What POSITIVES could ever come out of a burst appendix you ask?
Well, luckily I am a positive sort of guy, and with the help of pain killers, an enforced rest period after a traumatic week, and arriving home to a caring wife and family, I decided to, whilst resting turn the whole experience into a positive and attack certain issues which have been bedevilling and haunting me for years.
This blog may not be a piece of writing excellence, nor may it be a world beater in clear thinking and motivation, but it may help others understand me, where I am at, and what I can offer. Hopefully it is not ALL about me, but I must admit, sometimes during a health recovery phase, a little self indulgence helps. What this blog is not, is a medical description/expose of what difficult circumstances I faced, when seeking help through Victoria/Australia’s Public Health System and how those problems, and their solutions could be addressed.
It is Friday, November 22, 2013, 6 days after my Appendix burst, and 5 days since my operation, and my innerds were splattered with puss built up over a couple of weeks of gastro and tummy bugs. It is said the appendix is now a useless “organ” and is a throwback from more ancient days when humans ate more plant material and roughage.
I am writing this as I sit in relative contentment, looking at views like this one of the Australian bush.
My guts ache, but if I am still, I am content. My body is filled with anti-biotics, without which I would be dead. Thank goodness for anti-biotics.
Going back to my hospital stay, I was in a two bed ward, my room mate was in a much worse state than I. He was foreign. His family spent a noisy Sunday with him every second, whilst he spewed his guts every couple of hours and him sleeping most of the time in between.
I returned from surgery and was filled up with pain killers, so I was OK. No contact was made with him until Tuesday morning, I felt so bad, this was so unlike me to be anti-social. Well, no-one acknowledged me with a wave or eye contact, so when that happens we all, I am sure back off, and ignore and I must say it was not nice with all that sickness and noise happening barely 2 metres from your bedside. Nights are not pleasant, with every noise travelling like a bullet to your head, and a new nurse, a new routine, a beeping drip pump, a pill to be taken, an observation to be taken, food needs to be eaten! Not much time for anything else.
So first contact was a good morning from me and grunt from him, as he prepared to have a wee. On his return we chatted, his English was marginal, but he could manage. It was good we had broken the ice. He was a 62 year old Afghan, arrived in Australia 10 years ago, legally, migrating with wife and 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. He was a pediatrician, his wife an specialist Afghan and Pakistan history teacher. They live in Endeavour Hills, (Dandenong north east) with his brothers family, and his sisters family. His/their story is what he and his family shared with me over the quiet moments of well-ness we shared together. I shared snippets of my story for their benefit, I was 4 years older than their Dad, a retired electrical engineer with family all over Oz, blah, blah.
Without blabbing about his situation too much, he was in a bad way. He had diabetes, failing kidneys, a massively bloated tummy and had to enjoy a concoction of 20 or so different medications. But, this is not my story, which is, every time a health professional, nurse or aide spoke to him or his daughter translators, it was if they were referring to a man in the moon. No attempt at understanding or caring. I must say it got up my nose, but it wasn’t my place to advocate or stand up for him. The question they the family were facing that day was, should he go home or not? The hospital as always needed his bed and could only see him failing to keep food down, the family were obviously not able to care for him as they saw fit.
In case I bore you, let’s cut to the chase, after 2 lovely 30-60 minutes of evenings with the afghan family, talking multi-culturalism, Australianisms, misogyny, Afghan/Pakistan history, immigration, boat people, Australian politics, I did develop a aquaintanship, respected on all sides. I have to admit, I was brought into their family, them wanting to know what I thought of their Dads situation. Stressing my difficulty with not knowing anything of their Dads medical history and the amateur nature of my advice, I suggested 20 medications seemed way to much for the body to cope with, and he should be eating the most easiest digestible foods possible, and that perhaps a dietician/nutritional it’s expert could help. At that stage Doctors were prescribing anti-nausea pills to counter “the wrong” food. Anyway they took this on board and asked the right questions and met with a doctor which was offering to help.
Underneath the chit chat, They were worried, the hospital wanted him to move, and they faced a new challenge as to whether their Dad, should or should not, go to a specialist palliative care unit, which could look after his diet, medication, and hopefully turn the tide on a failing situation, on which only a new kidney would help. They were to have a family meeting in the hospital at 11 the next day.
I was in the process of being discharged. I made myself scarce, they were doing Ok, but as I said good-bye, the father said, “Rod, what do you think of this palliative care thing”.
“What a question I thought, to ask an almost total stranger, what an honour to be asked, he respects my views, how do I respond”? I had only a few minutes, my wife was getting the car, and a nurse was due to wheelchair me to meet her. Fortunately, the father and mother had been joined by their Engineer Son-In-Law, who spoke good English ( I needed 100% translation here) and stressing the need for speed, I cut to the chase explaining father had asked me my thoughts, to which I said, “if you want to die, then go to the palliative, but if you want to live and fight for life, you need to tell whoever, wherever you are that, and if you do FIGHT FOR LIFE you will pull through”. Fortunately, I was able to repeat my punch line a couple of times.
With that, I had to go. In the wheelchair, I thought, “what a moment!”, “never would have guessed that was coming” and, how
It came to that and most of all, “had I made a difference?”
On reflection, I thought I had, and that my passionate communication style had helped that family assess where they were at. The moment for me is that, whereas, I usually consider my style garrulous rather than constructive. I was pleased with myself and reflected on the many other people I had helped in my small way, during my time in business and Rotary, but reflecting on human nature and the need to mind you own business.
As a result of this, I have decided a slightly more assertive approach is needed. I can speak, I have the life experience, and if my two bobs worth is worth sprouting then I should have a go. A defining moment for me, anyway.
Thanks for reading and my best regards to all.