Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Highs and lows

I wonder why it is that life has a habit of throwing more than the usual at us from time to time? For me, almost every day has its own ups and downs with little peaks and troughs of mood, pleasure and frustration. (Or, when the hormones are really playing up, wild swings between harridan screeching, teeth-clenching rage and tears of hopelessness... moan, moan, hormoan.)

But every so often, things don't follow the usual gentle roll; like a sea when there's been an unseen, underwater volcano - could it be those complex biorhythms, getting their waves twisted up - and suddenly, 'things' come at us. Like a tsunami.

And compared to what happens in some people's lives, I know we can still say we are lucky, but we are experiencing a 'tsunami' of family emotions and concerns this week.

After the little trauma of FR's appendix, we had been getting nicely excited in the knowledge that in just a week, my mum would be coming out to visit us. The first time anyone from England has had the chance to come to see us here; the first time my mum will have seen the children in more than 13 months; more importantly, the first time she will have had a break from caring for my father, who had a stroke more than seven years ago. It took a quite a bit of persuading and it was only the finding of Rachel, a private carer, who was able to come and live at my parents' home to look after my dad (rather than him going into respite care) that in the end, convinced my mum that she should come. And she'll only come for five days - not long, but better than nothing. She is very tired and really in need of a bit of 'me' time. I have been planning gentle little routes around the village, avoiding some of the steeper hills; possibly a nice relaxing session of healing massage as delivered by my friend, Valerie; joining one of my conversation classes at the English centre, which is always a good laugh; walking to meet the children from school and possibly stopping for a coffee or a tapa on the way. Plus, of course, lots of sleep - undisturbed - on soothing, essential oil-infused pillows under a down-filled quilt (now that the nights are getting chilly, we can once again snuggle under quilts - how I love that feeling!) Doing her a world of good and setting her up for the next visit whenever she felt the need.

Then, last week, as FR came out of hospital, we heard that his father had been taken into hospital after he returned from a little holiday in Santander with pains in his chest and down his left arm. Fortunately, no heart attack had occurred but he was kept in for observation and further investigation. On Thursday, he had an angiogram to see what the problem was - and the doctors took just ten minutes to decide that it was very serious. We understand now that they really don't know how he hasn't had a heart attack as there doesn't seem to be very much room in his arteries for blood to flow through. They planned to prepare him for bypass surgery in four or five days - if they could wait that long - so they could thin his blood and sort out his medication. FR's father is 76 years old and two years ago, he almost lost a leg due to blocked veins and arteries.Fortunately, he didn't and his left leg is now full of plastic tubing and working again pretty well. But the knowledge of this has caused me some concerns. I know that usually, an artery or a vein from one of the patient's leg is used to replace the damaged heart tubes and these need to be as good and healthy as possible for the best results. You see, I used to work in a hospital...

And isn't a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?  
My hospital was one in Leeds that was also a specialist heart centre. As the information officer, I collected data and collated statistics on everything that went on, including all the different procedures, operations and interventions that took place. I could tell you the average number of visits to the X-Ray department, what the average time was for various surgical procedures, how long patients stayed in the hospital for the same or different operations, or with different surgeons -and what the success rates were - on.

It's more than twenty years ago that I worked there but memories of that time have come flooding back - including that the Coronory Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) was always called a Cabbage. It always amused me that I counted cabbages (and other veg) for a job; that as I called into collect theatre stats, the staff pulled a pint of milk out of the 'Blood Fridge' to make me a coffee; that a couple of the surgeons didn't like me collecting information and I have memories of one waving a rectal stretcher at me in a threatening manner, whilst another called me the KGB. The hospital was old and rather tatty but full of wonderful people, some with huge personalities that seem fewer on the ground nowadays... but I digress - it's a habit I have, to distract myself, to get lost in another place. Back to today, back to reality.

When we got the news of the seriousness of the situation from Marco, FR's middle brother, who still lives in Valladolid and who had spoken to the doctors after the angiogram. Then we had a long discussion about whether just FR should go, or whether we should all go; whether my mum should come or better to cancel her holiday. Because the information coming from the hospital was honest - but not very reassuring.
We decided we would be positive. It is, in fact, the only way to be.

So, no dramatic upheaval of children or change of plans. Yesterday morning, FR took a bus to Valladolid so he can see his father and be with his mother whilst the operation takes place on Monday. His other two brothers will be there too, Ruben flying in from Majorca today. Cesar Snr's operation is on Monday;  I will go back to my teaching on Tuesday, first day back since June - and my lovely neighbour will happily look after the children whilst I go - and my mum will fly out as planned the next day.

We will be sending lots of love, positive vibes, wishes, prayers and hopes to Cesar Snr and our family in Valladolid, tinged as they are with deep concern, and at the same time, looking forward with pleasure and anticipation to my mum's visit on Wednesday.

It's a very strange and complex set of contradictory emotions that I'm feeling this sunny Sunday morning. And whilst it won't make things any easier, I think the children, the dog and I will take a nice walk in the park and eat one of the delicious home-made ice-creams from the bar in the square. And then I promise to do all the ironing this evening after the children have gone to bed so that it's out of the way once and for all. Not to digress, not to distract myself but to remember that in spite of all the big highs and lows that go on in our lives, we will continue to live the little ones too.

To anyone reading, I hope your highs and lows are swinging only moderately today.


  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit Annie, especially now, when you you are in a turmoil between the smiley, sad, optimistic and worried phases of family matters.

    For now, I wish you a truly happy time with your Mum.


  2. Hello Annie:
    We are only too aware of how, almost in an instant,one's life can be turned upside down and, suddenly, one becomes unsure about what to do next. We really feel for you at the moment having so many things to juggle and, of course, wanting to do the best for everyone.

    In times such as these we remind ourselves that life has a way of simply going on regardless around us which in many ways can be very comforting. For now, concentrate on the ironing since,in all probability, that will not look after itself!!!

    Our thoughts are with you.

  3. Hi Annie,
    Just keep going as you are and enjoy the time with your Mum. All good wishes to you.

    Celia xx

  4. I hope your highs and lows balance out least for a few days. I will send prayers for your father-in-law's surgery, your husband's continued recovery, and everything in between. Good luck back at work and I hope you have nice visit with your mother. It sounds like her visit may be the break she is seeking and also maybe the break you need. Enjoy the time together.

  5. Thank you all for your kind and wise comments. My father-in-law has got over the first hurdle and is doing really well in these first critical days after his op. We're now on coundown to see my mum and we're planning lots of quiet, non-exhausting fun. Axx

  6. Sorry I'm so late getting to this, Annie and hope your mother's visit went well and your father-in-law is making a good recovery from surgery.

    I know just what you mean about the highs and lows as we got just back today from spending a month looking after my elderly mother-in-law who has her left leg (broken kneecap) and right wrist in plaster after a bad fall a week before I went to Prague. DH's younger brothers have now taken over her care and we can draw breath and remember what home looks like....


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