On my forth day in hospital after my second and mercifully my last operation, I was still coughing and hacking away. The tubes they’d used to intubate me during my surgeries had taken it’s toll on my throat and lungs. They had issued me with a little machine that had a transparent tube that had markings on it from 100 – 1000, and had a small ball in it. I had to breathe in as deeply as I could and get the ball to rise as much as I could. Using it for the first time was an eye opener not only for me but also for the medical staff, as everyone realized that I only had 30% of my lung capacity at that point. They way I saw it was that if I could survive both these surgeries and come out on the other side, there was no way in hell I was going to give up now. That is when my will to live really kicked in, and I saw it as a challenge to see how far I could get that little ball to go up as the days slowly crawled by. By this time my doctor and the nurses were forcing me to become mobile again. Going to the toilet was a monumental undertaking as I had to lug two hard plastic drains along to the bathroom with me, each of which were about half the size of a briefcase and that handles at the top so one could carry them…very handy, and a royal pain in the ass! On the fifth day, when the doctor came to visit me, he gave me the amazing news that he could remove the drain on my right side. I was elated and then suddenly it hit me…they still had to remove it. What was that going to feel like…would it hurt? I found out soon enough.
As the nurse loosened the bandages around the tube going into my ribs, my heart was almost pounding out of my chest. Although I still had to keep the left one in for another day or two, I couldn’t wait to get the right one out…this monster that had caused me so much agony and discomfort. The bandages were off and looking at me she said, ‘Okay, take a nice deep breath for me and try to relax.’
We were both in stitches of laughter when I asked her, ‘What if I don’t have any breathe?’
She was such a pro at what she was doing that as I was laughing, she pulled it out. It took three seconds and that was that. I felt a slight suction sensation, but didn’t feel much pain at all…a little stinging at best and it was all over. The relief was incredible. It was almost like when you’ve been on your feet all day in six inch stiletto’s and they’re now so sore and tired that they’re burning. You finally get a chance to sit down and take these shoes that you now feel like throwing in the dustbin off, and you immerse your feet in a soothing warm, bubbling foot bath. That was the relief I felt. I closed my eyes and rested my head back down on the pillow again as the nurse patched me up and before leaving me to rest, she stroked my head and said, ‘Well done.’
For the next few days they had to keep a close eye on me to make sure that there were no air bubbles or embolisms developing and every few hours they would bring in a mobile scanning machine and take images and study them. With the all clear, two days later the left hand side tube finally came out as well. The relief I felt when the first tube came out was doubled this time around. As soon as I was patched up, I got out of the bed and shouted, ‘I’m free!’
Two days later after careful monitoring and scanning, the doctor gave me the news I’d been longing to hear for an eternity. I could go home. I picked up my mobile to phone Jaco to tell him he could come and get me. The hospital hadn’t even phoned him yet when he was already half way there. It was a joy for me to pack my belongings into my bag, knowing I was going home. As soon as Jaco and the girls walking through the door, I burst into tears. This is going to sound very drama queenish, but for a few moments there I wasn’t sure myself whether I was going to make it out of that hospital. The girls also started crying as all three of us embraced at once, and when I got to finally hug Jaco I completely dissolved. It took me a good 30 minutes to compose myself before we could leave, which was still in a wheelchair. I was still weak and would get breathless very easily. I still had a long way to go in terms of getting my full lung capacity back, but I’d made sufficient progress that the doctor was willing to let me complete my recovery in the comfort of my own home.
I only found out later that my sister and her family were not sure whether I’d make it out of the hospital at all. After getting home that evening and once the girls were in bed, Jaco and I had a chance to talk and after telling him everything that had happened, he wept. This time it was me handing out the tissues…this time I was the strong one and I was determined it wasn’t going to stop there.