Things I Am Learning From Recovery

3D model hospital recovery room VR / AR / low-poly FBX MA ...

Those of you who follow me on social media will be aware that I have had a difficult month health-wise.

For those unaware, here’s the quick version:

On September 13th, I had fairly routine surgery. It was of a type I’ve had before, so there was nothing unexpected. (In fact, it was so routine for me that I even wrote a piece here for other women who might find themselves facing similar).

Three days later, I collapsed at home and started to turn blue. Thankfully, my eldest daughter doesn’t have college on Mondays, so she was there to call an ambulance. Once in hospital, I was diagnosed with blood clots in my lungs. A scan confirmed that there was a significant number of clots in each lung. It was stressed to me by no fewer than seven doctors how lucky I was to be alive – and how unusual it was for the experience not to have been fatal.

After being extremely well cared for in Connolly Memorial Hospital, I was discharged on Thursday, September 19th with medication and some Serious Medical Advice. I was told it would take six months until I’m back to (my version of) normal. I was warned that I need to take it easy; that I need to stay on bed rest until I feel able to do more. I was entreated to monitor myself, and that any change in symptoms, any bleeding, any falling over – anything that is out of the ordinary – necessitates seeking medical attention immediately. The earnestness with which a number of doctors gave me this information impressed on me the necessity to take it (and them) seriously.

Within 24 hours, however, I was transported (this time in the back of a squad car because an ambulance would have taken too long) back to hospital. Unfortunately, the  staff at the nearest hospital – Tallaght – wasn’t keen on even triaging me, so my friend Jane drove me back to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. Twice that night, my friend and family were convinced that I had died in front of them. I know I came dangerously close.

Once back in ‘my’ hospital, the team sprang into action, and I received the care I needed for what turned out to have been a neurological episode.  Again, I was discharged after a few days, with even more medical advice; and previous advice emphasised.

I took the advice seriously, and took up residence on the couch in our living room. I slept and napped between sleeps, dozing between naps. Visitors were received with much delight, and I was grateful when they realised that an hour of being chatted to while upright was as much as I could manage before I’d have to lie down again, and possibly nap.

This Wednesday just past, October 16th, I was – again – in the back of an ambulance.  Breathing had been hard all day, and the Nurse on Call advised calling an ambulance to return to hospital. Reluctantly, I did so. Transported by very kind paramedics – Eoin and John – back to Blanchardstown, I was diagnosed with low haemoglobin, and the start of an infection.

I don’t think my physical health has ever taken such a knocking, and I’m really not used to being unwell (save for the migraines every 3-6 weeks) – never mind being so unwell for so long, and knowing that it will be months before I’m fully functioning again. I’m very grateful, though, that I have managed not to do any permanent damage to myself. I’m also very grateful for the fact that I will get better. For a lot of people, there is no moving out of the wheelchair (I have one of those now), there is no moving beyond the mobility scooter (I have one of those, too; it’s  on standby for when I ‘graduate’ out of the wheelchair); and there is pain – often constant pain. I am not in pain. I’m just exhausted, often breathless, and incapable of doing very much beyond resting.

Recovery is happening, though. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t shower without taking a rest and turning it into a Two-Act event, after which I’d need a nap of about an hour.  These past few days, however, showering has reverted to being a One-Act event, with a mere half hour lie-down afterwards.

Recovery is also teaching me. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

1. It’s really hard to do nothing.
2. The doctors were right. I am still seriously unwell. I have had to learn what that means.
3. People are incredibly kind.
4. My daughters are amazing human beings.
5. I am finding it very difficulty to accept how ill I am.
6. I’d better accept it, and quick, or I’ll set my recovery back.
7. Nobody expects as much of me as I do of my myself (my PhD supervisors have said this
    to me before, but I didn’t really understand it until now).
8. People are wonderfully kind.
9. Haemoglobin transports oxygen around the body.
10. There are pills you can take for all sorts of things, but there is no pill you can take to
       speed time up.
11. There is tremendous kindness in people.
12. Being unable to do much for oneself is incredibly humbling.
13. It’s still really hard to do nothing.

The Attitude of Gratitude

During the week, I was listening to an interview on the radio. The interviewee was talking about motherhood. She spoke about how women ‘lose their identity’ when they have children –  my response to that is an entirely different post – and she also spoke about how children ‘aren’t grateful’.

 

This pronouncement stopped me in my tracks. Are children really not grateful? Why, if they’re not, do you think that might be? Children, after all, learn by example: If they see and hear gratitude around them, they can’t help but be grateful themselves.

 

It’s like complaining that children ‘have no manners’. Some children don’t say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – but perhaps that’s because the people bringing them up don’t say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the children?

 

‘Children have no gratitude,’ opined the woman on the radio. I beg to differ. In support of my argument,  I give you Exhibit A – a note my girls wrote for me when they were aged 5 and 7, respectively:

 

It reads: “To Mum thank you for the lovely food your such a good mum. Lots of love from I xxx Kashmira “.  I keep it taped to the inside of one of the food cupboards.

 

On the inside of another cupbaord, this is taped:

“I love you and Ishthara. Thank you so much mum for making me cum to life” is the message Kashmira painted for me in April of this year. (My heart does not see their grammar and spelling mistakes!)

 

These are not the only notes expressing gratitude that  my girls have given me over the years. Apart from the notes, they constantly tell me that they are grateful for our home, for each other, for Love, for hugs, for books, for food, for shoes, for clothes – for all sorts of things.

 

My children are grateful because they have been taught to be grateful. I cannot remember a time when I did not thank my children for coming into my life; for choosing me to be their mother. I thank them for being kind to each other, for being kind to me, for clearing up after themselves, for getting up in time for school (so I don’t get stressed).

 

I thank them for being well-behaved when we’re out – which means I can bring them to (certain) conferences and meetings and museums and art galleries and other places where people don’t always assume they can bring their kids.  I thank them for amusing themselves without ruining the house when I’m sick. I thank them for the lessons they teach me, for their patience with me when I get things wrong, for being on this journey with me. I thank them for the joy they bring to my life.

 

My children are grateful because they have seen and heard me express my gratitude. They have seen that I keep a Gratitude Journal, so they keep one each, as well.

 

It really is that simple; if you want your children to behave in a certain way, model that behaviour for them. If you want your children to be grateful, adopt an attitude of gratitude and parade it in front of them.

 

Blessings – Real Friends

I’ve just had a visit from a wonderful friend. I love and value her and the gift of her friendship for a number of reasons.

I love my friend, not because she tells me what I want to hear, but because she doesn’t lie to me.

I love her, not just because she listens; but because she hears what I’m saying: And what I’m not saying.  I love her honesty and her addiction to Truth.

I love how she knows she can turn up at my home, unexpected, unannounced,  and know she’ll be welcome. I love that she can turn up at my home and take us as she finds us. I love that she can turn up for ‘a quick visit’ and, two hours later, start to think about leaving.

I love how well she knows me – and how accepting she is of who I am.

I love how she is not afraid to reveal who she is to me. That she knows she can be herself in my company is a compliment I revel in.

I love that she knows she can confide in me – her darkest moments, her worst fears and her biggest disappointments; but also her  hopes, joys, dreams and triumphs. She knows I will rejoice with her without any trace of jealousy.

I feel privileged to know her and honoured that she has chosen to have me as a friend.

As I grow as a person, she supports, encourages and facilitates my growth. She does not try to squish me back into the box I’ve just jumped out of.  She does not try to tell me that I can only be what I was. She applauds and tells me to keep going – reminding me that I have already come further than I thought possible.

Real friends are a rare and true blessing. And I am truly blessed.