One rather hazy summer, during the cool comforts of the night I was disturbed by a pin pricking sensation from within, in my stomach. I turned myself over in search of a cooler spot to try and return to my favourite place, a world of silence mentally and emotionally – Sleep. This sensation continued for a few days, even though I was not exhibiting any other symptoms I decided to grace the GP with the pleasure of my company, a visit to say “Hi” and for my peace of mind, for my children’s sake.
The GP turned out to be a locum who I had met a few times previously. I explained despite my deafness as best as I could, what was bothering me. “Hmmmm” She said, doing a check on my stomach. “You need to have an ultrasound scan which I will send off right now, for you.” I looked at her in wonder and accepted her decision without question.
I had to wait, for a phone call?! They (who would be doing the scan) would be contacting me to make an appointment. Feeling unnecessarily stressed, at the thought alone of a phone call since I cannot answer it or make the appointment myself, being profoundly deaf from birth. I have never been able to decide whether to be amused or perplexed at phone calls requiring my immediate attention so I usually end up combining the two, especially when they know I am deaf.
Damn…. The referral form for the scan was not accepted apparently due to some errors on it so the GP had to refer me once again. This was two weeks later from the date I last saw them. Quite spontaneously, I spotted my husband looking at the calendar, talking hesitantly…. I had hoped he wasn’t talking to himself! Too many times I had spied lone passer by’s talking and I do a double take out of care to make sure they were not vulnerable…. Only to realise short moments later, they were holding a conversation over their mobile phone. Relief overcame me finally finding out I had an appointment for a scan. I was still feeling that niggling pain and it started to prey on my mind, just a tad.
The scan date was not for another week but waking up to each brand new dawn, I anticipated it that bit more. To finally know the cause of this mysterious symptom which was starting to make me feel just a little bit nauseous. As one would say, “Patience is a virtue” and I have a lot of patience for only those that deserve it.
The nurse prodded and scanned me relentlessly with her probe, for an hour and a half. Escaping the room, only to return with her colleague in tow for a second opinion. By then, the atmosphere had turned ominous. The look on my husband’s face was one of concern. We tried in vain to hide this emotion from our children, pretending it was natural to have a scan, for so long. The nurse looked at me and said, “Your doctor will phone you within the next few days.” Another phone call?! I decided not to let these phone calls get the better of me as it seemed somewhat trivial compared to my health. Even though I felt physically fine and looked extremely healthy, I knew I was becoming seriously unwell. I have on occasion been blessed with premonitions and instincts so I started silently mentally preparing myself to embark onto a solo ride.
That night I ended up in A&E due to a bout of bad pains that was slowly subsiding… the emergency doctor there put it down to ‘Ovarian Cysts’. Which I was rather dubious of but she was qualified so she must have known what she was doing? The kids enjoyed the late night outing nonetheless.
A few days passed by slowly yet still no phone call came. Thoughts were trying to creep into our minds so in order to take a break from being on standby, we decided to take the kids to enjoy the wondrous weather and Mother Nature in our local park. Yes, you guessed it – we missed the phone call?! Sod’s law at its best. Fate works in mysterious ways. I was invited back to see my usual doctor and could I come in as soon as possible? Relatively, an appointment was made. “You have a mass in your stomach and you need to go down to A&E – now!”… Looking serious at me with such concern. “Okay” I reluctantly agreed… Wondering what this next part of the ride would consist of. You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf. Hence, going with the flow suits me so. Once again, I had to go with the flow.
Walking home cautiously, wondering what to say to my husband as a potential immediate holiday overseas to attend a family wedding was in the pipelines.
Honesty is the best policy. “I have to go to A&E now, they are expecting me” I told him sincerely. The GP had phoned ahead to let them know I was on my way. She had chosen this hospital for a good reason – they had at present one of the best oncology departments.
Another ride out for the kids once again oblivious to our worry and deep in thoughts. Innocent with their childlike ways. I did not have to wait very long at all in the reception area, I was ushered onto a bed and incessant questions were asked. treating me as if I was a pin cushion because they could not find a vein which had become the norm for me. I explained how one night I had this surreal experience of my chest turning ice cold, I could not breathe or feel my chest. I decided to lay upon the sofa and stay calm, riding it through. What must have been only thirty seconds felt like never ending minutes. Suddenly, much to my relief, I felt my chest resume beating away and myself breathing again…. Which had scarily happened twice on separate occasions. This seemed to give the nurses some more cause for concern. They immediately wired me up, monitoring my heart beat and at once, admitted me onto a ward.
The time came to bid my children goodnight as I had to remain on the ward while they returned to the comforts of their home. I hate goodbyes and this was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to endure. The look on their sweet angelic faces as they turned away to leave was imprinted on my mind the rest of the night – It is still imprinted to this day which breaks my heart.
However, I had to fast with each day I remained as I was on the emergency waiting list for a CAT scan. Yet again, a few days more had passed before my turn under the CAT scan came…. To that date, it was a total of almost five weeks since I first presented myself with what I thought was a tiny, simple, trivial symptom. My instincts had informed me otherwise.
My consent was needed for them to carry out an operation the very next day, “to investigate” the cause. To observe with their own eyes what the mass was. I willingly gave them my autograph, for free.
Overnight, I felt endless chills and asked for extra blankets. This was early August so the nurses started monitoring me. Were they not telling me the whole story? I pondered.
More fasting as it was now operation day. I would finally know the cause for certain and hoped to be put onto the road of recovery. To be reunited with my children. I had been contemplating discharging myself and going home as I could not bear the children visiting me each day only to say goodbye but thankfully, I decided not to listen to that call for emotional peace.
Extreme nausea overcame me and I rapidly deteriorated, severely vomiting green liquid numerous times. The dividing screens were slowly draped around my bed and a dutiful nurse stayed by my side. Taking my temperature every so often and passing me the sick bowls. My husband arrived with the children only to take one look at me before his face dropped with worry. My skin had turned grey, my eyes were sunken…. I was drifting in and out of sleep due to the sickness and anti-nausea medication. I did not want my children’s last memories of me to be ones being in this state so I asked him to take them out, treat them to a meal and have some fun. Which he obliged to and during the meal, my son’s milk tooth finally fell out – biting a burger! They thoughtfully sent a media message to show me his new smile which relatively made my heart smile.
Sporting brand new hospital wristbands, the nurse noticed the matching dates on it. She looked at me with such kindness and exclaimed “Happy birthday!” I managed a smile back albeit weakly to thank her. There stood a porter at the end of my bed, waiting to whisk me away to the very top floor of the building, the fifteenth floor I think it was. I envisaged myself going to a ball in the penthouse suite. “Happy birthday!” someone else exclaimed after examining my wristbands to make sure I was their correct patient. I smiled weakly once more, to express my acknowledgement and gratitude. Pausing outside the “penthouse suite” my heart started to frantically thump away, my mind wanted to travel everywhere. I sternly told myself to remain calm and that “What will be, will be, I will survive if I am meant to” and mentally said my goodbyes to everyone I loved, there and then before slipping away into a void of darkness.
Sensing systematic lights were passing by overhead, I was groggily beginning to wake up and realising I successfully made it through. I was being trolleyed to another ward, trying to make sense of what had happened from the dressings and drains on/in my stomach. Endless tubes seemed to be everywhere. I feebly asked the attending nurse “What happened?” She responded “You had a ruptured appendix… The doctor will come and see you very soon.” Reassuring me I was in safe hands. I felt secure enough to drift off into a world of my own, to sleep.
The doctor’s face when he visited me relatively soon after I woke up, was a sign of relief. He was extremely worried that I would not survive as I should not have done. It is only because I was young, healthy, did not consume alcohol or smoke that my body did its job fighting the already ruptured appendix and internal abscesses it caused. My body had sealed it off; my entire stomach had stuck together which gave the doctors one hell of a cleaning job to do and it turned out to be one that took them quite some time. He told me whilst tapping the wooden bed table “You are extremely lucky.” Words seemed to fail him but I got the gist. For them, I was the centre of attention but I was too ill to know it. Naturally, I thanked them all for their help yet words too would not suffice my expressions of gratitude.
This confirmed how high my pain threshold was. No pain no gain?!
If it had not been for modern medicine and professionals, I most certainly would not be around today to watch my beautiful children grow up into content, richly educated in life, adults. The emergency operation fatefully done on my birthday, some may say would add insult to injury but not for me. It gave me a second chance, a rebirth. Since experiencing a further two close calls within the subsequent year, I now cherish each and everything in my life. The warmth of the sun, the drops of refreshing rain upon my face, the tastes I sense, the laughter which is music to my eyes and ears… To put it simply, the beauty of it all. Life is too short and I for one know just how short it can be. Despite this, I observe many more people being ungrateful, being trivial, being petty, and being negative. This only frustrates me even more so and then some. I have learnt to try and put them aside until the appropriate moment arises to try and open their eyes, in order to educate regarding priorities, importance and positivity. Unfortunately, some people will never learn.
With each birthday that passes me by, I annually extend my gratitude to the doctors and nurses who gave me the best birthday present ever one could ask for. A second chance at life. Thank you.
I intend to make the most of my second chance so “Thank you” in advance, to each and every one of you, my family and my friends – for putting up with me.
Carpe diem – Every day x
~ SJ (Sara Jae)
(Photo 1 – a birthday present which I seized last birthday for myself, my motto “Carpe diem” tattooed for posterity as is this blog
Photo 2 – flowers and a home made get well card from the kids and my husband)
Part 2 “Dearest Sara,” https://signsounds.co.uk/2017/08/05/dearest-sara/