Monday, 31 March 2014

Day 12 - Touching the Void

Today was a quiet one, with 40 laps walked and a visit from my dad's girlfriend-type-person (it hurts my head to try and figure out if they're together or not, so I just accept that she's around, and that she cares), who is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. Thanks to her I managed to get outside in the sunshine for ten minutes for the third day running. I can't describe how good that feels when you have been deprived of it.
 
I also got a call from my ex's dad, who has just got back from doing Kokoda and had promised to call and let me know how it went. Hard to believe that he called me before he left, which was on my... second, I think, night here, and here I remain, waiting for surgery, when he has spent the time somewhat more productively completing such a challenging walk. Not to mention the fact it's a walk I would have liked to have done. Never say never, but probably not high on the list of "things I am quite likely to do in the near future"!
 
I got a visit from the surgeon quite late in the day. I think it was around 6:30pm, and it was brief, and not especially informative. The fact they haven't bothered moving me into the public hospital overnight and that I will get breakfast tells me that it is unlikely that they will operate tomorrow, but, again, never say never! That said, I'll believe it when I see it...
 
The bulk of the day was spent thoroughly absorbed by a book that a friend had lent me. I read it cover to cover, and although I am hesitant to stand up and declare that it has inspired me, it has kind of made me think that it might be possible to do more with myself. Physically, I mean. 

The book was Touching the Void, and was written by Joe Simpson, a mountaineer who broke his leg on a climb in Peru during a descent. His climbing partner Simon tried his utmost to get him down, but eventually Joe got into a situation he couldn't physically get out of, and Simon then had make the incredibly difficult decision to cut the rope from which Joe hung, knowing he would probably die. Joe falls down the cliff, into a crevasse, survives, decides to have a crack at getting out, then crawls about nine miles back to camp over the course of a few days with a shattered leg.

There were a few things that struck me about it.

One was Joe's determination to keep going, which resonated with me. Perhaps I'm delusional, but I like to think I'm a pretty determined person (when my courage is not failing me), and tend to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some may call that pig-headed or stubborn, but I call it life. I quite simply don't find the alternative - which is to rot away, sitting on my mum's couch - to be at all acceptable. And don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing my life to the near-death experience of a mountaineer with a busted knee crawling on his hands and knees for miles on end, but I admired his determination, and that he (or "the voice") did not allow himself to entertain the alternative for long.

Another was that it took place in Peru. I jokingly say that I left my heart in Peru, but it's kind of true. Peru is where I climbed my last big mountain (by my standards! Obviously not by the standards of mountaineers or even of more ambitious, casual hikers), and where, in the days afterwards, I was hospitalised with a previously-undiagnosed heart condition. I had no idea that fateful day what an impact it would have on my life, and what a huge readjustment it would take to quell the sometimes-crippling, daily fear; and to silence or at least quieten the voices that tell me you can't. My heart is in the outdoors, and I guess Peru marked the end of a time that I could do whatever physical activities I chose in a carefree way.

Finally, in his acknowlegements, Simpson mentions his parents - "Lastly, and most important, I wish to thank my parents for encouraging me to write the book, helping me get my mind and body back to normal, and patiently accepting my decision to continue climbing." The mountains I climb ain't got nothin' on Simpson's, but he has quite accurately described the support I have received from family and friends alike, and the patience with which they have humoured my outdoorsy whims. Some of them - and I'm sure they know who they are - have played a huge, consistent role in supporting me, whilst others have let their own fears about what might happen take over. But I can't expect everyone to be at peace with my decisions, especially those who care about me and have a vested interest in my survival; after all, I live in this body every day, and think about it every day, so I'm obviously better-placed to make those choices and to deal with those fears.

I admire the courage of mountaineers like Simpson. He writes in such a matter-of-fact way, which can not possibly describe the level of fitness or skill that these guys must have had, and I am in awe of him, and others like him... even if they don't have a near-death experience!

(Abridged version: read the book!)

Anyway, that's enough reflection.

I'll leave you with a Pyjama Selfie, because if I do go in for surgery tomorrow then I will be sporting a sexy hospital gown, and ain't nothin' gonna incite me to post a picture of THAT for the world to see!

The flavour of the day is giraffes. I guess I'm just a woman with altitude today. Ha. Haha. Hahaha SO FUNNY!!! (get it? Giraffes are tall. I'm tall. Mountains were climbed...)

Pyjama selfie:

Woman with altitude (and FYI, I used to have a T-shirt with this printed on it!):

If tomorrow turns out to be The Day then wish me luck! I'm trying not to think about it. Don't wanna have to psych myself up all over again. Last time was soooo messy. I'm hoping that this time it'll be all like, BAM, GAME ON.

Night!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Days 10 & 11 - Into the Black Hole

The black hole to which I refer is the Game of Thrones black hole. If I were to write this post like the second (??) Twilight book, where the insipid Bella Swan spends several months moping over the sudden departure of Edward Cullen, you would scroll down, and down, and down, and it would say "Thursday: Game of Thrones.... Friday: Game of Thrones... Saturday: Game of Thrones..."
 
Day 10 was Saturday, and thank heavens above that I finished Season 2, because I was getting very little else done with my time! Except, of course, cutting some laps (I couldn't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure I did 40 yesterday, or 3km, both yesterday and today), and also reading Catcher in the Rye in between visitors.
 
I did pretty well on the visitors front, too - had a visit from someone I'd corresponded with quite a bit but never met before, and was pleased to discover we got along as articulately in person as we do in writing; my national manager dropped by with a copy of one of the novels he has written (not as narcissistic as it sounds - I kind of requested it via another workmate); and my brother came and took me downstairs for some fresh air and sunlight for the first time in eleven days of captivity in the hospital. FREEEEEEDOMMMMMMMMMMMM!!! It recharged me more than you can imagine, so it would seem that this tree-hugger is so darned green that she's solar powered ;)
 
Today, with no more Game of Thrones in my life (for now - I have someone bringing me Season 3 later in the week. Yippee!), I polished off The Catcher in the Rye, and I have to say I'm at a bit of a loss as to why it's such a classic. I kept waiting and waiting for a punchline or a huge plot twist that would really make me think... aaaaand nothing. It occurred to me that the protagonist was writing from a mental hospital, given he alluded to being "in here" and also mentioned seeing a psychoanalyst, which I imagine were not commonly found in general hospitals in the 1950s. But that wasn't exactly a plot twist, because the guy is a bit of an angsty nutjob the whole way through. So I'm kind of at a loss. Perhaps if I had first read it as a teenager fighting to find their place in the world, or had ever been a teenaged boy, I may have been more able to identify with it. As it was, I did not.
 
My mum and BFF Ness visited (and brought with them some new PJs - yay!); later on my friend Al came to drop off a book a friend had posted for me to read and also took me downstairs to recharge my solar batteries; and a workmate came to drop off some earplugs I had requested. Her timing was impeccable, because, as I type this, with the keyboard click-click-clicking away, and the earphones in as I watch Downton Abbey, I can hear a patient in an adjacent room attempting to inhale their soft palate. Snores rumbling down the hallways, loud and clear. I imagine their roomate is feeling somewhat homicidal, and I hope that closing my door will block it out well enough for me to not need ear plugs.... but I suspect I will hope in vain.
 
Lastly, someone suggested that I post Pyjama Selfies to document my awesome collection of nightwear. Don't worry, I'll keep it tasteful ;) Also? Heads up - I wear the same PJs two days/nights running. Compared to my 27-day streak of wearing the same pair of jeans without washing them whilst backpacking through a European winter several years ago, my PJs are positively squeaky clean! This is my awesome, dinosaur pair. I know you're jealous ;)
 
 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Days 8 & 9 - Battling Insanity

I didn't write yesterday because I couldn't be stuffed, and also because I didn't have time. I had recognised that I am beginning to struggle a bit, and to feel like a patient (by which I mean, a sick person and not someone who is here "just in case"). Little things like asking people to pass me things when I can do it perfectly well myself. It really does get into your head.
 
So to combat this, and also to help prevent any further weight gain (I have added about 2kg to my pre-hospital weight, which is really pissing me off!), I've decided to add a bit more structure to my day.
 
For starters, every day from here until the surgery - whenever that may be - I will walk at least 80 laps of the ward. That's 6km.
 
On top of that, I'm going to do a bit of work every day. I mean, I have to pay my mortgage somehow, so I might as well have the triple benefit of being paid and of exercising my mind, which also leads to me feeling like a productive member of society.
 
Next, I'm not going to eat things at mealtimes that I wouldn't normally eat at home. That means I'll be eating bread a maximum of once per day (as opposed to three times a day as I was for the first week or so that I was here), not drinking juice (ditto) and avoiding pasta, rice and potato. I guess when it's put there in front of you, it's kind of automatic to eat it. I'm stocking up big on salads and veggies, trying to keep the meals a bit lighter, and go easy on the desserts and chocolates. I have enough chocolate from my friends to last me until next year, so whilst I'm loving that I now have a stash, it's also quite the test for me!
 
Lastly, I'm aiming to be in bed by 10:30pm. The first week I stayed here, I was pretty much staying up to midnight or 1am, just because I could, and because I knew I had nothing to do the next day. That meant the next day I would be lethargic, not do anything, eat too much sugar, etc., etc. Viscious circle. 
 
So yesterday, this plan went really, really well. I walked my 80 laps in record time and with unprecedented enthusiasom, did about three hours' work, and despite the fact I only had one visitor I was in pretty good spirits. I also polished of the one and only (boooo!) season of my guilty viewing pleasure - GCB. It's amazing that what I just listed pretty much filled my day, but it did. That, and writing emails.

Today, I didn't do so well. I did my 80 laps, Brad visited and brought me bananas and toothpaste at my request, Rachel visited and brought me cupcakes, and Viv visited and brought me non-alcoholic cocktails to continue our Thursday night drinks tradition. It was great seeing all three of them. I texted a couple of friends, laughed at the suckers caught out in the rain, then pouted when the sun came out and it became apparent that the temperature had risen. All of these things kept me quite occupied, and I felt like I was going to have a productive evening doing a bit of work.
 
But then I discovered Game of Thrones.
 
I thought, "I'll just watch one episode and then do something useful", and it was all over red rover. I ate more cupcakes than I ought to have (they were mini ones which makes it okay... right??), whilst utterly glued to my laptop screen. I'm not sure whether it's because I like medieval-type stuff, or horses, or manly men, or because, er, it's been a while and there is prolific nudity and copulation, but I'm quite enjoying what my teenaged cousin referred to as "high-quality medieval porn". That's a thing now ;)
 
So now it is evening, and I'm feeling pretty gross from the cupcakes. But I've watched four episodes so far, and I'm going to watch another two before bed. I know I should ration them out, but I cannnnnnnnnnnnnnnn't! It's harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd!
 
(No more cupcakes, though!)
 
And if you tell me what happens before I get around to watching it, I shall set the direwolves upon thee!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Day 7 - Surgeons are Definitely People, Without Magical Superpowers

So today I was supposed to go under the knife at about 3pm. They stopped me eating at midnight (and yep, there was a brownie crammed in my mouth at 11:59pm!), and I didn't sleep well. I was pretty stressed about the op, in case you hadn't gathered, and I slothed about all morning. Didn't even bother going for a walk around the ward.
 
Eventually, upon the request of my nurse, I had a shower with the antibacterial wash to sterilize my skin, got into one of those Godawful hospital gowns and sat around waiting.
 
My brother showed up.
 
My dad showed up.
 
My mum didn't - but I didn't expect her to, on account of her bad back - and sent a series of obviously guilty text messages, and then made it all about her when I called her just before the time I was due to go into surgery.
 
I went down to X-ray for the world's quickest chest X-ray (turns out the secret is to be wheeled in on a bed, with a heart rate monitor on!), came back, waited a bit longer... and then my surgeon showed up.
 
I knew when he walked into the room that something was up. He looked defeated. He was a bit more hunched than usual (he's tall, so I imagine a lifetime of working on operating tables has done that to him), and just shook his head. I think he was almost as disappointed as I was.
 
I took it pretty well. I didn't want him to feel bad about it when it wasn't his fault. The theatre list had gone on and on, and the first operation of the day had taken forever, so there was no way they were going to get to me by the end of the day. He said he had no idea when they'd be able to get me in, but he'd try and find out.
 
He delivered the news and then left the room to change out of his scrubs and make some phonecalls. The nurses went and got me a sandwich, seeing as I hadn't eaten since midnight, then they shunted me to a room much, much further from the nurses' station - kind of parked right up the end of a hallway, really - and left me to my own devices.
 
My brother and dad went out for a feed, and brought me some Chinese take-away back to make up for the 15 hours of not eating. Nom.
 
My surgeon came back in his normal clothes, and said he'd try to get me a room back in the private hospital so as to not waste resources. I offered him a comfort brownie, and he accepted. And this is where he became more human - he said that he doesn't normally accept them in case they were laced with hash. And then he said that chocolate was a cure for depression, and made reference to JK Rowling's dementors being a metaphor for depression, and chocolate being a cure for contact with dementors. He then critiqued the use of raspberries in brownies and I explained why they were there (to balance the sweetness and create an illusion of health), and he carefully considered that and nodded his approval. With that he left and said he'd see me tomorrow.
 
To recap the experiences with my surgeon over the last two days, my surgeon has a sense of humour, is familiar with Harry Potter, loves chocolate, uses running apps, has a twinkly personality (when he lets his facade down), and has a heart *flails excitedly* (As a sidenote, the nurses also tell me that his oldest son is hot. Unfortunately he is also 21, which is pushing it a bit!)
 
So they wheeled me back up to my old ward. The nurses were all like, "you again!" and were pretty sympathetic. I haven't really digested it well, so that may happen once I power this laptop down and go to bed. I'm bothered by it because I'd just reached a point where I was at peace with the surgery, and wasn't thinking too negatively. And now I will have to go through the process of psyching myself up again for it, whenever that may be.
 
I've been saying that everything happens for a reason, you just don't always know the reason. For now, the reason seems to be that I now appear to have the only single, totally private room on the floor, with a pretty darned good view, and a nice, squashy sofa chair in the corner. Hopefully they don't kick me out of here, because if I'm stuck waiting in hospital then at least they should leave me here. I'm tucked up the back corner of the floor so it's a bit more quiet, plus my nurse is letting me shut the door at night which makes a lovely change. The road outside is a bit noisy, but it's a million times preferable to the infernal beeping and coughing and clattering you get elsewhere on the ward.
 
So that's good.
 
I spoke to Rachel, my regional manager, and she suggested that I use the time off to do things I wouldn't otherwise have the time to, like write a novel. She thinks I have the talent to write, so perhaps it's something I should consider. I guess at worst I could bash out a quick Mills & Boon novel (or, as I like to call them, Thrills and Poon)! If I was sure that I would get to keep this room, and knew that I would definitely be going under the knife on the 4th, I'd get someone to bring my sewing machine and quilting gear in. I could probably have a queen-sized quilt top made before the surgery!
 
So yeah, there are positives, but my mind is starting to wander and I'm starting to feel like a patient. As in a sick patient, not as in an otherwise healthy person who just needs to be under observation.
 
The part of my mind that has less confidence in this surgery has me wondering whether I've just been given more time to talk to people I care about and say my goodbyes. I know that's silly, but I guess if this is designed to make me appreciate life more, then that would certainly be one element of it.
 
I guess the flipside of that is that it is also making me think about the things I want to achieve in my life. It has also occurred to me that if I am ever going to get a body piercing, then post-surgery, while I'm high on painkillers, is definitely the time to do it!
 
Anyway, that's it from me. I'm a bit meh, but tomorrow I've decided that I'm going to be more structured and productive to try and get myself out of this funk. For now I'm just glad I'm not in pain.
 
Nighty-night, all, and thanks for your support so far.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Day 6 - Surgeons are People, Too

Today was actually a pretty entertaining day. I had oodles of visitors, I did some laps, spent a bit of time on the phone, and moved to a different hospital. Which means that I got zero of those goals I mentioned yesterday completed! But that's okay, because I was able to forget for a moment that I'm not a productive member of society right now, because I was sorrrrt of productive, in that I entertained eight people in the flesh. Or so I tell myself!

In no particular order, I was visited by Ness, Jamie, Viv, Brad, Emma and Mark (plus Arthur), Kirsti and Alice. Must be some kind of record, and it certainly made my day go by faster.

I clocked up 50 laps of the ward whilst on the phone to Rachel; discovered that my prickly old Site Superintendant was actually really stressed about me being in hospital; talked to my supervisor for a bit; and spoke to my aunt and my cousin, my dad and my mum.

I was visited by my surgeon this morning, who confirmed that the operation will go ahead tomorrow. He caught me tying the laces on my Asics up for my laps around the ward this morning, and asked if I was planning to go for a run. We got talking, and then we started comparing walking and running apps on our iPhones. It turns out he has a really good bedside manner, and I found myself laughing and joking along with him. When he's not being all serious and surgeon-y, he has quite a twinkle about him. And we all know that I like twinkly people! So I guess I'm in good hands.

I was transferred to the Coronary Care Unit at Royal Melbourne in the afternoon, and Kirsti came along for the ride. She'd made me white chocolate and raspberry brownies, so if that's not an incentive for y'all to visit, I don't know what is ;) (But call first, because they may transfer me back to Melbourne Private for recovery.) Probably the best thing about having a huge stash of brownies is that I will be Nil By Mouth from midnight, just in case they actually get me into surgery first thing (which is a possibility, considering I'm not actually on the list, or else they'll send me in whenever they can squeeze me in), so I can eat a brownie at 11:59pm and not feel like I'm totally famished. Not that I'm about to fade away to a shadow!

I was here in the CCU a couple of years back after my little cardiac episode during a hike and subsequent helicopter ride, so I know my way around the place fairly well. Weird how different this place is to Melbourne Private, but at the end of the day the staff are still good, just busier. Oh, plus there are obviously budget restrictions. Little things like at MPH, they have little disposable fabric bags for the telemetry units. Here? Snap-lock bag with string. If that's not tragic I don't know what is, and I'm seriously contemplating sewing them a bunch of fabric ones like they had last time I was here. I have no idea what happened to them, but seriously, snap-lock bags??  I've had to fix my bag with tape twice already to stop it from ripping!

The food here is also crapola. My initial thought - that RMS shared the same kitchen with MPH - has now well and truly been lead out to the paddock, shot in the head and buried, and the grave jumped up and down on several times with great energy, all whilst performing some kind of smoking ceremony. Seriously. I was served my favourite meat of all time - corned beef - and it was served with rice. Rice! Who the hell serves rice with corned beef?? It should be potato, preferably mashed! Everyone knows that! Sheesh. Way to ruin my last supper, guys. Although, I have to tell you, corned beef is my "last supper" meal of choice (yes, really)... but it's with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots and is chased by apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. This was corned beef with rice, carrots and beans. And I'm believer enough in The Universe to take comfort in the fact that there was no mashed potato on my plate. I know that sounds silly, but you grab on to what you can when you're feeling as insecure as I am right now.

Anyway, I'd better get going. I have to wash my hair tonight, seeing as how it's the last time in a couple of weeks I'll be able to easily lift both my arms above my waist, because they're not sure whether or not I'll be whisked off to surgery early in the morning, and I certainly won't have time to rinse and repeat if they do!

If I am first cab of the rank, rather than at 3pm like the surgeon thought, my mum will crack it and mayyyy even have some kind of breakdown. She wants to be here when I go in, and, frankly, I'm kind of scared of the prospect of being alone and of not seeing my family, on the offchance that something does go wrong and I don't get to say goodbye. In the unlikely (touch wood) event something does go wrong, though, I've written a post that is sitting in my Drafts folder that I will get Kirsti to publish for me. She has my password and everything so, worst case, it's there. Hopefully none of you ever see it.

Well, that's it. Hopefully when I next write to you I will have had a successful surgery, and it will have all gone very straightfoward-ly and they won't need to have cracked open my ribcage, and I will be as high as a kite on huge doses of Endone or similar. That should be amusing for you.

Argh, I don't want to stop writing. It's like while I'm writing I'm still connected by the filament of the internet to everyone, and I'm scared and don't want to be alone tonight. I know I'm scared because when I hugged my friends goodbye I started to lose my bundle a bit. Totally doesn't count if nothing runs down your cheeks, though! And although I have always been stronger when I am alone - because then I have to be - sometimes you just want someone there to hold your hand when you're terrified.

But if all the good vibes and positive thoughts and prayers that have come from those I know (and even those I don't) are what will get me through tomorrow, then I know I will be absolutely fine. I have had such an incredible amount of support and love from so many people, even people I barely know, and I just wanted to say thanks for that. It helps me believe I'll be okay. There are a lot of people out there with big hearts, obviously hearts that are somewhat less faulty than mine, and I'm feeling the love.

Right. That's it. I'm out. I'll see ya when I'm looking at ya.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Day Five - Nothing To See Here

No, really. I mean it.

Today was borrrrrring.

I got a pretty good sleep, which was good. '

My roomate finally got good news - she got to go home today. She was so excited, which was kind of infectious for twelve point eight seconds, but that's about it.

I had a shower.

I discovered when I had said shower - mercifully before I actually got undressed and dumped my discarded clothes in a puddle on the floor - that the PJs Ness had brought in for me yesterday had been on sale because some dodgy bastard had replaced the sizes in a box marked Size 14, resulting in a top that was a 16 (I'm more like a 12) and bottoms that were an 8. The last time I was a Size 8 was in September of 1991 at my Gramps' funeral, and I know that because I remember shopping for a black skirt, which quickly became too small for me.

I washed my hair, which was exciting, using shampoo that Ness brought me yesterday *shakes hair about like in a Pantene ad*

I was smirked at by my nurse when she asked if the doctor had been, because when she asked which doctor had been by yesterday I said "I dunno. He's tall. And pretty fit... but he's married" and she gave me this knowing look like she'd had the exact same thoughts about him, so now that's our little joke. She was all "I didn't say a word!". She didn't have to. (Yep, you really can't take me anywhere!)

And then I sat there and did prrrrrrrrrretty much nothing all morning, and for part of the afternoon.

Well, I mean, I Facebooked, but that doesn't really count because I didn't actually update my status because everything was soooooo borrrrring!!!

I also wrote an email to a guy I've been chatting with on RSVP (yep, it's out there now - I'm online dating! And it's actually kind of a cool way to meet people, and also very logical. You singles should totally try it!). He's been really good with keeping me entertained while I'm in here, and he emailed me a picture of storm clouds at the beach he took the other day, and it was pretty awesome being able to see the big, open outdoor spaces again. I miss it.

My friend Abby, who I have known since the year that I was last a Size 8, came by for a good, long visit and chat and brightened my day up. Abby brightens almost any day up, because she's so bubbly. Love her to bits.

Abby left, and at about 4:45pm I decided that I should probably actually do something with my day, so I peeled myself off the bed, put my sneakers on and smashed out 40 laps of the ward in half an hour. That's 3km, so I was setting a pretty decent pace.

I coordinated arriving back in my room quite nicely with my dinner arriving. I was just hoeing into desert when Brad showed up with a tablet PC stocked with some TV shows that I'm a little embarassed to admit that I watch. I'm blaming the fact I watch them on having taken an international flight, making my way through half a season and being left hanging, wondering what would happen next. Except that I kind of know what happens next, in a way, a long way down the track... but not the details!

While Brad was here, Renee and her boyfriend Mark showed up. I only met Renee a couple of months ago, so it's really great that she came. She's a friend of a friend and has been coming along to our 1000 Steps climb on Friday nights, and the funny thing is that Brad also does the 1000 Steps with me, but neither of them have ever met. So I guess the weeks he has been able to make it she has not, and vice versa. They were finally in one place at the same time, and I guilted them for not doing the 1000 Steps in my name on Friday. Hopefully they do it for me next Friday... *pouts*

Renee and Mark brought me a Melbourne Heart keyring (which is one of Melbourne's A-league soccer teams), which was awesome of them and amused me no end. I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz :) They left as it was growing dark, and I watched the sunset for a while - which was really pretty - and then I decided to write this.

In the meantime, friends of mine were Snap Chatting me pictures from a birthday party for my housemate that I had tried to organise, and then obviously not been able to follow through on. Tonight's dinner was classically bad hospital food (although I did get jelly and ice cream - orange, this time!), so the pictures of fairy bread at the party were actually appreciated. Particularly as they reminded me that Al had brought me a packet of chocolate freckles from Haighs the other night :)

And that was my day.

Besides the friends visiting this afternoon - which was awesome - it was just such an uninspiring and unproductive day. This is the part where being in hospital starts to get to me, and I start to lose my grip on feeling like a productive member of society. Tonight is the 36th night I have spent in hospital for my heart since being diagnosed in 2008, and that's a lot of downtime.

So tomorrow, I need to do things.

I'm going to try for 9km around the ward. After all, it's the last chance I'll get to do it before surgery, so I'm going to make the most of it.

I'm going to go through my work email inbox and delete 500 messages. I've been with my company for almost eight years, and there are about 7000 emails in my inbox. I imagine that there are quite a few in that number that I was just too lazy to delete, or which I no longer require access to, it's just that I never really got around to doing anything about it.

And I'm going to read a chapter of my book.

And that's it, but that's plenty. It's amazing how time simultaneously moves so slowy and yet quickly. It's boring, but you blink and it's gone. Perhaps, because there's no stimulation, my brain just doesn't take the time to remember, so it seems shorter once the time has elapsed. Who knows.

May tomorrow bring more visitors, more stimulation, and more cute boys. Preferably all three, perhaps even in one package...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Day Three-Point-Five and Four - Ask And You Shall Receive

When I left you yesterday, I had been visited by the pacemaker technician and was still waiting to be brought down to Radiology for a second attempt at having a venogram. It had left my arm already looking kind of like a bruised pincushion after four sustained attempts over about an hour and a half, so I wasn't much looking forward to a repeat performance!
 



Lunch included jelly and ice cream, and I have to say that the ready availability of jelly and icecream is what makes hospital bearable. This one was lime, and didn't taste like fake lime! But, as I said to Kirsti, I'd have to add vodka and soda to it to be truly certain whether it tasted like natural lime ;)

I ate the jelly just in time, because the orderly showed up to wheel me down to Radiology. This time I made a special effort to stay warm - it's as cold as a morgue downstairs; and, quite frankly, had me wondering whether there were a bunch of ghosts wandering about the place putting a bit of chill in the air. It was a totally different team doing the procedure this time, which I was kind of relieved about - apparently they had booked more experienced staff in because they knew it was going to be tricky.

They capitulated to my request for a local anaesthetic to take away the pain of the bruising (hah, I'm so soft!) which was good of them, and one of the nurses did an excellent job of distracting me the entire time by talking to me. Except for the bit where I watched the X-ray up on the screen, which was so awesome it didn't allow me to focus on anything else. You could see the radioactive dye go into my vein, and light the whole vein up, and you could see the pacemaker and leads with perfect clarity. You should YouTube it. I'm sure it'll be there! 
 
In theory it shouldn't be much worse than being canulated, but I have crappy veins, and I think they must have used a different type of needle this time - a bigger one - because there is actually a small hole in my arm, kind of like the vampires at the Blood Bank leave. They went deep, and they were totally confident, and despite the fact that it is still really sore today it was a calm, smooth procedure. Just the way you want them to be! I'm annoyed that the below graphic that I so carefully annotated for you has inexplicably rotated and shrunk itself, so if you want to read what I wrote more easily then you'll have to zoom in and tilt your head...
 


Back on the ward, and I begin to grow bored. I stare out the window at the buidling where my friend Rachel works (the one who visited the other night), and I slowly become aware that all the men walking in and out of the building are really fit, quite good-looking guys. Now, there's three possibilities there - one, I'm incredibly bored, and any tiny stimulation is amplified. Two, I've been single for a while, and anything on two legs looks mighty tasty. Or three, these guys are actually pretty hot! So naturally, I hit up Rachel's Facebook wall to share this observation with her:
 


 
So Rachel responds:

 
Aaaand of course, because Rachel had tagged Matt in her response, seeing as how he's a workmate and a Facebook friend, he saw it!!! *squirms* 
 
(I've blocked out his pic because I figure I should respect his privacy a little bit (er, so hopefully telling you this doesn't, like, not do that...), so if anyone's stalking him on Facebook, being able to see his photo would make it easier for randoms to send annoying friend requests. Not sure if it makes a difference to him but I figured it was the right thing to do.)
 
So I thought, I can sit here and be a little bit embarassed about the fact that this pretty hot guy has actually become aware of the conversation and bought into it, or I can roll with it. After all, I've never met this guy, and probably never will, so it doesn't really matter what he thinks of me. So, being my usual, flippant self with pretty much no shame (well, not when there's nothing to lose, anyhow!), I posted the following:
 



Yes, I really sent that.
 
Nobody's surprised, are they ;) Like I said, I have no shame... and I wonder why I'm single!
 
So that kept me entertained for a little while.
 
And then my friends Sarah and Dave showed up in between Matt's message and my response, during which I moved rooms to a smaller one with just two beds in it. I'm sharing with a 39-year-old woman who has had a heart attack, and, watching her try to process all the fear, I really feel for her! Especially because she has four kids.
 
Anyway, Sarah is good to have around because she's a coronary care nurse and has been involved in a lot of surgeries like the one I'm going to have. She was actually my first nurse on the ward when I was medivaced from a hike a few years back, and after that, separately to me, she met my friend Dave. They eventually moved to Tassie for work while I was on a job down there, and so I got to know Sarah down there over many a glass o' cider and wine, which was awesome.
 
Anyway, talking to her helped cement a decision I had pretty much already made about my surgery, but it's nice to be reassured. I've had a doctor friend do the same for me (who I incidentally met in ICU in Peru when I was diagnosed), so I'm hoping that all the positive vibes and good medical mojo will get me through :)
 
After they left my dad showed up, and then my friend Sara from uni had chocolates and a windmill delivered, so now I have something to look at on the foot of my bed. That will come in handy when the surgery finally happens and I can't move. Cute!
 
 
It was all happening yesterday, it really was. I wrote my response to Matt's comment while my dad was there, and I was chuckling as I wrote it. I had to kind of explain Facebook to dad, but I think in the end he got it, and was amused by what I had said to Matt.
 
He was even more amused about half an hour later when Matt Witkowski, runner-up Cleo Batchelor of the Year 2013 showed up!!! (And I saw the guy that won, and WTF!!! NO idea why Matt didn't win) He actually, really and truly showed up! Dad made himself scarce pretty quickly, which was nice of him :D
 
Matt wandered in quite confidently and flashed me this big, friendly grin, pretty much exactly like this but less posed (this is his profile photo, stolen from the Cleo Batchelor of the Year page. I think I can get away with stealing it because it's clearly for educational purposes...):

 
Yep, that's his real smile and does not appear to be photoshopped. *reaches for sunglasses*
 
I was dazzled by his smile for a moment, and then confused for a split second, until I realised who he was. I figured it out from the friendliness of the grin, not because I recognised him... although I did vote for him in the contest, because Rachel ran a really good campaign to drum up votes, so I probably should have remembered his face a little better!
 
He stayed and chatted until the surgeon showed up, which - sadly for me - was about ten minutes, and he was absolutely lovely. He has bucketloads of personality, he's really intelligent, and it was just so sweet of him to actually come and say hi. It nicely capped off what was shaping up to be a pretty good day (as far as hospital days go, although I think this might have raised the bar on even an average day!).
 
Of course, since I met him I've done a little bit of stalking Googling to find pictures for you (hah, I'm such a philanthropist!). In the process I have discovered that in addition to being sweet enough to visit me and alleviate my boredom, he is also a PhD candidate, is researching childhood cancers and was an ambassador for Light the Night last year (which is where I stole the below picture from). Sigh. And I imagine that if he's the kind of guy that shows up when a stranger in need jokes about it (albeit a friend of a friend), then he probably has a big heart and a cheeky sense of humour, too. Cute, smart, tall, sweet and apparently generous with his time. Don't ask me how he was single for long enough to win Bachelor of the Year! As I said, he's absolutely lovely, and my friend is lucky to know him. And I feel lucky to have had a visit from him, too.
 
Here's that other picture for good measure, before I finish gushing about him and stop making a total dick of myself!
 

 
You're welcome :)
 
So now that I've gotten that out of my system, I can tell you about the rest of my afternoon, and then my today. I know this is a long post, but I've realised that I should be posting at the end of the day, not half way through, because obviously a lot can happen in an afternoon! Plus, yaknow, most days are going to be borrrrrring. No hot randoms visiting, that's for sure!
 
So the surgeon came, confirmed that my subclavian vein was clear enough to do the lead extraction and replacement, asked if I still wanted to do it (being the riskier option), I said yes, and he said he'd try and get me in on Tuesday on the emergency surgery list. It has to be done at the hospital next door, you see, because he needs their equipment including lasers (I just wanted to say "lasers", Dr Evil style!) and also needs a cardiac surgeon on standby in case the needs assistance. Like I said, it's a riskier procedure so it's good to have backup there if it's needed. And if I get bumped from the emergency list then I'll be stuck here until the 4th of April waiting for the op!!!
 
My dad, who had kindly vacated the room when Matt arrived, came back while the surgeon was there and it was good for him to hear about the risks, and for him to back up my decision. Dad stayed a little while after the surgeon left and then left.
 
Later in the evening my friend Al visited and had a good ol' chat, and stayed until about half past nine. Which totally proves that hospital visiting hours are an absolute crock! I guess if I was sick, or my roomate was sicker, it might be a different story. But the nurses pretty much let me get away with whatever I want, because all they have to do for me is check my blood pressure maybe four times a day, hand out medication every twelve hours and change my sheets. Walk in the park!
 
So that was yesterday.
 
This morning passed quietly enough, although I did have a good chat with my roomie, so after my shower I put on my awesome dinosaur pyjamas and went for a quick stroll around the ward.
 
Okay, a long stroll.
 
Okay, four medium-sized strolls.
 
Wearing these.

 
I clocked up 80 laps in four goes, which is about 6km. Go me!
 
It's kind of funny doing it, because the first few times that staff and patients see you they give you a big smile like they think it's great, and then like it's funny... and then it gets a bit awkward, and everyone avoids eye contact. They probably think I'm crazy, and they'd be right - I'm going nuts here, and no wonder. Check out the awesome view on my walk!
 
video
(Okay, looks like the video isn't loading on my laptop, so hopefully it's loading on yours. It's a video of a lap of the ward, which takes approximately 57 seconds and involves grey carpet and white walls.)

I haven't breathed fresh air in four days. By the time I get out of here it will probably be closer to ten days, and I'm probably going to get a bit high when I get outside!
 
In between walks I had a couple of visitors - Deano, Kaye, and Ness (Dean's twin). Ness brought me some PJs that I needed (now that I know I'll be here for aaaaages!), and Dean brought Trauma Ted with him, who shows up every time a friend is in hospital, which is nice.
 


And now, looking at Trauma Ted has reminded me that it's bed time. All that walking has tired me out!

Hopefully tomorrow brings something good and equally exciting as the last day and a half. I'm not sure whether the good things would be green jelly, or a visit from another tall, good-looking, lovely, intelligent guy like Matt (and hey, if any of you fellas reading this fits the description of at least two of those four things, come on down!). Hopefully I get jelly AND hotties :)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Day Three. Waiting...

So I thought I should start to document my super-awesome hospital stay, as the days begin to melt into one another and I feel the need to find a way to mark time.

I'm counting today as Day Three, as it's the third day I've woken up in hospital. 

Day One - Wednesday - I saw my specialist (hereafter referred to as The Prof., on account of being a Professor and, so far as I can tell, The Grand Pooh-Bah of Electrophysiology in the country), who explained I needed to see another specialist - the Lead Removal Specialist. I saw the pacemaker technician, too, then The Prof. pulled a few strings and they kindly moved me out of the noisy hellhole of ICU after lunch and down to the cardio thoracic ward. 

My brother Saul visited (and met The Prof. and the technician), my dad visited, my friends Emma and Mark came with baby Arthur (who stole the hearts of nurses and patients alike) and with chocolate while Dad and Saul were still here, then everyone ate chocolate and then left. 

The second specialist finally showed up, ordered some tests for Day Two, and my friend Jamie showed up part way through that and I'm kinda glad he did because it's good to have people to bounce information and thoughts off. Especially because the specialist went through the risk statistics of the version of the procedure that will have a better medical outcome, which was quite confronting and gave me plenty to think about. I'm not going to tell you the stats until after the surgery, by the way. I won't do anything stupid but I also don't want people worrying unnecessarily!

Then Rachel, childhood friend of a uni friend who I haven't seen in years, popped by to say hi. It never ceases to amaze me the random people that check up on me when I get sick. Although I am essentially alone in this, I truly am surrounded by a big cloud of awesome people :)

So that was my first day. It was busy but in a good way - bear in mind that I'm not actually sick, I'm just here under observation whilst I await surgery because I am at risk of having a cardiac episode. Which means that the nurses got a bit nervous when I walked ten laps (750m) of the ward and my heart rate went up!

I had an alright sleep - much quieter than ICU. Day Two was supposed to be The Day of Tests and Answers. It started well - got straight into X-ray and then into the venogram lab...and then they spent an hour and a half actively searching for a good vein. Sterilize, tourniquet, ultrasound, needle, bleed, bruise, release, retreat. Rinse and repeat. I have four holes in my arm, and bruises to go with it. Fun times!

My Superintendent from work called to check up on me, and he sounded worried about the failed tests. I turned it back on him and told him to actually go to his own damned checkups. Men!

So back to the ward for more waiting. Note that I hadn't showered since Tuesday and was feeling stinky, so it was good of Dad, Saul and Em to not mention it when they visited ;) Mind you, little Arthur was objecting to something, and it may well have been that! 

Saul had shaved, too, presumably less for me and more in case the pacemaker technician was there again (she's lovely, and a total hottie, and next time I see her I'm going to ask what exercise she does because I'd really like to replicate what she's got going on there! Is it creepy to ask??). Nawww :)

After they left The Prof came by, expressed sympathy for my bruised arm (unusual for one as high up as he) and said I'd basically have to wait until that was done before we could make any decisions about surgery. Boo. 

My old boss texted, which was sweet. And my current manager called to make sure I wasn't too bored, which was lovely of her.

And then I had a shower, and it was better than sex. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd been moaning with the sheer enjoyment of it, either ;)

I had a good chat with my night nurse and slept alright...until about 2am, when alarms started going off, telling the nurse that my heart rate had dropped quite low to the kind of rate it sustained pre-Zappy II (despite the fact I'm being paced and that shouldn't happen). So I freaked out and wrote my Will, then emailed the appointed Executor at about 4am and told him where to find it, if it came down to that. 

As I wrote in the email to him, I know it was irrational of me to worry, even if Zappy had stopped working, because it was essentially no different to how I had spent the first 29 years of my life...only without highly trained medical staff around me, as I do right now. The fear does your head in, it really does.

Anyway, I eventually fell back asleep but now, on Day Three (they tell me it's Friday), it's more waiting, plus now I'm kinda tired. My tests haven't happened yet, and I'm trying to stay warm and super-hydrated to make finding veins easier...but of course that means I have to pee every two seconds!!!

The technician came back and apparently there is nothing (else) wrong with Zappy, probably just the telemetry, so all that late-night worry was for nothing. Still, it's good that I have a current Will now!

Other highlights of my day have been decent cake, watching a highschool softball match from my window, checking out hot tradies in the car park, witnessing a rather random sausage sizzle in the same car park, and rocking out to The Foo Fighters. I probably look odd all wired up, in my little short PJs, headphones in, drumming on my bare thighs! But hey, I look odd at the best of times so there's nothing new to see here ;)

Well I guess lunch will be here shortly, and who knows who or what the afternoon will bring (besides, yaknow, being stabbed in the arm again). Although I did hear a whisper that I'm being moved to a smaller, private(ish) room...

Sorry it's not scintillating reading, but my world is obviously a bit restricted right now. Feel free to come visit if you're in Melbourne!

Happy Friday, y'all. Enjoy your weekend and your freedom and your health :)

PS - being in here makes you think about what you want, and I've decided that I want to learn drums, thanks to the Foo Fighters. Gets me going every time. I wonder if they'll give me a private room all to myself and they'll hook me up with a drum kit or practice pads while I wait for surgery ;)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Pissed Off... Actually, Scared.

I'm pissed off.
 
I'd decided that I wasn't going to write about emotionally-draining, negative things here anymore. That this blog would be a happy space for cupcakes and pie and regaling you all with witty tales of grand overseas adventures, instead of using it as an instrument to help me navigate my way through the quagmire of health and relationship issues like I have done in the past.
 
Best-laid plans and all that.
 
So here I am again, boring you senseless with my pathos.
 
I'm pissed off because I'm using this forum as my outlet, and ruining all the happy cupcakes and puppies and unicorns with rainbows shining out of their arses. I like unicorns. Magical horses that can toast marshmallows. Awesome.
 
I'm pissed off that I need an outlet to vent this stuff at all.
 
I'm pissed off that I'm only 31 years old, and I have to think about things like when I might die or what my quality of life might be like in the future, despite the fact that there is nobody in my life that depends on me or who would lose half their heart if I wasn't around anymore (That's a fancy way of saying "if I died", by the way.), or whose life would be seriously affected if I were less able-bodied.
 
I'm pissed off that I'm going under the knife again so soon. It was supposed to be another five years yet.
 
I'm pissed off because last time I went under the knife, and my former fiance chose not to be there (huh, well apparently that still bugs me!), I was so sure that the next time I would have someone by my side. True, I had assumed it would be him, but... stuff and things happened. And I mean, my family and friends were wonderful last time, but it's not the same. Not even close. You couply people have no idea how good you have it. Don't ever take having someone you can rely on, and who relies on you in return, for granted.
 
I'm pissed off that I was finally - FINALLY - getting back on my feet again, and was really enjoying life. I'd been dating like crazy, and although I'm still single, dating has introduced me to some wonderful people.
 
One guy single-handedly undid most of the damage my ex did to me and helped me believe in my own value and trust men again, just through talking about it (mostly after we stopped dating, by the way - I'm not a total psycho!), so I was actually enjoying dating rather than treating them as job interviews or risk assessments.
 
A second guy showed me that I wasn't broken as I had feared, and made me realise that I should wait for that person who I click with and who puts a big, goofy grin on my face like he did, and not just settle for "kind of a nice guy" because I'm lonely. Unfortunately he wasn't in the right headspace for a relationship himself, which sucks because I really liked him. He was tall, intelligent and hot. The trifecta - almost as rare as unicorns farting rainbows whilst toasting marshamallows. And yeah, I know the headspace thing could very well just be a line... but it could also be the truth, and it doesn't really matter anyway because he gave me something very valuable - confidence in waiting for something better - and for that I am grateful. My point is, I now feel like I should draw back from dating, because it's not fair to drag strangers into this mess. No matter how tall or intelligent or hot they are.
 
On top of that, I had found the courage to hike and to run again - alone - after six long years of letting fear rule me, and was watching my fitness improve week by week. I was looking forward to seeing what my body can do. Heck, I ran 2km on the weekend and was on track to run 5km in a fun run, but I assume that's off the cards now.
 
So now... *sigh*
 
If you're new here, you probably don't know that I have a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome. It has caused me so little trouble in recent times that it has receded further and further into my consciousness, so that it barely affects my everyday life. I'm not going to rehash it because I've spent so much emotional energy on it in the past, and I don't want to let it get me down, but you can read about it here. If you have several hours, that is, because the posts about it are pretty waffly! Sorry about that. Read or don't read, I don't care, but be warned there are a couple of pictures of surgical incisions and also of X-rays of pacemakers. Grossssss. (Unless you dig that kind of thing!)
 
So today, I had an appointment with my electrophysiologist (or "EP", as they call them in the business), and they did some tests and discovered that one of my pacemaker leads has a crack in it. It's basically a miniature, plastic-coated, wound gal rope cable (but made of titanium rather than gal), so a few of the filaments have apparently suffered a stress fracture, but not all of them. This causes "static" and means that there's a chance of it tricking the device into believing there's a potentially fatal rhythm happening, and so it will deliver therapy. Which means it could defibrillate me unnecessarily.
 
So that's pretty crap.
 
So the EP said that I'd need to get the lead replaced, the sooner the better, probably in the next couple of days.
 
And that's pretty crap, too. I mean, it's great that the medical facility and technology are available, but it's crap that I need to use it.
 
The EP also said that they will need to speak to the "lead removal specialist" (because such a thing exists) about whether to remove the lead, or whether to leave it in there and junk up my heart with a second lead. Completely removing the lead can damage the heart, because the end of it has this little spring-like thing that embeds in the heart tissue to stop it from slipping, and that would come out with the lead, but because I'm so young they have to toss up the odds of damaging my heart tissue, or junking up my heart with multiple leads, bearing in mind that I will need several lead changes throughout my life unless the technology changes quite significantly, and soon.
 
So that's crap as well.
 
I'm waiting on a phone call to tell me when the surgery will be, and I'm trying to get some work done because I have an audit tomorrow, but my brain has turned to mush and I'm spending most of my energy trying not to freak out or burst into tears.
 
What I should really be doing is putting my energy into writing a new will. Depressing, but sensible.
 
I was kidding myself using the phrase "pissed off", though. Let's not lie, I'm scared. I'm really frigging scared.
 
I'm scared that a second lead will inhibit my heart function, and I won't be able to be as active as I am now, or ever find out what I'm capable of.
 
I'm scared that removing the first lead will damage my heart, ditto the issues mentioned in the previous sentence.
 
I'm scared of the scar being worse than before (although I guess that's only a problem if I get my kit off in front of someone, and ain't no signs of that on the horizon!).
 
I'm scared because last time I was on the operating table I tried to die, and in doing so racked up the 9th defibrillation and 11th resuscitation of my life.
 
I'm scared that something will happen during the surgery and I'll wake up a vegetable.
 
I'm scared of being alone during the whole process.
 
I'm scared of the pain (although the drugs are pretty good...).
 
I'm scared of becoming addicted to pain killers (it happens easily, and it's almost happened to me before).
 
I'm scared of how long this stuff takes me to get over psychologically.
 
I'm scared of being alone after it, forever, because it has literally just hit home that if I'm wigging out this badly over it, and I've had six years to become comfortable with the concept of death or a limited existence, then why on God's green earth would any man of sound mind choose to put himself in a situation where he may have to deal with a partner that could die young or not be able to be their best, awesome self, or maybe never even have the chance to see the best that they can be?? Far out, that's a big one for a stranger to swallow. Although I guess they'd never really know what they were missing...
 
I'm scared that I won't see Invincible Ness again. She's the one that has a shot at anything, by the way, and believes she can do anything if only she puts her mind to it. I lost her for a long, long time, and she's only been back in the last six months or so. I don't see myself as a cripple like I did when I was first diagnosed - the diagnosis was such a stark contrast from the life Invincible Ness lead - but I'm scared of having to go through that rebuilding process again. It's such a huge blow to your confidence, and it's exhausting fighting crushing fear every single day of your life.
 
I'm scared of not having a fair chance to live my life. That's not to be mistaken with being scared of death. I don't think I'm scared of death, but I am scared of missing out on all the living there is to do, all the places there are to see and the people there are to meet. I want to get married and have kids, just like everyone else, only now I'm questioning how fair that is on people I probably haven't even met yet.
 
I'm scared of not being able to do what I love, which is being outdoors, mostly hiking. Sure, what I've been doing is a pitiful excuse for hiking - it's not fear that gets me anymore, or my fitness, but the excrutiating muscle pain and rapid fatigue - but I do it anyway, and it has shown me that I have some very tolerant and patient friends. I hate seeing able-bodied people not using their bodies, just sitting on the couch watching TV. It makes me angry that they are wasting the blessings and opportunities they have been given, and I'm scared of losing courage and not being able to see the silver linings anymore and joining their slothful ranks.
 
So I'm going to wallow a little while longer, while I wait for the phone call that tells me when I will be sliced and diced and possibly further damaged. And I might (re-)write my will - seems wise. I might also clean my room up in case something happens to me - I wouldn't wish that job on anyone, and nobody wants their family to find their sex toys ;)
 
In the meantime, I feel like this:
 
 
 
But on the bright side, I like my meals all compartmentalised on a tray, so a trip to hospital won't be all bad. Yeah, I know, I'm a freak. But hey, if there's jelly in a little cup, I'm happy!
 
And it's better that they found out now, rather than when something bad happened.
 
Gotta be optimistic about something.