To catch up, it's about four weeks after Ian's had heart surgery, and I've rushed him to hospital where he collapsed on arrival.
Once Ian was settled and awake again, we opted for me to head home and be with our son. We were used to Ian being in hospital, so it was no biggie to either of us at the time for me to head off. I had been advised he’d probably be moved to a high care ward as they weren’t sure what was going on.
At 3am I got a phone call to say that he was in ICU. So I drop our son off at my parents (who were very conveniently located between our home and the hospital), and head into the hospital. I was there for a couple of hours and he was scared, but still quite chatty.
I went home for breakfast, then headed back to the hospital. While Ian was relaying John’s antics to the nurse, he crashed. At this point I thought I’d be a widow by the end of the day. His cardiologist was interstate for the weekend, but flew home to manage his case.
Later that day, I wound up in a meeting with 5 heads of department from the hospital. The first thing I was told is Ian had suffered a massive stroke, but they didn’t know the impact. Then I got told, as they had suspected, Ian had the rarest of complications from his ablation – an atrial-oesophageal fistula. A hole had formed between his heart and oesophagus. This would kill him unless it was repaired, but the scar tissue from his past surgeries made everyone really nervous to try the usual repair options available.
Except the one specialisation that apparently gets everything that everyone else doesn’t want to touch – the radiographic surgeon. They planned to insert a stent to block the hole under x-ray, and without inflating the area with gas to reduce the risk of a further stroke – a strategy they couldn’t find other records of. And there was no guarantee he’d survive the surgery.
Our Minister and my step-mother kept me company while Ian was in surgery. I was really relieved when I got the message he was back in ICU.
Then started a three week battle to beat the various infections he had developed.
Once he woke, we learned the extent of his stroke – language was gone, as was his left side mobility. And he’d developed an interest in Australian Rules Football, which he’d detested prior (he was a soccer man and a Birmingham fan). Thanks to the efforts of staff, a stubborn personality and I’m sure his son, we managed to get to a good point medically, and he was released to the stroke ward.
He did pretty well for the next 4 weeks or so, and then we found his oesophagus was growing through the stent and bleeding. Back into ICU and yet more procedures. The upshot- the stent could not be removed, and he’d likely die on the table during any attempt to do so. So it had to stay put.
A few days later, Ian had his first seizure.
Then we celebrated our first wedding anniversary.
A few days later I was finally told there was no hope and given two options – either let his oesophagus rupture, which would be a traumatic end, or let infection win and give him a peaceful end.
I chose the latter.
Ian passed away about a week later, on 14 June 2012. Ten days after our first wedding anniversary.
We’d crammed more in 3 years and 3 days of knowing each other than many do in a lifetime.
Now 18 months later, I’m raising our crazy, active son the best I can, and facing my 40th in 2014 with a life experience I never thought I’d have at this early in my life.