The sky was crystal clear last night: dense, blue, endless. As I gazed up at its depths, stars seemed to appear one by one. The world was a blanket of blues and black, the awakening sun just beginning to turn the horizon into a golden pale azure, striking against the houses and trees in silhouette. In front of me, light spilled out of the open curtains and in the garden; corrupting the dark, yet, showing the life hidden by its blackness.
How strange that a scene, a moment, like that can feel like a gift. As I breathed in deeply, a calmness started to descend. Perhaps it was numbness, exhaustion. But at that moment, the beauty of the world at 5am on a Spring morning helped me cope, calm.
A short time later, as I watched the ambulance slowly pull away from my house until it disappeared round the bend in the road, the same scene was aglow with sunlight. The orchestra of birdsong filled the air and my heart, reminding me of the beauty of life. At that moment, it was hard not to feel small and hopeless.
If my heart wasn’t breaking, this past week would be farcical.
Dad was discharged a week ago from the respiratory ward. We had been told that his Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) had advanced but that they had managed to stabilise him sufficiently for discharge. He still looked ill to us but we were ecstatic that he was actually coming home – something we hadn’t be able to hope for a week earlier.
By 4am on Saturday morning we had called an ambulance as Dad had chest pains.
Dad returned to the respiratory ward where we were told a succession of different information… “it could be a heart attack or angina… He may need to be transfered…. It’s not his heart it’s his lungs….” Fear rippled through us as we watched him seemingly black-out only to come to moments later, oblivious to what had happened.
Once again, Dad stabilised and he was sent home again on Monday. This time, although tired, he looked brighter. We dared to hope again. But 2am on Tuesday we called an ambulance again. Dad was distressed, grunting with the pain in his chest. They gave him morphine and he went back to hospital in the ambulance.
This time he went on the cardiac ward. After x rays, scans and multiple blood tests they confirmed that he had had a small heart attack. We were told that the scarring was minimal but that Dad would not be able to have a bypass or surgery as his condition was too poor. For the second time he was stabilised, the pharmacy bag groaning with the boxes of tablets and inhalers he came home with.
Thursday he was home again. He looked the best he had in probably a month. Wobbly on his feet, Dad insisted in getting up once in a while. Putting aside the knowledge that we’d been told that Dad could leave us at any time, that we would have months if we were lucky, we focused on enjoying every precious moment that his survival gave us: a gift.
Thursday night Dad slept through for the first time in weeks. He ate his meals, and spent a little time outside to enjoy the Spring sunshine that had finally arrived. But he was anxious, fearful that he wouldn’t sleep or that he would feel pain again.
Last night, Friday night, Dad’s second night home, he once again woke with chest pains. We administered the new angina spray in the hope that this would end his pain. After giving the second dose as instructed, Dad reported his pain had eased but not gone. Hopeful but still concerned, we called the out of hours GP number. Was this normal? How long did you wait for the spray to work? We had been told so little. Cautious of his recent heart attack, they decided to send the ambulance anyway, just to be sure. It was a longer wait this time, not an emergency as such due to the relative success of the angina spray, and that’s how I found myself outside staring out in the dark and waiting for the artificial glow of the ambulance lights.