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!