Mom called, immediately you realise something's wrong, you hold your breath. "Don't panic" she says, and your heart stops. "Dads been rushed into hospital, he has a tear in his aorta, he's got to have surgery." Oh my god, oh my god. "Oh and we're still in Bristol, (120 miles away).
And so once again we all pulled together, we're getting quite good at this as a family. Arron quickly went into organising mode (previously known as Captain Chemo), and we sped off down the motorway.
My mom called about an hour later and said that dad wanted to speak to us all, he said he was about to go down to theatre, asked us to look after mom, and that he loved us all very much. Me, Adam and Hollie just sat still, how can this be happening? we'd all been out for the day less than 48 hours ago at a charity day, and we were about to book a big family holiday for 3 weeks time, how on earth did this happen? We decided to do the only sensible thing and turn the music up loud and pretend it wasn't happening, it resembled the scene from stepbrothers....
It's safe to say that as we arrived at thehospital my mom was in a state of panic, in true Fletcher style everyone had their own opinions as to what we should do, things got heated, moms voice went all high pitched and we all had a time out.
My dad would be in theatre for 7-8 hours, he was high risk for having a stroke and the surgeons explained that this might cause his kidney to fail, the kidney he'd received only 3 years ago having spent god knows how long on dialysis.
One thing we did agree on was that we should go get a stiff drink. As my dad was missing out I had 2 pints. We checked into a hotel and waited, and waited. Then we got the call to say that it had been a success, he was in recovery and that we could pop in and see him.
As a nurse I don't get daunted by the machines and equipment, and I've seen many a patient on a ventilator, as has my sister, also a nurse. I've also spent time in ITU and so I'm fairly familiar with the whole set up. This all goes out the window when it's your dad laying there.
Your big strong dad who always makes things better, the man who takes you to your oncology appointments, leaves you flowers on your doorstep after his night shift every year on your birthday (usually with Cosmo magazine), brings you nibbles in cute little bowls and there's no such thing as just a drink when you visit, oh no, you get ice, a slice, straws and your own little napkin, that's just standard. Since my diagnosis, most nights I get a text saying good night, it's quite a comforting message, and knowing that he works nights means that if anything were to happen he'd be around. And so there he was, lying on a horrible hard bed, a surgical wound down the centre of his chest, drains, tubes and masses of equipment either side of him. So far from the man I was used to seeing. We were able to stay a few minutes, the surgeon and nurses tried to reassure us that he was doing ok considering, no other vessels were compramised, he was on bypass for a short amount of time. "Bypass" that word sends shivers down my spine. We kissed him and then left, back to the hotel room.
I shared a room with my mom and Adam that night, it was actually quite comical, Arron and Dave had packed a few things for my mom, and apparently when you say "bring a couple of nice tips" this actually means "bring clothes that mom would decorate the house in" this went down surprisingly well for someone nicknamed "The Dutchess"... Not.
Adam paid for the 2 rooms that night and yet ended up sleeping on a bed base with 1 pillow and a dressing gown, right next to the kettle, and for anyone who knows me, knows that I have trouble sleeping and live a cup of tea no matter what time it is....He also gave himself a concussion from bashing his head on the suspended bed side table...
The next few days are a blur, I know we've drank a lot of tea until 2pm comes around then we sit and take turns to sit with him until 8pm when we return to the hotel.
He seemed to be doing really well, then he started struggling with his oxygen levels... He then had to go on c pap, which helps to keep his airway open continuously, very effective, just looks awful and very uncomfortable, the mask he had covered his entire face, he couldn't speak and the air was obviously drying his eyes out, very upsetting to see, made even worse when taken off so he could drink and his sats plummeted to 60%. But I guess it did the job (touch wood), after 3 days he was weened off it and put on nasal specs.
His kidney function took a hit as expected but doctors are optimistic that it should come back up in the next few days, he also went into AF (atrial fibrillation - irregular and abnormally fast heart rate) but hopefully that was a temporary thing... Now he just has to get rid of a chest infection, ensure that his SATs stay up, his BP stays on the lower side, and slowly start eating so that he can come off the nasal feed and give his wound the bestist chance of healing. Sigh. Oh and get moving so that he doesn't get a DVT or pressure sores....sigh again.
I can't believe I'm even writing this about my dad. I think I'm still in shock. It's funny how things happen, they were meant to be going elsewhere that weekend but it was fully booked and so they ended up in Bristol, which just happens to have a totally ace Heart Institute that routinually screen for AAA's and such conditions.
I'm a great believer that in life, bad things have to happen to people in order for good to happen to someone else, I think it could be called equilibrium?
I would absolutely love to meet the person/family who is having all the good and so therefore making us have the bloody bad.... They had better be having a blast....