I have been in hospital. I have been counting my blessings, thankful to be in the hands of people who know what to do when things go wrong. I have been counting blessings not just for me but for all of us, lying there in hospital, watching all those immensely capable doctors, nurses, specialists and staff doing all those hours, taking care of so many in so much need. And I have been thinking to myself how very different this all might have looked if we had thrown that system to the mercy of an out-of-control virus.
A year ago, it was still a somewhat notional, theoretical proposition that the system might not be able to cope; that if you don’t get control of the virus your hospital systems might buckle. There were doubters, but that was the approach we took anyway. We locked down hard; the virus was stopped in its tracks and our hospital system did not have to endure the nightmare that became a real living hell in so many other places, including the UK, the USA and now India. I just hate to imagine how that could have been for us, to have it happen here, the agonising dismay of it, to see your hospitals and the people in them pushed past breaking point.
I was in hospital for predictable and well-understood reasons: a man in my later decades with a prostate grown too large. It comes to most of us men, sooner or later. Sometimes it comes with cancer. If you’re fortunate, it comes without. I have been fortunate.
My problem was just that it had grown too large. When that’s the problem, the solution is just to reduce it. We first tried medication, which can sometimes do the job, but in my case, not. So two months ago I went in for surgery and came out three hours later, loaded up with drugs but with a somewhat diminished prostate.
I won’t saturate you with the detail of it all, suffice to say this brought new experiences for me, and to the readers of my daily newsletter. There’s plenty there to enthrall, as you recount the whole fascinating experience. You can also from time to time make them wince. I don’t propose to do that here, I hasten to reassure you.
All was good, but then four weeks into recovery, things took a discouraging turn. This, too, is not at all uncommon or unexpected in post-surgical recovery, I would learn. The wound sometimes doesn’t heal and a wrong move can cause quite a lot of mayhem, is how I might most euphemistically put it. Back I went to hospital for a first and then a second trip, with more extremely colourful and enthralling and sometimes leg-crossing experiences to share with my newsletter readers.
There were moments, especially at day four of the second trip, that I would get discouraged, wondering if something was altogether wrong and fretting, “What if it doesn’t heal, what then?” At such moments, happily, there was always a nurse or specialist to explain to me, “We see this a lot, the wound gets tired of bleeding; it’ll be okay”, and they were right.
It’s been three weeks now and recovery seems to be back on track. I’m tenderly making my way back into exercise and everything seems to be okay. The specialist tells me I’m an outlier but still there’s no reason not to expect a full recovery. More counting of more blessings.
Along the way I have been sharing these experiences and my fretting with a friend who has also been in and out of hospital for the past year. She got Covid a year ago and has been tormented by all kinds of strange and troubling health problems ever since. She is the very definition of a long-Covid patient. The clinicians have been perplexed and unsure about just what they’re seeing. Maybe it could be an immune problem, maybe it could be hormonal and maybe, well, who can say for sure?
What this comes to is this: my friend has been on a long, fretful and unhappy ride and she’s finding it altogether harder to locate or count any blessings. I really feel for her, because, above all, what has helped me through all of this is the reassurance you can take from knowing you have people there who can help you through your health peril. When there’s no one there – or no-one there who can say for sure what to do – the feeling must be desolating. So I’ll keep counting my blessings, for all of us lucky enough to not have the same problems as India, the UK or the US.
David Slack is an Auckland-based author, radio and TV commentator and speechwriter.