Friday, 6 July 2012

A difficult weekend.

Our cyclist wrestles the NHS while our heroine wrangles das kinder...

The difficult weekend actually began on a Wednesday.  The Wednesday the cyclist was to report to what shall henceforth be referred to as The Hospital to get plated up like the 6 Million Dollar Man (a bit like the 6 Million Dollar Man).

We had been told that if his operation was in the morning, he would be out of hospital the same day, and if his operation was in the afternoon he would be carefully released back into the wild the next morning.

By 10am he was going out of his mind, mainly due to the fact that the hospital was going to call him to tell him where to go and when, and our phones get the crappiest signal imaginable at home.  We sling his overnight bag into the car and take a jaunt to Starbucks - he can have black coffee til 11, but nothing to eat.  I disloyally demolish a muffin in front of him.  I am a terrible wife.

It gets to half 11.  The cyclist gives up and rings the hospital.  Oh yes, can you come in now please?

So we take him straight in.  He is bedded (not like that), has pages of questions asked and is given a sticky wristband to show he is now property of the hospital.  I take his wedding ring.  Bella is climbing all over him, so after half an hour we leave him to it.

We spend most of the day texting back and forth.  No news, no news.

Eventually he is told his operation will not take place that day, instead he will be on Thursday's list.  Yes, definitely Thursday's.  No, they don't know whether it will be morning or afternoon.  No, he'll be staying in tonight.  An hour later; actually, yes, he can come home.

We don't know what time they want him in - yet again they are going to call him.  So in the meantime I drive him to the office.  This time he is allowed no food or drink in the morning.  These people obviously have no idea what happens when the cyclist misses a meal.

He calls the hospital at about 9.30 to see if there's an update.  Ah. Yes.  No, his operation will not be today after all.  It will be Saturday.  Definitely.  Absolutely Saturday.  Yes, he's definitely on the list.  No, they don't know if it'll be morning or afternoon, those lists haven't been released yet.

I can hear the exasperation in his voice, but he keeps his temper in check and maintains civility and politeness.  It's not like he's looking forward to the operation.  He just wants it over and done with, so he can get the process of recovery started.  I cannot imagine the frustration of the anticipation and the let down.

He is starving - we wander down the hill into the town and get a McDonalds breakfast.  Double sausage McMuffin, Hash Brown and a Latte.  Could be worse.

Friday's not too bad.  A pretty normal day.  The calm before the storm.

Oh, this is where the fun starts.

A phone call at 8.20.  Can you be here for 9?

A flurry of activity to mobilise everyone to the car.  Yes, Bella, you need to put your trousers ON.

The tiny triumph of dropping him at the door for the Main Entrance as the clock in the car ticks to 8.57.

A quick kiss, a squeeze of the hand on his good arm.  I love him and I need him, and in all this busy maybe I've not let him know that properly.  After all, he is about to be knocked out, cut open, re-broken, drilled and screwed and hammered and sewn back up again.  He walks in to the atrium, out of my view, and I turn the car around.

The supermarket.  The school Summer Fete.  Distract the kids with doughnuts and donkey rides, balloon animals and bouncy castles.  The day is full of busy.

And all the while I watch my phone.  Texting to and fro all day, the cyclist goes quiet at quarter past 2. The assumption is he has gone into theatre, finally.  Now for the rest of the day.

And oh, I have made a rod for my own back.  Big time.  The Gods of Organisation pour scorn upon me, for this is the dread weekend of Bella's dance show.  I agreed to this months ago, not fully realising just what it was I was agreeing to.  Bella attends a half hour dance class once a week.  I say dance class, but it's really just a group of chubby 3 and 4 year old girls running round squealing in tutu's.  They have been practising two 'dances' for weeks now, 'ballet' to the theme song from Disney's Tangled, and 'tap' to The Bear Necessities.

So far, so very, very cute.  But this is not the toddler presentation to the mummies and daddies and doting grandparentals that I was expecting, this is an End Of Year Dance Revue.  With capitals.  The adorably podgy toddlers not really getting it very right and waving at their mummies from the stage while they pull at their skirts takes up about 8 total minutes.  This show will be over TWO HOURS.  So that is an additional hundred and twelve endless mindnumbing minutes of watching other peoples precocious pre-teens, in fluorescent get-ups pole dancers would dismiss as being 'too much', grinning and gyrating to Katy Perry songs, a fraction of a beat out of time.  On a Saturday night, when I could be at home in the bath with a rum and coke.  Imagine the horror, if you dare; if this is not one of the very circles of hell itself, the Devil has missed a trick.

Oh yeah, and there are 2 performances.

Had Matt had the operation on Wednesday like we were expecting, or even Thursday, he would be out of hospital and hopefully up to either coming with me or staying at home with Oscar, either way evening the odds; two of them, two of us. That was the plan; my plan, anyway.  But as it is, I am herding the 2 kids Lone Ranger style, with nary a Tonto for moral support.

We have to be in Bolton for 6, the Saturday show starts at 7.  The kids usually go to bed sometime around 7-ish and don't wear tired well, thus I am primed for 2 meltdowns of epic proportions to kick off out of the clear blue sky at about twenty past 8.  I have an escape strategy planned; I have identified the exits like a nervous flyer on a 747.  The bags of gubbins we have brought with us - costumes and colouring and snacks -  are roomy and drawstring and will go over my shoulders, and I can tuck a wriggling and inconsolable child under each arm and run like hell til the adrenaline runs out.  All the doors are double hinged - I can just shoulder-barge my way through.  As escape plans go I am very aware it lacks finesse, but balls to it, I figure it'll get me the hell out of there fast as long as I start running before the kids hit defcon 1 (cocked pistol).

I grab a passing expert-looking eleven year old and give her grips and bobbles - and sure enough within about 6 seconds Bella's enormous and mental mane has been tamed into perfect BalletGirl hair.  Yet again I am left wondering what it was I was doing when everyone else learned this stuff.

Oscar is ensconced in a chair, head down, tapping away madly on a videogame.  He's happy as Larry.  Bella and the other BalletGirls are playing and colouring and sharing sweets waiting for their time to go on stage and be adorable, no-one is even close to a meltdown.  Except maybe me.  A watched phone never texts.

I try to call the cyclist a few times, the call just rings out.  I get the number for the ward, and after a couple of attempts I get an answer.  Yes, he's OK.  Yes, he's had his operation.  Yes, it went fine. No, he'll not be coming home tonight, he'll be let out in the morning.  Yes, she'll let him know I rang.

I relax slightly, the operation has finally taken place and at least we're not going to have to drop everything and rush to the hospital to get him now.  I can focus on getting the kids and I through this evening.

By 9.30, the last few bars of Take That's 'Never Forget' are ringing through the auditorium, signalling the end of the finale.  I'm like a coiled spring; the bags are packed, Oscar has his shoes and coat back on and is Ninja-ing imaginary foes across the corridor, I have my car key in my hand.  I grab my daughter, wide-eyed as she comes off the stage, and we go go go.

A final exhausted wail; 'I miss daddy'.

Here we go again.

The kids take pity on me, and sleep in.

I spend the morning crashing round the place, doing the standard household blah that needs attention on a weekend, all the while waiting for the phone to ring.  I expect at any moment a nurse will practically beg me to come to the hospital to collect the cyclist and free up the bed.  In my head, the doctor will see him about 9, tick him off the list and he'll be packed off at about 10.30.  We'll be back home for 11, a cup of tea, a spot of lunch.  He probably won't fancy the Dance Show (and I won't blame him), but won't mind overseeing Oscar playing on his Wii and snoozing on the sofa while I take Bella to performance number 2, the Sunday Matinee.

But this is of course not how Sunday plays out.

Waiting, waiting, always waiting, texts back and forward.  No news.  The cyclist is going out of his mind with boredom and frustration.  And it's getting close to the time when Bella needs to be back in Bolton.  Everyone back in the car.

On Saturday I had been able to park practically outside the theatre in a free spot, but there was to be no such luck in the town centre at Sunday lunchtime, it was the multi-storey for me.  I had never actually parked in a multi-storey car park before, the very thought making my palms sweat, mainly due to the fact that I have a serious dose of bad car-park karma owed to me from a shameful episode a number of years back that left not a tell-tale mark on my car, but quite a few on someone else's (I know, I know).  There are large warning signs everywhere, the car park shuts at 5 on a Sunday it will be locked after this.  Ah, just what was missing from my life right now.  The element of danger.  The suggestion that should the show overrun I will be stranded in Bolton town centre with 2 screaming kids, the car trapped behind a locked-down Debenhams until Monday morning.  That will round the weekend out nicely.

Once in the theatre, the afternoon progresses pretty much identically to the evening before.  An identikit eleven year old (it may even have been the same one) takes over Bella's hair for me, the BalletGirls play between dances, Oscar sits so quietly you wouldn't realise he was even there.   And my phone never leaves my hand.  No news, no news, no news.

We make it back to the car in time, no car-park karma has come my way, and we head home from the show.  I am pretty much on top note by this point, tired and frustrated, my inner control freak going totally mental at the lack of information.

We fall out of the car.  I am yelling at Oscar for some small misdemeanour I have massively overreacted to, probably a seatbelt infraction.  I am holding the kids Sunday Dinner - the drive thru Happy Meal each I have picked up for them on the way home.  My 3-year old is still wearing her stage make-up.  I have what can only be described as a bit of a stressed-out sweat on.

My mother-in-law is sat in her car on our drive, waiting.

My mother-in-law is a lovely, kind person with a great sense of humour, but I am uncomfortably aware that this tableau is not portraying me in the light of serene glory in which I would rather she saw the mother of her beloved grandchildren.  She has been down from their place in Wales to babysit our niece, and has called round to check on her adored son.

She offers to take over the kids bedtime routine - I practically sag with relief, hand the kids over and rush back to the car, back to Bolton, to visit the cyclist and hopefully bust him out of the joint.  This is the first time I've seen him since I dropped him off on Saturday morning.  Oh, he is not a happy boy.  He looks like shit.  Predictably, he appears to be on the weirdo ward, populated almost exclusively by old men who seem to spend the entire day leaning to one side and growling out farts.  His is beyond exasperated, has no idea what's going on or when they will let him come home.  He is sore and tired, and suffering the effects of the anaesthetic hangover.  His fractured ribs are still uncomfortable.  And he has been stuck on a narrow bed for 36 hours, lethargy and ennui are taking their toll.

I find a nurse.  She can tell me that the cyclist will not be going home tonight.  She has no idea why not, neither do we.  This was an (in the great scheme of things) incredibly minor op, the cyclist is fit and healthy and desperate to leave.  The nurses are bemoaning the lack of beds available on the ward.  Him still being here is utterly ridiculous.

I have to leave; there are things to do, things to organise if he's not coming out tonight.  For reasons I will maybe go into another time the cyclist has shit to do on Monday, and if he's not available to do it, then I need to be.  I get home as quick as I can, and throw myself on my mother in law's mercy (she has plenty, there's not really a risk here).  Fling some stuff in a suitcase, God knows what, and get the kids out of the beds she put them in not 10 minutes ago.  They are going for an impromptu visit to Matt's parents.  They are thrilled.  We swap the car seats in, I kiss the kids and they leave.

I get a drink.  I need a drink.

They finally let the cyclist out of hospital at 4pm on Monday.  He never did see a doctor after his operation, and we have no idea why he was kept in so long.

Please don't think either the cyclist or I have any problem with the NHS or those employed in its service.  Circumstances just combined to create a perfect storm.

The Bear Necessities tap routine was, of course, a TRIUMPH.


  1. Glad he is through.....another great write up I was getting frustrated with you. Good luck with the recovery...."Seatbelt infraction" - love it!

    1. Thank you so much Mark, really glad you enjoyed it! It was definitely up there with the more frustrating weekends I've had, luckily my sunday night finished with a large drink and X-Men First Class on the telly!