Last Monday, adding to my general health woes, I woke at 2am with a strange and persistent pain in my upper belly. Pains I assumed were something to do with the polyps they removed from my colon during a colonoscopy the previous week or maybe the MRI the day before establishing the size of a tumour on my remaining adrenal gland.
On Monday at 9am I had a meeting in Canterbury with a mental health professional. I left the house in Whitstable at 7.30am. I couldn’t find a way of alleviating the discomfort. I sat on the loo. I sat in the car an hour early for my appointment, pain overwhelming me. I called the NHS help line. I was advised to take paracetamol and call my doctor in a day if things hadn’t improved.
An hour later I was on my back in an ambulance, a morphine drip in my arm. A mid line, not a cannula, they couldn’t find a vein. My blood pressure slumped. Three hours later, after vomiting a pint of yellow bile, I was taken into theatre, the anaesthetic a welcome relief. Not just for the immediate pain but all the pain, anguish and discomfort I had suffered this past year. I sank into the big black and just before I drifted away I thought to myself, perhaps for the first time ever, I wouldn’t mind if I never woke up.
I did not care about anything I previously cared about. I did not care about the welfare of the Little Dog. I did not care about my property. I wanted at that moment to slip away on a gurney in a grim Margate hospital. Margate on my death certificate. That was that.
I woke up in the Cheerful Sparrow, a ward of six men. All of them dishevelled, jaundiced, overweight. The man to my left entertaining a family of obese relatives. His eleven year old daughter the size of a small car. Her young face perched on a ledge of processed lard. To my right, a packet of ochre liquid stapled to his huge belly, a gruff male antagonized an ancient desiccated traveller laying opposite us. Confused by vascular dementia he called out in the night. Calling for long dead relatives. Calling for his dog.
At 5pm the following day Robin arrived in his Range Rover, driving me home to Whitstable. I slipped into his gracious car, black leather and reclining seats, protected from the smell of rotting cabbage Thanet seems unable to shake. Wearing imaginary dark glasses and a velvet wrap, feeling like Grace Kelly after the horrors of the Cheerful Sparrow Ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Margate.
Three days later my possessions arrived from the USA by hauler Bishop’s Move. As one might imagine… this was neither as simple nor as stress free as I wanted. However, it was one step further away from Tivoli NY and for that I am truly grateful. Bishop’s Move have a lot to answer for but we are just beginning to literally and figuratively unpack their disaster.
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This past week, since my body waged war on me, I’ve been shown such kindness from friends I’ve known all my life. Cared for, fed by, driven to, held. I don’t need to remind you but if this had happened in the USA I would have been presented with a huge bill when I left the hospital and then my kindly Tivoli neighbours would have picked the pearls off my decaying body.
Which reminds me of the day my forty-something Tivoli neighbour Christopher Murphy (Village of Tivoli Trustee) fell off his bike directly in front of my house whilst performing stunts for his adolescent sons. Falling badly onto boiling hot tarmac where he lay until I found him. His hatred of gay people (or me) so profound he would not let me help him off the hot street. Schadenfreude prevailed. I looked down at him squirming like an injured possum until his equally sour wife arrived to help his sorry ass.