A year ago, the December month has shot two disturbing knocks to me personally, both of them I have escaped by a whisker – a sheer luck. One I fainted down and became unconscious in the middle of the night (episode -1), and the next one, a banker breathed fire on me demanding the closure of the loan and the demand notice was published in prominent newspapers (episode-2).
All taking place when my wife, who had been for thirty-four years my professional partner and dearly companion, pronounced terminally ill with cancer and was confined to bed. Even In the face of these setbacks, I could see in her eyes a supportive glint, ‘I’m not able to do anything at this moment but be strong, everything will be alright”, Now that the disease is well in, an advanced stage her words are coming out in whispers.
It was close to two years now I have been devoting all my time to my wife. I almost stay with her twenty-four hours, spending as much time as I could to care for her. She is tended by two nurses on her hospital bed at home, and I use a small sofa to sit and sleep; waiting up for, alert to respond to the slightest discomfort of hers. Maybe because of the pain or the restlessness she could be experiencing due to the severity of the disease; sleep for her was reduced to for an hour or two in the night time, which means I could only sleep when she was restfully sleeping.
Getting no time to sleep and having a meal or dinner on time was frequently put off or sometimes skipped altogether. My day would start checking on her: the medicines, her position on the bed set comfortably, the bed-sheets properly laid, and cushions placed to her satisfaction, and are the nurses watchful to her needs. I have become a full-time medical supervisor to her. Consulting and calling doctors, if urgency demands to fetch them to examine her, allowing a respite that she is safe under the supervision of informed doctors. During these times I notice a little smile on her face, giving me a comfortable feel.
However, fatigue is showing its effect on my fragile health, neglecting for long stretches daily food intake, not caring for physical health punched a near deathly shock one night. One morning I noticed my wife was having difficulty in swallowing food, she looked tired and vulnerable, when I reported the matter to the doctor over the phone, and he had asked me to meet once at the hospital to discuss the subject clearly.
The usual meeting time with the doctor, whenever I have a concern about my wife’s condition, he would be ready to receive me at morning ten, way before his OP starts. On that particular day, rushing into his cabin, finding his OP already crowded, he gave me a hesitating look and asked me, ‘why don’t you wait at the pharmacy, I’ll join you there half an hour later, I’m looking for a particular multivitamin infusion for your wife, I’ll have to discuss with pharmacy people’. Waiting patiently, I was struck near the pharmacy for more than three hours, I’m very worriedly preoccupied with the condition of my wife back at home, even just to comfort myself meanwhile, didn’t feel like having coffee at the nearby canteen. Though I had gone to visit the doctor skipping my breakfast that morning, and I know it’s unlikely I can stay that long without feeling physically dizzy. Clearly, the distracted thoughts about my wife kept preventing me to hop into the canteen and have a cup of coffee. I deliriously waited in that December mild Sun for more than four hours before the doctor arrived and discussed the infusion procedure.
Reaching home well past noon, I barely could sit and nibble my lunch, just across the room I could see the frame of my wife lying on her bed fragile and faintly awake. The most amazing character of my wife is that she wouldn’t let the sparkle in her eyes fade, and her lips, as our eyes meet; they part with a reassuring smile – the source where I get all the heavenly strength to combat the deadly disease cancer, on her behalf.
Worry visible on every wrinkle on my face, I could feel dullness circling my fingers and a squeeze beneath the palms. A sweep of twisting pain seems to parade my back. Noticing my limbs too are sending hurting signals, restless, I spread myself on the sofa adjacent to my wife’s bed. With a hope that the discomfort would go away and what I require is some rest. I would later come to know how I carelessly had ignored the foreshadowing symptoms that would have almost left me with severe disability. I could sense that my wife though, immobilized, had sensed my discomfort; with her gentle eye of thirty-four years of our companionship. She intuitively could catch every beat of my body rhythm. She gestured with her hands suggesting, ‘are you fine now’. Here I can see the bliss of my wife’s boundless devotion to me and our children that had turned me into a sole protector of her breath and health every moment from the day she was diagnosed with multiple organ metastases – two years ago.
Everyone is getting ready for the nightly duties, that included more number of hands for my wife’s shifting from her bed to the wheelchair for her regular trips to the washrooms, or medical checkups, or allowing her a ‘small walk’ a brief respite from her prolonged confinement to the bed.
Amidst this preparation my situation seems silently worsening, nausea in the stomach; I feel a churning rumble causing a retch caught somewhere in the throat. And my empty stomach has nothing to throw out but loud attempts horribly crushing my stomach from inside. Closeted in the washroom not to allow the bothering noises to go out I’m convulsively trying to cover the whole thing up. In this situation, I’m afraid; I can’t imagine a case where I have to be moved to a hospital for treatment, at this late evening time. A dilemma I’m not prepared to find myself when my wife’s illness is devouring her much faster than I’m willing to painfully admit. And I don’t know how my wife would take it, an additional burden of agony I wouldn’t like to stress on her.
Gathering all my wits, sensing nothing untoward is imminent assessing my body status, sometime around a late hour I have settled on my couch a little away from my wife’s bed. Two nurses were also on alert in the night shift, cushioning themselves close by flanking my wife. Watching over her. My daughter, Neelima was struggling to put her two-year-old Aradhya to sleep in the adjacent room.
It could be well past midnight, I get an impression that I’m wriggling in my two feet by five feet sofa, and the sleep could be hallucinatory that I recollect, seeing, one shape of my body floating a feet away from me, and the other part sweating profusely and an unknown lightness is sweeping all over my body. Vaguely, I attempt to wrap by the body close to myself, utterly out of my mind, I flip and fall over the floor. I could feel the toss. Even at this calamitous instance, a trace of shamefulness blinked in my eyes – for the fall.
Before realizing what had knocked me deliriously down, I made an attempt to stand up and attempt two steps towards my wife’s bed and down I go, drop like an empty gunny bag – collapsed. A sudden blackout is what I have experienced. I hazily remember up to this point. How I have been rescued from this brief fainting-fit I have learned after few hours from my daughter and the two nurses.
The villain in this shocker is my blood pressure hitting as low as it could go – 86/40mm. The stress, the prolonged hours of standing, dehydration, irregular food intake all colluded to send me into a staggering delirious crash. The miraculous presence of trained nurses and quick reflex of my daughter to call the paramedic who is a phone call away from my home and fast infusion of IV fluids upped my blood pressure back to normal.
Rehashing the scary incident that had shaken me a year ago in December; sitting all by myself, in my library: I could figure out many suppositions; unthinkable misgivings toss in front of me. Like: If …if I had slept in a separate room, if no one had noticed me, what would have been my… the guess is as diabolical as the evilest mess from which I have been rescued from. I fondly thank the two nurses, the paramedic and of course my daughter Neelima.