The long and winding road to recovery

Today is a Sunday, and also All Saints Day. After many weeks of absence, I’d been looking forward to returning to St Patrick’s Cathedral to sing in the choir at 11 a.m. Mass, always an uplifting experience. But I didn’t make it. With our various family health issues still ongoing, dealing with domestic practicalities and medical appointments leaves little time or energy for anything else.

Although life is still not easy, there are plenty of good things to be thankful for. Brian is making a splendid recovery from his cardiac surgery five weeks ago – though an atheist, he talks of a “miracle”. He can go for long walks on the beach; climb up and down the steep hills around our house; and do some work in the garden. The limiting factor is that he cannot yet lift heavy weights, because it will be three months before his divided sternum will be fully healed. Nor, because of the pacemaker insertion, can he raise his left arm above shoulder level. His mood is cheerful, and there is no sign of the cognitive impairment which he feared might follow such a massive operation. Having reached the age of 82 without being on any regular medication, he is now on five different drugs, which are presumably necessary at present though we hope some of them can be discontinued in future.

Meanwhile, the health of my 91-year-old mother has become the main focus of care and concern. Now home from hospital following emergency abdominal surgery, she is making a good recovery from the operation itself, and striving with great determination to cope with independent life again. But there are problems with managing her ileostomy and I only hope a satisfactory system can be worked out, and that it will be possible to reverse the procedure in a few months time.

My own symptoms continue on and off, and while further investigations are in progress I try not to worry about them too much. Friends and family continue to be wonderfully supportive and we have greatly appreciated all the messages of support, the lifts to hospitals, and the gifts of food and flowers including this lovely bouquet from the Cathedral Choir.

Flowers from choir

My husband’s heart Part 3: Cardiac rehabilitation

Over two weeks have gone by since Brian had his open heart surgery, and it is one week since he was discharged from inpatient care.

We are both very happy that he is back home, though there continue to be ups and downs in his condition. During good periods he is able to walk short distances both inside and outside the house, and to eat reasonably well. However he has relapsed into atrial fibrillation on several occasions, and a recent blood test showed him to be anaemic. At times he feels weak and breathless and is unable to get warm. Formerly an avid reader, he has no interest in books at present, though he does follow the news on his computer.

We were advised that recovery from such a huge operation takes about three months, so perhaps cannot expect too much too soon. His medication – currently including amiodarone, warfarin, aspirin, an occasional beta blocker – will be reviewed by the cardiologist next week.

After the previous month of acute anxiety combined with frantic activity – travelling to and from the hospitals to visit Brian every day while managing practical, legal and financial affairs at home and dealing with medical appointments for myself – my own life has entered a quieter domestic phase. My role as nurse-housekeeper is not unduly arduous, so I am catching up on lost rest and sleep. Brian and I have time to spend together in a relaxed way talking, listening to music, or watching the four cats in the garden.

Daisy with flowersLeo on gatepostMagic on plum tree best photohomer at feijoa tree

All the regular engagements which once provided structure to my weeks – singing with St Patrick’s choir, volunteering at Auckland SPCA, attending Auckland Film Society, dog walking on Takapuna beach, coffee dates with friends in the city, yoga class – have been cancelled for the time being. The activity which means the most to me, creative writing, is also on hold. Apart from this blog and emails to friends I have written nothing for six weeks, but look forward to getting back to editing my new novel soon.