And grandma takes a tumble


It is 2am.  I wake up with severe heart burn.  I get up out of bed and pad through to the kitchen in search of some Gaviscon or Rennies.  We have none – damn!  I return to bed, gulp some water and lie on my back.  The pain is increasing in intensity and I decide that there is nothing for it,  I am going to have to head off to hospital.

After throwing on some clothes, I wake Dee.  “Dee, I have really bad heartburn.  It won’t settle down and I am in agony.  I’m just going to head off to the hospital.  I’ll be back soon.”

Dee looks up at me.  “Do you want me to take you?”

“No, it’s not that bad, but I just need something for the pain.  I need to get JC ready in the morning though.”  Dee nods and puts his head back on the pillow.

I pull the car out of the driveway and head off onto the motorway.  It is so quiet.

Suddenly, I get an excruciating, crushing pain in the centre of my ribcage.  I can barely breathe.  Am I having a heart attack?  I pull over.  I am clammy and I am very frightened.  For a moment, I think I am going to die at 2:30am on the side of the road and no-one will know.  I will never get to hold my grandchild.

I dial 000.  “Ambulance, Police or Fire?” the woman asks.

“Ambulance.”  I say, “Please hurry.”

“Okay, stay on the line.  Where are you?”

I have no idea.  I’m clutching my chest.  I frantically look around for signs of where I am.  I know the motorway, but I am not sure where on the motorway I am.  I see a sign in the distance and give her the name on the sign.  “An ambulance is on its way.”  It does not reassure me.  Am I dying?

She asks me a number of questions.  I find myself unable to concentrate.  The pain is more than anything I have had to bear.  The ambulance arrives.  I am taken into the ambulance, heart monitor cords are put on me.  My heart is fine.  “It has to be gastric,” the paramedic says after doing a bit of an examination.  She hands me what is affectionately known as the green whistle for the pain.  It doesn’t help.  “I’m going to give you some morphine.”  I am given a shot of morphine and, blissfully, the pain subsides.  I feel very sleepy.

I arrive at hospital and am wheeled into the emergency room.  My pain is returning and I am given another dose of morphine.  The nurses are on strike for more pay and better conditions.  I am sympathetic to their cause.  “Can you pass me my bag please, I need to call my husband and let him know where I am?” I ask the nurse attending to me.

“No, I don’t have time, we are on strike you know.  Blame the government!”  I think I feel a little less sympathetic to the cause right now.  Another nurse passes me my bag.  I phone Dee. “I’m in hospital.  I need to you pick up my car.  I am petrified it is going to get smashed or stolen on the side of the highway.”

“God, Sarah, I feel awful.  I let you drive yourself!”

“Don’t worry, we weren’t to know.  Can you just get my car?  You will have to wake your dad.”

Dee agrees and I put my phone away.  I suddenly feel extremely sick.  Without warning, vomit is spewing from my mouth.  I lean over the floor to avoid vomiting in the bed.  There is no-one around and I have not been given a bell to call a nurse.  I am humiliated.

The nurse arrives.  She looks at me, no, glares at me.  “Really? On the floor?”  I apologise and explain I tried to avoid the bed.  I get the feeling she thinks I deserve to swim in my own vomit.  “This is what alcohol does,” she says.  I am too tired and too ill to explain that I have been sober for two years.  I close my eyes and let the effects of the morphine swim over me.

I am woken by another nurse who has come on duty.  “Hi Sarah, we have taken some blood and your liver function is a little off.  Nothing to worry about, but we are going to keep you in the short stay ward, okay?”  I am moved to the ward and told that I will be going for an ultrasound in the morning (daylight – it is now 5am).  I fall asleep.

At 9am I am taken through to the ultrasound.  I still feel awfully nauseous and vomit a couple more times.  This time I am treated with compassion and dignity.  I am healthy and I know that they ultrasound is not going to find anything.  After the ultrasound I am wheeled back to the ward.  A doctor appears.

“Okay, Sarah, you have a fair number of gall stones which are going to need removal.  Do you have private health insurance?”  I do.  I am booked in to see a specialist later that afternoon.

“Yep, we definitely need to remove the gall bladder.  I am booking you for some further tests as well as your bile duct is quite dilated.”  I have no idea what that means.

After the MRI scans, and blood tests, I am booked in for a laparoscopic cholysystectomy in two days’ time.  I cannot believe it.

The operation goes well, but the specialist is still really concerned about my dilated bile duct.  I let her know about my mom dying of lung cancer and that I am petrified of dying early, especially from cancer.  She is cautious and orders some more tests.  I know she is looking for pancreatic cancer.

For the next two weeks life passes me by in one massive blur.  I am consumed by the idea that I might be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that I might miss the growing up of my grandchild.  Jay and I have become so close.  I am angry at myself for all of the missed opportunities of my life, whatever they may be.

Eventually, my follow up appointment arrives and it is good news.  I don’t have cancer, just an abnormally dilated bile duct.  I am so happy.  I realise that I am so happy at where my life is right now.  I am happy to be a grandmother, am happy that my daughter is going to be a young mom, and am happy that I am going to see this child grow up.  Life is good!


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