Or, how to make your dreams come true without actually going to heaven.

Update Christmas eve 2012. I wrote this last year, and once again it’s Christmas eve, and I feel blessed to be here…

This time last year my novel was written but not published, and I was dying. Seriously, I really was. On the 20th December, 2010 I’d had what I’d been led to believe was a ‘routine’ operation. The fact it was keyhole surgery made it seem almost a minor procedure, and I was up and about, walking round the ward as soon as I woke from the anaesthetic. I’d done my homework and knew it was important to get moving as quickly as possible.  I was determined. Oh yes I was, and I planned to discharge myself the day after surgery, or at the very latest on the 22nd, my wedding anniversary. So I wanted to show everyone – the doctors and nurses, concerned family and friends – how the whole thing was a breeze and I was fine. Fine enough to go home and get on with my life.

The hospital food was delicious on the way down. Not so good when it came back up. Yes, I ate the evening meal I’d ordered then I vomited the lot. They said it was the after-effects of the anaesthetic, so I dismissed it and carried on walking round the corridors of the ward, feeling a little proud about how well I was doing. No lounging about in bed for me. I was young and healthy and I was going home tomorrow. Oh yes I was.

I vomited all through the night.

I ate breakfast, vomited then I walked round the wards.

I ate lunch, vomited then I walked round the wards.

They gave me injections to stop the vomiting, straight into my bum-cheek just like in the old comedy films.

I ate tea and vomited.

I ate dinner and vomited.

I vomited all through the night in between walking round the wards.

Then it was the 22nd and I was going home. Oh yes I was. I was up and dressed and when I wasn’t vomiting I was practically bouncing round the wards. I packed my bag, said goodbye to all the lovely nurses and a few patients less fortunate than I who looked like they might not be going home for Christmas.

Oh, I forgot to mention it was snowing. Really heavy snow blanketed the ground. The car park transformed into an ice rink but I wasn’t fazed. Supported by my husband and daughter, I crunched my way through the snow to the car. I was assured the vomiting would wear off with the anaesthetic, and I was going home, no matter how deep the snow. Oh yes I was.

Home. Bliss. Vomiting.

More of the same with a couple of trips to outpatients where I was given more anti-sickness injections in my bum and some anti-sickness tablets to take, none of which made the slightest difference to my vomiting prowess. I could hit a wall at ten paces, so forceful was my body’s disgust at whatever was happening to it.

I’ll skip to Christmas eve. My husband had a gig (he’s a musician) so my daughter stayed in with me. I felt terrible and I looked terrible, but it took us both a while to realise that I might actually be as ill as I felt and looked. My daughter got on the phone – to the out of hours GP service, the local hospital, the hospital where I’d had the op. Hold, star3, wait for a call-back. No one wanted to make a decision about me. I was by this time practically unconscious, so my daughter dialled 999. They wanted to speak to me, the patient. Like a good girl I summoned my stalwart attitude and explained what had happened and how I was feeling. It seems I managed a degree of coherence that unfortunately convinced the medical professional on the other end of the phone that this was clearly just a minor setback from routine surgery, and as such could be managed perfectly well at home. I should wait for the out of hours GP to call me back.

1 am. My husband arrived back from a jolly Christmas eve to find me practically comatose and my daughter frantic. Another 999 call and we were told to wait for the doctor to call us back. They would not send an ambulance.

Lucky for me my husband doesn’t drink when he’s playing. He bundled me into the car and took me to Accident and Emergency, my daughter cradling me in the back seat.  They lifted me into a wheelchair and wheeled me in. The staff took one look and waved us straight to assessment.

They pricked my finger and tested my blood within seconds. Within minutes I was given a life-saving injection and put on a drip. They didn’t yet know what was wrong, but they did know I was very ill; the doctor told me I was in imminent danger of renal failure, seizures and coma.

I was admitted to a ward and my lovely family clustered round my bed, fear etched on their faces as days and nights merged; Christmas was happening somewhere else while a trail of doctors came and prodded and went. I can’t remember much about it as I was barely conscious, except for when I vomited, which continued hourly in spite of all the medical interventions they were able to access under a skeleton staff.

The 27th December 2010.

3.30 pm. They still didn’t know what was wrong but I was worsening by the hour so someone was going to come in on the bank holiday to operate the CT scanner, especially for me.

9.00 pm. I’m being wheeled into the operating theatre, to have emergency life-saving surgery. My intestines had been sewn into my operation wound and I was told to prepare myself for the possibility that I’d wake with a stoma (colostomy bag).

That wasn’t necessary, thank goodness and now I get to the point (at last…).

The anaesthetist, the doctors, the nurses, they were all lovely, and chatted away to help me relax and calm my anxiety. They asked me about my family, and they filled in the forms for me so all I had to do was sign. They asked what I do.

I’d nearly died. I was still dying. Until they’d sorted me out I might still die – it was major surgery and I was going to be cut open and there was no guarantee about any of this. It was now or never.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

Oh yes I am.

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