This cannot be true! Thoughts swirled in my head like crazy. Why me? Why?
Eva sound asleep, nice. A lamp over the sink was blinking steadily. Water was dripping from a tap annoyingly. After all, no one cares about patient’s peace. Tomorrow is Friday. Tomorrow is my big day… my operation. The nurse brought me some pills. She said that I will sleep better after taking them. Images of the last few days flash through my skull like flickering pictures under closed eyelids.
Monday morning’s medical visit commenced with smart arsed comments from the head doctor – “You are pregnant, and you do not need a husband to be pregnant” – he said main pointedly looking at the accompanying doctors – “am I right or not?”
My explanations didn’t help at all. My protestations – “I am a faithful wife” even amused him.
“ I have examined you, haven’t I? The results are clear to me. You’re ten weeks pregnant.”
“ And I tell you for the hundredth time already that it is impossible!” – I was screaming with tears rolling down my cheeks.
“ Sister, make an ultrasound appointment, asap, please” he said, raising his voice in front of the accompanying staff. “And how do you feel?” – he asked a woman in the next bed – thus ending the conversation with me.
And than I sat, just waiting… waiting endlessly. My children came with my mother in law to visit me about two o’clock, and I looked like I had one foot in the grave. There were dark circles under my eyes and over the past three weeks I had lost two stone in weight. Constant pain and horrible loneliness had been my companion whilst Martin was away on the contract in Libya. We had spent nights talking about the possibility of his trip and at the end I gave him my permission to go – he had already been gone for a few months.
“Only one year my love” he had said. “It’s only a year. I t will go by soon, you’ll see, and we can finally rise up from the bottom and start to live like human beings. We can buy a car, nice furniture, whatever you want.”
Just a month after he left, I started to feel bad. Dizziness and abdominal pain, vomiting. Like a nightmare. My gynaecologist said that it was most likely the stress after my husband leaving, but it was getting worse. A week ago he gave me a referral to a hospital for the end of May. The days were so beautiful outside that I promised my girls a trip to the zoo, and later I can go to the hospital. But life wrote a different scenario for me. On June the 1st, I got such severe pain at work that I lost consciousness. My boss called an ambulance. Lying on a stretcher I begged my friend, Christine to phone my parents in-laws and asked them take care of my children. So far, no one has ever helped me in childcare. I never imagined separation from them for even a little while, but it happened now.
In the afternoon my mother-in-law came to visit me in the hospital. She looked so worried.
“What’s wrong with you?” – she asked. “The nurse told me that you are pregnant. How is this possible? Martin has been in Libya for a few months already. Who is the father?
“Mom, I’m not pregnant” – I said with tears in my eyes –“I’m not pregnant.”
“I’m just repeating what the nurse said to me. The girls are with us. Do not worry. Do you think you will be in here long?
“I do not know. I really do not know.”
Later that day my girls come. They were so polite. Standing by my bed , both looking so scared. I had put on my makeup, blusher and lipstick so that my pale face would not scare them. My Father returning from Wroclaw took Danusia to his place. She was a second class schoolgirl and needed to have someone help with her homework. Helena was with my parents in-laws. My father and parents in-laws lived in the same neighbourhood, so the girls could see each other daily.
“Mrs. Edith May?’ the nurse called as she entered the room.
“Yes, I am Edith.”
“Do you feel strong enough to walk with me for the ultrasound investigation or would you like me to bring the wheelchair ? We have ordered an ultrasound for you. The doctor is already waiting.”
“I’m a little bit weak but if it is not far I can probably manage.”
“Ultrasound is on the floor above us. I’ll get the wheelchair than. Wait for me.”
A few minutes later I was sitting in a wheelchair in the ultrasound faculty. There was another woman waiting for investigation as well. More waiting. Waiting and waiting.
The woman tried to make conversation with me. She began to tell me about her health problems. I had enough problems of my own and was not keen to hear about other people’s health issues at all. . Maybe I was rude but I told her straight out that I did not care.
At the end I was asked to come in. The room was dark. The doctor was sitting by the computer with his back to me. Without turning my way he asked me to lay down on the couch and uncover my abdomen. In the meantime he started add my data to a computer.
“Mrs. Edith, please tell me what’s going on with you?” As he spoke he turned towards me. “I have a feeling that we know each other, do we?”
“Yes! We were in the same class at high school” I said a little embarrassed.
The last thing I had expected here was to meet someone from my past, especially a boy from the same class.
“Lie down comfortably. Do not be afraid, I wont hurt you.” He smiled at me continuing the conversation “Tell me what have you been doing since high school?
“I got married right after graduation. I have two wonderful daughters. A good husband. Nice job.”
“That’s great, so what brings you to the hospital?”
“Oh, I see. For several months I have been in constant pain. The leading gynaecologist insists that I’m pregnant, and I know that he is wrong.”
“Well then – let’s see what’s going on.” He smeared my stomach with a cold gel. He was holding the camera, which he placed on my stomach at the same time looking at a computer screen.
“What do we have here? Well, well. The follicle bubble is about to burst which means that at any moment you will start menstruation. Greatly enlarged left ovary. It seems that there is a large cyst. Shadows in the uterus, it may mean that there are cysts or fibroids but certainly there is no pregnancy.”
Tears flew down my cheeks. What I heard did not sound optimistic.
“Edith, I am so sorry for you. I will send a picture with a description to a head doctor.
In the evening my doctor came to see me again. He sat next to me on the bed. He grabbed my hand and looking into my eyes said with soft voice.
“Edith. We need to talk about the operation. It is inevitable. You do have cysts on the ovary. I will try to do everything to save it. You’re still young. Maybe you want to have more children in the future. There is also something in the uterus. These shadows look to me like a cyst or muscle. We’ll be sure to take a close look during the operation. Your blood results are a little bit disturbing me to be honest. I must warn you that when we open your stomach, if we see any cancerous changes, we will transport you instantly to the oncology hospital. This is a very pessimistic scenario but we have to take everything into consideration, I’m sorry.”
“What do I tell my children? What shall I tell my father?”
“Just tell your husband what I have already told you” – he said.
“My husband is not here. He is in Libya on contract“ – I squeezed doctor Kasprzyk’s hand and sobbed.
“Well, you actually have a very dodgy situation” – saying that he was wiping my tears. “Please rest now. I’ll go to talk to the main doctor about the date for your operation.”
The next day the main doctor didn’t come for a morning visit, but Doctor Kasprzyk told me that the operation would be next Friday. After morning round the anaesthetist come to see me. Late in the afternoon, Doctor Kasprzyk visited me again.
“I hope you feel a little bit better now you have the information about your operation.”
“I have to admit that this pessimistic scenario made it hard to sleep. What if I have cancer? What will happen to my children? They are still so young.”
“Edith, please think positively. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m on call all weekend. Please feel free to come to me when you feel you need to talk.”
It is easy to say. I remembered my neighbour. She was not much older than me, when diagnosed and had only a year before she died. Everything happened so fast. Her husband is a drunk now. Her little girl is now so scared and neglected. The poor little mite must be very lonely, the whole family lives abroad now.
I told my father and mother in law about the operation and forbade medical staff to give anyone information about me. I lied to my family telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I told my children that I have something bad in my tummy, that really hurts and that the doctor will open mummy’ tummy and cut it out to stop the hurting. I do not know how much of it was understandable to them, but at least they stopped asking questions.
On Wednesday my neighbour was discharged home, and in her place a woman my age was admitted. She was waiting for some research. She had been married for several years and was trying to have a baby but with no luck. Preliminary studies have shown that everything was fine but the child still remained a dream.
Somehow we managed to establish a common understanding. Her husband visited her several times a day. He was very worried about her. He became friends with my girls over the course of his many visits and they reciprocated.
It seems to be the start of a beautiful friendship. Eve and Slavek were from the beginning very close to me. Eve was a Hungarian. Slavek was a few years ago on a contract in Budapest. There he met Eve and they fell in love. After they were married and at the end of the Slavek’s contract they came to Poland. Eve spoke Polish with a nice accent, which only added to her charm.
“Edith, are you afraid?” – asked Eve.
“I’m afraid, very much afraid.”
“You’ll be fine. You are young and strong. You’ll be fine.”
During those sleepless nights spent staring at the ceiling, I tried to sort out all that I needed to organize and made some notes. I tried to read to help chase away the dark thoughts, but failed dismally.
On Wednesday the ward sister told me that a list of operations for Friday is ready. She also said that I was third on the list. Procedures are long. Third on the list meant that it was late afternoon before I hit the operating table I was waiting, counting down the hours.
On Thursday, the girls spent a little more time with me. Slavek brought a wheelchair for me, and we all went outside to the gardens. It was lovely. This is not the same as watching the sky through the window. It was nice and fun.
On Friday, early morning nurse came to me with enema. Then another who shaved my pubes. I felt very bad during this step, embarrassed. At eight o’clock the anaesthetist came to insert a cannula and once again remind me what he would be doing in the operating theatre. He asked me to sign a consent form. Moments later doctor Kasprzyk come to see me. He sat next to me on the bed.
Grasping my hand he said “ Edith, the operation will be performed by laparoscopic method.”
“What does that mean? It sounds so mysterious.”
“This means that we will make three small holes in your belly through which we insert the camera and tools we need to work with during your procedure. Once we are sure of the problem we will make another small incision to take out what’s bothering you. If, however, it turns out that we cannot operate, we wait until you wake up, and send you to the oncology hospital. However, I believe that all will be fine. Please rest now. You’re third on the list.”
After the doctor left, I could not calm down. Eve sat down next to me and tried her best to comfort me. Half an hour later, a male nurse came into the room and said he was taking me to the operating theatre. The first two patients due to the high pressure were moved down the list. Now it’s my turn. Now. Already now. I entered the operating room with raspy teeth. Anaesthetist laugh that I came with my own orchestra.
“What is your name?”
“When were you born?”
“April the fifth 1968.”
“Well, we have the right patient.”
“Do you know what we will do for you today?”
“Yes, you cut out/remove the little cysts using the laparoscopic method.”
“Yes, and do you also know what can happen if we discover something more dangerous?”
“I know, I know” I said very quietly.
“Okay, so we begin. Now I will give you an injection, after which you fall asleep.
Please count down from ten backwards.”
“Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
“Edith! Edith, can you hear me? Please squeeze my hand as a sign that you hear me?”
I hear the voice but I cannot utter a word. The whole body was trapped by drug induced paralysis. I could not open my eyes, I could not move a muscle. Just couldn’t. And what will happen now?
“Edith! Your operation is finished. It is time to wake up. Please open your eyes for me. Squeeze my hand.”
I cannot! Don’t they see that I cannot do anything? Help! I cannot catch my breath. Please remove this weight from my chest! – I was screaming but no one could hear me.
“Sister Sophie increase oxygen up to 15. Edith! Wake up please!”
At the end, I was able to open my eyes. My eyelids were so heavy. My arms and legs were heavy too. I feel so cold. Very cold.
“Finally! How do you feel? Do you feel any pain?”
“I do not. I whispered. How many holes is in my tummy?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Please tell how many holes are in my tummy?”
“There are four holes all nicely stitched and covered” – replied the young doctor with a lovely smile.
“Four! That means that my problem is sorted” I whispered with pleasure – “I’m so tired. Can I sleep now?”
“Let me check your blood pressure and you can sleep.”
Now I felt relieved and terrible fatigued. Over the last few days I hardly slept at all. Dad will come tomorrow with my mother in law. They will bring my girls. Once I am discharged we will be able to reschedule our zoo day – better late than never but for now I need sleep, just sleep, sleep…
“Doctor! Help! Somebody call a doctor, please! We’re losing her!”
In the blink of an eye medical staff gathered at the bedside. Doctor Kasprzyk started heart massage. At the same time, another started intubation. The Resuscitation machine was ready.
“Stand back, please. On three I will shoot. One more time!”
“Still nothing! No response. Parameters zero!”
“Another shot on three. One, two, three!”
“Nothing! The screen is flat. We lost her. How did this happen? All went well and we lost her…”
Late in the afternoon leading doctor informed family about the death of the patient. Two little girls were looking with frightened eyes at their grandparents.
“Edith” by Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak
Correction by Maureen Clifford