I came out of a hospital yesterday having had a catheter and stent finally removed after, in the case of the stent—seven weeks. I was unlucky in some ways with the operation I’d had, but lucky in others and it’s this thing called luck I wanted to write about.
A bed in a ward was available for me at four in the afternoon last Wednesday, which meant I’d waited only two hours. However, half of that waiting time was my fault. The letter I’d received clearly said–arrive at three! Being early has been a general fault of mine, one I’ve lived with for all the years I’ve been responsible for.
The ward was designed for six patients but held only three, two against one wall and me on my own against the other. It took no time at all to become acquainted with the other two and it’s the one who was nearest to me I want to tell you about.
He was not in the opposite bed that one was vacant. He was in the bed next to that one, to my right. He came from the Orient. Although he was born in China he had lived in England for fifty-six years making him more British than Chinese, nevertheless, he spoke with a heavy influence of his native tongue. It was not an easy conversation we held as he often repeated himself. He, like me, had a catheter in place, attested to by the bag attached to the bed frame which seemed to contain more blood than anything else. It didn’t, otherwise, he would have required a transfusion, which he was not having. Everything seemed okay with him until around midnight.
I had tried to sleep but could not, and that state of affairs was just about to become worse. The man I’m speaking about first let out a soft moan, then he started to cry, whilst all the time urgently pressing the buzzer for a nurse. My offered help was refused for which, if I’m honest, I was grateful for, not having the faintest idea what to do other than to stand there looking useless. Anyway, as the nurse arrived he screamed in such a manner that it was easy to recognise the extent of agony he was suffering. The curtains were quickly drawn around his bed as another nurse arrived and from the conversation I could overhear he was unable to pass anything through his catheter due to clotting blood. Together those two nurses cleared away some clots. I say ‘some’ with reason, because after half an hour of freedom from pain, he started to cry then scream all over again. This pattern went on for the next three and a bit hours until the nurses changed his catheter and decided to call the on-duty urologist team.
When the privacy curtains were pulled back I lay watching him as a nurse sat beside his bed with him asleep peacefully with an oxygen mask placed on his face and another drip going into his arm. That’s when it happened.
Without any warning he removed the mask and sat bolt upright, coughed and then lowered his head as if he was about to be sick. The nurse grab a container placing it under his mouth, all the time trying to calm him down by saying soothing things such as—‘you’re all right darling. I’m here. I have you.’ Suddenly his eyes closed and the pasty colour of his face turned more to stark chalk. No longer able to maintain this sitting position his head fell back onto the pillar with the nurse frantically softly slapping his face, calling his name with—‘You’re not going to die here my lovely.’
As all this was happening the nurse had rung the emergency bell and the cardiac arrest paddles were being placed on his chest as he miraculously opened his eyes and the surrounding mass of clinicians heaved a sigh of combined relief that was plainly auditable across the corridor to the similarly watching patients as I. All was well or was it? A man with his back to me asked the nurse who more than any other human had saved this man if he had lost consciousness at any time. She replied. ‘Yes, he had. For about thirty or forty-seconds.’
Both of us survived. He was moved to the ICU and then onto another ward where I saw him the following day. To me, he appeared fine and that’s what I was subsequently told when I asked one of the nurses. I moved out of our medically cluttered ward into the peace of the lounge and watched tv for an hour or so, still mystified how God distributes that thing called Luck. I have seen people die. I have been with some who were dying, but I have never seen a person die, then recover before. Perhaps he was close to God in his life, if not he should be now.