I wasn’t ready at all.
None of us were.
He was fighting the Leukemia. Fighting it like the stubborn, obstinate bloke that we all knew him to be and loved him for. Since the bone marrow transplant in May he hadn’t been the best and was really ill, but we had been forewarned to expect this though and hard as it was, we all knew that it was all part of the road to recovery.
And then it happened. A brain haemorrhage on the Thursday, a rush to hospital and a phone call from my Dad about 10.45pm. Typical Dad fashion; trying to find a way to tell me the news without upsetting & worrying me. His voice at once heartbreaking and still somehow comforting, the way only my Dad’s can be.
That’s when I really hate living in a different country to my family. Immediately what’s only a relatively small distance between them & me feels like an immeasurable amount because I can’t be there with them instantly – I might as well be living on the moon.
But what could I do even if I was at home? So I waited. We all did. The next 24 hours were going to be critical according to the hospital. We just needed to wait and see. Friday was a bit of a blur of phone calls and checking my phone every few minutes to make sure I hadn’t missed anyone.
The news was bittersweet with every update – he was holding on but had become paralysed down his left side; he wasn’t conscious;he was conscious again but there were complications… on it went. The first 24 hours were over but the next were still going to be touch & go. So we waited some more.
Then Saturday came. I was waiting and waiting for updates and hopefully some good news. My mum called at about 5pm – the news wasn’t great, but they were operating and were hopeful that it would stabilise things. Fuck this I thought, I need to be at home and before Midday the next day I was back in Blighty and had finally been able to give my mum a much needed hug.
Monday was a day in the hospital. As we arrived I saw my cousin talking on the phone outside the main entrance. Before I even saw her face I knew it wasn’t good. Complications as they tried to bring him around after the operation and we were all preparing ourselves for the worst. Yet another MRI scan and more worry for my aunt, cousins, mum… there were about 15 of us there waiting for news.
But there hadn’t been another bleed which was good. Though the pressure on his brain meant another operation was required. This time to remove part of his skull to relieve it and get him out of danger. By now the family room in the ICU had become a little claustrophobic so we decamped to the pub across the road from the hospital in true Smalley/Walker/Rooney family style, while we waited for news.
And the operation went well – phew! But they were going to keep him deeply sedated for a few days to let the pressure lower and steer him out of danger. By Tuesday I had to head back to Ireland and back into work in the morning.
Regular updates were continuing to come through, and some stability seemed to have been found. Then we found out he had developed chest infection. They couldn’t give him any drugs for it as he’d had too many already, so he was going to have to fight this one on his own. Fingers were crossed again – already weak from the transplant and then the trauma of the past few days, would he be able to fight it? Er, this is my Uncle Dave we’re talking about here – if anyone can it’s him right?
And as they began bringing him around on Thursday & Friday the news was fairly positive. The pressure in his brain wasn’t spiking again. He had even regained movement on his left side. A bit of a temperature but on the whole things were looking a little more hopeful. Phew! Time for us all to exhale a little. Time to let my hair down a bit with a few Saturday night beers.
9.26 Sunday morning.
My mobile is on the bedside cabinet & starts to ring. No phone call at this time of a Sunday can be good news. I picked it up & looked at the screen “Mum Mobile”. My heart sank. I answered and heard my Dad’s voice, “Hey baby…” That’s all it took – an early Sunday morning phonecall, on my Mum’s phone, from my Dad
I knew, but I wasn’t ready though.
A new bleed during the night and “nothing more we can do”. And my Uncle Dave was gone.
Shit shit shitty shit!
I wasn’t ready. None of us were.