In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]When death comes. — Into The Clearing
Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!
Last night, my daughter and I went on a beauty shop crawl snaffling up supplies for her sleepover and pamper party and by some miracle of miracles I managed to check out our favourite PJ shop, Peter Alexander’s without buying anything. I can’t say the same for my daughter. I think she bought some bed socks.
Pyjamas are such a personal thing. Some people wear them, others present their birthday suit or just the basics. While the track suit has its place in terms of keeping warm, I do have a bit of a thing for a fancy pair of PJs and have PJ days where I wonder round the house in my PJs with no apologies. There’s something so relaxing, indulgent and revitalizing for me spending a day in a beautiful pair of PJs.
I’m not going to post any photos of me in my PJs simply, because I don’t know where they are. However, my favourites have included a silky pair with zebra stripes and I’ve had several pairs of cloudy PJs with white clouds on a sky blue background. Perfect fpr a creative and writer who lives in the clouds.
However, we’re not visiting Peter Alexander for their PJs, but rather to check out their front door. I don’t recall seeing too many pink doors on Thursday Doors, but this one is absolutely luscious. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that the door handle is a dachshund, which is their corporate mascot. This is Peter Alexander’s own dog, Penny. She’s gorgeous!!
There are also other architectural touches throughout their stores, which are a beautiful fantasyland with candelabras, plush chairs and everything to make you feel like an absolute pampered princess. Indeed, I wanted to move in!! Not that I’m the princess type and I’m certainly not pretentious. However, I love the rich designs of his PJs and there’s a lot of humour as well. I bought my son a pair of Monopoly PJ shorts. They were so much fun but are probably too small for him now.
The other aspect to my love of pyjamas, is that I do have chronic health and disability issues and so I do spend more time at home than I would and I do have a bit of a siesta to get me through the day. I haven’t been to hospital in a long time. However, I think a stint in hospital almost demands new PJs to lift your mood and help you feel a million dollars instead of sick, sorry for yourself. Sure, they can’t take away the pain, but they can go a long way towards lifting a horrible black rain cloud.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit to Peter Alexanders. I think I might dig out my PJs now and have a nap. Have some beautiful dreams.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.
Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.
This week’s Featured Door is attached to the Respiratory Investigation Unit at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.
When you think about having a Merry Christmas, the last place you want to end up, aside from the local morgue is in hospital. That also applies to the weeks leading up to Christmas where it seems like the rest of the world is floating in bubbly and doing the Christmas party circuit, while you’re shuffling from appointment to appointment. That’s not all bad if it’s all routine, good news and you can wipe all that off your radar.
However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Six years ago, after my auto-immune disease flared up again and was resisting conventional treatment, I found out that they were bringing out the big guns and I was having chemo for Christmas. Yet, while this might seem like the worse Christmas present EVER, we actually viewed it as a blessing, a heaven-sent answer to prayer, and not a curse. They could do something.
I wasn’t intending to revisit this journey today for Thursday Doors. Although I had lung function tests followed by an appointment with my lung specialist, I was intending to focus on my apres-appointment trip into the city (Sydney) where I photographed oodles of intriguing, eye-catching and even historic doors.
However, before I sorted them out, I wanted to acknowledge the efforts hospital staff have made to brighten up the place, trying to lift your spirits through what are often very traumatic, bleak and desperate times. News you don’t want at any time of year, but especially not at Christmas. Bad things aren’t allowed to happen over Christmas. That should be written into the fine print. Moreover, you wouldn’t be the first person to try to sue God either. Do you remember Billy Connolly in The Man Who Sued God?
Anyway, when I turned up for my lung function tests today, they’d decorated the doors for Christmas and clearly I had to take a photo for Thursday Doors.
I still remember when I walk out of those doors when I was first diagnosed with the fibrosis, and was absolutely distraught. My kids were only seven and five at the time and obviously needed their Mum. I felt bad if I was even five or ten minutes late to pick them up from school, and it was incomprehensible that I wouldn’t be there to pick them up at all. I left the lab with a single tissue and ended up in the hospital chapel sobbing my heart out, and there wasn’t a single tissue in the place. As hard as that tissue tried to cope with the deluge, it was overwrought. I ended up having to sneak back into the hospital toilets, get myself together and buy some tissues. I distinctly remember saying I had hay fever. What a duffer. A year or so later, when things deteriorated, I burst into tears in the hospital shop and the pink ladies rallied around me with such love. They were beautiful.
Anyway, as I mentioned, my specialists decided to treat the flare up using a chemotherapy drug called cyclophosphamide, which then introduced me to the Northern Cancer Centre on level 1 for my treatments. While I was there, I found out they had a resource centre and I came across a series of work booklets put out by the Cancer Council. These were really helpful for dealing with those really hard questions around death and dying, especially for families with kids. I was mentioning these booklets to a friend recently and that’s what brought me back to lvl 1 today.
Christmas Raffle at the Northern Cancer Centre downstairs.
Having photographed the doors upstairs, I asked the staff if I could photograph their Christmas decorations. I felt like a bit of an idiot, but I wanted to back up the doors upstairs with a another example of how the hospital was getting into the Christmas spirit. Anyway, much to my delight, they upped the anti and asked me if I wanted to have my photo taken in their elf frame. Being an irrepressible extrovert, of course, I jumped at the chance. It was a lot of fun.
Before I head off and while we’re talking about the hospital’s Christmas celebrations, when I was there on Tuesday, a jazz band was playing the foyer and it’s something they’re doing during December. I couldn’t thank them enough. I’d actually just been to see a friend and it was an emotional time. So, it was really therapeutic to listen to the beautiful music and feel soothed. It was so thoughtful!
Well, I realize that talking death, dying and hospitals is a rather gloomy subject at this time of year, when I reflect that I’m still here six years later and in reasonable health, it actually becomes a celebration. A good news story which might touch somebody else’s troubled heart with a touch of hope. After all, as much as we might not want to be in hospital, the alternative is far worse and rather permanent. So, I’d better close off this Thursday Doors with a huge shout out to all the doctors, nurses, physios, OT’s and support staff who help get us back on out feet and out the door.
This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.
Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.
My apologies for posting on a Friday. However, I had an appointment down at Royal North Shore Hospital and planned to take the camera along and thought I’d share some fresh doors with you.
Royal North Shore Hospital is one of Sydney’s best teaching hospitals and for me it’s become a one-stop shop for all the weird and wonderful complications of my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis. The hospital is located across from St Leonards Station on the North Shore and up a hill so steep that it’s likely to induce a coronary in even a fit person.
Anyway, I was heading up the hill, when I spotted this weird fabric veneer over one of the hospital’s heritage buildings…Building 30. I’m not sure if you’ve seen anything like this yourself, but they’ve seemingly printing heritage architectural features onto a piece of fabric, which is camouflaging the building works going on “behind closed doors”.
Naturally, I was rather suspicious. Clearly, they’re trying to hide something and that something more than a messy building site? What is going on?
What’s more, being on the look out for interesting doors today, I was most concerned that this vogue-style veneer didn’t have any doors. There were only windows. This was a serious oversight. An act of discrimination.
However, behind all those windows, I actually did manage to find a door and I’m sure you’ll agree that it was probably best left covered up. After all, it doesn’t really encourage you to trust this place with your life or your loved ones, does it?
When I arrived home tonight, I mentioned this building site veneer to my husband and he said he’s seen it on building sites around Macquarie University. Apparently, it helps reduce graffiti and bill posting, although it still seems like a massive cover-up to me. What do you think?
This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
― Aldous Huxley
So often, language is hopelessly inadequate. Last night, I found myself profoundly moved and yet despite all my years as a wordsmith and a thinker, I was left stammering unable to communicate.I guess that’s what happens when your doors of perception suddenly swing open, and you have a eureka moment.
I’d been watching a past episode of Ahn’s Brush With Fame where he’d painted and interviewed Professor Fiona Wood, Australian plastic surgeon and burns specialist. Professor Wood and scientist Marie Stoner developed a revolutionary spray-on skin to help burns survivors. This technology was a world-first and has been used on more than 1000 patients around the world. In 2005 they won the Clunies Ross Award (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering) for their contribution to medical science in Australia. In 2005, Professor Wood was named Australian of the Year.
So, let me bring you into the studio now where Fiona is sitting on Ahn’s distinctive yellow chair. While Ahn’s secretly painting away behind the canvas, Ahn and Fiona’s conversation criss-crossed through her professional and private lives, and there were so many pearls of wisdom. Fiona is such an amazing thinker, and Ahn has a way of drawing people out, although I also understand that painting someone’s portrait tends to do that. Ahn is also deep and profound himself.
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
Leonardo Da Vinci.
However, as much as I was touched by much of the interview, there was a particular part of their conversation which stopped me dead in my tracks. Indeed, today I’ve paused and rewound this section many, many times trying to capture the exact wording. With these two kindred’s swept away into their own little skin paradise, pinning down their words wasn’t easy.
The conversation began when Fiona was admiring the other portraits in the studio, particularly their eyes, and it flowed on from there and they started discussing skin, almost as an entity in its own right:
“When I’m trying to teach surgery, it’s like teaching shades of white (Yes) and some people just get white. That it’s a 3D or 2D surface. It’s layered isn’t it? It’s the layers of the system.(Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s not just skin colour) It’s not skin colour. What colour is it? Skin Colour? I mean give me a break.
(As a kid, you get a packet of coloured pencils and there’s one skin colour.) Like nuh (It never works. No. That’s not how people look.)
“Round face, skin colour…Hmm probably not going to fly really.”
(Ahn’s comments are in brackets here. Please forgive my dodgy transcribing.)
As you could imagine, as a burns specialist, Dr Fiona Wood has an exceptionally intimate knowledge and understanding of skin, which flies right over the heads of us mere mortals, including myself. However, her appreciation was not lost on Ahn who has appreciated similar complexities of tone through the lens of an artist…a painter of portraits.
“All our knowledge has its origin in our preceptions.”
Leonardo Da Vinci.
Unfortunately, as much as I love the written word, these black and white words on the screen fail to convey the animated intensity of their conversation. That sense of not only seeing eye-to-eye but soul-to-soul. That rare synergy where you become lovers of the soul and that fusion is just as intense. As Dr Fiona Wood said at the conclusion of the show:
“My highlight today was actually talking about how images go from 2D to 3D and how the light reflects off the skin and how amazing skin is and talking to someone who gets that. Cause skin is amazing.”
Professor Fiona Wood
As a writer or creative person, I’m naturally interested in how other people see and perceive the world, particularly when they re-frame something ordinary and present it through a different lens. I’ve tried with all my might to try and walk in someone else’s shoes. Moreover, I’ve left my own shoes out, hoping someone else would try them on and gain more than just an inkling of the inner me. So, seeing how two people could get so animated and excited about skin and perceive it as more of a complex and detailed landscape than a continuous monotone, intrigued me. I also found it unusual to hear two people discussing skin tone, because it can be a real taboo.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
HARPER LEE, To Kill a Mockingbird
Not unsurprisingly, I’d never stopped and appreciated what an artist and plastic surgeon might have in common… a shared fascination with the human body and in this instance skin. Indeed, I’ve never even thought of skin in this way. That’s also interesting to me on a personal level as one of my uncles is a plastic surgeon and another is a dermatologist and this would be familiar territory for them. I also have my own take on skin because my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis, also affects my skin. However, I’ve never had to think about reconstructing a severely burned body and all that entails. Moreover, when it comes to paint, abstract is my friend. Indeed, I’ve never even considered what goes through the mind of a surgeon who is wanting to reconstruct a severely burned or injured body and trying to get it as close as possible to its “before”. It’s a form of art and yet so much more because the patient’s life and contentment are in their hands. The more you can reduce the scarring, the better the outcome for the patient and Fiona has clearly devoted herself to that end.
So, now I’d like to encourage you to watch this episode for yourself. Even if their discussion on skin doesn’t appeal to you, the are plenty of other pearls to treasure.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Only a few days ago, I was jubilantly chirping about finding my happy feet. Well, I should’ve held onto that thought. Stuck it onto my forehead with superglue, although it would need to be written backwards so I could read it in the mirror. “Life is Great”. However, please don’t ask me to actually write that backwards at the moment, as I’m not thinking clearly. I was simply being dramatic.
For those of you who’ve been following my trials and tribulations, you might recall that I was fighting off Fergus the Omnipresent Operatic Cough for about 6 months and it was getting me down. He was so darn persistent that he could’ve taught Calvin Cooledge a thing or two about persistence.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Well, I managed to have a good couple of weeks, but then Fergus decided to get sneaky. Or, perhaps like me, he has no sense of direction and he was actually heading back down to my lungs, but ended up in my sinuses by mistake. I don’t know. Either way, the results are the same. I’ve been in excruciating pain and my entire head felt like it was being compressed in a vice and the evil Fergus was turning the handle and laughing, of course and his evil eyes glowing like Christmas lights.
Actually, that shouldn’t be written in the past tense. That’s because Fergus is still at it and flaunting his malevolence. Nothing makes Fergus happier than a bit of torture.
Anyway, I’d been having these intense headaches for a few days, and wondering why my eyes were aching and was getting a bit concerned. Other than having Fergus is my sinuses, I have hydrocephalus and a shunt in my head and these were all the kind of symptoms associated with a block shunt and a trip back to the brain surgeon. With my daughter’s birthday tomorrow, slumber party and associated comings and goings, brain surgery wasn’t exactly on my list.
So, I was starting to get concerned. Just a little concerned. Nothing approaching a major, full-on panic attack with all the bells and whistles. However, then I blew my nose, and I swear a real, living breathing alien jumped out. It was freaky, weird and almost terrifying. I’m not going to thrill you with a graphic description or photographic evidence, but let’s just say this thing was a cross between a Killer python and a jelly rat. The sort of thing that has the infection control Police out in their lab coats, masks, rubber gloves and buckets of Domestos. It’s Quarantine.
Fortunately, I was booked in for an appointment with my rheumatologist at Royal North Shore Hospital. This is one of Australia’s top public and research hospital and home to weird and wonderful conditions like my dermatomyositis. My husband, offering whatever encouragement he could to his embattled soldier, said I was going to the right place for the day. True! Why would I want to go to a tropical island when I could be at the hospital? Well, when you’re feeling that crook and concerned your brain’s being devoured by infection, the deserted island can wait. I was looking forward to going back to my familiar stomping ground where there’s enough expertise from rheumatology, lungs, brain, exploding sinuses to handle whatever Fergus was going to dish up this time.
Well, much to my relief, they let me go and I left with a script for more industrial strength antibiotics, and I actually managed to have an extended coffee with my best friend from school at a cafe near the station.(I perk up well).
I should also mention that I was reading Markus Zusak’s: The Book Thief on the train and in the waiting room. It’s a funny book to be reading when you’re feeling really crook and wondering if your number’s about to come up, but it’s beautifully written. I loved the film and started reading the book and got distracted, but wanted to have another go.
Train trips are always a good way for me to really get stuck into a book as it takes about 90 minutes to get to the hospital. Moreover, it’s uninterrupted time and not that jerky stop start reading you have when you’re going off to sleep. Have you read The Book Thief? It’s just brilliant and the language is so poetic and beautiful. It’s also very philosophical, which I love as well. So, after a day of train trips and waiting rooms, I’m now up to page 164 and I take my time to absorb the prose as well. It hasn’t been an express read. I like to let the words and the magic settle like Autumn leaves in the snow (not that we have either here).
Anyway, I woke up at midday today after my husband handled the morning run. I can’t begin to describe the throbbing pain. However, even walking a metre or so to the bathroom was a huge agononizing effort and I had a glass of water hoping that would help. It was a separate trip to get some Panadol out of my husband’s drawer. I have never experienced pain like this. I had to let those process before I could even ring my husband to tell him how sick I was. That was very humbling, scary. Nobody wants to be that vulnerable. So stuck in a dreadful situation and unable to respond.
Fortunately, for me it was temporary. I rang my husband which perked me up a bit and the Panadol and water were starting to work. With a huge blow on my nose, there was also more relief. I’ll be heading off to pick the kids up from school soon and I’ll be back on my feet in my usual style. Rowena is fine.
I’m glad I’m feeling better and finding ways to keep going, get back on my feet and not let chronic health control my life. Yet, on the other hand, I could use some TLC and my own private nurse to take care of me. Peel me grapes. I know I need to rest.
Do you live with anything ongoing, which is challenges you? Please share in the comments and upload your inner Fergus.
Today, our son’s much loved soft toy lion, “Rah”, ended up in the operating theatre with Dr Curtin on duty. Unfortunately for Rah, he got the wrong Dr Curtin. So, while he’s all stitched up and you can’t see the stitches through the fur, he’s not what he was. Not that he was what he was before I got to him. Indeed, when our son was three, he gave Rah a haircut and took off much of his mane. So, you could say, that Rah had lost his magic powers long ago. On the other hand, after being with us all this time, he’s gained a very different power… the power of love.
Sadly, when you’re an über-loved, scraggly soft toy, you don’t get your choice of surgeons when your stuffing pops out. Rather, “You get who you get and you don’t get upset.” Worse still, you’re told to be grateful. Unlike so many of your peers, you’re being stitched up. You’re not being thrown out. As for anaethesetic or fancy equipment, all you get is a needle and thread…nothing high tech. And, as for the surgeon, that’s a no brainer. It’s Mum. Mum who failed cross stitch class and could never turn her needlework over. Yes, Mum of “hack stitch” fame is sewing you up. Yet, all you can do is: “Keep calm and carry on”. Face your challenge like a lion. Be brave!!
So, there I was finally sewing Rah up. This wasn’t going to be easy. His front leg was split open with stuffing missing. There was a hole under his chin and another gaping wound on his hind leg. Many would’ve written him off, unceremoniously binning him while the child was at school.
However, I am not most people. I believe in history, stories, memories, friendship. So, when I was asked: “Can you fix it?” Of course, I answered: “Yes, I can!!”
There’s no way we’d ever throw Rah out. Indeed, I still have my childhood teddy which is probably little more than moth fodder by now, but I still remember my mother trying to patch her up as well. There was never a question of throwing her out either. That’s because we need the old as well as the new. That, while time causes wear and tear, it also produces shared experiences, which ultimately develop into memories. Story stacked upon story, building fanciful tales.
By the way, the other thing I really like about my son’s attachment to Rah all these years, is that Rah was his choice. Our son chose Rah as his favourite toy and Rah is unique. He’s not a teddy, but a lion and I’m pretty sure he came from the op shop and wasn’t new. Our son also obviously named him “Rah”, making the roar himself for the lion which couldn’t make a sound.
Now, I’ll be interested to hear what the kids have to say about Rah’s surgery when they get home from school. While he’s now in one piece after having 4-5 holes stiched up, including a leg reconstruction, he’s obviously not in proportion. The stuffing had fallen out of his right leg and in order to give it added strength, I over-compensated and it now looks like it’s on steroids and his front legs are quite different. This could be considered “character”, but I have a feeling my daughter will struggle with the two legs looking quite different. However, it’s not her lion and unless she’s willing to fix it, she’ll have to let it be. As for our son, I think he’ll just smile at the latest Mummyism. After all, I do have my own unique way of doing things.
What are your views about fixing toys? Are they “trash” or “treasure”? I’d love to hear from you!
After yesterday afternoon, I’ve concluded that playing doctors and patients is over-rated. That as much I enjoyed playing it as a kid (and without any kind of innuendo), that it’s no fun in real life…especially when your child has had an accident. All of a sudden, you need to be the strong one, her rock, when you’re nothing but jelly. You can barely breathe. Yet, your alter-ego is supportive, loving, encouraging.She’s holding her hand, exuding calm, while you’ve completely freaked out.
Yesterday afternoon, our daughter was walking back from the station when she walked into a pole quite hard. Her glasses cracked and the edge of the lens sliced into the edge of her eyebrow. It was a nasty cut and needed immediate medical attention.
Meanwhile, I was stuck in the queue at the supermarket. All I needed, was a carton of eggs, but I’d grabbed a few things while I was there. Of course, every man, woman and dog had the same idea.So, that’s where I was when my daughter had her accident and a complete stranger found her and stopped to help.
When I rang her from the queue, her little voice was sobbing. Her glasses were broken. Her head was bleeding and she was at the medical centre. Meanwhile, my husband calls. Our son had rung him and said she’d been taken off to hospital.
Forget Friday 13th. Fridays seem to be bad luck around here. Two week’s ago, we were at Emergency with our son.
Unconsciously, I switched gears faster than formula one driver, Sebastian Vettel. Mummy was on the way, siren blaring. I was given a superhero’s welcome. Mummy was there to save her injured baby bird.
Ouch! The cut was nasty and obviously needed stitches and I started wondering about plastic surgery. Ow! My baby!
The staff at the medical centre were beautiful and so caring, looking after Miss like their own and the woman who’d brought her in, had done the same.
Yet, we weren’t going home yet.
The wound needs to be stitched and Miss doesn’t want to be stitched.
She’s terrified and shaking like a leaf.
Then, the doctor starts talking about “numbing” the area.
Note she doesn’t mention the “n” word and silly me starts thinking she’s talking about applying some form of cream you rub on.
We’re given our options. She could get stitched up there or we could could take her to Emergency where they could also give her happy gas to ease the process. She was also told that numbing the area was going to be very painful but it would only last 10 seconds. We’re talking a needle under the eyebrow.
It was a grueling couple of minutes while she decided and fortunately, she decided to stay put and be brave. I asked her if she had her slime with her, which she could hold to calm herself, andwas relieved that helped. Like fidget spinners, making and fidgeting with slime have become a craze.
Four stitches later, we were on our way. On the way to buy her an ice cream. I’m a firm believer in food therapy. Then, we picked my husband up from the station. He could drive home, and I could pass the baton. Dad was in charge, and I could fall in an exhausted heap.
This morning her eye was all swollen and she could barely open it up. It wasn’t too purple, but purple enough.
This incident has also highlighted the possibilities with her travelling a long distance to and from school. I am also wondering whether I should be meeting her at the station again. It’s only a short walk to the shops and you’d think nothing could happen, but evidently it can and it has. However, it’s also important for her to gain independence and stand on her own two feet.
Of course, things could have been a lot worse. It’s terrifying to think how close the gash was to her eye, but it wasn’t. Yet, it was still traumatic. I still feel shaky inside. Indeed, I had a big sleep today. Wrapped myself up in my blankets and quilt with the electric blanket on. I desperately needed to shut the world out for a bit. Put myself on the charger.
I might be on call 24/7, but even Mummy is human.
Have you ever had an experience like this as a parent? What is your story?
Today, I’ve joined in a weekly flash fiction challenge with Charli Mills from Carrot Ranch http://carrotranch.com/
The prompt for November 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge. Have fun with it, like a pillow fight between best friends at a slumber party or newlyweds in search of the perfect mattress. Or you can go dark and write about unusual comforts, like a bad habit or a padded cell. Play with the idea of comfort and refuge.
Respond by November 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
“Mum, it’s time,” whispered a familiar voice.
Yet, Margaret couldn’t bear to let him go. Not yet! There wasn’t much left of Jack but she could still hold his hand.
Now, as their entire lives had shrunk into this infernal hospital room, holding Jack’s hand was it. All they had left.
She was meant to go first. He was the strong one.
That was before the heart attack… the dreadful resuscitation. Such a mistake but had given them more time.
Now, it was her turn to hold his hand.
Yet, when she returned from the toilet, he was gone.
An elephant has been living in my room. It’s never had a name and it’s never shared its story but some time ago, it simply moved in and it hasn’t moved out, rudely bailing me up in my own home.
Ever since, I’ve been feeling like a teeny, weenie, terrified mouse scrunched up hiding in the corner too afraid to come out.
After all, how could a tiny, little mouse ever take on such a monstrous elephant? It wouldn’t even need weapons of mouse destruction. It could just sit on me and I’d be flatter than a pancake. I doubt you’d even find my shadow.
Obviously, confronting an elephant is a serious consideration and not something I’d file as an “irrational fear”.
However, costs are mounting and I simply can’t afford to indulge its freeloading consumption any longer. That elephant has to go and I will do whatever it takes to get it out!!
For many years now, the elephant in the room has been my auto-immune disease, which is inconveniently known as dermatomyositis. That elephant moved on now that I’m back in remission. However, as we all know, elephants are very sociable and have fantastic memories. So once you’ve entertained one elephant, word gets around and another one quickly takes its place. You don’t even need to serve peanuts.
While having your own elephant might seem amazing, they’re actually very hard work. It might be fun riding an elephant to work or using it to clean the car, water the garden and even to do a bit of heavy lifting. However, take a serious reality check. Elephants are actually seriously high maintenance!
After all, elephants not only eat and eat and eat and eat. What goes in, must come out.
Talking about what goes in, a handful of lawn mower clippings is hardly going to feed this insatiable beast. Elephants eat 250-300 pounds of food per day on average and in a zoo, a typical adult elephant eats 4-5 bales of hay and 10 – 18 pounds, or 4.5 to 8 kg, of grain. Annually, that’s more than 29,000 kg of hay and 2700 kg of feed per animal. Naturally, buying all this food puts a serious dent in your household budget.
Elephants also need to drink and in a drought-ravaged country like Australia, an elephant places an enormous drain on your resources. Their daily water consumption is 25 – 50 gallons per animal, or 100 – 200 litres. Let’s hope you’re not depending on a rainwater tank! I wouldn’t like to run into a thirsty elephant on the rampage!
Obviously, just satisfying the consumption requirements of an elephant, even a metaphorical one, takes an enormous amount of effort.
However, that’s only half the story and to be perfectly honest with you, that’s the better end of the story too!
As I said, what goes in must come out and in the case of a herbivorous elephant…out and out and out!!!!!
An elephant defecates from 12 to 15 times a day, a daily quantity of 220 – 250 pounds. This adds up to a yearly quantity of over 85,000 pounds of manure, more than 40 tons per adult elephant. That’s a huge pile of dung in your room and can become something of a Tower of Babel rising right up to your ceiling and you really wouldn’t want to fall in!!
Yet, that’s not all that comes out either!
Elephants also produce huge amounts of methane gas. Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day. That also makes having an elephant in the room, a rather stinky proposition, well beyond the scope of even the strongest air freshners. Urgh!
So after exploring the barest minimum survival, “nothing fancy” requirements of that elephant living in your room, perhaps you, like me, can appreciate that it’s time to send that elephant packing.
No more being nice!!
The current elephant in our room is our daughter’s health. She is struggling to eat and is seriously under weight. She’s 9 years old and eats less than 500 calories most days when she should be eating upwards of 1,800. Most of the time, she can only eat very small amounts and then feels sick. She also complains about bread and potato getting stuck in her throat and troubles with reflux.
You can just imagine the stress that we’ve been through having a child who doesn’t eat. She’s now 9 and this has almost been going on almost since birth. Well-intentioned multitudes have told me that they’ve never seen a child starve themselves to death but our daughter has certainly pushed the boundaries. It might just be the gastro bug that’s been going round or our increased awareness, but she seems worse over the last couple of weeks and is arriving home from school looking weak and off-colour but perks up with food and will eat something. At the same time, she’s a pretty active kid so it’s hard to understand where she is getting that energy. It’s been very perplexing.
Late last year, we took matters in hand and over the last couple of weeks she’s had a barium meal test, an endoscopy and a tube into her nose to check her throat. She’s been so brave and gone through this with courage and strength but even though I’ve had these tests myself, it’s awful to watch her suffer. My heart aches for her and I just wish I could simply kiss her and make her better! Yet, I can’t and rather than being the strong rock I’m portraying, I want to cry and cry and cry. Crumble apart like sandcastle being swept away by a sea of tears. A bit melodramatic, I know, but she’s my little girl…our princess!
So for us, dealing with the elephant in the room has meant documenting what she eats and after realising how close she is to running on empty, I’ve bought her some medical food replacement drinks to at least try to bridge the gap while we seek answers.
I know I probably should’ve been looking into her calorie intake before, but I’ve been trying to keep this low key. I don’t want this thing to evolve into an eating disorder and I wasn’t sure that teaching a child who doesn’t eat about calories was a good thing. The same goes with getting on the scales. I also don’t want her feeling bad about herself or thinking that she’s faulty in some way. I would love to be thin but the more I look into how she is, the more I’m noticing that she’s becoming like a car running out of fuel. Moreover, I’m also realising that whatever the elephant in the room might be, identification, classification and treatment are beyond my capabilities.
I don’t know whether my awareness has just increased but she’s seemed worse this last week. She’s come home from school really tired and lethargic a few times. Feeling completely confused, stressed and perplexed; I didn’t even know which doctor to call or whether I should go to emergency or what. I’m trying to limit her doctor’s appointments and so I needed to pick the right doctor out of the hat. After flapping around all week and getting some good advice from the pharmacist and some food replacement drinks, I finally rang her paediatrician yesterday. I was trying to get my story out and convey some sense of urgency but didn’t need to. She gave me an appointment this very Monday. The only thing worse than having to beg and plead for an emergency appointment is being offered one. Then, you know that your worries are really something to worry about.
At the same time, I am so relieved!! Whatever we’re dealing with, we are no longer alone. Our concerns are being taken seriously and help is on its way. Our paediatrician really is excellent and I know he’ll help us navigate whatever this is and find a clear path. We are also fortunate to know two people with delayed gastric emptying, who have been very helpful and supportive. I also expect we’ll be seeing a dietician and other health professionals who’ll enlighten us.
I’m sure that now we’re starting to expose the elephant in the room and reveal it’s true identity, it’ll either take off straight away or deflate from a 4,500 kilo elephant into a mouse-sized ornament.
I sure hope so!!
Thank you to all those of you who are supporting and encouraging me through this journey with our daughter. It is much appreciated and reflects so positively on the bonds of friendship forged through blogging and even though we have never met face-to-face, that we are connected, if not becoming good friends.
Love and blessings,