So, just in case the universe wasn’t challenging us enough right now, in the early hours of this morning, Terry ended up in the Accident & Emergency department of our local hospital.
Yeah, we just can’t get enough of that place these days, can we?
It started with a stubbed toe: or what we thought was a stubbed toe, anyway.
“I think I’ve stubbed my toe,” grumbled Terry a couple of days ago. “It’s really, really sore!” And I just looked at him, like, “Cool story, bro: I had an entire human being cut out of my abdomen 9 days ago: I WIN.”
But, unlike my abdomen, Terry’s toe did not start to get better. In fact, it got worse. Quite a bit worse, actually – to the point where, by yesterday afternoon, he was hobbling rather than walking, and I was threatening to divorce him if he didn’t just go to see the doctor already.
Terry, however, did not need to see a real doctor. Terry, you see, had consulted the good (BAD) Doctor Google, and Dr G had returned a pretty surprising diagnosis:
Yeah, like Henry VIII had. I really wish I was joking here – er, even although that wouldn’t be even remotely funny, would it?
“You must be kidding,” I said incredulously, when Terry told me he reckoned he had gout. “That’s just for old men and 16th century monarchs, surely?”
Like many people, you see, I had absolutely no idea what gout was. I associated it with men who drank a lot of port, and ate until they were sick, and Terry does neither of these things. Actually, ever since his transplant, Terry’s been pretty good at sticking to a healthy diet: sure, he has his weaknesses, but we hardly ever eat red meat, he rarely drinks alcohol, and… well, he’s pretty far from being Henry VIII, let’s put it that way.
Terry does, however, have a transplanted kidney… and, as he discovered to his cost this week, transplant recipients are much more likely to get gout: especially if they haven’t been drinking enough fluids – which, Terry now informed me, he very definitely hadn’t been.
The last 11 days have been crazy, seriously. They’ve been both very, very Good Crazy, and very, very Bad Crazy, but they’ve mostly been very very Tired Crazy, with a generous side dose of Completely and Utterly Surreal Crazy.
Almost from the moment we got home from the hospital, we’ve had tons of visitors – which has been great, because we’re obviously keen to see everyone, and introduce them to little Max – but which has also meant we’ve struggled to get into any kind of routine. Things like regular mealtimes have kind of fallen by the wayside, because every time we do find ourselves with a spare twenty minutes or so, Max decides he needs changed, or pees in his own ear (Yes, really), so the whole cycle of feeding/changing/feeding starts up again, and before you know it, it’s two hours later and you STILL haven’t made it to the bathroom, or drank that cup of coffee that’s long-since gone cold.
On top of all of this, things have gone from bad to worse with Terry’s mum, unfortunately. She was admitted to a hospice a few days ago: they’re doing their best to keep her as comfortable as possible, but it’s obviously been hard for everyone, and Terry has been juggling looking after me and the baby with trying to spend as much time with his mum as possible. It’s been hard. It’s been really, really freaking hard, and to be totally honest, it’s been almost impossible for us to even remember what day it is, let alone stick to regular mealtimes, or get into any kind of routine.
I knew we were struggling a bit, obviously, but I’d heard so many horror stories about the first few days of new parenthood that I assumed it was like this for everyone, and that we’d just have to motor through it as best we could. While it’s obviously not good for either of us to not be looking after ourselves properly, though, as a transplant recipient, it’s particularly important for Terry to keep up his fluid intake – and when he didn’t manage to do that, the result was excruciating pain in his left foot: pain so bad that, by the time he got home from visiting the hospice yesterday night, he could barely make it upstairs to bed… and once he was there, it very quickly became totally impossible for him to get back out again without screaming in pain.
There followed an absolutely horrific hour or so where Terry tried in vain to get comfortable, while the pain gradually got worse. By the end of that hour, he was groaning in pain, and couldn’t even stand up. It was pretty obvious that he needed help, so, ignoring his protestations, I got on the phone to NHS 24 and begged them to help us.
Or not much, anyway.
The best they could offer was an emergency appointment with the hospital’s out of hours service for 5am this morning. I called them at midnight. The hospital is around 30 minutes away: Terry obviously couldn’t drive himself there (At this point he was telling me he couldn’t possibly get through another 5 hours of that kind of pain…), and I’ve been told not to drive for at least 6 weeks after my surgery. I reckon I probably could drive if I had to, but then, of course, there was Max to consider. If I tried to drive Terry to hospital, Max – who was currently sleeping peacefully, but who I knew would be waking up hungry at some point within the next hour – would have to come, too. I couldn’t help Terry AND look after Max, and I really didn’t want a tiny newborn being exposed to all of the germs you find in an A&E department.
“Can’t I just bring him directly to A&E, and see if they can see him earlier?” I asked.
“Nope!” replied the call handler, cheerfully. “In fact, if you turn up at A&E, they’ll just turn you away: please don’t do that!”
So I did what any grown adult with a child of their own would do: I called my parents.
Luckily, I caught them just before they went to bed: my dad immediately said he’d come round and drive Terry to hospital, while my mum waited at home with Max and I. (I’ve been left on my own with him for a few hours, but I’m still pretty nervous about it, and feel much more comfortable having someone with me…). So now all that remained was for Terry and I to somehow make it through the next five hours – which was easier said than done.
By this point, Terry was almost howling in pain every few minutes – and I was pretty close to just joining in, to be completely honest. Given that he couldn’t actually walk at this point, but would somehow have to make it down from the 3rd floor of the house and out to the car by 5am, we decided we’d better start the process sooner rather than later, so Terry slowly lowered himself to the floor (the only way he could move) and started shuffling out of the room and down the stairs on his butt, while I hobbled around (My c-section recovery has been pretty straightforward so far, but I’m still at a stage where I can’t really move around freely without ending up in pain) gathering up the baby and all of his stuff, plus the clothes etc Terry would need for his trip to the hospital.
It was pretty hellish, all things considered. I’ve seriously never seen anyone in so much pain in my life, and it was so hard to watch him struggling to move, and be totally unable to help him. Meanwhile, Max had woken up and had to be changed and fed, so I spent the next however long it was (Felt like forever, probably only lasted for 20-30 minutes) frantically trying to keep one eye on Terry and one eye on Max. Oh yeah, and trying desperately not to burst into angry tears of NOT FAIR.
Finally, we all made it downstairs to the living room, where Terry propped his foot up on the coffee table, still groaning in agony. By this stage, I’d consulted Dr Google myself (note: NEVER DO THIS), and we’d basically gone through every single home remedy we could find, from ice packs to compression, and back again. Absolutely nothing worked. Not one thing. By the time my parents turned up to take Terry to hospital, we’d both been up all night: Terry in excruciating pain, me in an absolute agony of anxiety, and both of us pretty damn sure we couldn’t get through one more minute of this.
At this stage, Terry had been doing his best to replace the fluids he should have been taking all week, which meant he’d been forced to hobble to the bathroom few times – trips which involved him howling in pain, and clinging to every available surface to keep himself upright. My dad brought a walking stick to help get him out to the car (Despite not using one himself, my dad has a small collection of walking sticks and canes: don’t ask…), but he needed a wheelchair to get him into the hospital, and I honestly don’t know what we’d have done if my parents hadn’t been there to help. I don’t even want to think about it.
So, my dad took Terry to hospital, and my mum and I sat and waited with Max – who was. once again, totally oblivious to the small drama unfolding while he slept. It was 6am by the time my dad and Terry got back, and Terry was still in agony: the hospital had confirmed the gout diagnosis, but had then sheepishly admitted that they didn’t have the necessary drugs on hand to treat it, so the best they could do was to give him some painkillers, plus a prescription to be picked up as soon as the local pharmacy was open.
And that’s where we’re up to basically. Luckily for us, my parents were able to go and pick up the prescription, while Terry and I tied to grab a couple of hour’s sleep. We were back up again at 9am, though, so Terry could take the new meds – and if we weren’t feeling sleep-deprived from having a newborn (And, I mean, sure, we were tired, but we were coping, you know?) we sure as hell are now.
So. To be totally honest, things are feeling pretty bleak right now. The new medication has helped ease the pain somewhat, but Terry still can’t walk without a stick, so is pretty much confined to the couch, with the occasional excursion to the bathroom. I, meanwhile, am still not back to full mobility after my surgery, so we’re just really grateful that my parents are on hand to help us out so much – we really couldn’t do it without them.
And all of this, of course, is to say absolutely nothing – because I honestly don’t know what to say – about the absolutely heartbreaking situation with Terry’s mum, who is deteriorating by the day.
It’s like that.
There is, however, one little ray of light in all of this:
“This is one of those stories we’ll tell him when he’s older,” I said to Terry at one point last night.
“What, about the time he was 10 days old, and his daddy got gout?” said Terry. And, OK, yeah, I guess when you put it that way, it’s not that great a story. It is, however, the story of our 10th day with Max: the most challenging day by far, and one I really hope we never have to repeat. As I was lying awake in the early hours of this morning, though, lamenting our extraordinary lack of luck right now, Terry pointed out that all of our luck is currently right here in the room with us, wrapped up in this precious little bundle.
And aint that the truth?