Archive for August, 2013

a must see

Posted: August 24, 2013 in Home
Tags: , , ,

lowrydemoired

Went to the Lowry gallery at Salford Quays about 3 years ago and there was no mention of these images of women – though I knew of them

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In January this year my husband Nev had an angiogram which showed that he needed a triple heart bypass, even though he had symptoms of only  mild angina. I wrote about the shock of this in  ‘Lincoln County Hospital’ , for my pamphlet behind the glass.

The operation was performed in Nottingham City Hospital’s Trent Cardiac Centre on 23rd July by a wonderful team – I would say a crack team but it makes me shudder when I think of them sawing through his sternum.

It has taken a long time to process the experience, from fragmentary observations.

After all the fear now, three weeks on, he is amazingly well and we are both stunned that it is over.

Oily Fish

 

After the operation I saw a metre

pool of blood on the stairwell

at the doors into maternity.

It was very red and shallow.

A slick. I told someone in uniform

as she  passed me on the stairs and then

it went. It made me think of

blood and birth – a positive blood.

Or not.

 

It’s hot. My hotel is on the Malmo model.

It houses new parents from maternity,

low dependency patients and relatives,

like  me. The fan stirs a suffocation

around and around where the  windows

are locked to an anti-suicidal crack.

There are alarm cords everywhere.

 

Two women have had slivers

of diseased lung excised and need

two weeks of radiotherapy three times a day.

Three weeks of radiotherapy twice daily?

They are old and thin and cheerful but

they don’t seem well.

They are collected on a special truck

that ferries them facing backwards

to the secret corridors that carry

them away.

 

It’s taken me a week to follow

their chill route, where stripes of colour

shush you past urology to outpatients

and corridors: north south east west

and a rainbow of entrances.

I have been taking another course

where ambulances squabble with cars

at the outpatients’ drop off.

In an L of doors you’d never want to open

there’s  a garden  where I drink coffee

in the sun.

 

Your ward  is air-conditioned and the entrance

a strategic slope with chairs and rails.

The patients and their hearts struggle up

where antiseptic sprays punctuate

the walls. Stop they say.

 

This is the third time we have waited

while others’ heart attacks kept coming first.

Week one our cancelled cases waited in

the hall. Do we unpack?

Week two you are shaved and prepped

and waiting for the pre-med. I would like

to sleep for weeks says the red-faced man

in a high shear of terror, also suspended.

Then they send you home again.

Someone has spent ten hours up there.

Adhesions and an enlarged heart chamber

where the thick blood pools.

 

Another try. In the day room a man who maybe

took your slot opens  his shirt, displays

his pyjama case scar and coughs his story up.

There is no bed for but everyone is

encouraging. It isn’t done to make a scene.

Theatricals. The staff are acting with

a strange hilarity. Now and then the registrar

talks to you and strokes your arm. He is

looking at the artery he will harvest.

 

You are shaved from head to foot  and showered

in anti-bacterial foams. We said goodbye

at half past eight.

 

Next day anaesthesia and the saws that slit

your sternum. The retractors to expose your

vulnerable heart. It is difficult to think of you there

in a theatre of new words, new acts:

your heart is beating beneath their fingers.

They use an oscillating saw to “crack the sternum”

and spread the two halves slowly with a retractor.

 

You wake to walls that slide. Mysterious cupboards

where nurses feed (they do not feed)  their children

and someone died (or didn’t). Your chest drain

makes the sound of water falling, as though we are

somewhere else entirely. You spend a lot of time

complaining about the taste of tea and hating

your compression socks. Someone comes.

He says that you might die without them;

then you panic when they take them off.

 

Afterwards, when we’re back home, we go on YouTube.

We have to guarantee that we are over eighteen to watch

this operation porn where the harvested artery waits limply:

a dumped white worm. And I know these words.

The internal thoracic artery is red and ready. A finger

pushes into its dark secrets while the blood is sucked away.

I say they are almost spilling over with their skills

and yet they look like miraculous plumbers.

 

And we are very quiet now: eating oily fish.