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Oh gosh, it’s been quite a while since I posted here. The last time I got my typing fingers out was to write a post, which got saved as a draft before being deleted, about how my dad was sick and to ponder whether I should fly over to NZ to look after the rest of my family.

It started with a text message when I was in the operating theatre one day, assisting with a full day orthopaedic list. Short and to the point it read “I am in hosp strong ab pains waiting ct scan tdy or tom church and fam looking after mum and B love dad.” This was worrying for reasons other than Dad’s atrocious text abbreviations – a couple of weeks before, the familials had visited en masse, and despite my planned gourmet adventures, dad had put himself on a fluid diet because of recurrent abdominal pain. He, of course, ignored my urging to see a doctor, and claimed that things were improving. So, he had his CT scan, which showed some inflammation in the lower right hand side of the abdomen (where the appendix normally resides – dad had his out about 10 years ago).

The plan at that stage was to wait and watch – I think they were hoping a bit of antibiotic therapy and fasting would do the trick. The next morning, however, dad was no better and plans were made to take him off to surgery. This is the point I started to get seriously worried. Any sort of abdominal surgery requires at least several days recovery in hospital, plus however long a recuperation at home. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my mum’s mental facilities are in decline, and my sister’s were never that good to begin with (she has Down Syndrome). But dad reassured me on the phone that they were being looked after.

A couple of hours later I got a call from my aunt in NZ, dad’s sister-in-law, saying how mum was very distressed and that she and my sister were all alone at home, with people popping by once a day for 5 minutes to make sure they were still alive. She was going to take them over to here place, and would I please jump on a plane and come over. Oh, and by the way, dad had come out of surgery, but had been kept on a ventilator in the Intensive care unit because of breathing difficulties encountered intraoperatively.

All of this was very difficult to take in – the ICU twist was complete news, no-one from the hospital had called to let me know. So I reacted the only way I could and hung up on my Aunt. Then I called the hospital to get the full picture, called my stalwart boyfriend, and booked the next available flights. I texted, rather than called the aunt back because I couldn’t deal with the accusatory tone in her voice that I should already be there, although, possibly it was my own guilt I was hearing.

What I haven’t mentioned was that this was the week that S finally handed in his PhD thesis, we had all sorts of celebrations planned, I had some operating lists the following week scheduled, and we were planning to fly out for a 2 week holiday in California in just over a week.

Nevertheless, we booked travel insurance (somewhat belatedly), and I headed off to NZ with my heart in my mouth, not knowing what to expect.

By the time I arrived in Invercargill, having been in transit for about 12 hours, Dad had been extubated and appeared to be improving. Mum was as distressed as described, and her medications had gotten completely muddled. My aunt picked me up from the hospital and took us all back to mum and dad’s place, and proceeded to “chat” with me for about an hour – which meant filling me in on all the details, and implying in the process that dad had completely mismanaged things and was a poor excuse for a husband and father. All I wanted to do was get into bed and sleep.

The week was tumultuous and lonely. The rest of the family appeared to have made the assumption that since I had come they didn’t need to pitch in any more. I was there, by myself, looking after my inarticulate mother and my incoherent sister. I spent the week cleaning, sorting, cooking and ferrying back and forth to the hospital for short visits – usually twice a day.

But dad got better. In fact he was discharged a week and a day after going into hospital, and five days after leaving the intensive care unit. In my experience as a surgical registrar, that’s pretty incredible.

I booked flights back home to arrive a day before we left for San Francisco.

Exhausted and longing to curl up on the couch with S and not move for a week, it turned out that two of our close friends were in town and required accommodation at our place. On the one hand, it was an excellent opportunity to secure house-sitters for while we were away. On the other, conversation and entertainment was expected.

All that was about three weeks ago now. We’ve been to San Francisco, and returned, ever so slightly more rested (although all that relaxation gets rendered useless after a long haul flight from SF to Sydney). And now a week of limbo before we sally forth yet again to NZ for a four week holiday for Christmas.

So, we survived. The whole debacle of dad’s hospital admission served as a reminder that when the crucial jenga block gets taken out of circulation things come crumbling down. Some time over the next few weeks, I think Dad and I are going to have to cosy up to a bottle of Port and have some serious discussions about contingency plans.

In the meantime, it’s almost midday, I’m still in bed writing this post, and there are errands to run.

Next post will be cheerier, and might even include some photos from our trip – lucky you!