I am badly wounded, desperately needing an operation, if I am to live. But as I am on my way to such promised lifesaver, a cage comes down over me to trap me.
I can see the Promised Land of healed-living on the other side through the cage’s steel grids, but I have no way of escaping from the cage. I have only a few hours to come up with a Houdini act to make it out but after that, my window of opportunity for healing will be firmly shut. I flap around, bang my head against the walls, I pray, I curse, I fight, I plead with others to free me, but the gate of the cage remains firmly shut.
I am suffering from inguinal hernia: a 5 millimetre hole in my inguinal canal into which a bowel loop protrudes. As my abdominal muscles grab that bowel loop, rubbing against it, I feel ever intensifying pain. As long as the loop can return from being trapped in the hole, I live, but if the bowel loop gets strangulated in the hole, my blood circulation in the bowels will be cut off. This puts me into an emergency situation and I shall die without immediate operation.
The stakes are high and the time is ticking away relentlessly.
My GP refers me to a surgeon, an ex-colleague of mine from Lithgow Hospital, New South Wales. I, as a social worker there and he, as a doctor on the wards, had a long relationship of consulting each other about shared patients for seven years and we remained friendly since I retired. I contact him, but he would not see me for several weeks. That is too late.
I am bitterly disappointed. I must find another surgeon. My dear sister chips in and finds one from Bathurst. He will visit Lithgow Hospital in two days and he is willing to assess me.
Having then thus assessed me, he offers to put me under the knife in Bathurst Private Hospital in two days’ time, if I am willing to travel there. I jump at the opportunity. I am relieved and delighted.
Then exactly a day before the operation, all hell breaks loose. It is then, that the metaphorical cage traps me, with ever diminishing chance to escape from it in time for the operation.
All this starts with a phone call from my operating surgeon’s surgery less than 24 hours before my allotted admission time to the hospital: I will only be admitted if I can present the hospital with a negative Covid-19 test result by 11:30am next day.
What? How am I supposed to achieve this with less than a day now before the time for my admission?
Another word picture to describe my struggle from here on is a marathon race where the finishing line gets moved progressively further away. If I fall over the line by the last possible admission time, I will live. If I fail, I shall die.
I race to Katoomba Hospital and plead with them to give me a Covid-19 test marked ‘Urgent’. They agree, but warn me not to hold my breath on getting the result back on time.
I beg the person in charge to track my test as it gets into a Sydney laboratory and do his best to get them give it priority. He agrees and gives me his private phone number to call him next morning before I leave for Bathurst. I ring him: no results. He tells me to ring him again on my arrival to Bathurst.
I become deeply concerned: there is a strong chance this result will not arrive in time for my operation. I ring Bathurst Private Hospital to delay my admission time to as late during the day as still possible. They now give me a 1:30pm deadline.
“Too early!” I think.
Then I get an idea: The delay for the Katoomba test result is because their tests are processed in Sydney. Why not ring Lithgow Hospital and find out if they process their test results faster, because they do it locally?
I phone the Lithgow Covid-19 testing unit. Incredibly, a friend of mine answers the phone. She advises me that Bathurst Base Hospital could give me a test with their result ready in an hour, if they get authorised to do an emergency Covid-19 test on me.
We now leave earlier to arrive an hour before for the deadline admission time in Bathurst. The Private Hospital does not let me into even their reception area without a negative test result. The admission officer comes outside and tells me the results from Sydney still have not arrived. I ring my Katoomba contact — it’s bad news. He just talked to the Head of the laboratory processing my test result in Sydney. They cannot get my result for another five hours. My heart sinks.
I inform the admission officer that I will now head over to the Bathurst Base Hospital to try to get and another urgent test and a fast test result. She tells me to forget about it. She never heard about such a test and in any case they will not do it for the Private Hospital.
By now I am desperate as I whisper under my breath, “Thy will be done,” in the hope God will take mercy on me.
We drive to the Bathurst Base Hospital. The person in charge of the Covid-19 tests promises he will do the test and will get the result for me in an hour if a doctor from the Private Hospital rings the central authorising officer in Sydney and he gives his nod for the test.
I ring the Private Hospital and plead with them to find such doctor. In the meantime the Bathurst Hospital’s Covid-19 person in charge allows me to fill out the forms to get ready for the test, should the authorisation arrive. I am so exhausted that I whisper, “If it is Your will for me not be able to have my operation, I accept your will.”
As soon as I say this, my metaphorical cage’s door swings wide open to set me free. Using the marathon imagery: having had the finishing line move out of sight for me throughout the race, now it rushes back towards me and I fall over the line. I am filling the forms out for the test when a nurse taps me on the shoulder.
“We just had a call from the Private Hospital: your negative test result has, after all, been just released by Sydney. Please head over to the Private Hospital straight away, for a last minute admission.”
I laugh and cry with relief, thanking God.
After all this, the operation should be a piece of cake. They wheel me into the theatre to knock me out for the operation for the next hour.
I sing in my mobile bed on the way, “We’ll meet again, I don’t know where, I don’t know when …” I am away with the fairies.
I wake after the operation feeling refreshed. The surgeon informs me, “It’s all good now.” Don’t I know it!