On Saturday I was out with my friend in a local town, and missed a call on my phone. As we were in a cafe, I wasn’t able to hear my husband’s message very well, so I assumed it was something about meeting people later and carried on with my trip out. My friend and I were getting her out of her house, where she has been recovering from a fall.
Later on I thought I ought to check the message again. Quite clearly this time my husband was telling me to ring home as soon as possible. When I did, he was remarkably good about getting to the point in a sensitive way. Dad had been rushed to hospital and had possibly had a heart attack.
My friend was great – she told me to drive to the local hospital to find him and see about the situation. So we drove down to the local hospital, where another old friend was at the reception. She told me that he would be at A&E at the main hospital, and called through to locate him. He had been moved on to the Cardiac Monitoring Unit. I was given a chance to speak to the nurse there, who told me that I could visit, and took my home number.
As a result, 20 minutes and £2 later we arrived at the right hospital and I left my friend in the cafe while I went to dad’s ward. Mum was there too, taking notes for what to bring him. She looked relieved to see me, and dad smiled. He didn’t look like my dad. He was sat in bed the way one does in hospital – not quite up and not quite along. He had a lot of white pillows, blue bedding, electrical sensors and a pale, pale chest.
He looked a lot like my grandad – his dad – who had died a year ago. Grandad had had a heart condition and was in hospital having an operation when he died. It occured to me that the vulnerability and utter love and fear I was feeling was something like what my own dad had felt when he had seen his dad in hospital. He had been the last of his sons to see him before he died, and insisted that Grandad have a proper meal.
Mum had to leave, and so I was left to waffle a bit and spend time just being with dad. He was not himself, so there was not a great deal of use talking, but I still talked too much. The food they brought him worried him (was it ok to eat it? why didn’t he feel hungry?) and I insisted they bring him some water. A nurse gave him ‘something to keep it down’ with his morphine.
I left feeling vulnerable and a little shocked. But there was still work to do. Mum had begun to tell people, and there would be plenty of correspondence to sort out.
My friend and I headed home and as my husband was there, we ordered our Chinese takeaway. We talked, and then put the TV on. Mum arrived, and ate what we had saved her. The plate was hot and the food was cold. Just when your parents need you to provide for them.
It was clock-change day, so my husband continued in the family tradition by organising a game of Monopoly, as there would be ‘an extra hour to play’. But at around 10 mum was ready to go. She had phoned one of dad’s brothers and asked him to contact the others, as it would be easier for him. He would know whether to contact dad’s second brother (whose birthday was the next day). Mum took my friend, as they were going in the same direction.
I figured I would stay awake all night and work, but after persuasion from my husband I had a bath and went to bed.
On Sunday I played the drums at church, prayed with my minister after the service and contacted various people. I kept busy, as there was still work to prepare for school the next day. Later in the evening mum suggested we visit dad in hospital, where he was looking a lot better. The doctors were hoping to send him to Papworth, and had decided it had been a heart attack. I didn’t sleep so well on Sunday night.
Monday at school was intense and there were tests to do and mark, lessons to teach (and cover!), a morning duty, a lunchtime meeting and a detention after school. My sixth form class of 4 were down to 2, which was a shame as I had brought in a toy VW Beetle and Henry the train to go through Forces. In the evening I had more to do. There were a lot of kind emails and people phoned and were interested to know how dad was getting on.
Tuesday was also busy, with PSE and 5 other Maths lessons. By the evening I was exhausted, but still not sleeping well. Some of my classes had gone badly, as I had been snapping and ‘losing it’. One lesson was difficult as I had prepared a new seating plan and powerpoint explanation of some test questions, but the computer wasn’t working as it had lost its network connection. The class were noisy in the corridor, noisy when I wanted them to listen and unhelpful when the computer didn’t work. I felt crushed, but couldn’t show it. There was no internet connection in the evening.
Today I made sure the laptop demo worked before school started. I had a difficult time in registration as a few of the people in my form didn’t have ties or school shoes. We had to elect two form reps, but the two (naughty) boys who stood were being silly, so I postponed that part. There were two helpers in my first lesson (a Teaching Assistant and a sixth former; first time ever!), but I couldn’t focus and felt everything was falling apart. The next lesson with year 10s got harder and harder; people who had made good progress last year in Maths were messing around. Break duty started late as a result, which I hate. Then my laptop lesson, which wasn’t easy. And as it is All Saints, my school has Mass, so half of the class went down to the hall for that. I went down too.
Most of the Mass was ok, although the year 11s did keep being silly. At the point where the priest mentioned the blood of Christ it hit me.
I knew I couldn’t hold it together, so I walked out of a nearby door. A kind colleague came out and listened to me and made me a drink. She got the Head’s PA in and they told me to go home for the rest of the day. So even though it had been 4 days since dad’s heart attack, the shock was only starting to hit me. They told me to stay away for longer if I needed it. And to be fair, I am in no fit state to teach.
I don’t know whether to go and call on dad – he is back from Papworth now, having had an angiogram and two stents put in (angioplasty?), but needs to rest. And I don’t want to give him anything to worry about. He doesn’t like me leaning on him any more.
Maybe I’ll do some research on what angioplasty is. I’m very grateful at his being treated so well and so quickly. There have been so many answers to prayer in this. But we’re all still fragile. And mum says their heating is down, so I don’t want to get in the way.
We’ll just have to see.