Two very unexpected things happened to me this year. Two diametrically opposed events. One was the best thing ever to happen to me. The other was the absolute worst. All in the space of 5 months. Approximately 150 days. Maybe a little more.
Until I was 25 years old, I was never going to get married. It wasn’t for me, I didn’t “believe” in it: as far as I was concerned, if I ever did find the love of my life, we’d live happily unmarried, yet utterly content. That was my worldview, and as far as I was concerned, nothing would change it.
It’s funny how things can change. Unexpectedly.
Fast forward two years and I’m standing in the Mairie du 15eme of Paris, doing what I said I never would, and getting married – to the girl of my dreams, the one who completes me. I am whole, and this is and always will be the best day of my life. The best thing to ever happen to me.
Back to those 150 days. Or was it more like 170-ish. Whatever the exact number of days since my wedding day was, I find myself in a hospital, anxiously pacing the small room that my wife had been occupying before her scan. Finally a nurse comes in, pulls back the curtain, ashen-faced. It’s better if we wait for the doctor to give you more details she tells me. So. Probably not good news then.
Kidney failure. Your wife’s kidneys are failing. A vital organ ceasing to function correctly. The words echo around my brain as it struggles to take them in. All I’m left to do is watch her be wheeled away, and take an empty bus home to a now empty flat. The next few days are a blur of visits from parents and parents-in-law. I don’t remember much of those first few days she was in hospital. Just that I knew something was very, very wrong.
I visited every day, for as long as the hospital staff would let me stay by her side.
The high-dependency unit. Not a place healthy people go. My fears amplifying by the day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look quite so terribly ill. Including my grandmother 3 days before she passed away. The fear slowly morphs to terror, but I hide it beneath an outwardly strong exterior. On the inside I’m falling to pieces.
We’re moving to another hospital now. A specialist neurology hospital. I’m forced to leave her in A&E, not knowing what happens next.
What happened next was the beginning of the worst thing to ever happen to me. My nadir after my zenith. The catastrophic trough following my euphoric peak. “Could you tell me which ward my wife is in please?”, “Of course, 9 North”, “Thank you”. As I approached the ward, without my glasses which alleviate my short sight, the sign slowly comes into focus.
HYPER ACUTE STROKE UNIT.
My worst fears, what I had suspected for nearly 2 weeks now, grimly confirmed. My wife, just 20 years old, has had 4 strokes, following rhabdomyolysis-induced kidney failure, sepsis, a failure in blood clotting homeostasis, and the migration of no less than 4 blood clots to her brain. I am numb. Speechless. Terrified of what I might find when I pull back the curtain to my wife’s bed. But I still have to stay strong. As strong as I can be.
There are no need for intricate details, save to say that my wife looked a shadow of the vibrant, incredible, joyous human being that she was just a few short weeks ago.
I stay, as ever, by her side, for as long as I’m allowed. And as always, at 8pm, in the dark of the winter night, I’m forced to leave her.
When your wife has had 4 strokes, you think things have hit rock bottom. To wake up the next day to a message saying a blood transfusion has gone wrong, and the woman you love has pulmonary oedema and needs an oxygen mask, you realise things CAN get worse. For the first time since admission, I think this is it. Married for 5 months. A widower those 170-something days later.
I’ll keep this part short, despite it being the best bit. The recovery is swift and remarkable. She grows stronger every day, and I’m constantly astounded at her progress. The fog is lifting, and I can see forward once more, clearly, ecstatically, with her by my side.