Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Good Legs, Shit Kidneys (or: Being thankful for small mercies) - A Tale of Recent Weeks

Goodness it’s been a while…. Sorry to deprive you all, you must’ve been simply dying of boredom without my ramblings. Well fear not readers, I can now give you a nice, long, typo-filled, somewhat incoherent and mistake-bound update. I can practically hear your collective sighs of relief all the way from blighty.

So, since I last wrote, I have had several fun/interesting/worthwhile experiences that I shall document here. (Well done Hollie, you have accurately described a blog). These are namely:

1)      Big Day Out festival on 23rd January

2)      Australia Day and Simon’s arrival

3)      Our [cyclone packed] trip to Airlie Beach to stay with the wonderful Wendy and Phil

4)      A weekend camping on Fraser Island

5)      An agonising stay at Robina General Hospital preluded by 7 hour wait on Accident and Emergency.

I’ll try to make these tails brief.

Big Day Out

So, number one on the agenda: BDO was fantastic. I knew it was going to be amazing for three reasons; chiefly, I was going with Marge and Nicola, two of my favorite people on the planet, furthermore, some of my all time favorite bands were playing (mainly Tool, and of course, Elliots band Oceanics), and finally, someone had the very bright idea of strapping 2 liter foil bags of vodka to our persons using gaffa tape in order to avoid the extortionate festival levy on booze.
Nicola’s lovely friend Katlyn came over early to help us with this task. Mine was strapped to my lower back, and I was convinced as I walked through the main entrance (having just witnessed the chap ahead of me being frisked by security and asked to lift his top and reveal his back!), that I was going to get caught. But being the fairer of the sex (it has its advantages), we all waltzed in un-checked. The rest of the day was simply fantastic. Weather beautiful. Bands amazing. Nuff said.

Australia/Simon Day

So after some much needed recovery and 2 days of pampering myself to within an inch of my life, It was Wednesday 26th January. Australia Day. Simon’s birthday. And of course, the long awaited arrival of aforementioned birthday boy, AKA love of my life, Simon. V exciting stuff. Spent most of the day on a lilo in the pool drinking beer with Nicola and just generally feeling jittery. In the evening Viv put a film on to try and distract me but it failed to work and after watching the clock on the oven for hours, at 10.38pm, the phone rang and the airport taxi man announced their arrival. Then I suddenly realised, having spent hours and days imagining what it would be like when Simon gets here, that I hadn’t really thought about the bit where I go and meet him from the taxi, and I got a bit nervous and made Viv come with me. I had nothing to fear it turns out. After lots of hugging and squeezing and touching each others faces – and the obligatory staring at each other to make sure it was all still the same – we went straight back to normal as though we’d never been apart – including drinking beer in bad. The only difference being it was cans of VB not Kronenbourg!

In Nicola and AJ's pool
The following morning we lazed around, made scrambled eggs and watched Bargain Hunt (for those of you who know us well, I’m sure this will amuse you as much as it did us). Then we spent the afternoon at Marina Mirage, drinking champagne Pimms, Gin cocktails, ice-cold beers, bottles of wine (no change there then!) and snaffling fresh juicy mussels. We worked off this hectic lunch with a sun-bathe and a dip at Main Beach. Nic and Aj kindly picked us up and me and Simon lazed in their pool in the afternoon sun whilst they got ready to go to V&P’s, where we got thai take out and watched a film and had a nice early night.

Trip to Ailrie

Our flight to Prosperpine on the Friday was all well and good. Wendy and Phil collected us from the airport and it was amazing to see them again. Before I left for Australia, I imagined what it would be like, after my trip, flying back to London Heathrow, into the arms of my family after being away so long – well I doubt it was a direct comparison, but it wasn’t far off – just a different family, having not been away for quite so long!

We wasted no time in introducing Simon to rural Australia by running over a kangaroo in the 4x4. We wasted even less time cracking into the vino. Wendy cooked us delicious steak, and after a good catch up (they loved him, he loved them, all as I knew it would be), we trotted off into town to give the backpackers night-scene a bash and stay in a grotty hostel. All well and good there!

Si, Wendy, Me, Helen and Phil at Pinnacles
Saturday morning W&P picked us up and, after collecting Helen who I met at Dingo Beach, drove us to Eungella, where they took me before. Helen wasted no time at all and cracked into her cold ciders, and we all followed suit. Except Wendy who was driving us up through the mountains, which meant I got to taste the delectable Pinnicles Pies in Finch Hatton for a second time. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Amazing bloody pies. The sceneray was bootfil n’all.

We left the mountains and began our trek to Wilsons Beach, near Conway, where Emma (Wendy’s daughter) and Dean (Emma’s lovely chap) live – for a good ol’ welcome home party.  Or at least that’s what I’m calling it. Any excuse to drink these bloody aussies. We drank all the way there (except poor Phil who was the DD for the journey back – clever Wendy – very clever!) using little plastic wine glasses that Wendy had thoughtfully packed in the car with the very intention in mind (Simon, of course, is completely bowled over by this move. The fact that they had segregated ‘booze for the party’ in one bag and ‘booze for the car journey’ in another set his heart a flutter as soon as we got in the vehicle!). When we arrived Emma and Dean were playing cricket with the neighbours on the front lawn by the sea. Wonderful Brady got a lift with Jason and Alysha (Phil’s son and daughter-in-law). After a quick shower we ploughed straight in, introduced Simon to the Bee-Horn, played guitar, sang Beatles tunes, walked down to the sea front with Emma and a roll of gaffer tape for goodness-knows-what mischief. All very innocent, but I was defiantly taped to a pole. Funny stuff.
Brady, Dean, Me, Helen, Wendy, Emma, Phil, Jason, Alysha

Sunday we nearly died of hangovers so went to good ol’ Banjo’s for pitchers of ice cold beer and steak. This was the day of Cyclone Anthony, the first one to hit. Simon and
I decided to go for a swim in the lagoon, which was all but deserted except for us, and a few other hardy/mad pommes playing water rugby.

We were forced to retreat to a bar when things got really rough, and decided to get a room in the same hostel we’d stayed in Friday, Magnums. Unfortunately the power went out and the bar closed so there wasn’t much to do bar the obvious…. And by that I of course mean, sit on the porch of our hostel room with a few bottles of wine and watch the storm thrash by.

We woke Monday morning to a fairly trashed Airlie Beach, a few trees littering the boardwalk. The supermarkets were empty – partly because of the power-cut (they had to dispose of all refrigerated food), and partly due to the panic-buying of essentials in preparation for the proper cyclone, Cyclone Yassi, which was said to be due on Thursday.

We decided it’d be best to depart before then, so booked a bus to Hervey Bay on Wednesday night. In the mean-time Brady, legend that he is, leant us his 1982 pimped Holden. Simon and I drove around the coast north of Airlie to survey the damage. We stopped off at Dingo beach, which had no power, so was closed, then took a trip up a dirt track, down ‘O-My-God-Hill’ to Montes, where Simon had a brief stay in 1996. They were closed too, but the lovely old bar lady, Lorella, got us a beer and told us to spend as long as we liked there, but she couldn’t give us a room. They too were closed up for the cyclone. After lounging on the beach hammocks, we decided to make our way north, to Bowen, a shitkicker town that Simon had the misfortune of staying in decades ago. From what I could tell, it mainly deals in cement mixers and tomatoes. We had a surprisingly decent meal in a pub, then retired to our hostel, [in]complete with bunkbeds, no aircon, no pillows, no bed clothes, a few mozzies and some strange regular tenants.

Needless to say we were glad to be leaving. We cooked a fairwell chicken pie for Brady Wendy and Phil, and they dropped us at our bus for our last goodbye. Spending time with them for a second time however has made me certain that it wont be long before we see each other again.

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island

We arrived in Hervey Bay after a 12 hour bus (made slightly more pleasant by a camelback full of cold sauvignon which we drank discretely like naughty giggling children), at 7.30am Wednesday morning. James, hero that he is, collected us and dropped us home before he shot off to work. Leaving us to catch up on sleep, walk to the bottle shop, and plan our trip to Fraser Island.

We decided to go with a one-man-band outfit, who also happened to be the cheapest, and arranged a time to meet him the next day for a run down on the 4x4 we’d be hiring and to watch a safety video *yaaaawn*.

I introduced Simon to the cows i'd met on my last visit, which was splendid as always! We had a very boozy night with James, his housemate and work colleague Josh, and two others, Paul and Kate, after tequila and beer at James', we met the others at Coast restaurant where Sally’s friends are the chefs. Krita was still in Verbs, but we caught up with Nick, who was in the kitchen making us amazing food. It was fab.

We rocked up at the guys house the next day and were greeted by a lovely little dog and a hard-to-place-an-age hippy, Ashley. He was awesome, made us soya tea and got through all the paperwork and liability wavering videos. He showed us Dinky, our 4x4 vehicle and home for the weekend, complete with queensize mattress in the back and all the camping gear you’d need. Even pillows. We were set.  

After an early night, we got up early to get the 8.30am ferry over to Fraser. Right from the off it was clear we were gunna have an awesome weekend. From central station we waled to Basin lake, via a dead Cockatoo which we poked with sticks. We avoided the tourists (which if course, we are not!), and walked round the side of the like devoid of any humans for a quick skinny dip in the crystal clear water! On the walk back to Dinky I got bitten by an ant on my neck. Now I know that doesn’t sound that bad, but I’m telling you now, the pain was akin to being punched hard in the face. You know how when you break your nose you can’t tell which hurts more, the stinging or the throbbing? Well it was like that, but on my neck. Luckily it lasted about ten minutes and once I realised I wasn’t going to drop down dead, I was fine. (sounding like a hypochondriac is doing me no favours for the eventual tale of my hospital stay, I know!).

We continued down to the south of the island to do the South Lakes drive along the bumpy sandy roads. We stopped at the desrted Birabeen  Lake for pâté sandwiches on the white sand beach. Then headed to 45 mile beach, the long stretch of sandy nothingness on the east coast of the island, to drive up to the north of the island. On the way we passed the Maheno Ship Wreck and took a look. Very eerie and beautiful and rusty. We passed dingo’s and were attacked by March Flies so decided camping actually on the beach might be an error, so drove in land a little to Dundubra camp site. We parked up and made a little den by dragging a picnic bench over and setting out our chairs – parking dinky side on, so we were tucked away.

We ate our burgers by candlelight and drank VB and wine, still cold from the awesome eski James leant us. The bed was surprisingly comfortable and we both slept well. Woke early and had a good camping breakie, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and mushroom, all swigged down with tea. Why does food cooked on a camping stove and tea made in a tin kettle and drank from camping mugs always taste so darn good?

It was high tide till 11am so we couldn’t drive back down the beach til 12 at the earliest, so we decided instead to go for a walk along what was signposted as The Sandblow Circuit. Neither of us had anticipated quite was this would involve…. Mainly a very long hike over miles and miles of the most stunning, arid sandscapes you can imagine. Nothing for miles around except sea, shrubs, and this weird formation of mineral soft rock that looked like the ancient ruins of a crashed spaceship, but on contact it melted away to a soft rusty talc.

A little further there was a creek with layers or rich red sand and sand so white we thought it was salt. (I made Simon taste some and he did confirm, definitely sand, not salt). The layers were so clear it looked like a sliced wedge of chocolate cake with cream filling. Just amazing. The dunes rolled like welsh hills, and would alarmingly drop off at points, which were hard to see because of the bright white of the sand and sun. we would be trudging along and Simon would suddenly stick an arm out across me, stopping me in my tracks, because I was just about to plummet 8 feet down a sheer drop to the next sand dune with one more step.  The photo’s do not adequately portray quite what a magnificent landscape we’d stumbled upon. Hopefully, when Simon develops his film (he is, among his many other talents, a gifted photographer), there may be a more sufficient, or accurate depiction of its beauty. But I doubt it.

Sand Layers

The only problem with this 3 hour walk, was that we had, like many a tourist before us, failed to take enough water to sustain two humans, in 30°C plus heat, hiking for hours. The result of this was sever dehydration, which manifests itself, as always in me, in a Urinary Tract Infection. Or put more bluntly, when I had to stop for a wee in the bushes on Indian Head, it felt akin to passing firey-hot spikey rusted iron rods.

I managed to suppress the UTI with 5 litres of water and painkillers and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the trip. We camped that night at Central Station in an awesome rainforest spot. I went to bed early to fend of infection. We were joined in the night, by some kind of animal. Sleeping with the back doors of the jeep wide open, I was woken by some funny noises and then the sound of little scampering footsteps. I said to Simon ‘Is that just the rain?’ (it had started raining), he replied ‘yeah I think so, but were you just making funny noises?’ I was fairly sure I hadn’t been making funny noises, and when Simon described feeling something/someone sniffling his hair and face, we decided to get up and investigate. No sign of the offender. The only mammal we’d seen or heard of on Fraser was Dingo’s. So we couldn’t imagine what it could have been. I had a vague, half-asleep vision of a smallish, cuddle fluffy think that I described to Simon as a Chinchilla, standing on the shelf-like door of the hatch back next to our heads. But I couldn’t promise this was an accurate sighting as I was asleep, and it could well have been a dream after hearing the funny mammalian noises.  A total mystery.

In the morning, we cooked brekkie and packed up the car for our final day on the Island. A lovely aussie couple were camped in the spot opposite and we got chatting. He apologized if his shouting had disturbed our sleep – ‘we didn’t hear any shouting – no worries’ we said, or words to that effect, ‘oh that’s good’, he said, ‘I was screaming at the fuckin’ possum that was raiding our eski!’.

Raining like cats & dogs!
Mystery solved.

We spent our last day, in the crazy rod-like rain, reading in bed, and then setting up a tarp-shelter on Lake Birabeen. Very relaxing, and no sign of my UTI. Was fairly convinced I’d nipped it in the bud. Oh how wrong I was.

We returned to the mainland at 6pm, cleaned Ashleys car and returned it to him, walked to a nearby pub for a few pints, and took some Chinese back to James’s house. We allm played a bit of Mariokart, then wiped out, fell asleep.

Hospital Doom

James very kindly drove us to out bus in the morning, which left at 9am and arrived in Brisbane at 2pm. With about an hour left of the journey, I felt a sudden but definite shooting pain up my urethra and into my lower back. Fuck fuckity fuck fuck. I was pretty sure there and then that I had developed a kidney infection. An affliction that I had battled with a lot in my youth, but had been at bay for about 6 years. Once in Brisbane I tried to abate the symptoms with over-the-counter medications and litres and litres of cranberry juice and water. But to no avail. On an hour long, toilet-less train from Brisbane to the Gold Coast my symptoms worsened. I honestly honestly got to the point where I was clenching my fists so hard it was cutting my palms, in concentration. I told Simon I had to get off the train early and we calculated that the train would be stopping at a station in 9 minutes. Those 9 minutes were agony. The thought of wetting myself in front of a rush-hour trainload of people was making me cry, but I was genuinely weighing up in my head weather it would be better to jump up and pull the emergency stop handle and open the doors to wee outside the train, ot just quietly piss myself in my seat like a mad old drunk. Luckily I didn’t have to make that choice as we pulled into a station in the middle of nowhere and I relieved myself in the platform toilets, with audiable wincing, watering eyes, and quite an alarming amount of blood in my urine. It was time to go to hospital.

We jumped in a taxi where the adorable driver told us all about his wife’s recent kidney stones (not knowing of my ailment), and how great Robina Hospital had been for her, as he sped us there. The wait in A&E was treacherous. They were kind enough o give me morphine and codeine, and apologised profusely for the wait, explaining that it was one of those freak nights where ambulences wrre coming in thick and fast with fatasl and life-threatening injuries all over the shop. I waited in a drugged stae with many other very poorly people, for 7 hours. We people watched away the minutes, guessing others ailments – some very obvious such as the child with the bleeding headwound soaking a bath towel his father had pressed into his face, and some less so, like the homeless man who offered me his sandwich when I asked Simon to get me something to eat from the vending machine.

One duo really touched me. A lady in perhaps her late 60’s or early 70’s was behind me in the queue for the triage nurse, and I heard her describing in a panicked but restrained voice about her mothers deteriorating health. I don’t know why this touched me so much, perhaps because I’m missing my own mum a lot, or maybe because of all that has happened with her and her own mother. I told Simon about the sadness and terror with which she told the nurse why they were here, and we watched them as the hours ticked by, laughing together, cuddling, sharing a blanket, laughing some more. At one point I looked over and they had such a fit of the giggles together, there foreheads touching, trying to be quite, that it made me chuckle.

At around 1 in the morning I was finally admitted. They hooked me up to some intravenous antibiotics and kept the pain relief coming. At about 5am-ish, full of antibitics, they took the tap out of my arm, ready to leave. But as I sat up, I all but passed out (always been a bit of a fainter). The world fell away from me in that icy cold blankety way, a full on whity. My mouth went dry and I was all shaky. Turns out my blood pressure was down at 80/30, when I usually sit at a textbook 120/80.  Well, the long and short of it is they just could not get my BP up, so I had to be hooked up to some fluids. Simon was picked up by viv at about 6am, after a nurse had prodded and poked me, checked my blood and urine, and confirmed that I had pylonephritis of the right kidney and would be in for a further few days. Cue spontaneous tears.

X-rays, ultra sounds, more antibiotics, drips of saline, blood tests, terrible food etc etc etc. the usual hospital stuff. I was kind of comforted to see that the elderly mother was in the bed to my left, and her daughter had gone home too. Our respective A&E companions had done their jobs well, keeping us company in the waiting room, and now we were on our own. It had been a very long night for all of us.

The morning went in a morphiney haze, waking at one point to over hear the doctor in with the old lady with the curtains to the left of me, separating mine and her space, pulled around them. He was pleading with her with a conversation that went something like this.

Edith, we really want you to go into theater this afternoon.

I’m not having an operation.

Edith, please, it really is necessary. It is vital surgery.

I’m too tired.

You are tired because of the ænemia, but we’re fixing that now, so you wont feel like that anymore. But if we don’t sew up your internal injuries, you will die.

I just want to go home

We can’t let you go home Edith. No doctor in the land would send you home. You are critically ill. This will be fatal. Tomorrow you won’t be able to make this decision. All we have to do is sew up the hole in your gut to stop the leaking and you will be fine. After that we can investigate whether it’s cancer that is causing the ruptures. You may be 92, but it says here you still do your own shopping, you still drive, see your grandchildren.

I don’t want the operation.

It’s your decision Edith, I can’t make you. But is it OK if I phone your daughter and get her to come in and talk it over with you? In the meantime let me get you some more pain relief….

That was pretty heart wrenching. I fell asleep again after that, and when I woke up, I’d been moved to a ward. So we will never know if her lovely daughter managed to talk her into having the op.

After pleading with a doctor (and I mean, actual pleading – Please doc, look, I’m fine now, see? I’m in no pain (lie), my blood pressure is practically back to normal (stretching truth) My boyfriend over from England, he  is at home with my aunt and uncle, he is only here for 3 weeks, they will all look after me, please please please – they let me home! On the proviso that I had one bag more of intravenous AB’s and that they could get in touch with me the next day regarding my ultrasound results. It was magnificent to be back, even though I felt crook. We got Indian take-out and I slept in a comfy bed for the first time in weeks. I slept for 12 hours. Lovely, healing sleep in the arms of my lovely sleeping Simon.

The ultrasound came back fine – no serious underlying pathology. And I’m into my course of iral antibiotics so am well on the mend and will be back in action in a few days I’m sure!

Until then readers.


1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic read! hope you're feeling better Hols :)
    Alysha oxox