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Hopeful Songs On Dismal Days

By Don Reis All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Humor

Chapter 1

The birds like leaves on Winterwood, sing hopeful songs on dismal days. Don Mclean - Winterwwod


“Could you please tell me your date of birth, Mr Read”. My name is Ron Read. I say , “29th of the first 1952” for what seems about the millionth time. This identifies me as the chosen victim. This has authorised a flock of females ; some quite attractive; most very pleasant, to start work on me with their very sharp needles. Too many of those crap ‘Twilight’ books and movies around. I don’t mind the women hitting me with their needles too much these days. I used to hate it. I used to find it a pain in the arm and sometimes a pain in the arse. I don’t like men sticking needles in me at all. It seems quite an unfriendly act for a bloke to do. I don’t even think men should stick needles into women; seems cruel. Still I guess if there’s a medical emergency and there’s no women with licences to maim around.

I am quite short [155 cm]; quite ugly and although I’d like to be intelligent, quite often I can’t believe how dumb I am. If you think Homer Simpson is dumb, you should see and hear me in full flight.

“What’s your date of birth, Mr Read?”

‘D‘oh”!“

About 24 years ago I had a type 4 melanoma removed from my neck. My surgeon, Dr Phil, told me it was so bad that very few people recovered from one of such severity on the Richter scale. He asked if I was married or had children and when I answered ‘no’, he said I was lucky as there was an eighty per cent chance I’d be dead by Christmas 1986. But I wasn’t and here I am struggling, with the tenacious support of my G.P., Dr. Roslyn Deschanel, my mother, Carolyn, and my sister , Jenny, to stay alive until Christmas 2011 after having a quite bad heart attack in November 2010.

After the removal of the melanoma, I had a block dissection operation to remove the lymph glands and all other tissue down to the artery in the right side of my neck followed by a scar elongation. The tests all came back clear of cancer and all tests since have been clear. I’m not a lucky person usually, but sometimes luck hits unexpectedly in a large way. I now look a little like Frankenstein’s monster without the knobs or maybe Riff Raff from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. …oh Stan… oh Janet.

This is not the beginning of this strange magical medical tour I appear to have been shanghied to participate in by fate and my G.P. who is a very pleasant and highly intelligent lady. She is also highly skilled medically. I am almost positive that if she hadn’t been my G.P. the previous November I would by now have been a permanent resident at the Taabinga lawn cemetery.

I am attending the x-ray and scan department at a major private hospital in Toowoomba, a major inland city in south-east Queensland, Australia.

My brother-in-law , Lex, had driven me over to this hospital and we’d had a very interesting conversation all the way about lawn bowls [about which he is fanatical], country music and birds [the feathered type]. We’d made good time. I was surprised that the roads were in surprisingly good nick after the recent heavy rain and floods. This was the case all the way once we’d left the town limits of my own hometown. The roads there were, and still are, just one big pothole into which the council workers continually fling shovel fulls of tar and gravel although I believe they have a machine that does it much worse.

I lined up at the hospital check-in counter and was pleasantly surprised it didn’t take long to get served. The young women at the counter were all quite attractive and the one who served me seemed quite efficient. Soon I was being shown into the x-ray and scan department, by, you guessed it a man. I guess blokes have to be allowed to do some jobs but a nice woman breaks the tension at these horrible medical rendezvous. Maybe they could save the men for the ladies. I soon ascertained that most of the detainees were old Billy goats like me [I’ve just turned 59]. My warder took me to a room and asked me to sit down, take off my shoes and to empty my pockets. And the onto the scales at the time I was about the same weight as I was in year 12 at high school, 60 kilograms. I was shown into a side room and asked to lie on the bed. Soon a very attractive young nurse approached. She explained that she was going to put in a bung thingy [medical term here] into my arm to inject the doses of die I would require during the procedures. I was to have a ’before’’ scan and then go on a treadmill and then for an ‘after’ scan when my heart was going full bore.

It was very thoughtful of the nurse to insert the catheter, that way I wouldn’t need to be pricked so often. She seemed highly intelligent and efficient. During the day, I quite often saw her expertly guiding my fellow detainees through their agonies. I bet she had to carry a very large can of insecticide in her purse to keep all of the young Toowoomba blow fly drones at bay. most of the women I come across these days seem too young even the ones who aren’t. I used to be reasonably accurate with women’s ages but now I’m so bloody hopeless that I’ve given up trying to guess. Luckily with all of the women I’ve tried to age guess in recent times, I’ve erred way on the too young end of the scale. A woman I met recently I estimated as no more than fifty turned out to be sixty-four. I was stunned when another lady I thought couldn’t be more than twenty-five before she told me she had a twenty year old son; another i thought about thirty also had a twenty year old son.

Some men, I’m sure, would think it wonderful to be pursued by hordes of women, but now it was happening to me I realised all the women wanted my body to stick needles into it. Many even wanted my blood. This young nurse then pumped some dye into me.. The male technical person came and collected me and took me to a small waiting room which was chock-a-block with old goats like me and two youngish women, I’d guess they would have been in their early thirties; but knowing my skills at estimation , they were probably, in reality about seventeen. They’d come as a party of ten in a minibus from a smallish darling downs town. The lab attendant tells me to have two cups of water. The water is ice cold. I gulp two cups down. He laughs at me, and tells me to take my time as I’ll be sitting here twiddling my thumbs for half an hour. At least. A TV is on in the waiting room. It is continually showing pictures of, and interviewing survivors from the Christchurch earthquake. Poor buggars. It must have been dreadful. But this is not the type of entertainment you want in a hospital awaiting who knows what terrors. It is one all the time I am there, showing over and over again the same poor buggars being pulled, cut and bleeding from the wreckage interspersed by experts droning on. most seemed to be talking just for the sake of talking..

The shorter of the two women soon started groaning on about how hungry she was. We all are hungry as we’d had to fast since midnight. She said that the first thing she is going to do when she gets out of this prison, was to head for the nearest fast greasy burger outlet and buy the biggest greaseburger she could get. As she was probably here for the same scans as I , I thought her doctor must have suspected some heart problems so maybe a burger or three might not have been a wise choice. Me thought she might have been overstating her love of fatty food as she appeared quite slim and in the past, I hadn’t found this to be the trait of burger addicts. Little did I know she was going to be the main entertainment of the day. I should have paid more attention earlier on. Soon the two women were gone for their scans as they‘d obviously had earlier appointments than mine. Other old goats came and went. I felt I was going to have to pee soon. I hadn’t noticed a toilet in the unit. The technician called another old bloke for his scan and asked if he wanted to use the toilet first and pointed out where it was. Problem solved! After the guy had been and then headed off for his scan, I ventured out. I’d passed the toilet quite a few times and hadn’t noticed it for what it was. It was cleverly disguised as the office of a very minor medical practitioner. A discreet small brass plaque on the door announced not ’Dr. Whooping-Cough but toilet. I tried the handle but it was locked. The hospital guy yelled out from his area at the end of the corridor that it was not only a one person one but also unisex. In public hospitals the toilets are clearly indicated in blue and white in large lettering and there are usually smaller signs pointing the way. Apparently private patients have to either use their eyes or cross their legs for long periods of time..

An elderly woman was highly embarrassed when she tried to gain entry whilst I was in residence. I went back to the waiting room and had a talk with a man from in town who was seated opposite me. He seemed even more unhappy and uneasy about the current situation than I was. He was a very heavy smoker, about 60 a day or something. I, myself, have never smoked at all, never been tempted to even try a puff. My father, Henry, was a heavy smoker all his life. He started when he was about seven years old. My mother , Caroline and my sister, Jenny are non smokers, my brother , John, was a light smoker in his early days mainly to join in with his peer group. My mother, Carolyn, had told me that when they were little the lady who lived in the corner house who was a heavy smoker [she died a few years back from lung cancer] had offered them a puff on her ciggy which they accepted. [what naughty children] my sister thought she was dying and never smoked again. My brother, John, as previously mentioned, went on to become a light smoker to fit in. The corner house lady who was also my father’s first cousin, was still puffing away when I found myself, much to the surprise of myself and I think my parents, found myself tottering around the place. She never offered me a drag on her fag. I wouldn’t have bit in any case. I hated the smell of my father’s tobacco and cigarette smoke.

Another fairly plumpish bloke entered and sat next to me. He wasn’t very talkative. Although he wasn’t outwardly freaking out, he was definitely very unhappy with his predicament.

I was then called by the tec to have my scan performed. I was introduced to a young lady who was manning the apparatus. She explained what was going to happen and what I was required to do. I had to lie on a couch. A dirty great revolving camera system was positioned to scan the top part of my chest. I was told to keep very still during the procedure and to breathe Normally. I was then positioned and the scanner started its work. I’m pretty good at scans these days, I just lie still and don’t wriggle; I breathe when I’m told to and stop when required. I don’t whinge or complain. The scan took about twenty minutes. By the end of this time, my neck scar and arthritis were starting to play up so I was very pleased when the first part of the ordeal was over.

Back to waiting room. A few other poor old buggars had wandered in and were drinking their two cups of ice cold water. I was allowed to have coffee. The two women had been hoeing in. I think my burger loving friend said she was on her fifth or sixth. Not as good as a good greasy burger I suspect. The coffee tasted good. I’ve never been a coffeeholic. I have an occasional cup. I’m definitely not a coffee connoisseur, a cup of instant, whatever brand is on the go, suits me fine. I’ve never even had a cappuccino at all as far as I can recall nor anything even more exotic. I was then taken by the young nurse to the waiting area for the treadmill attraction. I’d never been on a treadmill in my life. I prefer useful exercise not play exercise. Thank goodness we weren’t required to wear leotards or , god forbid, lyrca. There is enough evil in this world already without this.

The nurse came and took me to the waiting room for the treadmill ride. My friend, the heavy smoker was already there. We were soon joined by the untalkative bloke. He did open up a little. I realised then that most of the other outpatients I had come across during the day were a lot more frightened than I was. before this I thought I must have been one of the worst at medical matters on the planet. If I had know what my results from these stress test scans were going to, I fear I would have been a lot more uncomfortable. Neither of my fellow detainees, like myself, had ever had the pleasure of running on a treadmill and getting nowhere. Smoker didn’t think he’d be able to last long. There was a woman in reception busily typing on her computer and answering the seaming endlessly ringing phone. The wait dragged on an on. I wished I had gone for a pee on the way. The air conditioning was on quite cool. The doctor’s plaque bog was too far away. I went and looked both ways along the corridor but there were no signs indicating relief stations nor anything that looked like a toilet door. I would just have to cross my legs and endure it. A male specialist came out and escorted puffing Billy into the back room. Much more leg crossing and uncrossing with a few occasional words from Mr. Uncommunicative. At least the specialist ushered me into the back room. He introduced me to a highly attractive middle aged woman whom he said was not only his wife but a specialist physician and his partner in the treadmill concession. She was highly pleasant and intelligent and had a good sense of humour. A couch, a series of machines of the type that went beep, beep, beep and the dreaded treadmill just about filled the small room. I was instructed to lie on the couch and the lady doctor injected some god awful looking gunk into my catheta. I was told it would make me feel flushed and giddy. The hot flushing was quite strong and I was a bit unsteady on my feet when I was instructed to stand. The lady doctor quizzed me on my medical history and she actually laughed when I told her of my heart attack, awful experiences at my local hospital and my hernia operation at Toowoomba general. Quite a few people seem to have laughed at this. Even more as my medical trauma continued. No “oh, you poor little buggar. Did the naughty peoples do that to you?’ type of thing . Very little sympathy. I tell you I didn’t find any of it remotely humourous

The pleasant doctor lady was a little surprised when I told her I had never in my life been tempted to use a treadmill. I had of course seen many people using them on TV and even a few fools in real life. My third cousin who had had a heart attack had bought one but I doubt if he’d tried it by the time he died.

I was to do four minutes on the treadmill. The lady specialist was to instruct me while her husband manipulated the machinery. I hopped onto the bloody awful contraption. It took me quite a while to even get positioned in the correct position regarding the hand grips. The male specialist then said “go!” I was Van Der Hum off on the way to win the Melbourne Cup, my last big win on the cup. I think I won $7. I think it was the late ’70’s. I’ve never been much of a gambler. My mother’s uncle who lived just around the corner from us for many years, was a fanatical horse race punter. The only other winner of the cup I’ve picked in the cup in the last thirty years was might and power.

I was Kate Bush “Running Up That Hill.” I wanted to get my four minutes finished as quickly as possible. The doctor lady was very patient and encourage. She instructed me to slow down until I was almost going in slow motion and to take much longer strides. I settled into Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and got the tick of approval. Four minutes on a treadmill is a bloody long time. I’d thought at the outset that I would have no trouble staying the distance. But I was highly relieved when the time was up . I don’t think I could have lasted another millisecond. I was totally stuffed. I was instructed to lie on the couch again and some gunk that was supposed to negate the effects of the original gunk was pumped into the catheta. I was ten told to dress, given a plate of three sandwiches, escorted to the back door and shown the way to the waiting room. On the way I met up again with the taller of the two younger ladies and the puffer. He’d only had to do four minutes as well.

Stopped at the toilet on the way back for a well deserved ‘point Percy at the porcelain’ session. The small waiting room was now absolutely crowded, mostly with poor old buggars of about my age or older. The shorter of the two women appeared and headed straight for the coffee. Just about everyone had their little tray of three sandwiches. It felt a bit lit a pre-school little lunch. Only one of my sandwiches looked edible. I think it was possibly cheese. The other two contained unidentified mish mash, possibly some form of alien life. If I’d tried to eat these other two, despite my hunger, I fear I would have ended up disgracing myself by vomiting.

These went straight into one of the two shiny metal buckets which were serving as waste disposal bins. The shortish woman whose name I had learned was Sarah was seated along side one of the bin buckets about 3 people down from myself.

She stood up to get yet another cup of coffee and her foot made perfect contact with the side of the bin half way up. The bins were by now completely filled with coffee cups and half or non eaten sandwiches. The bucket described a low arc over about two thirds of the room and landed with a loud clang bottom up. The cups and other debris showered out of the top and seemed to descend to earth in slomo. Sarah was still standing in the same place highly embarrassed. Smokey and a couple of other blokes who were closest to the mess got up and started to pick it up. I looked around at the other inmates and every face seemed like it was harbouring the same thoughts. I didn’t want to embarrass the young lady further so I kept my trap firmly shut.

One old goat sitting along the far wall couldn’t help himself. He said, “No need for you to wait for your scan results now, luv!.” and most of us reluctantly joined in with the punch line, “You’ve already kicked the bucket.” Everyone burst out laughing . Sarah proved to be a real trooper. She put her hands von her hips, did a little jig and said, “ha bloody ha!” which made everyone laugh all the more.

Just at that moment, the attractive young nurse came in to collect puff puff for his scan. The look on her face! She didn’t have a clue what was going on. I think she thought we’d been passing around a joint of wacky backy. The two women departed, released to go home. Mr uncommunication who’s name was Stan came and sat in the seat vacated by Sarah. The two people in the middle seats left and I decided to try once more for a conversation. I told him about my heart attack and strangulated hernia operation at the Toowoomba hospital. He informed me that he suffered from exactly the same condition and that the doctors there were trying to persuade him to have the operation but that there was no way on earth that anyone was going to ever going to cut him up. I tried to tell him how highly skilled the surgical team had been during my op. But he was having none of it. I’ve never been good with medical situations. I’ll hardly ever sit in the same room if there is a medical show on TV, but I’d undergone the block dissection operation on my neck and the hernia operation. When it’s a case of either extinction or a bit of pain and fear, I’ll always go for possible survival.

I don’t know how my friend would get on if his scans indicated he needed heart surgery. I’ve never been great with air travel. I prefer to keep both feet on the ground. I’ve flown a fair distance in jets which to me seem the safest option. Turbo props scare me. You can quite often see one of the propellers rotating. You can see the hills, rivers, foliage or sea far far below and you think that if that buggar fails it’s a long bungee jump with no back bounce. Stan said under no circumstance would he fly. I’ve never been in a helicopter and I’m not keen at all to try. If it became the only option to save my life I’d agree but I’d have to be sedated.

At last it was time to have my final scan, same as before. When it was finished, I thanked the usher and the lady in charge of the equipment and exited stage left. Lex had been off delivering late Christmas presents for a neighbour whilst I was being scanned. He’d arrived back in plenty of time. He asked if I wanted to have lunch at the cafeteria or go to a park. I said I was easy - whatever suited him. I’d brought something to eat with me and so had he, so we elected to eat on the move.

The trip home was uneventful and reasonably swift. Lex had of course to stop at a discount liquor store in Toowoomba to see if the had any cheap rum. I had absolutely no interest at all in any kind of alcohol so I waited in the car and munched a quite refreshing bunch of grapes. The rum was of course a dollar dearer that he could have gotten it in Kingaroy so he opted for a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey which was $3 cheaper. I’ve only had Canadian Club a couple of times and quite enjoyed it but … never again.

I had made an appointment to see doctor Roslyn Deschanel the following week to get the results of my stress test. Jenny drove me to my appointment and waited in the waiting area after Roslyn had ushered me into her surgery. She asked me to take a seat. Her manner seemed quite sombre. I had expected the results to be bad but not completely devastating. Roslyn said she had received the results of my scan and they were ‘ interesting’. I had seen and experienced many things I my life that I’d considered interesting in many different ways but nothing vaguely like this. I’d even read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’ novel ’Interesting times ”. What Roslyn told me I was sure would definitely lead to interesting times for me. Her report was precise and concise, I believe it was by far the best prepared and presented report I’d ever encountered. Loved these two factors. Absolutely hated the contents. They chilled me to my soul. I can be more accurate here. They chilled me to my heart.

It must be extremely distressing for a doctor to deliver extremely bad news to a patient. They’re not even allowed to put on a black wig when they deliver a verdict of possible or even probable death., Roslyn delivered the bad news in just the perfect tone for the situation, caring, compassionate and comforting. I could tell she wasn’t enjoying her job very much at all. The report contained the exact facts I needed to know without any filler.

Basically the specialists at the Toowoomba private hospital had found that I had two totally blocked coronary arteries and a third almost as bad. On top of this a large area of my heart muscle appeared to be dead. before Roslyn had finished speaking I knew exactly what was the go. I knew that the answer to life, the universe and everything definitely wasn’t 42. I suspected from the moment I heard this that Douglas Adams was way off. If it’s a number, I expected it is one chosen at random from the zillions of numbers ever imagined and that each when chosen would only be true for a micro amount of time. Possibly 42 was the answer to the question for the microsecond when the mouse computer had come up with this answer. I guess poor old Douglas realised something like this in his final moments on his planet.

Roslyn finished. Basically what she had told me was that if I was an extremely lucky little tadpole I might be able to have open heart surgery. But there was a very real chance that two large a section of my heart muscle was dead. If this was the case there was only tablets. With my brain functioning in a completely alcohol free manner, I pretty well instantly realised the implications of this. If too much of my heart muscle was dead to operate, then the tablets might help for a while but in a reasonably short space of time the rest of my body would also be likewise.

Doctor Deschanel said she would like me to go to the Royal Hospital in Brisbane to see a cardiologist. If I would agree she would make the appointment ASAP. I think she was quite surprised at how quickly I agreed. She knew how much I hated traumatic medical ordeals. I think she was also highly relieved. She naturally thought she was going ton have to do the old hard sell and hadn’t been looking forward to it at all. But even then, instead of my usual mental medical freakout, I was thinking, “god, I hope there’s enough heart tissue alive for me to have open heart surgery.

My blood pressure has always been high during visits to medical practitioners and with this news it was off the Richter scale. Some other doctors had suggested to me that this was “white coat syndrome’. I’m not too sure if this is correct or not. Many of the doctors I done my extreme hypertension act for over the years have worn the usual shirt and pants. Some I’ve encountered in recent times even wear dresses. Thank goodness, at least so far, it has only been the ones of the female persuasion.

Roslyn told me she wanted me to go to the local scannery just around the corner to have a kidney scan to try to pinpoint the factors causing the high blood pressure. I said I would comply as soon as I could. It was very lucky for myself that by now I completely trusted my G.P..

Rosalyn escorted me from her surgery and said she wanted to see me a few days after I had had my kidney scan. I would have to fast beforehand. She also wanted me to have blood tests and provide a urine sample at the local chamber of vampires. She had run off the necessary chitties on her computer.

Jenny was waiting. She instantly realised that the appointment hadn’t gone well. I wasn’t shaking but I guess I was looking a pretty drained. I explained Roslyn’s interesting plans for my future on the way back to the car. before we reached the car and I the end of my troubles, I realised she was starting to overload, too much information at the one time. Jenny is a very strong minded woman usually but she was still getting over her operation and all the other horrors of the last couple of years were taking their toll. I stopped after telling her of the proposed visit to the Royal Hospital and the likelihood of a triple bypass. I stopped short of telling that too much of my heart might be dead and that they mightn’t be able to perform open heart surgery. I did tell her this before our journey to Brisbane. It is always best policy to give people all available relevant information in any situation but particularly when things are dire. And I knew I was definitely in dire straits even though I wasn’t Mark Knopfler.

When we arrived home I knew I had to tell my mother, Carolyn most of bombshell info as it was going to seriously affect her. She was ninety-three years old at the time and was in poor physical health but she still had all her marbles and was tough mentally. Once again I left out the heart being too dead to operate part. She took the information fairly well although I could tell she was shocked by the news.

My sister had taken me to the local med lab on the way home to give blood for testing. I was given a bottle to provide urine samples. I was to pee into the bottle for 24 hours. I performed this onerous task and Jenny returned the bottle of delicious amber fluid to the med lab. No long after, I got a call from one of the vampire ladies from the lab asking if my sister could pick up another container and if I wouldn’t mind repeating my pissing into a plastic bottle for twenty-four hours act as whoever had given me the original container had neglected to put preservative in the bottle. I filled the bottle again and my sister returned it to them.

I told my neighbours in the house down below of my medical adventures. They were an elderly couple in their eighties. Their names were Bob and Dora Burrows. Both disliked things medical. I think Bob was even a lot more uneasy with doctors and things medical than I was. I told them of my double serve of urine. I got a laugh when I told them that quite a few people had told me I was just totally full of piss, and it now appeared the local vampire women were of the same opinion.

I tried to carry on with my work around the house and yard as per usual, as if nothing untoward had happened. I suspect that many people who encountered me during this period would have thought I was quite happy and up. I was a far better actor than I ever thought I could possible be. I was internally very worried that my heart might be too stuffed to operate. The thought of the possibility of open heart surgery whilst unpleasant wasn’t nearly as bad as the first thought. I wasn’t really freaking out. I was managing to hold things together reasonably well on a mental level. I figured if I lost the plot and freaked out, I t would place unacceptable pressure on Carolyn and Jenny and other relatives and friends. Everyone was under far too much pressure already. Also it wouldn’t help my cause any also. I wanted to be a physically fit as possible before my trip to the Royal. I had very early realised that when I arrived at the hospital if enough of my heart was still viable, the operation would need to happen pretty much post hoc de proc and I had to be ready to face whatever.

I ’d made an appointment for my kidney scan about two days after my appointment with Doctor Deschanel. I fasted and rolled up, driven again by Jenny, about 9 am. It was a Friday morning. There were quite a few people in the waiting area. I checked in and sat down for the wait with my sister. A friend of hers was sitting on the seats at the other side of the aisle, I knew her fairly well also. Jenny went over for a chat. I called out my hellos. After a while I joined them. It turned out that she, too was one of doctor Rosalyn’s patient. She was to have a scan on her ankle. Some info was required by my doctor, so Jenny decided to drop this at the surgery which was just around the corner. I noticed that a quite attractive young lady was coming from the scan area to collect patients and also a young bloke. I was hopeful. The young lady came out of the area and called my sister’s friend’s name, “Sharon!” but Sharon had had to make a trip to the toilet. This usually happens at the wrong time. When she came back I went over and told her. She’d gotten the attractive young woman so I knew I was getting the bloke. Knowing Sharon, I bet she was a lot more pissed at this than I was.

The young bloke soon came out and called my name. As usual he asked my name [hey, he’d just called it] and my date of birth. It was then strip and lie on the couch. And then it was the usual lie still, breathe out, not breathe when told, change position when told. The usual jam on the skin to make the scan probe move easily. The young technician was quite pleasant and helpful but definitely in a big rush to finish. It was almost Friday lunchtime. The scans had been playing up all morning and they had a monstrous backlog.

The scan didn’t take long. Surprisingly I was feeling quite well after the scan. Quite often I feel like crap. After arriving home I got the long handled loppers and went and defoliated the top part of our back allotment. Quite a few trees and shrubs had died in the many preceding years of extreme drought; quite a few couldn’t handle the heavy rain we’d had earlier in the year and had carked it as well. Those that had survived were mostly a tangle of branches. I’m glad Bob Brown and his green team weren’t watching. I knocked off for a drink about 12 midday.

Jenny and Lex live about five kilometres out of town but most days she comes and helps out. She had stayed when she brought me home from the scannery. When I went inside she said, “you haven’t had anything to eat yet.” I quite often don’t have lunch usually until one or one-thirty pm. It was only just twelve so I didn’t know what she was talking about. She said , “you had to fast overnight and haven’t had breakfast yet!” D’oh! I shoved a couple of muesli bars in my pocket and went out to water the garden. I eventually knocked off about two and had a combined breakfast and lunch.

A nurse from admissions at the Royal hospital rang the next Wednesday afternoon. I was to present myself at the hospital at two P.M. on the Tuesday after next. I would be admitted to hospital for at least a week. My nephew, Bertram’s wife, Fiona, was a nurse and had worked in admissions at this very hospital for quite a few years. I asked the nurse on the phone, Margery, if she knew Fiona. She said she not only knew her but had worked with her. I didn’t if this was a good thing or not. Jenny had told me that Fiona had had a pretty fiery relationship with one of the nurses who was her superior. At least I was a bit relieved that things were coming to a head quickly. I carried on pretty much as usual at home. Although I was internally very worried, I continued to put on a cheerful face to the outside world.

I had an appointment to see doctor Roslyn the next Tuesday to receive the results of my kidney scans. She was a little surprised at the speed with which I’d been summoned to the presence of Royalty. The scans had been inconclusive. The internal views of the kidneys showed they appeared to be functioning normally but the scans of the kidney arteries had been partly distorted by the presence of two much gas in my bowels. It’s a wonder the young lab technologist didn’t tell me to go outside and drop a fart and then try again. I bet if I’d gotten the attractive young lady and it had happened on her shift, she would have. Roslyn said there was a further test that could be performed called an angiogram and that they might want to perform one at the hospital. And yes they did and what bloody awful tests they are.

The blood and urine tests had all come back showing everything in the normal paramaters. Rosalyn gave me a print out of the results and also the scan prints and report from my failed stress test scans at the Toowoomba private hospital to take with me and present to my cardiologist, Dr. Clarence Lott, who was the head honcho of the coronary division of the hospital. She wished me bon voyage and good luck and to come to visit when I got back.

The main immediate problem was going to find respite for my mother. I could no longer drive, my sister was still unable to drive following her operation. She wanted to accompany me so Lex would have to drive us. My brother , Henry, lives in Rockhampton. He and is wife are in poor health. My brother’s eyesight is just about gone due to diabetes and he can no long drive. His wife, thelma’s kidneys are in a bad shape and she requires dialysis three or four times a week. most of our close relatives and friends who might have been able to help had, in recent years, died, moved away or were in poor health themselves. One of mum’s carer ladies, Noeleen, said she would help out a bit if she could. She and Jenny had been friends for quite a few years. Mum had carers five times a week, three days for showers, one for hose cleaning and one for shopping. The woman in charge of the carers, MeLinda, indicated that she would be willing to let us have the full week’s hours in the one day

Short term respite in the area is virtually non existent especially if it’s at short notice. Jenny rang the lady in charge of care in the district. She the first resort for respite is the local nursing homes. The lady rang back and said there were no vacancies anywhere in the district. Another option was the local private hospital. Mum’s doctor was willing to do the necessary paperwork but, although she had private health insurance cover it didn’t cover respite. Jenny rang the lady again and told her the situation. She explained that the government provided a certain amount each year for the purpose of respite in private hospitals if the clients didn’t have the necessary private health cover and the nursing homes were full. But she said all the funds for the whole district had been used for the financial year. It was only March and there would be no more funds until July. I guess the government gives them two and sixpence a year. Jenny’s nerves were just about shot, what with her brush with cancer and op and my heart attack and hernia op , mum’s health, my upcoming date with destiny etc. When she hung up after this conversation with the lady who was unsuccessfully trying to be helpful, she exclaimed loudly, ï’m going to get a gun and shoot myself!” luckily I knew she was sort of joking. My mother, sister and myself have never been into guns at all. I fired the neighbour’s air rifle about three times when I was in high school. I did have many water pistols in my younger days but I don’t have any now. Occasionally I think one would be useful. If any of us do decide to end it all, we’ll probably have to hit ourselves over the head with lengths of four by two.

Not long after, the phone rang again. Jenny answered it. I could hear her side of the conversation. She sounded almost high and kept saying “thank you” repeatedly. The lovely lady from aid had phoned back. She’d phoned around on our behalf. The government has a flat up the other end of town for emergency respite but it’s usually booked six months in advance. It had suddenly become vacant and mum could stay there at no charge for five days with round the clock . It’s extremely pleasing when you come across someone who’s prepared to go above and beyond the requirements. This is particularly so in times of extreme stress and need. I also mentally thanked the lovely lady. We told mum and she was very pleased, it times weren’t so desperate it would have been almost a holiday.

I continued to work in the garden and to lop down tree branches to get as physically fit as possible to face whatever was to eventuate. Doctor Roslyn’s report had put me in exactly the right frame of mind. I was mentally prepared. If this had happened any other way, I would have been scared shitless at the thought of open heart surgery. I would have been really crapping myself. As it was, I knew if I was able to have a triple bypass, it would be extremely painful and unpleasant and more than a little frightening but what I was really worried about was that too much of my heart was already dead and the operation would not be able to happen.

I gave my neighbours, Bob and Dora, an update on my medical problems. I gave them a bit of a laugh when I told them about Jenny’s friend and the female technical person when I’d gone for the kidney scan. They both wished me bon fortune and said they’d keep a bit of an eye on things while I was away.

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