Bangkok: Fragile

So…

It’s 07:22…

I’m sitting in a cold room in a hospital…

Alone…

I’ve been awake since 04:00, ever since a nurse walked into the room, switched the lights on and started the process of waking Jo up ready for her operation.

Jo has been in pain for about a year with her back, she’s had a number of injections in her spine to help with the pain over the last year but sadly, they just don’t seem to have worked… So here we are… Here I am… Alone in a room waiting for Jo to come back from surgery.

So yeah… Jo damaged here back a while ago… In true “Jo fashion” the injury occurred while she was pursuing an activity I had asked her not to pursue… Jo has a history of this… WE have a history of this… Jo decides she wants to try something, I weigh up the options and ultimately decide it’s not a great idea… I put forward my argument… Jo, in her infinite wisdom, dismisses my argument… Jo get’s her own way… I end up saying “I told you so” when I’m proven right about the activity in question… Repeat.

Jo wanted to be healthier… Stronger… Jo took up weight lifting… Admittedly, Jo was actually really good at it, Jo actually got herself in the position of Britains 6th strongest woman… An achievement that I, even tho I was opposed to the whole weight lifting thing, was really proud of her for…She injured her back while at the gym, not actually lifting a heavy weight… She twisted awkwardly while lifting a really light weight, she returned from the gym in a lot of discomfort, she rested for a while, then in true Jo fashion (a phrase I feel I’ll be using a lot while writing this) she returned to the gym when SHE decided she could… To cut a long (and VERY frustrating) story short, it transpired that Jo had slipped a disk in her back… Every visit to the gym, every weight she lifted after that initial injury only helped to worsen her condition… And then we moved to Bangkok… The dreams of being Britains strongest woman (thankfully) died… But still, the back pain remained… In fact, it worsened.

Along with the pain, Jo was suffering with a loss of feeling in her toes… MRI scans showed that her disk had herniated and was putting pressure on nerves, causing pain and numbness… Jo had two courses of spinal injections, the first course gave relief for a number of months, the second course had little to no effect… Surgery became the only option… So here we are… Here I am… Alone in a hospital room at 07:43… The procedure was due to start at 06:00… A procedure that should take two hours… A procedure that (according to her surgeon) poses “little risk”… A procedure that (to be honest) scares the shit out of me.

The spine is a strange thing… It’s an amazing thing… It does amazing things every single day… But, I’m also aware that the spine is fragile… All manner of things can go wrong… Yes, the surgeon seems confident… But, I’m still scared… As Jo was wheeled out of this room all those hours ago I could see she was scared too… But I had to look confident… I couldn’t have us both looking afraid… Positive vibes and all that stuff.

The operation should be, by now coming to a close… In a few minutes, Jo will be taken to a recovery room, where she’ll be allowed to wake up… Hopefully waking up to a world where she doesn’t feel pain in her back any more… 07:50…. Ten minutes left…

07:51… The clock seems to have slowed down… I can hear noises outside of the room… Generic hospital noises… Trolleys… Footsteps… I just need her to be alright… We’re a team… A double act… She’s the Morecambe to my Wise… The Laurel to my Hardy… When one of us struggles, the other steps up to be strong… 07:55… The clock seems to be behaving again… The operation should be ending soon… A nurse should come to the room to tell me everything went well… But, I know that when THAT door opens, there will be an agonising wait to hear the words I want to hear… I want the door to open… But I’m dreading it too… 07:57… Hopefully, we can get this all out of the way and I can get back to writing about dogs on motorbikes and how much I hate selfies… Y’know… Get back to normal… 07:58… I’ve not watched a clock like this since back when I was kid unable to sleep on Christmas eve… 07:59… It’s all quiet outside the room… Too quiet… 08:00… The operation should be over now… 08:01… I really need to stop looking at that bloody clock… Get my mind off it… Occupy myself… 08:02… No, still watching the clock… 08:05… The door opens… I prepare myself for the worst… A friendly Thai lady brings me a newspaper… Ironically, still no news… 08:08… Bugger it, think I’ll resort to watching some Youtube videos… 08:09… Nope, still looking at the clock… 08:13… This is getting ridiculous… I’ll hear something when I hear something… Watching the clock will not speed things up, sitting here, typing away at the laptop will not speed things up… And let’s face it, when it comes to doctors messing around with the spine, do we really want things speeded up? No, we do not… Take your time Doctor… Just make sure you don’t fuck things up… Thank you.

08:18… A phonecall… Jo is out of surgery, all went well… Jo is in the recovery room… 08:19… But, you won’t know all is well till she wakes up will you?…. Shut up brain… Shut up…. Close the laptop Ade… Close the bloody laptop.

09:58… I switched the laptop back on… I’ve spent the last 90 minutes or so watching Youtube videos on my phone and reading crap on Reddit… Still no sign of Jo, she’s obviously ok… After all, they would have told me if something was wrong, wouldn’t they?

10:02… I’m in “toilet limbo”… That strange place when you really need to go for a wee but you know that if you do, the second you actually start weeing, the door to the room will open and they’ll wheel Jo in… Then I’ll be in the bathroom when she gets back and not sitting here on this chair as I should be… The toilet can wait… It has to wait…

10:12… I risked it… Toilet limbo is no more… It’s too quiet so I switched the TV on, there’s a selection of movies to I’ve decided to rewatch “Man of steel”… The reason? well, I do love Superman AND I’m working on the idea that as I start watching the film, the fates will intervene and jo will get wheeled back into the room… A bit like waiting for a bus and two turning up at the same time.

10:18… A phone call to tell me Jo is being bought back to the room… Two buses… see?

Watching the clock finished as soon as I knew she was coming back up to the room… A short time after the phone call the door opened and the room was filled with nurses and other hospital staff… Jo was wheeled in, the nurses transferred her onto the bed and all was well with the world.

The afternoon was spent with a mixture of Jo drifting in and out of sleep, watching films (The Last Jedi got a rewatch) and Jo getting checked by various doctors and nurses…

Bangkok is a city of chaos, but I have to say the treatment Jo has received here at this hospital has been amazing (the joys of good health insurance)… The staff have all been brilliant, Jo has been looked after really well…

I decided to come back to the apartment to sleep, I’d spent the previous night sleeping on a sofa in the hospital room, but with Jo on the mend, I made my way back home for a shower and a good nights sleep.

At 08:00 on Tuesday morning I lay in bed watching a video on my phone of some ill-informed idiot arguing with a better-educated radio presenter about Marxism… Gathering my thoughts and trying to summon the energy to get out of bed, have a shower and go to the hospital to see Jo… Beep Beep… I hear the front door to my apartment open (just to explain, it beeps when it opens)… My first thought was “did I leave the door open last night?”… Quickly followed by “Is Jo home?”… I call out to Jo… No answer… I jump out of bed, quickly pull on a pair of tracksuit bottoms and rush into the living room to be met by our maid “Daa”… “Is it Wednesday?” I ask… Daa stands holding two bunches of flowers, she smiles and tells me she thought I was staying at the hospital, she’d bought the flowers as a surprise for when Jo got back from hospital… I’m still half asleep as Daa arranges the flowers into two vases and places them on the table in the apartment, I thank Daa for being so thoughtful, we hug, she asks me to keep the secret of the flowers till Jo gets home, Daa leaves, I make breakfast… Then I realise I’d managed, in all the confusion, to put my tracksuit bottoms on back to front.

By 10:00 I was back at the hospital with Jo, by 1:00 we were in a car heading back home… Jo has been given lots of instructions by the doctors, instructions she must follow if she wants to avoid injuring her back again… The traffic in Bangkok was as awful as it always is so it took a while for us to get back home… Home, I’m just glad she’s back home.

So until next time…

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Ade Cox

A working-class man from The Black Country, plucked from the factory and now living the best life in Bangkok