What a beautiful sound: The chink of ice! Sadly not in a long gin and tonic-I’m sure I was promised one of those today?- But instead a whole jug of iced water. Then again, given I was lying in a bed on the high dependency unit with plastic tubes coming out of places I dare not think about , it was probably just as well.
It was now 8 o’clock in the evening and I was aware once again of my surroundings and even got to hear the friendly and relieved voices of a friend and my Mother on the phone. The room was dimly lit with pools of light around beds, surrounded by figures speaking quietly. It’s somehow gave me the impression of a field hospital in a battle zone.
I was hot. So very hot. The ice was so very welcoming.
If anyone from the medical profession ever says that something may be “a bit uncomfortable” they may be about to do something that’s very painful. It came to the moment for removing the drains in my stomach and it was explained to me that it may indeed be a bit uncomfortable. “Oh, Oh” I thought as the mask was put to my face.
Whilst I gathered afterwards from talking to others, people’s experience of pain varies depending on the individual and of course the procedure they’ve just woken up from. However, I can safely say that it’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. The laughing gas-I certainly wasn’t !-seemed to just detach me from place, but not really the pain. Don’t ask me why, but in those moments which seemed like hours I saw a searing white light and the feeling of observing from a distance. And quite bizarrely the most difficult maths problems I could imagine were filling my head. I know I’ve never been great friends with maths, but I’m not sure why I should’ve been subjected to Trigonometry whilst having yards (well it felt like yards-though I’ve never been good with maths ) of plastic being pulled from my insides. Perhaps my brain helpfully thought it would be a distraction. Interwoven with that were voices from my life questioning my worth-voices of doubt,of inadequacy, but then I became aware of a quiet voice saying “you are stronger than this”.
Apparently I was . I slept on and off during the night. The assistant registrar visited me and said that the operation had gone well and that they hadn’t needed to replace the valve and that my surgeon would come and see me on the ward to talk about the aneurysm. I later discovered that when they opened me up there was a gasp that went round theatre- the aneurysm was more extensive than expected. I can understand now why the registrar left that for the surgeon to explain once I was more stable and rested.
The oddness of the day continued when I was offered jelly and ice cream- suddenly I was at a children’s birthday party-. So in the NHS you’re offered tipples at breakfast and party food in the middle of the night- no wonder I was confused.
And somehow in the middle of this most extraordinary of nights, I discovered that the recently qualified nurse looking after me went to church in Trumpington, which just happens to be the home of a dear friend who has supported me so much on this journey. I shared with the nurse that I was exploring where my vocation may be taking me. So there I was, hours after life changing surgery talking about God and suddenly those pools of light around the beds looked a little different.