The ward was well lit and bustling as the nursing staff went about their duties with care and compassion. The sound of machines, monitors and call bells filled the air unharmoniously calling for the attention of the already busy nurses. Curiously in my semi-conscious state, my mind tried to determine whether there was any rhythm or timing to the sounds.
I tried to get my bearings as the fog of the anaesthetic began to lift, I was soon aware that I was not alone. To my right a man was intently focused on his crossword, he had the best seat in the house as he was next to the window. Opposite me two gentlemen were engaged in a very loud conversation about the state of the NHS and Brexit. One of the men was quite portly and bare chested, he seemed to be the dominant voice in the conversation. Subconsciously I instructed myself to avoid eye contact as I was not ready to engage in ward banter.
Thankfully I became distracted by my feet which where protruding from the crisp white sheet that covered me. Weirdly although these feet were mine clearly identifiable by the small scar on my right foot from a previous operation, it felt like they did not belong to me anymore. There was no feeling from my waist down and my toes failed to respond the command to move. I was still under the influence of the spinal anaesthetic administered in the subarachnoid space near the spinal cord. Although this feeling was rather disconcerting, I was very grateful that it was holding back the pain that I knew I would have to inevitably bear.
I sighed a sigh of relief, I had come through the operation unscathed and am immensely grateful to the NHS staff, the skill of the surgeons and their team. However, I am even more thankful that I know God and He knows me and watches over me. It was He who made all the delicate, inner parts of my body. He knit me together within my mother’s womb. I was made wonderfully complex with much loving care (Psalm 139). During times like this we can often be left asking the question why, why have I been side-lined from the busy task of kingdom activities? Are there subversive forces at work to hinder the purposes of God in my life? Has God been blindsided and is now left scratching his head wondering how He didn’t see that one coming? However, ordinarily these questions might be quite valid if I didn’t believe in an all knowing and all-powerful God who has declared over us that he knows the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). If I spend my time dwelling on why me, and why now I will surely miss the opportunities that are set for me during this spell of necessary surgery and convalescence.
Some time had passed, I contacted Maria to say I was now back on the ward and she was on her way, I was so looking forward to seeing her. The nurse was at my side insistent on taking my blood pressure and temperature a pleasant distraction from the tedium of hospital life. A sudden acute pain filled my lower abdomen, I tried to inform the nurse who thankfully was close at hand, but my words were slurred and incoherent, I was in trouble.
I was aware that the curtains were drawn around my bed, I could feel the pressure of the mask on my face and the sound of oxygen being forced into my body. Concerned voices were discussing my condition, “We have a pulse” I heard a man’s voice say. I could feel the gentle squeezing of the blood pressure cuff on my arm. “He is very clammy” declared a nurse who was applying greater pressure to the mask on my face, “What’s your name, do you know where you are?” The question was repeated several times. I began to panic, was this another stroke as the answer to the nurses’ questions would not form in my mouth. As I became more conscious, I was aware there were six or seven people around my bed all doing different things toward my recovery and comfort.
Another concern began to dawn on me, “Is my wife here? Please don’t let her see my like this.” I insistently repeated my question again. Maria has stood by me through so many health scares over the years, the promise, for better or for worse in sickness and in health, were not promises that she would have to find the strength to honour one day, but due to years of poor health these words had become a daily reality that she has had to endure. I was unaware that she was the other side of the curtain already experiencing a range of emotional distress, I did not want her to see me this way again, she had suffered enough distress due to these unforeseen moments of crisis.
As I re-surfaced into a more conscious state, the panic that I had previously felt was replaced by an overwhelming thankfulness that I live to fight another day. The intensive care team were satisfied that I was now stable so handed over my care to the ward staff who busied themselves with changing my sheets and hospital gown due to a moment of unconscious incontinence.
The curtains were pulled back as if this was the opening scene of some theatrical production, Maria was waiting for me, her face lit up with relief as I tried to reassure her I was ok. I scanned the ward, the man to my right now had a visitor and was in deep conversation. The two gentlemen opposite were sat intently looking at me as if they were keen to get my attention. As my eyes fixed on the bear chested portly gentleman opposite he took the opportunity to express his opinion of the incident. “That was a bit touch and go mate, you are very lucky”. – Lucky I thought, this was not luck……