Near death and impact on my children
I have three lovely children, one girl and two boys, all grown up and very different in character, but independent and strong minded and I am very proud of all of them.
My youngest son, who had still been in Germany visiting his father that Monday, had first been informed by my colleague in the office that I was being taken to hospital with an uncertain heart condition. A little later, while still at his father’s home, he was told that an emergency operation was being prepared for and that my condition was serious. What horror news for my 19 year old who was still living at home and whom I had basically raised on my own because his father had not supported us at all apart from the very early years.
However, the relationship between my youngest and me had always been difficult with grave differences throughout his teen years and a rift between us deepening the older he became. However, this was so unexpected and a real shock for him, which I think, made him fearful of the tangible possibility that I could die suddenly and basically leave him unprovided for and without support and help and alone in Switherland in the middle of his apprenticeship.
Instead of going home as planned, he took other train connections to go straight to the hospital. During his long ride to hospital, he had received another call from a hospital resident who told him that I was now in surgery and that the situation was grave. When he finally arrived at the hospital, around early evening, he was told he needed to wait for the surgery to be finished. This was when he called his older brother living in Hamburg, in the North of Germany, about 1000 KM away from Zurich, and later both informed their sister, who lives in Australia, This situation was so absolutely unimaginable and horrible to all of them because I had, until then, been healthy, active, taking care of myself and basically a positive and happy person.
I have never seen my youngest son so distraught. Of course, I only realised this after the operation when I was finally conscious enough, days later. He had been there, at the hospital, every day after the operation, only going home to sleep. He had gotten time off from work to be with me every day even when I was asleep or so exhausted that he could only come in for a few minutes at a time. His emotional distress, fear and concern showed me clearly for the very first time that he must, in his own way, love and respect me.
He had also been the one to keep everyone updated, including my colleagues at work who were all eager for news as they also had feared for my life and were distraught about this very sudden event. This had, after all, happened directly in front of their eyes in the office and they must have realised how uncertain life can suddenly become. Much later, I talked to some of my colleagues and they said that what had happened had been absolutely unconceivable for them for a long time and that they could not believe how fast I had deteriorated that day and how close I had come to dying.
My 2 sons do not really keep in contact regularly. Under normal circumstances, they see each other rather irregularly because of the distance and also because of the large age gap of about 15 years.
However, my youngest had only recently visited is older brother and his family and had stayed with them for a weekend. He had gotten to know his little nephew, who would celebrate his first birthday on 25 December that year. Both brothers were equally shocked and extremely frightened that night when they did not know whether I would survive this operation. It helped them to talk to each other and keep each other updated. They had been informed that this would be an open chest operation and that the outcome was dependent on many factors, on what they would actually find during the operation and whether they were even able to fix it in time.
After the operation, which had brought me near to death, and while I was in the induced coma, my son was sent home to get some sleep and the older one was kept on stand-by for any news from the hospital and as soon as I would wake up. He was already mentally preparing himself to take the next plane to Zurich.
I was woken up the next morning without any recollection of what had been going on since arriving at the hospital and was still heavily sedated. I was then told about my condition and what kind of operation I had just survived. Nurses and doctors repeatedly came in and told my how happy they were to see me alive and awake. I was not able to comprehend much of this information and it would, in fact, take weeks to realise and understand the gravity and danger I had been in and the severity of my condition.
I was getting slightly better very slowly and My near death and impact on my childre more stable but overall was not really out of danger yet. Not only did I have the extra fluid in my entire body but I had it especially in my lungs and when it got to the point, after a few days, that I could not get up without feeling dizzy, it was decided that I needed drainages to both my lungs. I was cut on both sides and getting tubes in was very painful, as the anaesthesia did not seem to work properly. For more than a week, I the tubes in but having them finally removed was just as excruciatingly painful.
I remember, that I was not able to eat sufficiently. My taste buds were affected from the anaesthesia and I did not taste much.
Once I got a bit stronger, I realised that the food was awful. I am not used to canteen food and eat mostly vegetarian and whole foods, spicy and well flavoured. During all this time, including the more than 4 weeks in the rehabilitation clinic afterward, I had a problem with the offered food and did not feel I was getting sufficient, and badly needed, nutrients to help my body heal.
For my daughter, living near Sydney, Australia, the experience was worse than for her brothers, so far away. She was distraught, left out, couldn´t share feelings and anxieties and be in contact with her brothers the whole time. She would have taken the next flight to Zurich but as it takes about 30 hours to get here, she was staying at her home to be able to receive news and be updated whenever possible. Once I was out of danger and able to talk to her on the phone, we decided she would come as soon as I was stronger and better able to appreciate time together with her. For me, that was really something to look forward to.
It took me a while to realise how concerned my children were, how much they feared for my life and how much they wished me to get better. I had never imagined that they, now grown up, still wanted and needed me. This realisation felt so unexpected good to me and helped me tremendously in my recovery and will to survive.