And so following on from last week I continue on with this: his final week.
So, I was awakened to Nick asking me for an ambulance, it was about midnight on a Sunday long weekend. I started whispering to him, ‘what’s wrong, are you sure you need an ambulance?’ Me being Miss Doubtful..
The truth was throughout his illness, we had avoided the ambulance call, that nervous call you make, explaining symptoms and address details. I had been the ambulance driver so far, (not crazy fast driving, but you get what I mean!) and living so close to the hospital in the city, meant it was generally quicker to get ourselves there.
That’s why I knew it was serious when he asked me to call an ambulance, though I was still secretly hoping it was a joke. Don’t forgot we were approx an 1.5 hours from the Epworth hospital in Richmond, where he received his treatments. So, once I realised what we had to do, I woke my parents and we went into action mode.
I called the ambulance telling them Nick was having sharp pains in his stomach and chest. Painful enough that he knew something had happened. He kept mostly still on the side of our bed, as I spoke to the operator, doing my best to state the urgency of our situation, while having Nick in the background shouting, ‘i’m not getting in the ambulance, if they don’t take me to Epworth’.
Of course, she couldn’t promise this, saying if it was an emergency, they’d take him to the nearest hospital, which in our case was the public one in Epping. Nick just wanted to go straight to where they knew him well and we wouldn’t have to go through all the details about his condition and treatment, over again and again!
I was doing a fine job of this over the phone already, but it was still freaking Nick out, all he kept saying was, ‘get me to Epworth’. So, an ambulance was dispatched, and we set about getting ready to for the pick up.
Except one problem, my parents property is down a mostly dirt road, of which there is only 3 properties, with no street lights. We were so concerned they’d miss us, my Dad went out to the main road holding a torch and a lantern, so he could motion to the ambulance when they got close. All the while our daughter slept on peacefully, even when the ambulance arrived, lights flashing and siren wailing!
And we had two lots of assistance, firstly 2 local paramedics arrived, as they were unsure how long it would take for another to get to us, and I had stressed how serious a situation this was. They administered some morphine and waited with us for the next ambulance to arrive. I went through Nick’s history with them, while making coffee and packing our bags.
Then the second ambulance arrived, I again spoke at length, to all 4 paramedics, detailing his condition and medications etc and we were finally on our way. Phew!!
I can remember the paramedics commending me on my calmness and efficiency that night, asking if I was an actual nurse, *’why yes I am, but I only have one patient, I work at the Kosmas Hospital up the road.’
*not actual conversation, i’m not really a nurse!
It was decided, Mum would ride in the ambulance with Nick, while I dropped our daughter off at Nick’s parents place, to then make my way to the hospital.
Mum tells the story, that the ambulance didn’t have the medication needed to help Nick with his pain relief and they even had to stop midway, and meet up with another ambulance to swap supplies. This was a mammoth journey for Nick, who only wanted to get to Epworth and be around familiar faces. He did get his way, and they took him there, but Mum says, he yelled the whole way, warning them not to stop at Epping. Even sick, Nick could be very persuasive!
I got to the hospital at around 2.30am, he was sedated and sleeping, my Mum sat by his side. No one had any answers yet, they’d have to wait til morning to run some tests, it was a long night. Mum and I tried the best we could to sleep on the hard plastic chairs next to his bed, but sleep didn’t come, we waited for the sun to rise and Nick to wake up instead.
Monday morning came, they rushed him into X-ray and ran the necessary tests and finally the news from his oncologist, Nick had a blockage to his stomach and small bowel. No real reason why, just because. It’s what end stage pancreatic cancer does. Ain’t that fair? Our oncologist told us there was an operation they could attempt to fix it, but they’d have to wait a couple of days before deciding if Nick’s body was up to it.
Monday wasn’t an altogether bad day, we were still hopefully that he’d have the operation and be done with it. Our oncologist wanted to confer with his fellow doctors and was going to bring Nick’s case to a conference call he was having the following morning. Nick was fine, dosed up on medication, but chatting away and happy enough. I got his parents to bring our daughter in for a play and as far as we were concerned it was just another hurdle to jump.
Later that night, Nick confessed that he didn’t want me to leave him alone at hospital. He never wanted to stay overnight as per my previous post, but now he didn’t want to stay alone there either. So, I rushed back to the apartment, had a quick shower, grabbed some clothes and I was back by his side. I started living there with him that week, sleeping on a stretcher bed besides him.
I think Nick knew it was serious and couldn’t stand the thought of being without me. Secretly, this new issue, scared the hell out of me, if they decided to go ahead with the operation, his oncologist had warned me, he might not survive it, and of he did, the recovery would mean 8 weeks hospital stay. I thought that might kill him alone! But, we were at the mercy of the surgeon who would do the operation, and we were yet to have a visit from him, anything could still happen.
Nick was now on constant pain relief medication, and not eating very much at all. Well, he couldn’t, the blockage to his stomach meant the food had no where to go. He wasn’t hungry either, but they had him on an IV drip giving him the nutrients he needed. He was finding it difficult to walk around, but was sitting up in bed, being his usual smart arse self, when visitors started to come by.
Then came Tuesday, Nick’s oncologist and the surgeon came to visit, they still weren’t sure the operation would be a success. The conference call consensus had been mostly, ‘no, he won’t survive it.’ The surgeon mostly agreed, he told us he wanted to do it because he wanted to give Nick and I some more life together, but given Nick’s condition, it would be very dangerous and there was no guarantees. Nick pleaded with him to do it, but I wasn’t so sure, I didn’t want him to die on the operating table. But, at this stage, there was still a chance they would operate and insert a stent, a tube like device to keep the passage open and to help him live a little longer.
More people had heard Nick was in hospital now and he was enjoying the visits. Did you visit Nick, what was his mood like? Most people will say, they never knew how sick he really was at this stage, as always, he hid it well. When they’d leave, he’d sink into his pillow and drift off to sleep. I’d take the oppurtunity to run down stairs and grab a coffee.
Everyone knew us at the hospital, I always said, i’d knew we’d been around there too long, when I was able to get around and help visitors lost in the foyer, directing them where they needed to go. Knowing the shortcuts and when the fresh sandwiches were delivered to the cafe. My walks around took twice as long, as I got stopped all along the way, people wanting to know how Nick was doing, how Claudia was and how we were holding up. Staff in the kiosk, pharmacy, cafe, nurses, doctors, other patients etc, Nick had an impact on everyone he met. And having someone so young with such a terminal disease, touched so many hearts there. Some of these people still, 3 years later, keep in touch with.
One of the beautiful friends we made was Talia, who worked at Epworth, she messaged me recently to say, ‘Nick and you were the first young couple I had ever met who showed me what true love was all about..’. 3 years on, she still carries this thought with her, that’s impact for you!
But, back to the week at hand, by Wednesday things were starting to turn, the operation was officially called off. We knew this wasn’t going to end well, the obstruction wouldn’t un-do itself and we knew he couldn’t live with it either.
I’ll leave it there for now, i’ll pick up same place, same time next week.
Thanks for reading along, commenting, sharing and liking, means the world to me and Nick too, i’m sure!
Til next time, Michela x