I used to feel that my life was a bit of a soap opera. I felt that dramatic things kept happening; traumatic things that ruptured the normal yum drum of life as well as fun and amazing things that seemed so good they were unreal. Then I met my Neil and felt that was it was all smooth sailing. We were engaged within four and a half months – formally at least, he had made his intentions known much earlier. We share a close connection that took me by surprise. Some things can’t be measured in days or weeks; the moments are already deep and precious. But today taught me never to take things for granted.
Neil had a heart attack this afternoon.
I just finished work for the year. He was on holidays this week getting the caravan ready for our trip with the boys to the Gold Coast. We were all so excited about this holiday! Most days he had been going out to his parent’s property to get the caravan ready, but today he stayed home as my youngest had been unwell. Little A had thrown up and then had a swollen eye (we think an allergic reaction to dog or cat hair). This all happened while Neil’s cousin minded them so that we could go out with friends. No, she is in no way responsible for this and I think she is still in shock from having a young boy throw up at her place.
When Neil said he felt dizzy around 3.00pm, we both thought he was coming down with what my son had. He sat down for a bit but when he started vomiting, he said he thought it was salmonella (to be clear, not from my cooking but from some leftover tuna he found in the fridge). Sweat was pouring over his body and he was hot, then cold. I thought he had gastro so fussed over him and tried to get fluids into him.
After an hour or so, he wasn’t getting any better. He was still throwing up but was complaining that he was feeling achy and couldn’t get comfortable. He is a solid, stoic man and not one to complain. He beat cancer many years ago, and when he said that the pain was the worst he had experienced since then, I called 000 and requested an ambulance. I still didn’t predict a heart attack but worried he was getting dehydrated and needed to be put on a drip.
The ambos came quickly. They looked at him, asked a few questions and also concluded it was likely gastro. They didn’t think it was was that serious and recommended he stay home, although offered to take him to see a doctor in hospital if he really wanted to. He considered it for a little while, before deciding he might go with them just to be safe. I had to stay home with my sick little man and his elder brother. I got Neil dressed, handed him his thongs (for non-Australian readers, by this I mean footwear) and said I would see him soon. Meanwhile, I contacted his family and let him know that most likely he had gastro but I had sent him off to hospital just in case.
In the ambulance, he mentioned that he had some mild pain in his chest. They pulled the ambulance to one side, performed an ECG and quickly concluded that he was having a heart attack. It turned out that the left side of his heart was 100 percent blocked, and the right side 80 percent. He had surgery on the left side this afternoon and will require surgery on the right side soon.
Yes, it was serious and I came close to losing him, as did his family and many friends. He isn’t out of the woods yet, but he is doing really well. Driving there I didn’t really comprehend that my loving and lovely man, who was looking healthier and happier than when I first met him seven months ago, could be so seriously ill. I mean, shouldn’t there have been signs or something? He had actually done a course with the Rural Fire Service (he is a volunteer) about heart attack symptoms a few weeks ago. We have a magnet with the signs on our fridge – how could I have failed to recognise the symptoms when they appeared?
Driving home from the hospital by myself (needed to relieve my flatmate from the task of looking after my boys), the tears came. I know this isn’t all about me, but OMG what a rollercoaster! Only nine days ago we announced our engagement, and now he is lying in hospital in pain! It is nearly Christmas, and we had such expectations of a wonderful time ahead of us with family, drinking Prosecco and Rose and singing singstar and watching DVDs. The Buddhist in me screams that life is about impermanence and that nothing lasts forever. Nor can you ever predict what the future will bring as you only ever have the present moment. Both Neil and I have had major illnesses before. We know the drill. Yet we thought we had gone beyond all that, survived it and were now living a new life filled with positive vibes and love.
I’m sure there is a moral in this somewhere. Maybe I should write something preachy about how important it is to look after your health. Or turn it into a debate about public versus private health insurance, or a reminder to get regular health checks to avoid heart attacks (women BTW are also at risk). Right now I am comprehending what is happening, and being a writer, needed to get it off my chest. Thank you for giving me a platform to do that. I hope that if you read it, that one day if something strange like this happens to you that you have the courage to call an ambulance even if you think it is nothing serious – you could just save a life. I wish I had acted on my instincts sooner.
I promise there are more ‘all about Christmas’ posts to come – I have some drafted and will focus on more fun topics, which will also be good for me to help distract from the reality of what is happening with Neil. I even have recipes!
Thank you to everyone who already has Neil in their prayers. And thank you for the care that he is receiving in hospital. We are so very blessed.