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Interview 22

Age at interview: 59
Brief Outline: His wife had emergency surgery to remove a kidney. He found it difficult to discuss his feelings but received comfort from sitting alone in the hospital chapel.
Background: Gardener, married with two adult daughters. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

More about me...

In 2006 his wife was diagnosed with diabetes. She was feeling extremely tired and unwell and, after seeing her GP, was referred to the High Dependency Unit at their local hospital. 

She had to have emergency surgery to remove a kidney and was admitted to ICU before and after surgery. She spent two weeks in ICU and two weeks in a general ward, where she had a private room because she had caught MRSA. 

He spent all day every day at the hospital when his wife was in hospital. He would come home briefly for his evening meal, which his daughter prepared and left for him, and then return to the hospital until late at night. He found it difficult to discuss his feelings at this time but received great comfort from sitting alone in the hospital chapel. His two daughters, who were married with children, felt they would have liked more information from their father, who was often tired and reserved when he returned from visiting the hospital. He felt he would have liked more information once his wife had returned home, particularly about diabetes and diet. 

He looked after his wife when she returned from hospital and they now spend more quality time together.
 

He spent many hours in the hospital chapel and valued the peace, quiet and solitude.

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It might sound silly to you, I know I said it to the wife, but I did leave you quite a few times, didn't I, you know what I mean, when you was like, and I went to church. I did, I spent a lot of time in church in the hospital. You know, it might sound a bit silly to people, if there's somebody listening to this, but I did honestly, I must admit. 

A lot of people did say?

I did honestly. You know, like [my wife's] friend would say, 'Where's [husbands name]' and she would say, 'He'll be back in a minute'. She knew where I was. So did the girls. You know, I don't know, I don't know. 

You went to the chapel in the hospital? 

Yes, yes, yes. 

And did you speak to the chaplain there at all? 

No, I never seen him there at all. It was empty. I was quite happy sitting there and... 

And praying? 

Yes, I was quite happy, you know. It suited me. I'm not a religious person, I'm not a great churchgoer, but I do believe, you know what I mean. I sat there for hours sometimes. 

And it was a comfort? 

Yes, definitely. You know, I don't think there's anything anybody can do when your wife's seriously ill or whatever partner's really ill, you know what I mean. There's, people try to comfort you, like the nurses and doctors, and try and be kind to you, you know what I mean. But it's different when you're going through it, you know what I mean, when you've got somebody there I think, you know what I mean. So I don't know. It was very hard, definitely.

You just sit there. And there's nobody else in there. Just solitude, and you can, nice and quiet, I light a candle and you light a candle and you say your piece to the man and, you know. 

And that helped you through, especially the time in hospital? 

When the wife was in hospital it helped me a hell of a lot, definitely, yes, it did, definitely.
 

 

He was shocked when he was told his wife could die if she didn't have surgery to remove a kidney...

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Husband' And they took her off to the [hospital name]. Where did you go? High Dependency ward, didn't you? Yes.

Straight into the High Dependency ward? 

Husband' Yes, straight in. 

You didn't go to Accident and Emergency? 

Husband' No. no. Straight to High Dependency Unit. 

Did they say what was wrong? 

Husband' They didn't honestly know. They thought it was diabetes, because you [wife] were blowing up, weren't you? Went up like a balloon. And then somebody come round and they said they was going to do a scan. And when they'd done the scan they found that the kidney was completely, no, no, there was no sort of, you know what I mean. So then we see a, was it a doctor or a professor? 

Wife' Professor.  

Husband' Professor, oh, what was his name?  

Wife' Professor [name] 

Husband' Dr [name] yes. Professor, Dr [doctor's name]. He come round and he said to me, 'Mr [name]' he said, 'Your wife is seriously ill. I've got to operate tonight.' 'If I don't operate tonight' he said, 'She'll be dead by the morning.' And I said, 'You are joking.' And he said, 'No' he said, 'It's that bad.' 

Had she always been healthy before? 

Husband' Yes, yes. Didn't even know she had diabetes even, let alone her kidney was diseased. So he said, 'The problem' he said, 'All my people have gone home.' He said, 'I've got nobody.' He said, 'We've worked mostly through the night.' He said, 'We've got nobody now.' 'I will get my staff back' he said, 'And we will operate tonight.' And they did, didn't they? And he said, 'The odds aren't very good' he said, 'I'll tell you now.' 
 

 

He was shocked when told his wife could die if she didn't have surgery and that, even after...

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Husband' And the wife wouldn't let me sign the consent form, would you? She wouldn't put it on my shoulders. She said, 'I'll sign it myself.' 

What were the consent forms for? 

Husband' To have the operation. 

Right, so you didn't sign them? 

Husband' Wife wouldn't let me sign it. The wife wouldn't let me sign it. She wanted to sign it in case anything happened. Because he was honest, he was very, he said, 'I don't want' he said, 'I can't give you a percentage.' He said, 'Your wife is very ill.' 

Wife' He didn't tell me that, did he? 

Husband' No, he told me. He said, 'If we don't operate now' he said, 'You won't have a wife by the morning.' And they operated. They took her up to Intensive Care. I stayed there. I don't know, I don't know what time, I can't remember much about it to be honest with you. 

Early hours, I went back up there [ICU]. They operated on the Thursday, didn't they? You [wife] went in on the Tuesday, didn't you? They operated Thursday night, yes. The time you come back from theatre, out of the theatre, early hours Friday morning. I came home. I went back up Friday and the wife was out of it completely. All the machines, tubes, it was frightening. Couldn't believe it, you know what I mean. Everything was breathing for her, everything. They told me then that they still didn't have a very good, you know, the percentage wasn't very good. She was still ill. It could still go either way. So you can imagine how I was, oh, I didn't know which way to turn. I was devastated, you know what I mean. And it carried on, I don't know how long for. How long? I don't know, I don't remember.
 

 

He worried about losing his wife and coping without her because he relied on her so much.

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He worried about losing his wife and coping without her because he relied on her so much.

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It was hard. Like my wife said, we've been married so many years, you know what I mean, and we've been together, you know what I mean. When you've been that close to somebody, I'm probably not the only one, you know what I mean, but when you really love somebody, you think, 'God, how am I going to get through this, if anything happens?' you know what I mean. And like I say it was more harder for me because all the years we've been married I've never looked after any of the finance, you know what I mean. When I got married I was, I don't know, not Jack the Lad, but if I had a pound in me pocket I'd spend it. And I'm still the same now, you know. So I think to myself, 'Christ, if anything happened to the wife, how the hell would I go on?' You know, I've never run the house, you know what I mean. She, just I get paid and I say, 'Right, there's the money' and she does it all, pays the mortgage, pays all the bills. I have nothing to do with it, you know. 

And you were worried for the future then as well? 

Oh, yes, I suppose I was, yes. You know, I thought, 'Blimey where do I go now? Now what do I do?'
 

 

If he wasn't at his wife's bedside talking to her, a nurse was talking to her instead, and he was...

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If he wasn't at his wife's bedside talking to her, a nurse was talking to her instead, and he was...

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I was sat there for days after, just talking like I'm talking now. There was no response. 

They just said to me, they don't know if they can hear you or not, 'But we like you to sit and talk. And you can talk a load of old rubbish, as long as you're, someone's sat there and you're talking.' They said, 'But we don't know whether that person can hear what you're saying or not.' But it's just a thing they like you to do. So that's what I done most days, just sat there, held the wife's hand and just talked like I'm talking now. Probably a load of old rubbish but, you know. 

I mean even the nurses when you was in Intensive Care, I know it was one-to-one, they always used to sit and talk to you, even though you couldn't answer them. They used to, I used to go in there some days and the nurse was talking to you. One of them was telling you about her son getting married and all that. I can remember that as if it was only yesterday. And another older nurse there, and she'd be talking to you all the time, you know, just talking about their own life, you know what I mean, what was happening in their own family. You know, I thought that was very nice, you know what I mean. Couldn't fault them up there. They was very nice in Intensive Care, they was brilliant, you know. And [later] every time you asked for a drink, you couldn't drink because, they were sponging it in your mouth, and they'd give you a cup of tea, wouldn't they, and sponge your mouth out with it. They was brilliant, fantastic, definitely. I couldn't fault Intensive Care one little bit.
 

 

He found it hard to understand the information doctors gave him and to retain the information...

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Husband' Like I say, they told me what was wrong, what they were doing, you know what I mean. They told me everything they were doing. They were doing this for a certain reason. This drug was for something else. But it was above my head, it was above me, you know what I mean. I couldn't understand it. There was sort of, it was, it was too much. I said to you, didn't I? 

Wife' Yes, because they - 

Husband' I couldn't understand it. 

Wife' - they come out with the, the proper words. 

Husband' I couldn't, it was too much for me to take on board. If somebody had put it in layman terms for me I would have been all right, I would have been fine. 

Wife' If they would say that, 'Oh, we're putting her on antibiotics to get -

Husband' But, you know. 

Wife' - rid of this infection' or... They didn't. They said they're putting me on'

Husband' Some - 

Wife' They'd say 

The drug's name? 

Wife' Yes. 

Husband' Yes. You know, if they'd said, 'Oh, this tube's doing so-and so and this feed's doing...' you know what I mean, I'd have been all right. But it was all gobbledegook, it was, it was above my head, you know what I mean. 
 

 

He praised one of the senior doctors who always told him about his wife's progress very directly...

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He praised one of the senior doctors who always told him about his wife's progress very directly...

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Husband' It was Professor [doctor's name] who discharged you [wife], didn't he? He was brilliant, you couldn't, oh he was a fantastic doctor, wasn't he? 

Wife' He was, yes. 

Husband' He was. There was nothing about that gentleman, he'd tell it to you bluntly, as it was, there was no middle line. He'd give you the bare facts and that was it, you know what I mean. There was nothing trying to cover things up. He told you exactly what it was, and that was it. Nothing, no, you know, you didn't have to say to him, 'Oh, give it to me straight'. It was straight, you know what I mean. There was no messing with him, was there? 

Wife' No. 

Husband' Eh? He told you straight. 

Because he told you straight, you understood exactly what he meant? 

Husband' Yes, yes, precisely. You know, there again on Intensive Care the doctors were coming round and they were saying, 'Oh, so-and-so-and-so'. It was above my head because I didn't understand what they were saying. But they were very good to me, you know what I mean. They tried to put it in layman terms so I did understand it. But with Professor [doctor's name] he was, you know what I mean, it was straight to the knuckle, wasn't it? And he'd just come in and say, you know, 'How are you?' 

Wife' - when he said I could go home, he said, 'Are you looking forward to going?' He said, 'When you get home, you'll be..... 

Husband' Yes, he did. 

Wife' He said, 'You need to go straight home and straight to bed'. I couldn't even get up to bed. I laid on the settee and went to sleep. 

Husband' Yes, that's what I liked about that man. He was straight up. 

Wife' He told it to you straight. 

Husband' There was no messing.
 

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