Chapter #10 what’s inside a girl – the cramps – 1986

heart surgery

There is someone in my life who is very important to me. I have known her for over 20 years and I love her dearly. Her name is Lucy and she rocks.

Lucy is the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night. She likes her music fast and loud. She embraces life with a vigour that is unmatched. One of the best things about her is that after all this time she still manages to surprise me on a regular basis.

To sum up, Lucy is the most beautiful person I know.

It was hard to watch her get weaker over the weeks leading up to the operation. It was an inspiration to watch her bravely endure all the indignities the process threw at her.

The day of the operation is still fresh in my mind. I had not slept well. I tried to keep busy waiting for the call from the surgeon. The phone rang about 3.00pm, which was earlier than I was expecting.

Thankfully it was good news.

Before the operation a nurse had told me specifically not to ask Dr O whether it was OK to visit Lucy. I presumed this meant that he had said ‘no’ in the past, and the nurse was saying ask her instead. I was surprised when Dr O asked was I able to come and see Lucy. The operation had just finished, I said I could be there in about an hour. He said this was good.

Just over an hour later I found myself stood outside the intensive care doors. After quite some time a nervous looking nurse appeared and pulled me to one side. She asked why I had come? I said Dr O had suggested it and she rolled her eyes.

The nurse kindly explained that Lucy was unconscious and would be for several more hours. She informed me of all the machines, wires, tubes and drips involved and that most people found this quite distressing. Finally she said that even though Dr O had suggested it, it really was not a very good idea.

Something happened which I don’t understand. I think it may have been the look on my face. The nurse said firmly, ‘Are you sure you are up for this?’ I said ‘Yes’.

She took me through a myriad of corridors and half curtained off beeping areas before I saw a bed. I say a bed it looked more like a tardis type machine with bustling engineers, and Lucy in the middle.

I put my bag down and trying not to trip over anything or get in anyone’s way. I stepped up to the bed.

Now I say that Lucy surprised me nearly every day. This day was no different.

There, amongst all the tech, I saw for the first time in my life, Lucy’s sleeping face. As I say she is always up before me. She goes to bed after me. She gets the most out of every waking minute. I hadn’t realised that I had never seen her expression so deeply asleep. I was overwhelmed by the thought that Lucy is the most beautiful human I have met. The nurse looked concerned and said was I OK.

Looking back afterwards I realised that the next things I said were kind of tacky. However the nurses around her all seemed to understand. I said, ‘She is beautiful and she is alive. I am delighted.’ I turned to the nurse who had let me in. She was in full sterile gear. I said, ‘I would hug you but you’re clean and I’m not.’

I let myself out of the hospital and drove home. To be honest the next 24 hours are a bit of a blur.

He’s a boss B) – pop back next week for the first few shaky steps post bypass and some hospital shenanigans. Check in to ‘Whatever Doesn’t Kill You is Gonna Leave a Scar’ (thank you Mr Manson), same time, Monday 28th October 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 #13 chelsea smile – bring me the horizon – 2009

heart surgery

Nurse Curls busied about. Pain free me shnuffled around in bed quite happily, still keeping half an eye on the door for Mr Ethereal. Another nurse arrived with a sizeable canister of Nitrous Oxide. I’d been here before and, with the teachings of Janice alive in my mind, knew that whatever was coming was gonna be a whole lot more bearable on a few good lungfulls of Nitrous Oxide.

Nurse Curls: ‘Ok, you need to put your mouth over the mouthpiece and inhale and it should make this noise.’ She lets an amount of air out and a great Darth Vader inhaling noise ensues. I get straight in there and get the exact noise required. It’s quite a large mouthpiece for my small mouth. Also dry and plasticky which compliments perfectly my dry and plasticky lips. I fight back the gag reflex and get in a few practice lugs. Slightly metallic taste but other than that not much to report, it is a mix of nitrogen and oxygen I presume which we’re breathing anyway, just in slightly different proportions.

Nurse Curls: ‘Ok, the effect isn’t very long lasting so the trick is to keep going, long deep regular breaths, breathing in and out through the mouthpiece. We’ll let you get going then give you a breathe in once, exhale, breathe in twice, exhale and on the third time you hold hold hold and we pull the tube out. There are two tubes so we do the whole procedure twice.’

Apparently there are tubes in me.

I love medical staff as they do always explain exactly what’s going to happen in very simple terms and then it does happen. Also, thanks to all the extra curricular activities my Mum had me doing at school, I am very good at listening to and carrying our instructions.

I was pumped, let’s do this.

The breathing commenced and overtime I did get fairly light headed. I was so convinced that Bassalot would turn up while this was happening (it just seemed obvious) that as sound distorted around me I definitely heard his dulcit tones outside the curtain. I really concentrated, tubes are coming out man, this shit’s real, I can hear my breathing. Nurse Curls starts to count ‘Inhale one….. inhale two and hold, hold, hold…’

Pull, pull, pull oh christ something is actually coming out of my stomach and it’s quite fat and long

Nurse Curls: ‘Oh god it’s always those blue bits which get stuck’

At which I burst out laughing, mind spiralling into overdrive. The last time I had a tube in me (whilst being conscious admittedly – yesterdays operation being the exception) the tube was going up through the vein in my wrist all the way to my heart ready to pop in a stent. So when Nurse Curls said:

“It’s always the blue bits which get stuck!” – my mind graphically and rather beautifully I thought conjured up a manga animation from a film I’d watched called Urotsukidoji. Blue tendril like veins were ejecting from my stomach as the tube left its housing. And as I was on laughing gas this seemed incredibly funny rather than in any way horrific so I removed the mouthpiece and said ‘Please don’t mention the blue bits’ while almost crying with laughter.

She laughed and said ‘That’s why they call it laughing gas!’ I sucked hard and we went in for tube number two.

I was having a massive rush and there was silence both at the same time. I was facing straight ahead and the relief of the tubes being out was euphoric. I now realised why, when I was in bed, that I felt as if my rib cage was being supported on two skewers. The nurses, one on each side of me said ‘Well that was really good, you did really well, textbook.’

They took away the cannister and opened the curtains which had been drawn to surround the bed. I presume the whole thing had been quite noisy. Curtains don’t generally mask a whole lot of noise like that. I remained shocked for a little while and I never thought I’d say this but thank you Janice.

Two chapters up for you tonight so Chapter #14 also up on line for a read – ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ 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