Sunday, 26 August 2012

the first shoe

It's been a wild fortnight, settling down a little now: the irony has bled away from the blog title. It’s two months since C got out of hospital for definitely the last time (she insists on dying at home, and preferably in the garden if I can get her there, and has made absolutely bloody sure that no medico in the south-west peninsula is unaware of this) and we had a fine time, so good and full at times that there was no hope of me getting on here, although the real reason for the sparsity of posts is the usual laziness and difficulties in finding time to upload photos.

As a result, you will miss various planned posts: one was entitled Star Quality, about the way C enchants doctors (one of whom she moved to compassionate tears by teasing out how her grandfather had died of pancreatic cancer), nurses and ambulance drivers with her extraordinary life force,  sense of humour, kindness and awareness: even the guy who brought her home from hospital in a taxi was moved to comment to me when they arrived, ‘That's an extraordinary woman you have there.’ (‘I know,’ I replied, because I do.)

Another one was provisionally entitled Deadlines and Goals, and the importance of having things to look forward to and aim for in the near and mid-future, in order to facilitate living in the present: with our various anniversaries, pet and people birthdays, we can keep much of the calendar covered, but for some while she's been looking to the triumph of reaching 65 on 26 July (she had a lovely day, btw, eschewing all vague half-formed plans for celebratory jollies in favour of doing what she loves best, spending a sunny day in the wildlife garden we made), and once that was reached, and the weather went off, she felt suddenly bereft, and low, and the next significant date, my birthday in October, seemed a little too far away. We beguiled our time with the Olympics, though, dashing out into the garden to ‘beat the bounds’, an activity that involves wandering up and down the paths, checking things over, seeing what's coming and what's going, pausing occasionally to do a little light deheading and often breaking off to get involved in some delightful task, so that the bounds are rarely beaten in one go, sometimes not in three or four.

Then there was one I hadn't titled, about our small adventures the Friday before last, when C found a monthly art class she could go to in the depths of the country, there to fulfill an ambition cherished since the days of 1950s TV, to have a go on a potter’s wheel, when she made two ‘recognizable’ pots (her words). This led to thinking if there was anything else we'd never done that would be nice, and we've never had a puppy (all our dogs have been mature rescues), so, being the modern man I am, I immediately got on-line, and tracked down some Jack Russell crosses in Winkleigh. C then spent the weekend asking ‘Have they rung yet?’ every half an hour (they hadn't), so on Monday, when she was taking a constitutional down to the Millennium Green, I rang the local vet and discovered there were three JR puppies at Cheriton Fitzpaine, but  a few miles away. We were there before lunch, and chose a chap called Scrap, to be delivered the following Friday.  That lunchtime we went to buy supplies: kibble and chewtoys, a collar and a cage; much fevered and joyful anticipation in the house.

That evening C was talking to our friend Phil on the phone when she felt a bit sick, so she asked me to take over the call, which I did, taking the phone on to the landing. Five minutes later I came back into the bedroom to find C hunched over a bowl. ‘This isn’t good,' she said, and indeed it wasn’t, with bowl filled with gobbets of bright red blood.

Of course we got the medical cavalry in, but with C refusing to contemplate hospital at any price, there was nothing much for them to do but stand by and palliate. Although she brought up blood three more times that night, it was progressively less copious,  blacker, and more clotted, giving hope that the bleed was over, but it came back the following day, when C’s lovely GP was in attendance. This caused a crisis, in which she lay back on the bed fighting, rasping for breath, her eyes rolled back in her head, lids half-closed. 

I was holding her right hand to my heart, and the GP stood to her left, stroking her forehead, both urging her to relax, to let go, as she fought and fought, and then suddenly she was still: breathing stopped, suspended, pulse too: I turned my head to look at the clock, which says more about me than I’d care to know, and looked up at the doctor. As I did so, there was a huge, tearing, intake of breath, and Chip jolted forward, her eyes open, as an adrenaline surge restarted her heart – that was something to witness. 

And since then, slowly, steadily, she has improved, with no more bleeding: she is still tied to a syringe driver feeding her pharma heroin and a powerful anti-emetic sedative, a combo that leaves her pain-free and often slipping into that realm between consciousness and un, where many delightful nonsenses gambol free, but the Marie Curie End of Life nurses have been withdrawn. Also, the puppy was delivered to us the day after the second bleed, and, as far as I am concerned, has a lot to do with C's rallying: there's always room for a little more love in everyone’s life.

She remains, of course, very weak, too weak to get out of the bedroom, and although she is eating a little of what she fancies, drinking plenty and peeing well (something I did not know is that people dying of wasting diseases generally stop peeing naturally before they die), it’s difficult to see how this would improve radically enough for her to get out into the world again unassisted, if at all.

A blood transfusion was mooted, but she would have to spend days in the hospice in Exeter to get that, there are no guarantees, and she would still, in a phrase she repeats like a mantra, be waiting for the other shoe to drop. She has refused, and I am with her all the way.

So our days have resolved into a routine of puppy play, daily re-up visits from the community nurses, daytime TV and lots of simply lying down, holding hands, and floating free

I’ll be back very soon with some photos

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