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The Week in Review

Over this weekend, I drank a lot of wine. Generally, I am a water or ‘Diet Coke’ girl (please don’t judge me too harshly, I know it’s a vice!) but after the ten days we just had, I really felt like I needed to decompress and be able to shed the negative stresses that were lodging themselves ever deeper in my shoulders!

Having suffered from numerous urinary tract infections over the past twelve months, I was called for a rigid cystoscopy last week. That’s where the fun began. Before it could go ahead, I had to have a test for Covid, to ensure I was virus free and would not pose a threat to staff or other patients.

The test was carried out swiftly and professionally by very lovely staff: a technician and a nurse, both of whom were most caring and sympathetic. To my utter mortification, I sneezed on one of them and gagged in the face of the other. To be expected I suppose, but the whole business while very necessary, left me feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, I tested negative and the procedure went ahead two days later. I was instructed by another nurse ahead of time that I would not be able to drive home, so I dutifully brought my husband along as my chauffer and he was waiting to bring me home afterward when I was deemed ‘awake and functional’ enough. The procedure was done under general anaesthetic you see, and it was my first so I had no idea what to expect. The cocktail of drugs they gave me obviously worked a charm, because I awoke feeling fuzzy headed and very dozy.

Because Stephen, my husband was working the following day and on Saturday, we gave Luke, our ten-year-old, the following day off school so that he could keep an eye on me at home. He let out the chickens and made sure they were fed. He walked up to the top of the hill twice a day to make sure the sheep were doing fine. He brought in firewood, fed the dogs and overall was my saviour for those couple of days we were on our own. I had not expected to be feeling so knocked out after the procedure and slept most of the day on Friday. Saturday passed by in a bit of a blur too. It was uncomfortable to eat and swallow, because I was intubated while under anaesthetic. Mostly I drank cold drinks and felt not-quite-myself.

While I was generally going about the business of recovering from my procedure, my sister in law ‘M’ was enduring her third week of crippling back pain and loss of mobility. Having been to the hospital in Dublin and sent home more than once, she eventually managed to get an M.R.I scan done privately. Her G.P. didn’t look at the results until Monday, but when he eventually did, he sent her to the Emergency Department with a letter immediately.

While her other brother-in-law ‘B’ had offered to bring her to the hospital on his way to work, I also offered my services. I reasoned that I could stay with her until she was admitted, whereas he would have been dropping her off to go to work. It seemed like a good plan. We rearranged the afterschool collection and drop off of the kids, which included my Luke being collected by a neighbour and brought to his grandmother’s house.

Within a couple of hours of speaking to the G.P., the hospital letter had been collected from the surgery and we were on the road to Dublin. I chose major roads because any bumps in transit caused my delicate and incapacitated passenger shooting pain. We travelled at a good time of day and met no traffic en route. The journey was uneventful. Still though, after two hours of travelling, M was in agony as she unfolded herself from the car. I dropped her off at the door of the hospital and went to find parking.

I parked and as I approached the hospital was somewhat bemused to find M shuffling her way towards a different door with her Zimmer frame, moving an inch at a time and clearly in dire discomfort. I had dropped her off at the wrong door. I didn’t half feel bad. She was white in the face and looked like she might fall over. We got her checked in to the Emergency Department and after a very short wait, were called. While I am sure they would have been happier if I was elsewhere, I stayed with her, hoping that I would be an assertive and positive influence to the consultation.

A brief chat with triage nurse gave us the lay of the land. She understood the seriousness of M’s condition and sympathised however, there were no beds available. The consultant had gone for the day and only junior doctors were in-house. In all likelihood, M would be standing waiting to be seen for about five hours minimum, standing because it was too uncomfortable for her to sit. We could certainly stay, or we could go home and return in the morning first thing: this would give the patient a chance to get what rest she could overnight, and they would keep a bed for her in the morning. We opted for the latter option, leaving the letter and scan results there.

I was up by half four following morning having endured a night of fitful sleep. I washed, dressed and made myself a large coffee for the road. I brought entertainment for myself: I was anticipating bringing her to the emergency department and not leaving the hospital until she had been admitted and was in a bed, preferably medicated up to her eyeballs. I brought phone charger and headphones, a book and was planning to write up outlines for some blog posts. I had baby wipes in the car, tissues and hand sanitizer. I had bottles of water. I had a blanket and towels and a container in case my passenger felt nauseous. If you had looked in my truck, you would have thought I was going camping for a week.

It was a dark and miserable morning but the roads were quiet because it was so early. We were on the road about ten minutes when I spotted a barn owl: a great white shadow that flew with us for just a couple of seconds, using the borrowed light from my headlights to hunt. I was charmed by my first barn owl sighting and took it as an omen that it would be a good day. On we drove.

With the minor roads behind us, we hit the motorway and cruised northbound. Without traffic, I anticipated that the journey from home to hospital should take about an hour and a half, maybe a little more. In any case we would arrive in good time. Traffic was certainly gathering but it was still quite light. The dark morning was wet with a drizzly kind of nastiness that Irish weather does so well and the road was foggy in patches. Nonetheless, we drove on.

From nowhere, a funny sound came from underneath my truck and then it felt like I was driving over a rumble strip. Then a clunk. I’m pretty sure that despite my efforts to maintain a calm and controlled exterior, I swore under my breath. I pulled into the service lane. It was about ten to six in the morning, dark and foggy. The traffic was obviously growing and cars were whizzing past us at about 120kph. I checked I had no puncture and made a plan to get off the motorway. In bad visibility and at high speeds, we were in a dangerous position.

Thankfully we were just a short distance away from a slip road, so I limped my truck to a service station I knew nearby: I knew it would be well lit and easy to find when we called the cavalry. The truck was driving but it felt wrong and I had to go slow. Occasionally there was a loud clunk. We pulled in, and I put my head in my hands. Of all the times for my truck to let me down, this time I had someone else relying on me and time was of the essence. I felt helpless and like I had really failed M.

We called B, who we mentioned earlier. He was on his way to work at that time too, and incredibly only about 10 minutes away. Graciously, he rerouted his journey and met us, collected M and brought her to the hospital, leaving me to deal with my vehicle. At this stage, I was just thankful that the precious cargo would make it to the hospital. I went into the garage and got myself a hot drink and a pastry and returned to my truck to hatch a plan. It was a little after six in the morning.

I called the AA, of which I am a member. They arranged to send a mechanic with a service vehicle. However, they wouldn’t be on the road until about 8am, and so, I waited. While I was waiting, I got a call to say that the hospital could not find the letter and scan results we had left there the previous evening. They had to be resent. M was admitted in any case.

AA couldn’t help but could tow my truck to a local garage. The mechanic, a very pleasant fellow, reckoned either the gearbox or the steering was the problem but he couldn’t get under the truck to see properly. He said it would need to be put up on a lift though. Given that the ‘local’ garage would be about an hour away from my home, that didn’t seem like a good plan because how would I get home, collect my truck after repairs etc.? He quoted for it to be towed to my own garage but the price was exorbitant. I thanked him and off he went to rescue the next damsel in distress. Time for the waiting game again.

My own garage opened at nine. If I had them tow my vehicle, at least it would be more local to me and in theory, I hoped that they would lend me a courtesy vehicle as they did when servicing. After many phone calls back and forth, they agreed that they would tow my truck back to their garage and lend me a car. However, they guy towing, wouldn’t bring me along due to regulations. In due course he came, loaded my poor, sick vehicle onto the bed and headed off.

In the meantime, the G.P was called and asked to send a copy of the letter and scan to the hospital. After minor panic, he found it (it had been misfiled) and sent it on.

Up until that point I had been happy enough to sit in my car - remember, I had books and all sorts of things to keep me entertained - and it was fine for the engine to tick over and keep me warm as long as I wasn’t driving. Now my truck was gone. Due to Covid rules, I couldn’t sit in the coffee shop. Instead I sat outside on a bench in the forecourt of the service station, with some breakfast and a coffee and watched the people come and go as they refuelled and went about their business.

I had called my poor father in law earlier, and asked him to come and get me, he drove an hour to get to me, then brought me to the garage so I could collect the car, then, on he went home. I was given a car to borrow until my own was fixed and I made my own way home. By the time I got home, it was after one in the afternoon, so I had a leisurely lunch with my mother-in-law (which I kind of felt like I deserved).

That evening, Stephen arrived home with a puncture, so he changed the tyre, popped it into the boot of my borrowed car and getting the tyre fixed went onto my to-do list for the following day. I’m thankful to say that the rest of the week, passed by without that level of drama!

I brought my niece (M’s daughter) for a dental appointment. M went for back surgery on the Thursday. In her absence, I tried to give my mother in law a hand keeping an eye on her house and picking up groceries etc. We purchased a new kettle for the house when the existing one leaked, tripped fuses in the house and we worried it may be an electrical or fire hazard. The only proviso from a post-surgery and highly-medicated M was that it was silver and not white which amused us.

I made a beautiful batch of a spiced apple jelly from gorgeous red fleshed apples – I will be giving it as gifts. From the leftover apple pulp I started my first ever batch of cider vinegar.

I continued to strip-graze the sheep. At the weekend, we did some power hosing in the sheep sheds to prepare it for housing of the animals next month. Luke in particular has become adept at handling the power washer and did a great job. The grass is getting scarcer and the weather is having a real impact on the condition of the fields. I’m happy to be closing off paddock and will be happier still to get the girls indoors.

Needless to say, the garden didn’t get a look in, but our point of lay birds are starting to produce eggs, right on time and just as the older girls are taking their well-earned break for winter. Our two broiler birds have been processed and we had on Saturday night as a dry run for Christmas dinner. I rarely roast a whole bird as there are just the three of us, but it was a wonderful treat.

Lots of other bits happened this week, but I think that at this point I have bored you enough!

Despite the challenges that this week has thrown at me, I’m thankful for how it has finished up. In any situation, be it good or bad, we choose what we take away from it. This week, even though there were difficulties, M had surgery and is in recovery. Her family are cared for and well. My family are cared for and well. All our animals are fine. What could have been a dangerous situation (a breakdown at high speed on a busy road in the dark and fog) passed without any injury, and only caused inconvenience.

Whatever life throws at you, choose to find the positive in it. The phrase goes that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’: choose to look for the silver lining and find it. It’s not always easy, but it is there.


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