The Disappointing Call

The moment came, and went, last week and provided a mixture of both relief and disappointment.

In a way it’s now made the build up to Wednesday afternoons even worse, and there’s no one to blame, not even myself.

Last week I was working from home on the normal Wednesday afternoon call out. Amazingly it totally passed me by until, on a conference call, one of my colleagues asked me if I’d “had the call” – a question becoming all too common in my life either on a Wednesday or when I met someone I haven’t for a while – and I realised that I hadn’t, and even that it was a Wednesday!

The usual feelings of relief passed by and I was very quickly back to normal life.

Thursday arrived and I was just getting in with it, again working from home. Come late afternoon my personal mobile rang with a call from an unknown number.

“Hello Mr Brunton, it’s K….., the Nurse Liaison from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary…”

I greeted her rather tentatively, knowing what was about to be said and taken totally unawares considering it was the wrong day.

“Oh, you don’t sound very pleased to hear from me.” she said.

No, I know what’s coming, and frankly I’m very scared! She was comforting and went into the big news.

Would I like to come in on Monday for an operation on Tuesday?

I may not have sounded dreadfully excited to be getting my chest ripped open in five days, but I was going to do it. I just needed to phone a few people and agree the details. Oh, and I’ve just been ill for a week with a stinking cold. It was almost clear, and by Monday I should be fine.

There was a pause. She needed to check with the consultant and anaesthesiologist to see if they would be happy operating so soon after my cold. Part of me already knew the answer as soon as she said she had to check, but it would be stupid to assume, so I called my wife.

She, however, was stuck in a meeting and in a building with no signal. My panic levels were rising. Instead I called my Dad to let him know, and just to be able to talk to someone. It’s funny but in these situations I know all the answers, I always do, but I just need to replay it to someone else and hear it replayed, and then it seems as clear as day. Most of the time I don’t even need that person to respond, the process of replaying it tells me everything I need to know. Just say yes and get it done.

The next call was work. My boss was fantastic about it and my colleagues were superbly supportive, as always. I could go on about how great they are, but I won’t, they’ll get very big heads.

While waiting for the nurse to call back my wife managed to get out of her meeting and she was greeted by quite the surprise. As soon as she was in signal range her work and personal mobiles started buzzing, messages and calls from me on both, as soon as she saw my name on the first text she says she knew what it was, even with it being the wrong day.

A quick call with lots of heavy sighing, silences, and phrases like “oh dear me”, and we were good to go, or rather I was. I sat down with a cup of tea, the phones beside me, and tried to get back to work. I had my answer. There was no reason to delay it another week and these waiting Wednesdays were becoming harder and harder.

The callback came and the nurse delivered the news quickly. The decision was not to go ahead with the operation so there would be a few more weeks to wait. It was a weird moment for me, a mix of relief and disappointment. Despite knowing the no go was coming, it was still a mammoth let down moment, a post adrenalin rush fall.

My wife and I had agreed that what we had to do was press for a return call date, but despite trying to get some idea, even a vague one, the nurse would not commit. She did say that the surgeons usually like to wait a couple of weeks to make sure the virus is completely clear and that the airways are no longer constricted. However we had to consider that even after those two weeks it would depend on scheduling.

So there we were. The surprise call didn’t turn out to be a surprise, more a disappointment.

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