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Child care in reverse follows Dad's health emergency


Hospital vistation

Parents aim to give their children a sense of perspective; an awareness of their place and role in the world.

With my wife, I try to teach our kids Emily (11) and Ben (8) that we don't hold sway over our beginnings and endings – co-dependency and community reign. But as for how we elect to muddle through the in-between bits? That´s on us.

My favourite parental pontification has always been to choose to treat life´s lesser negatives as ‘water off a duck´s back´ by not letting circumstances dictate their responses; the Romans put it more martially; vincit qui se vincit (‘he conquers who conquers himself´).

But my own duck has been royally saturated of late by a serious health condition that would´ve ended me in a less enlightened age.

For several months I´d worked, growled, slept and woken in pain and discomfort, hounding my hapless GP as she dismissed possible maladies such as kidney stones, cancer, diabetes, bladder infections, tumours, prostate problems, etc.

Weight gain baffled; work colleagues frowned me-wards daily, concerned. Heavy facial bruising led to attempted humour: winking surreptitiously I reassured the kids that their gentle mother, Trudy, was not bashing me each night.

A belated early April referral to a urologist/surgeon, led to an alarming ultrasound and a blunt instruction to head for the nearby emergency triage ‘now´. My bladder was a water balloon waiting to go splat. A damaged kidney raised fears.

A painful, slow but necessary catheterisation was a new lowlight (worsened by the practitioner´s grinning admission that ‘you´re my first´). A sleepless night in emergency dawdled on, punctuated by a friend´s visit, anxious phone calls and texts, and regular screams from ‘code greys´ (instances of drug-affected and mental health patients losing the plot).

Back home, the kids were in tears. They rallied, negotiating a roster for sleeping in Mum´s bed. I felt useless.

Grim if illuminating consultations (‘we usually see this in 60 and 70 year olds´) preceded a bleak morning release. Several miserable weeks followed, walking circles slowly around home.

It´d be good for my ego to declare that I shed the collective pain, stress and uncertainty like H2O off my tail feathers, as I proved myself a positive stalwart for wife and progeny.  Not always so; I´ve too little faith in this best of all possible worlds, and too vivid an imagination.

Hope, and the sense of perspective I try to emphasise in my parenting, actually came from Trude and the kids. When the kids and their Ma picked me up from emergency, Emily stood guard over her Dad in a beautiful bit of role reversal while the others got the car. Arriving home after school that afternoon, Ben delegated Hooters, his stuffed owl (an anecdote to share with his mates at Ben´s 21st), to keep me company.

The kids stepped up, helping Trude with cleaning and chores. Easter came and went, with its storied agonies and redemption. School holidays beckoned and my body needed time to reset before surgery was advisable.

Trude and I talked it through; I could lie in bed and groan at home, with the kids comatose in front of electronic screens. Or (as we did), we could pile in the car, scoot down for several days to our booked pleasure dome in Inverloch, where I could lie in bed and groan while two intrepid explorers dragged their sainted mother around the region´s dinosaur bone-laden pathways and freezing beaches, etc.

Family and friends communed, wishing me positivity and prayers, support and doctor jokes. The kids´ friends at church prayed regularly for their sick dad. Grandma drove an hour up to Melbourne to take Ben to his karate lesson.

Emily was surprised when she moved me to tears one morning as she played a grade eight piano arrangement of Georgie Gershwin´s joyful ‘I Got Rhythm´; she´d never seen me cry. Ben gladdened our lives, scoring an honorable mention award at an eisteddfod for his cello feistiness.

Routines returned our worried, weary family to a sense of normalcy. School, swimming, homework. Endurance. Music soothed, flowing through cornets, cellos, violins and pianos. The uncontrollable was faced; accepted.

On 17 April, blissful nothingness via the anaesthetist preceded successful camera exploration and laser-wielding by our surgeon. My groggy, relieved escape from hospital preceded my ongoing, healthy convalescence at home for several weeks, with numerous walks with Wolfgang, our superannuated spoodle.

Ten kilos lighter, I´m due back to work on 20 May. Both kids are seeing lots of me while Trude´s jealous of my extra sleep post-surgery. The offspring have both scored ‘student of the week´ awards, Em for ‘her insightful entry in her writer´s notebook´ and Ben for 'delivering yet another fabulous speech (and for trying his best to complete his homework)'. Sensitive, tender, our kids rose to meet a challenge.

I also re-learnt something I´d retired from the forefront of my mind; their mother (whose name aptly means ‘spear maiden´) is made of strong stuff. Sitting together with friends a´visitin´, Trudy floored me by admitting that before my emergency admission she was terrified I´d up and die on her. She kept it together, regardless. I am truly grateful.

Barry GittinsBarry Gittins is a communication and research consultant for the Salvation Army.

Hospital visit image by Shutterstock.

Topic tags: A belated early April referral to the urologist led to an alarming ultrasound and a blunt instructio



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Existing comments

Thanks for sharing this very personal story, Barry. These lines from the frosty one (the great poet Robert Frost) may resonate: First stanza from "A Prayer in Spring". Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;/And give us not to think so far away/As the uncertain harvest; keep us here/All simply in the springing of the year.

Pam | 14 May 2015  

Thank you Barry A story well worth sharing. God's speed on your journey through life.

James Grover | 15 May 2015  

Thanks Barry for the sharing. I can relate to your experience well as I have had two serious episodes in the last two decades , one just 12 months ago. Your "better half" goes through hell and your children really suffer, particularly during my first event when my kids were still in high school .I can honestly say that my wife and I really grew through those experiences. Do enjoy your new lease on life.

Gavin | 15 May 2015  

Barry good health to you and a smooth return to work. Thanks for sharing your personal experience. There's something inspiring that can happen when our bodies decide to do their own thing and we realize that we are not in control. It often requires huge and speedy response to an acceptance of a very new scenario for you and your family. This and feeling "crook" and limited at the same time probably deserve a medal, but as you know you don't get one. Instead you find that you would give the medal to your carers, family and friends , who put up with you , and who face the uncertainties and emotional roller ooasters. Was it St.Luke who said:"put out into the deep,let down your net, for a catch. " Sometimes the catch is a precious jewel ,like you discovered in your family's support. Best wishes to you ,your Trude and Ben and Emily. Let's pray in thanks and for those who have little or no support.

Celia | 15 May 2015  

Thank you for your kind words and wishes.

Barry Gittins | 16 May 2015  

Health scares really affect you to the core, and yeah, perhaps even more so for those of us with overactive imaginations... Especially when no one can tell you what's going on, and then you wind up in Emergency. I can relate and it's horrible. Glad you're doing a lot better now, Baz, and that the surgery is in the past!

MeganG | 19 May 2015