A beautiful and tender love story is unfolding under my nose, a roller-coaster ride that I hope will have a happy ending.
In my facebook support group, a closed group where privacy is guaranteed, people are very upfront and open about all kinds of intimate and personal matters that they wouldn’t discuss even with close friends and family. It’s a wonderful place to let off steam and rant, seek advice or share secret worries. Most of us are complete strangers in real life, but in our group we are closer than many families.
One of our members, C, is retired but a very active man in spite of his colostomy, happily married for a very long time to a very caring and supportive wife, whom he calls “my Margaret”. Just before Christmas, he posted that “My Margaret was rushed to A/E on Tuesday – bleeding on her brain, had surgery and now in induced coma, arms + legs active can’t say anything else until she is awake, maybe today. Please pray for her.“
Of course, there were lots of sympathetic and encouraging replies and certainly many of us have been praying, as we follow C’s regular updates on Margaret’s condition.
Over the past month I have seen how important the relationship with the group is for C and how his love for her has moved us all.
The day after her haemorrhage, he wrote:
“Margaret is off the life support and breathing for herself, still lines into her brain. She can speak, all limbs are working, going to try today swallowing a vitamin drink, if she can’t the feeder tube will be put back, she is a little further down the line than the average recovery for this type.
Physio is moving her arms and legs and said she has good muscle tone and perfect lung capacity, all being good
Off to see her now.”
The next day:
“Today Margaret is improving. I stroked her forehead, asked can you feel that and she said yes, same on arm, yes, asked her to smile at me and she did. Still her eyes are closed. She has opened them only for a sec.
I am so pleased.”
“Margaret has started to speak, and is asking how people are. Some things are repeated and she said she had been to Beverly. This is normal at this stage. Her eyes are closed again normal, done other scans – all positive.
C – Thank you for all your support – it does help.”
Then on Christmas Day:
“Margaret has a bad chest infection with high amounts of mucus, responding to antibiotics. This condition is common when drugs/long time in bed, and susceptible to germs around.
I am not as happy today, and sleep was difficult. I look at Margaret and remember her fabulous attitude to life and humour. She will get well in the end. I know it.”
“I am struggling today – been to Tesco. We always go on a Friday, and then for a coffee. Brings memories back.
Good news is Margaret is out of ICU and on a high dependency ward, a bit of progress.
Nurses are happy about how she is responding to the antibiotics, To me she looks poorly but the nurses see patients like Margaret every day, and they are happy with her.”
By this time, it seemed that every member of our group was behind C, cheering him on, sympathising, encouraging, waiting anxiously for his posts and sending healing wishes and prayers for Margaret. We know how much he has depended on her, and so when this next little post appeared just after Christmas, he was overwhelmed with advice:
“With Margaret being in hospital I will have to cook my own meals. I have just put in the oven a nice leg of lamb, I will be able to carve a few slices, cook some potatoes and veg for a filling evening meal. It is at 160c for three hours. Is this the way to cook the leg?”
His dinner turned out well, apparently, and C began to think of ways to cheer his Margaret up. He knows that looking good helps a woman to feel good, and he drew our attention to how beautifully dressed she always is on the photos on his timeline. We know that she could look like the back end of a bus, but in C’s eyes, she will always be young and beautiful. Should he take her some of her favourite jewellery into hospital, so she can wear her rings and bracelets, he asked. We all responded vehemently and dissuaded him, so he took her a pretty scarf instead. As the year was drawing to its close, he told us:
“Margaret is still stable and in and out of sleep, tired yesterday probably with the ward move. I shall ring the consultant’s secretary on Monday morning to arrange for me to have a chat with the consultant. Should be useful.
Visiting Margaret at 3pm today, hope she is not as tired.”
But the roller-coaster was still operating: On 30.12.13 C reported:
“Sorry to say Margaret was returned to the high dependency ward last night. The staff nurse said that Margaret’s symptoms are not unusual with 11/12 days post op.
Seeing Margaret again today and I will let you all know how she is going.”
We could feel his anxiety, and his attempts to soothe himself as he saw his beloved Margaret in such dire straits:
“Margaret is still very drowsy, in and out of sleep. Staff nurse Helen explained that with the line into Margaret’s brain it will cause spasms and this makes the patient very drowsy. It normally does this 12 days post op and lasts up to 21 days post op.”
I’m sure the hospital staff must have felt much as we did, and did what they could to alleviate his fears:
“Now I know and understand the problem I feel much easier and I will cope better. Margaret did respond, squeezed my finger, and when I said “I do love you” she said “I know you do.” I then said “you have been very poorly” she replied “I am better now”. “Not quite” I replied.
Difficult to understand her with all the tubes and wires there.
Now the symptoms have been explained I am feeling a little better now. The support I receive is fantastic especially from B and A who visit Margaret with me alternate days.”
As New Year’s Day dawned, we remained with C on tenterhooks:
“Margaret is still stable but her responsiveness is again poor. We will have up days and down days I am sure. From the swabs taken three days ago a new antibiotic has been given intravenously to Margaret. Her consultant can only observe her and wait and see if the new antibiotics are successful.
It is so upsetting when she has a down day for me, you build your hopes up and then crash you are upset again.
Please keep praying for us.”
The news was no better on the following day, but C remained optimistic and didn’t lose his sense of humour:
“Margaret is still not responding. A sample of brain fluid has been tested and no bugs/infection found, good news. Her chest infection remains. Once that is cleared I am sure she will start to recover.
I made a large stew last night to reheat when I return from the hospital. It should last me for three days.
I have started to use Margaret’s Smart car – it runs on fresh air. My car is a three litre, so when I travel the 65 miles to the hospital and home it will save me some money. I have developed a sore bum with all the bouncing around in the Smart .“
Four days into the new year, there was no change:
“Margaret is remaining unresponsive, but on occasions does what you ask, like: hold my hand and squeeze, put your tongue out.
A scan was done yesterday pm, I will be told the outcome today when I visit Margaret today. I will post you the results of the scan.”
Many members of our group have gone – and some are still going – through some horrific experiences, not only due to their own illnesses, conditions and ailments but also suffering the frustrating agony of having to watch loved ones in pain and sometimes dying. The empathy and encouragement expressed by these was truly heart-warming, and C obviously was drawing great comfort from their support.
“Margaret is not responding. She can hear and understand on occasions, but she does not speak – she nods, or shakes her head. The oxygen mask has been removed and she can breathe easily. Still has a small amount of sputum, the antibiotics are now working well. Margaret is a fan of Barry Manilow I took some CD’s and the staff found a CD player and I held it to her ear. Her favourite track is “Even now”. I played it to her and asked “Can you hear Barry?” and she nodded her head. The nurses are now singing along to Barry too. I am waiting for a time and date to meet a member of the neuro team. I have a number of questions to ask.”
But the next post was devastating:
“Yesterday I spoke with a doctor from the neuro team, He gave me news that I was dreading, He said what Margaret had is as bad as it gets, I am so sorry, all we can do now is to carry on investigating, looking for the answer, I am so sorry.
I will pray they do find a way of saving my Margaret.”
This was followed by:
“Why do consultants give you the the worst possible scenario? He told me that what Margaret had is the best it will get, and repeated I am so sorry
Yesterday all her lines were removed, leaving only the feeder. A doctor was at the side of the bed taking another fluid sample from the lumbar/spine as they had found something on the last test and they were double-checking. A call today revealed there was air in her brain and that can bring drowsy sleepy symptoms, like with Margaret.”
C was so down, and once again our group members rallied round with prayers and words of hope. Yesterday he wrote:
“I can’t believe I am typing this post. I telephoned the hospital to ask how Margaret is, and the nurse replied she is much improved .She has been asking for someone it sounds like Carol. Carol is her best friend of 40 years, it may be her or me. Still a long way to go, but I am so pleased.”
This morning, we read his latest report:
“What a day yesterday! I visited Margaret and she was sleeping because the physio had her out of bed and sat her on a chair for ten minutes.
Nurse said, “Wake her!” I did and her eyes opened and they were clear, not glazed over any more. I then said things you would say to someone who you love with all your heart, and someone you thought you were losing.
And then she spoke: “Is my car OK?”
Thanks Margaret! Her voice was husky and not slurred, Then the nurse asked, “How long have you been married to C?” She said, “41 years”- correct. “Where do you live?” and she answered correctly.
I laid my face against hers for a few minutes. It felt so good.
A very happy C.”