and now had been pulled back ‘closed’ again.

I could operate the bed by buttons on the side. I wasn’t allowed to push myself up or support my body weight in any way with my arms so had to raise the top of the bed fully to the upright position when I wanted to sit up or get out of bed. Then I could swing my legs round to the side and shuffle on. As I said, with a catheter and no poo yet, I really had very little to do except to reflect on the sorry state I found myself in. It was pretty much at this point that I thought I might write it all down…

So, my wee bag. The nurse called it a catheter, and it worked differently to a bladder and going to the toilet normally. Until it was taken out I didn’t think to check how it was accessing my bladder. As I say, I’m generally ok with medical stuff, I just don’t need to look at it too closely. I just know I was constantly dripping into the bag, fairly gushing when I drank a cup of coffee. I do drink a lot of water anyway, hence the constant drip but I was amazed how big and heavy the bag looked in no time. Surely that’s my bladder under normal circumstances, I suddenly had a healthy respect for what a bladder has to go through. When I’m out on the pints, I kid you not, I can go all night without needing a pee. I am, jokingly, bladder of steel. While my friends are commenting on just how many times on a standard night in the pub they need to go to the loo, I very rarely do.

As your bladder is constantly emptying into the bag you never actually feel as if you need to go the toilet. And it’s quite liberating not to be tied to such basic biological functions. Also, following a hectic bout of general anaesthetic my intestines were completely asleep so there was no chance of anything more solid either – bliss. As I do drink a lot of water, the nurses couldn’t have been happier with the amount and colour of my urine – top of the class!

My other attachment was a smaller chest drain. A container the size of a small flask into which was literally draining reddish bodily fluids. At each check the nurse would see how much fluid had drained into the flask (there was a measuring gauge up the side). Luckily, I’m guessing, not much was. Hopefully all my bodily fluids were contained in the inner workings of my body and newly revamped heart rather than swishing around in my chest cavity. These two attachments had to be carried everywhere with me. Although as I didn’t need the toilet at all, and was properly dog tired from all the anaesthetic in my system this was literally from the chair to the bed.

Lying in the hospital, my heart beat too felt surreally different. I’m guessing it was wired up slightly differently to how it had been, and could now flow freely. If I lay back too flat in the bed I was so aware of the new beat that it was unbearable. Really powerful in my chest. Had my heart really been rubbish for that long? When Bassalot put his head on my chest he said he could hear an off beat. Certainly never had one of those before. More just a constant BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Probably explains why I’ve never really got on with Reggae music. I don’t hate it but it doesn’t make me want to move. My friend feels the same and calls it being Reggae indifferent.

I read magazines, ordered food, barely ate food, watched TV, tried to read a book but my concentration levels really weren’t having it, and slept – a lot.

If you want to – tune in next week for a horror style dream sequence – ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ – you’ve been warned! Sleep well… xx

Chapter #16 welcome to my nightmare – alice cooper – 1975

heart surgery, short stories, short story

I woke up one morning to an intense scenario, gripped by a dream I was having.

It was a crisp evening. The puddles on the ground seemed almost to pulsate with the heavy raindrops. As Jules looked up, the vertical force of the water was turning to slo-mo the more she tilted her head.

“Fuckwit – get inside!” yelled Nate, bundling out of the cab, holding a handful of take out menus over his head. He stayed low and in a rugby tackling move, grabbed Jules around the waist. Because her legs stayed rooted to the pavement, his grip slid up her body so her top half bent forward and the two of them ploughed into the bus stop laughing.

“JEEZUUS!” said Jules sucked back into real time. She grabbed the menus and paper whipped Nate around the face, showering raindrops as she did so. He deflty grabbed both her arms and held them behind her back

“Yeah? Yeah?” he said planting a firm kiss on her lips, which got even firmer when Tarok and Romey barrelled into both of them. The Uber drove off, and after a brief silence the four burst out laughing.

Jules and Nate were always on, always off. Sorry, not sorry, engaged, married, fuck buddies, you name it, they’d done it. Always a drama, but deep down, devoted to each other. Romey had slept with both of them, both individually with Nate (tho more times than Jules was actually aware) and with both of them together. She was a high IQ girl and good friends with Tarok as they both moonlighted for extra uni money for a local independent animation company called Z-iD.

Z-iD was near perfect employment as it payed a mint and the working hours were as flexible as you needed them to be. The offices were in a disused building called The Pyramids, home to a music venue, gym and swimming pool. The gym and swimming pool were still in operation, now with slick LED lighting and video walls. All free to use by Z-iD employees. The 1990s flumes had been replaced with an uber aqua assault course but the venue now housed the offices. The inside of the venue had been the largest pyramid and was now an array of split levels connected by seamlessly gliding paths and travellators, not unlike a Harry Potter film. The place was kitted out with T-Ware, the latest Tesla computers. This enabled a keyboard to be viewed on any of the T-glass desks which could be operated by hands or sight and then viewed on a see through visor worn by the user.

The three founders of Z-iD (Zak, Ian and Daveed) were all Portsmouth Uni grads. Zak and Ian were in IT but Daveed was a BioChem student whose dissertation was following trials of a series of pharmaceuticals used to treat patients with OCD. The premise was to suspend disbelief as a way of forgetting the irrational thoughts associated with OCD by allowing patients to be more absorbed in the activities around them. Daveed, a keen gamer had been investigating (and personally trialling throughout his three year uni course) whether the drugs could alter our perception when hearing or watching a fictional narrative – such as a computer game. Our systems for assessing reality can easily be shut down when watching a film. We go into perceiving mode and our brains turn off the systems for acting or planning to act. The drugs rely on deep brain stimulation, historically a surgical procedure, but, confident in its research, Z-iD had recently launched DEBS for Beta testing with a new series of immersive gaming.

So far the trials had gone without a hitch and tonight’s entertainment came in a blue padded envelope containing disc Scenario #5, The Whodunnit. Also, four small blue and yellow plastic oval capsules containing a timed release dose of DEBS, suitable for the length of the scenario and four small round white recovery pills. These were to be taken as an extra calm me down, if required, as some people found the transition between game time and real time a bit of a headfuck when the scenario had finished.

It was possible to watch the movie as an enhanced DVD, but, as an employee of Z-iD, Romey had 4 of the visors at home and had configured them to her apartment. This meant the viewers were able to have a virtual reality experience whilst walking around and interacting without the usual cumbersome VR headsets. Courtesy of £10k worth of T-ware.

They ducked through the rain again, Romey reaching between Jules and Nate to activate the key lock and the light wooden door opened as they practically fell into the hallway.

“Are you scared?” said Jules “I mean have you actually done this before?”

“Yeah loads.” said Romey “But we weren’t involved in this story. It supposedly is pretty sick, and not exactly on script… if you know what I mean.”

“Bring it on – c’mon!” Tarok leapt up the stairs two or three at a time grabbing Romeys keys out of her hand and flung the first floor door open. The room was quite emptied out, so the four could easily move around without bumping into furniture. There was a door to the kitchen off the main large room which had a QR code printed out on A4 paper and blue tacked up at eye level. Some stairs led up to the next floor almost like a mezzanine to the bedroom and bathroom which overhung the front room. Along the front of the split level was half wall and half glass, divided horizontally and the glass had some fancy 70sesque frosting decals on it put on by the previous tenant.

“Beers, beers bee-eers!” Chanted Nate heading straight to the kitchen. Coats came off, beers were opened, spliffs were rolled and Romey put the blue envelope on the table.

“Ok, kitchen is the safe zone. ANY hint of freaking out, just look at the QR code on the door and the programme will do the rest and calmly bring you out of the storyline. I know cos I’ve done it a thousand times. We’ll be believing what we see but also able to see each other in reality and piss about if we want to. It’s kind of up to us as a group how real this shit gets.”

“Well you might be dead, see how real you think this shit is then Watsooon!”

“Yeah ok Sherlock, you might be dead yourself! We all need to choose a visor, A, B, C or D which will identify us as the murderer, the murderee or the two left to work it out. Is everyone cool with this, it is gonna be a bit of a headfuck? I know the girls who wrote this shit!”

“Let’s do it! Come on, we’ve talked this through a million times at the pub.” (putting on a fake american accent) “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll take care of me Nate won’t you honey?” Jules gave Nate her best doe eyed come to bed eyes.

“Pick a visor – any visor!” Romey swung the eye wear round her head.

“3 – is my lucky number!” twerked Jules suddenly standing up.

“Magic number, it’s magic number!” Nate came back at her whacking her arse with a cushion “I’ll have a number 2 please Bob – haha!”

“Well obviously as top dog I’ll be Romey number 1 so it’s 4 for you Mr Tarok! Talk amoungst yerselves everyone, I’m gonna set it up…”

She put on her visor and booted the console in the corner of the room.

“Ooeer shit, I am quite scared now – in a good way…”

Nate put both his arms up in a protective embrace. “Oh little Julsey, I’ll protect you from the big bad murderer – unless I am the big bad murderer mwahaha” and went to grab Jules about the head but she deftly ducked out of the way pegging it to the kitchen yelling “Safe zone! Safe zone! You can’t get me!! – oooh look a bottle of tequila – shall we?”

“Tequila – it makes me happy! Hey Romey, where’s your poncho, that makes me happy too!” Tarok rummaged through the coat rail until he found the orange and turquoise fringed poncho on a hangar at the back. He threw it over his head and joined Jules in the kitchen.

“Ha-hoo! A fresh bottle of agarve!” He deftly made his way through the kitchen cupboards until he found a tub of salt and yelled “Romey! Lemons?”


“Apples it is then!” He threw an apple from a wire bowl on top of the microwave, and caught it in his other hand while grabbing a knife from the draining board. He cut it into quarters, peeled off the skin and cut out the core. Using a plate as a small tray, he put the tub of cooking salt in the middle and arranged the apple pieces around the outside. He made his way to the kitchen door with the bottle of tequila in his other hand and shook his poncho tassles triumphantly at the awaiting ensemble. With the prowess of a cocktail waiter he laid the tray on the small table with the bottle, picked up four mis matched shot glasses in one hand from the windowsill and proceeded to arrange them around the tray:

“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila – floor!”

“Oh Tarok, you are sooo creative.” said Jules pulling out her phone and snapping a pic of the visually perfect tequila display.

“Like a native babe, like a native!” he racked up the tequilas

“Ok, we’re on!” said Romey swinging round from the console, hand on hip and jauntily pulling her visor down slightly so she was able to peer at the expectant crowd from underneath it. “Visors on boys and girls!”

The visors needed to sit quite low on your forehead so they connected with pulse points and your reactions could be incorporated into the game. A small blue light at the side indicated when they were sitting at the right level and the happy foursome were good to go. Romey popped the pills out of their small plastic casings and popped one in each glass of tequila, like a small multi coloured mescal worm.

She looked at Jules, licked the back of her hand seductively and poured out a few grains of salt. She sucked the salt off slowly and picked up a shot glass.

“Whoooooh.” she exhaled and knocked it back.

“Attagirl!” said Nate “Come on then, 3, 2, 1…”

He poured out a mountain of salt and slathered his tongue in it before handing it to Tarok and Jules. Together the three of them chinked their shot glasses and downed the contents then stuffed the apple into their mouths and chewed ferociously like tiny hamsters.

There was a brief bus stop moment where again all four were silent before errupting in giggles and laughter.

“Oh shit, shit shit” said Jules “I need more tequila!”

The evening carried on, albeit slightly enhanced. It was difficult to pinpoint the difference except that everyone was slightly more in tune with everyone else. Tarok was finding Jules’ dimples irresistible, and he’d never even noticed them before. It was as if sometimes any one of them would have a first person glimpse of what another of them was actually seeing through their visor. Tarok and Nate assumed their beanbag posture in fits of giggles while playing a mash up game of Forge of Empires populated by blue Sonic hedgehogs. Romey and Jules were upstairs talking about Nate, last night’s episode of Westeros and how well Justin Beiber was coming across on the new reality Mission to Mars show.

“Holy crap!” said Nate suddenly swinging round. “How long’s that been going on?”

Through the mezzanine frosted glass at the top of the stairs they could see one of the girls suspended by her arms slightly swaying while the other girl stood in front of her. Although Romey was darker skinned than Jules, when looking through the visor, they couldn’t tell who was who. As they squinted through the gaps in the frosted decal it became clear that whoever was suspended had a V shaped cut on their body running from her shoulders down to a mid point between her breasts. But they weren’t just cuts they were like previous surgical or psycho killer cuts that had since been sewn up and hence, no blood, just a slight pinking. The other girl was however holding a large knife and was still ‘working’ on the suspended body. The boys looked at each other again. They both had the same sensation of fight or flight. Their arses were firmly rooted in the bean bags but their legs were trying, and failing, to get up due to being completely liquefied. They stared fervently as if hooked in a really gripping horror movie watching their two closest friends psycho out on each other.

Romey, suspended, was thinking “Fuck me I’m dead! That’s just completely surreal. I’m like out of the story. I kind of remember losing hold of my life.”

Jules was thinking intently whilst twirling the knife tip against her index finger. All the cuts were done to finish the job and it had been a good job. She was now working on a tribal henna paste style pattern of cuts on Romeys thigh which was gonna look awesome when it had scarred over.

The boys downstairs were going insane. At the back of their minds they knew this was the game and their eyes shone with heightened excitement. Their arms grabbed each others arms at the elbows and their fingers gripped almost in rigor mortis as they were unable to move.

“Fucking hell this is MENTAL!!” said Nate “We’ve got to save her whoever ‘her’ is!”

“I don’t know how we’re supposed to work it out” said Tarok “What, are there like clues or something somewhere?”

“Oh my God.” Nate was still sitting down and hugging his own knees now. “Jules!” he yelled.


Without moving, Tarok and Nate looked at each other. 5 and a half seconds went by although it felt like more like 5 and a half hours. Things were metrosexually getting a little uncomfortable between them.

Tarok broke off their little arrangement first. “Shit man, we gotta get a grip! I’ve played dozens of games like this. Everything we need is here, we’ve got to get up those stairs and suss out who’s killed who.”

He turned his head around quickly to look upstairs, but there was no sign of either of the girls.

“SHIIIIT!” said Nate and laughed. “You Z creeps certainly know how to put the spooky shits up someone!”

By now they’d managed to summon a combined courage and headed up the mezzanine stairs, Tarok taking some kind of reluctant “I should be knowing what I’m doing” lead. He peered nervously through a gap in the 70s frosting.

“Uh-eeerrrrr!!” he vocalised sounding slightly strangled himself. He could see something body like lying on the floor and covered by a duvet and it looked strangely long and the duvet went down in the middle. After a furtive check both ways along the corridor, their other friend was nowhere to be seen and he gingerly turned the brushed aluminium doorknob. Soundlessly the door opened and the two guys, barely breathing, for fear of breaking the moment took in the devils duvet on the floor.

“Jules!” whispered Nate, slightly stooping towards the motionless duvet. “Is that you?”

“Hah! Wro-ooong!!” giggled Jules from the end of the corridor “I’m the murderer!” She strode purposefully towards them grabbing a corner of the duvet and whisking it off Romey’s body as she approached them. Or at least the two halves of Romey’s body. The three of them now stopped in stunned silence. Romey was well and truly in two halves, severed straight through the middle with the tribal henna design carved in a raw bloody and beautiful design over her skin.

Nate slowly removed his visor still taking in the vision of horror. Automatically Jules and Tarok did the same. Tarok steeled himself as a wave of reality washed over him, spinning his mind, and he knelt down removing Romey’s visor and placed it by the side of her head. He put his hand on her shoulder and, as he watched, her eyes opened. Her severed legs grotesquely contorted to right themselves with the angle of her body. Then, as she pushed herself up with her arms, her legs bum walked themselves over to her midriff. Her top half was raised to normal height and she seemed to walk for a few steps as her legs straightened out and caught up. Tarok’s eyes opened to their absolute widest as if not wanting to miss a moment of this game sensation but eventually his real senses took over.

“Holy shit, that was a freak out” he managed to stammer eventually.

“A freak out, A FREAK OUT!!! I DIED!!” exclaimed Romey “And you killed me!” She stared wide eyed at Jules gesticulating her arms wildy in front of her. Her rational head knew it was the game and that Jules had had no choice about this but at the same time she was livid. She trusted Jules, they were good friends, and she’d experienced Jules killing her. Her wildly gesticulating arms were all she could do to communicate just how messed up she felt about this.

Jules was mortified. Her eyes filled with tears and she flung herself cautiously at Romey in a sorrowful embrace.

“Romey, honey, I don’t even remember why. I think it might have been that Justin Beiber comment that pushed me over the edge…you wouldn’t beliebe!” she flashed Romey a cheeky glance to check her response. Romey had recovered her cool and was looking haughtily hot again.

“Oh you and your Beiber love” she said. “You’re right though, beliebe or die you said. Oh God, I died for Justin Beiber and he’s not even on the planet!”

Tarok and Nate both took a deep breath and exhaled over a long time with raised eyebrows.

“Hi five my man” said Nate. “Let’s get one of these chill pills down us and hit a BK – I’m fucking starving.”

You may have very vivid or bad dreams. This may be because of the anaesthetic you had, or medicines you are taking, or just because of what you have recently been through. These dreams will pass with time.

British Heart Foundation – ‘Having Heart Surgery’ booklet

Chapter 17 ready to be released Monday 2nd December at of course, ten past six. See you there for First, Last and Always. XX

Chapter #17 first and last and always – sisters of mercy – 1985

heart surgery

Day 1 (Friday)

I’d done really well the nurses said. After getting back to my new room at 11ish am I’d sat in my chair for most of the day, and so when evening arrived I was well up for going to bed and calling it quite literally, a night. I’d read that after cardiac surgery, I’d probably need to clear my lungs quite a bit by ‘huffing’, kind of coughing without coughing as that would be bloody painful. Luckily I was spared this (even as an ex smoker) and probably as I’m fairly young to have had a heart bypass operation.

Getting in and out of bed was quite a mission as, even on the pain-killers, my chest felt like lead and I couldn’t take any weight on my arms. I had to have the bed in the upright position and get my bum just in the right angle of the bed whilst I sat up. Then I could slowly lower the bed and hence my upper half. I had to keep the bed quite raised, even with the extra bulk of pillows or, I don’t know if it was gravity or just the stretching of my chest, but I’d be so aware of my heart pounding I couldn’t actually lie that far back.

Then that was it really. I had to lie on my back for the duration. Firstly I had my catheter and chest drain in so rolling around in bed was practically difficult. Lying on my left side just made me really heart aware and I thought about it’s new stitches twisting around. Lying on my right hand side was slightly easier but I couldn’t roll all the way over and get full nose in pillow satisfaction so always ended up lolling back on to my back over the space of 30 mins or so. The best option was just to stay on my back and give my arse a good wiggle as I needed to.

Day 2 (Saturday)

“You should be able to get out of bed with some assistance and go to the bathroom for a wash. The pysiotherapist will then take you for a walk along the corridor and review your breathing excercises”

I did manage to get out of bed and have at least a face wash and toothy clean. I felt a whole lot better for it although it took ages and with much sitting down again on the bed between stages. Also I extracted a load of rock solid boogas out of my nose. I think its the tubes they put up there. I could hang my wee bag on just about anything and had to remember to carry the chest drain with me and stand it on the floor next to wherever I was standing. It had a long old tube on it and was quite a hard plastic that clonked on the ground a lot when it fell over.

I felt my movements very much as a skeleton, one bone connected to the next, and imagined myself in X-ray leaning against the sink. My flesh didn’t matter too much, I didn’t have any bodily functions happening and the strong pain killers meant I wasn’t feeling too much either. My bones however were strangely in my thoughts. I think it still stemmed from my ribcage having to actually come apart to do this. And now it felt vulnerably wired back together, I couldn’t feel it, but I knew it. And I could feel every bit of pressure as I applied scrub to my skull with my finger bones, and held the toothbrush to my teeth as they sat in my skull.

No sooner had I washed than my physiotherapist knocked on the door. She checked that I was up for a walk and wee bag in one hand and long tube of the chest feeding over the top of my robe, she helped me into Pussy Deluxe and off we set.

It was actually harder than it looked, that first walk. It turned out that the pysiotherapist did some work around Thame, where I’d gone to school, so we chatted this through. By the time I had walked about 50 yards and back from a designated line in The Spire’s corridor I was whacked and had learned that walking and talking at the same time were no longer an option. I held it together while the physiotherapist was there but basically then had a little lie down and a full on whitey.

Little Miss Transylvania of ‘the bloodz’ arrived and ‘fed’ me something through the tubes in my neck which were then removed. She said she could also remove the dressing covering the wound on my chest. That was a bit of a shocker. The dressing was psychologically giving a huge out of sight out of mind buffer to the fact that I had a massive chest wound at all. It came off fairly easily and then, most apologetically she sprayed an icy cold antibacterial spray liberally covering the area. She said it was fine to wash and was ok if water splashed on it but not to get it excessively wet.

I checked it in the mirror when she’d gone. It was perfectly surgical. It looked a bit like pig skin literally sewn together expertly from the inside. Or, yes, ok, a lot like a horror film. No blood or leakage, two perfectly straight edges of skin SEWN TOGETHER ON MY BODY!!! Wow. Not only had my ribcage been pulled back together, the skin over the top had also been sewn back over the top, obviously and thankfully. I also noted how evenly my boobs were lined up. My nipples were exactly level. Not that I remember them ever not being level but, from years of sewing, I do appreciate how one rogue stitch can alter the hang of a garment. As a 3D body, that was a pretty impressive fix it job. I later noticed when lying in bed that my boobs were now standing quite upright, as if a very small breast enhancement had happened. This turned out to be a result of the skin being sewn together quite tightly ie there’s just not a lot of excess there to work with. This also gave me quite a few problems in the next few weeks with the healing process (or lack of).

When B arrived that afternoon we shuffled into the bathroom and he gave me a wash with some paper pads and body wash in the shower. It was really cute. There’s generally nothing gentle about what I do. If I’m scrubbing my face, it gets a damn good scrubbing, if I’m hitting a drum it gets a damn good hitting, if I’m cleaning a kitchen it gets a damn good cleaning. B was soooo gentle and I felt like such a shadow puppet of my former self. Where I was sewn together and my breast bone was sticking up a little, I felt all pulled in at the chest. This had the effect of pulling my shoulders in to a little hunchback position. As I wasn’t standing up straight I seemed to have a perfectly round pot belly. I’ve no idea what was in there as I hadn’t really eaten for 48 hours. I was still shaky and luckily there was some sort of commode chair in the shower so I perched and moved limbs on command while B adoringly smoothed me down with soap and water. I am so lucky he loves me so much. He patted me down, infuriatingly gently (!) with a luxury white private healthcare towel and I snuggled back into pussy deluxe. We sat next to each other on the bed and went in for a much needed shnuffle. Not sexual just tactile cosyness and I felt, again, how weirdly my skeleton was behaving. I was so aware of how moving one bone would ricochet through my other bones and leave me feeling clicked up in some Richard Third contortion. I was seriously worried I would never straighten out again.

Day 3 (Sunday)

“The physiotherapist will increase your walking distance as you are able and will walk around the circuit with you”

This was the morning I woke up to my nightmare. Bassalot and myself, together with another friend, an ex Eastenders character and another guy I recognised as a television actor had been playing a bizarre hyper real computer game. As I woke, bodies were piecing themselves back together and we were all freaking out about what generally had just happened. I do sometimes remember my dreams but I very rarely have nightmares. I leave that to B who has horrific dreams and night terrors, sometimes on many nights in succession. As soon as a dream starts to go bad for me I generally wake myself up. I guess with the heightened thoughts I’d been having and the anaesthetic still in my system I thought I’d hang around for this one. It was wierd as the story was actually finishing as I woke up. I was aware it was a dream and I was witnessing it as a spectator. It has made me wonder since if, although I was fully sedated, I could still hear things during the operation. Like the saw… Even with Google, I haven’t found a convincing answer yet.

I was therefore fully awake by about 5 am. There was generally a visit between 6 am – 7 am when the day nurses would start their shift and take over. The 6 am nurse had removed my catheter and I finally realised that the tube had actually been inserted into my she-wee while I’d been unconscious and had been there ever since! I’m so naïve! I was a little worried I’d just be weeing all the time when it came out, as I had been into the bag, but I seemed to regain my bladder self control immediately. Although I did do small wee tube farts for a while after having the tube removed.

My first visitor that day was the physiotherapist. This time she said, a day early, we were gonna do stairs! In all honesty I felt like stairs would be ok. We walked to the line in the corridor where we had got to the day before, then beyond and finally arrived at some double doors. Behind these were about 6 stairs heading down and then a flat bit heading to the left. I ‘did’ the stairs without incident but by the time I got back to my room was feeling really really weak and collapsed gratefully onto the bed.

Within minutes another nurse arrived and said they could take my chest drain out as well. I think she could see I was a little flaky so gave me half an hour to recuperate. I was a little apprehensive after the laughing gas required to remove the first two. The remaining one however was small fry compared with the two beasts that had been removed on day 1 and merely required a holding of the breath to pull out the tube. I won’t lie, it did still feel every bit as if a tube was being pulled out from just below my rib cage. And maybe, where my torso is quite short, the suction seemed to pull the inside of my right boob down too which was a mightily strange feeling. I was well and truly instructed after this that I should lie down for 30 minutes. I had no complaints to that and took myself a full hour. Free finally from all my attachments she said I was could have a proper shower, wash my hair and generally lord it up in water as I needed to. I still had a square dressing on the top of my stomach where the tubes had been and should keep that dry but the main wound was fine to get water on.

Mum and Dad were coming to visit today. I’m so aware this must have been intensely tough for them to wait this out in Long Crendon while their offspring was hacked open. They were driving to our house in Southsea and then B was going to give them a lift to the hospital. I was so looking forward to seeing all of them. Mum and Dad as it was the first time I’d seen them since the op and B as he really has been my absolute hero and constant through this.

Keen to look as well as possible I decided to wash my hair which was performing all sorts of fashion crimes there and then.

God, that felt so much better! I’d messaged B to bring in a grey snood scarf. The top of the scar looked quite neat just introducing itself above my shirt buttons. It was still nice to have the option of showing it or not, without a neckline tightly buttoned over it. There’s nothing like a bit of make up to convince the world that everything’s ok so my skeletal fingers rubbed in a bit of foundation, applied a subtle lippy and used a bit of extra lippy to just add a smudge of colour to my cheeks – job done!

B was amazed when he saw me. The day before I’d been pale, hair all over the place, and presumably still a slight look of surprise on my face. It was like one of those before and after programmes. When he came in with my parents I was sitting up in bed, hair washed and brushed with a neat parting, and real clothes on rather than a hospital robe.

We chatted excitedly for about 30 minutes before I was overcome with immense and unfightable tiredness. Bloody talking, it really takes it out of you! I’d decided I had to be honest with Mum and Dad about how I was feeling rather than battling through as I usually would until I presumably passed out. So I said I needed to have a little rest. Mum tried valiantly to set a time for their return but I gently suggested there wasn’t an actual time, we’d just see how it went. My Mum is incredible and actually never stops whether it’s work, the garden, baking, cleaning, reading, going to church / cinema / theatre, providing and looking after her family, organising and making lists, lists, lists. I also love lists but here, in hospital, there is a luxury to being looked after and falling into someone else’s schedule. Generally I suffer from acute FOMO (fear of missing out) but three days after heart surgery I was quite happy for the three of them to hop off to the canteen to get dinner while I actually slept.

Mum was so excited to see me when they got back (after a full private healthcare roasty!) she said was I ready for a whizz round the block! Ever hopeful! We opted instead for a wander downstairs to sit in the dappled sunlight on benches around the waterfall where water came up through a hole in a large rock and spilled, healingly over it. I even picked up a hot chocolate on the way which various people carried for me and we sat in the ambience of the rustling trees and the trickling water while the low October sun shifted its light around us.

It was a lovely afternoon. All too soon the three of them were leaving although I was proper knackered and needed the Lucy time after an exhausting day. B messaged me to say my parents were delighted to see me so well. A good day.

It’s nearly all done folks – just a few more days in hospital and then home! Thanks for sticking with it. Next chapter will be here next week, 9th December at 6.10pm – check in for ‘Hot Mess’.

Chapter #18 hot mess – girli – 2019

heart surgery

All that remained now was to get a good night’s sleep…

Well, you’d have thought after all that activity, but my nursey check (a thermometer in the ear) at 9pm revealed I was quite hot. The night before another nurse had taken off my duvet asking if I generally got hot at night time. Now, I do get quite hot at night and normally sleep in the nude with various limbs sticking out of the duvet as I need to regulate my body temperature. For starters I’m now in a hospital which is warm surely by anyone’s standards, and lets not forget the purple leopard velour pyjamas. I tried to suggest I could have the window open but this didn’t go down too well. They said they’d be back in 2 hours to check and left me to it. Apparently if it went any higher they’d have to do a blood test. Obviously there was very little else going on in the wards that night as every conversation outside my room with nurses, passing doctors, probably barristas too, was all to do with Room 2’s temperature being quite high. I threw all the covers off and tried to fan myself, gently so as not to exert myself further. The nurse had basically said if I felt ok that should be fine. I knew I felt ok, I just had to get the thermometer to read the same.

Finally one of the night nurses came in, and my temperature had gone up by a degree! Flippin heck. At this point I relinquished fashion for cool and said I could swap my pyjama top for a short sleeved shirt. The nurse seemed to think this was a plan so I turned round and started to take my pyjama top off. I was now full frontal to the window and the nurse panicked and leapt to the open blind to close it. It was dark by now but honestly there was only a forest of trees out there and maybe a couple of night owls and insects. I settled down again as the world discussed my temperature outside my room.

Day 4 (Monday)

“If all your lines are out you may have a shower. The physiotherapist will take you up and down some stairs and look at how you are getting out of bed.”

My visitor today was my cousin who is training to be a Deacon. He was keen to come and visit someone in hospital as this was to be part of his deaconry duties. Before he got there however, Dr O came round. I was completely thrown and couldn’t really think of one thing to say to him other than the obvious thank you. There’s something incredibly humbling about meeting the guy who’s held your heart in his hand. And lets face it, sewn a vein onto it. He checked all my charts, said I was good to go home tomorrow and left. I felt a bit rude for not saying very much but I really was emotionally quite muddled.

Crisis over, I got myself up and dressed and really today felt pretty fantastic. I had energy, looked presentable, had my scarf to wrap over my wound and was going home tomorrow! Amazing, all the waiting, the uncertainty, the pains, the last two years really had, after a few weeks more of recovery, been sorted. I’d even done some sort of approximation of a poo. It wasn’t poo, but it was movement, an explosion even, the first in four days I guess. For the last 36 hours I’d been given what I can only describe as anti-medicine every time I ate anything. This was to encourage bowel movement. It was white, really gloopy and with absolutely no taste whatsoever. It was everything that food shouldn’t be, no colour, no taste, no texture, literally an anti food. The only good thing was, it turned up with food, so I could get it down me (normally on a spoon as it was too gloopy to slide out of the little cup it arrived in) and then use the taste of the food to make me forget it. Even thinking about it now makes me feel pretty nauseous. The other thing I was apparently low on was potassium. This was presented as some sort of highly citrus-ey fizzing beverage, again quite difficult to force down. In future I think I’d smuggle myself in a banana.

B came along later that afternoon (and brought chocolate!) and for the first time in my stay I actually was ravenous. My barrista came round to take my supper order and I went for the cheesy pasta and ham hock bake followed by crème brulee, by now a favourite. The food was amazing at the Spire, I just barely had an appetite for most of the time I was there. When it arrived, I wolfed down at least half of my meal really quickly but then, not having eaten for a few days, I was completely full. I hadn’t even had to sully it with the small cup of disappointment white non food. I had to save the crème brulee til later and decorated it with the last of B’s chocolate drops. This was it, my final night in hospital.

Even the nurses didn’t really bother with me that night so I got fairly uninterrupted sleep. If I wanted to I could overheat. Even I was a bit sick of pain killers (to the extent I was feeling quite nauseous with them) so I stopped taking them all. I was still confined to sleeping on my back but hey, it wasn’t actually so bad.

The next day I barely saw anybody. B arrived and took my bags down to the car and then an epic wait for my take out prescription drugs to arrive and various paperwork to fill in. The beautifully wise looking pharmacist who was in intensive care came and explained my drugs to me. Basically the same as I’d been on before without the need for the ones that kept my arteries open as now I’d had a bypass.

I’d had a bypass. This still seemed completely surreal to me. One part of my mind still lives in a world where I’ve got no idea what a bypass actually is. It wasn’t that long ago.

Finally I was discharged. I said goodbye to my private little health care room. I’d been so lucky to have this whole thing done in a private hospital. On-line this operation came in at approximately £17 500, presumably let alone the intensive care required and the after care. Private medical health care would have covered this but we certainly didn’t have that. Probably the most amazing thing was to have the dignity of my own bathroom. When I was learning to wash again, just having the time with my own thoughts and things around me rather than sharing a bathroom with a ward full of other ladies and their bodily misdemeanors. I did all right. The Spire did feel a little like not my world. My parents are staunchly Labour and proudly remember the NHS being introduced to this country. Private healthcare to them could sum up everything that’s wrong with the rift between rich and poor in Britain today. Despite being an NHS patient there I believe I received the same care as a private patient there would have. My own feelings of slightly not belonging in amongst the Telegraph and Mail readers was purely my own inbuilt feelings of inadequacy and not wanting to be afforded anything more or less than any other human being on the planet. I felt pretty fucking elite and it’s not something that sits well with me.

However, I did feel like a King as I stepped out into the warm sunshine that day. A fucking lucky and alive King.

Hometime boys and girls woop woop! Diesel Power, the penultimate chapter, here next Monday 16th. Have a good week y’all xx