Chapter 1: That Night

I couldn’t sleep as I tossed and turned in my daughter’s bed. My back ached – right between my shoulder blades, and down my arm. I longed for the familiar comfort of my own mattress. At some stage, my daughter had made her way into my bed. Bit by bit she had squeezed me out. Finally, I had given up and made my way to her room.

The ache in my back was getting worse. No matter how I turned or positioned myself, I could not get comfortable. I swung my legs over the edge of the bed, got up and tried to stretch. The pain only increased.

I went to the kitchen and took some Panadol, hoping it would help. Maybe it would, but I didn’t want to wait for it to work so I went in search of some Nurofen gel. I tried the bathroom, but it wasn’t there so I started rummaging through the drawer beside my bed. By now the pain was crippling. I could hardly walk. Hunched over the drawer, I found what I was looking for, along with some Voltaren cream.

All my rummaging had woken my wife Tracey. I told her what was wrong, She tried to help, but I couldn’t stand her hands upon my skin. I screamed at her to stop and she did. I didn’t mean to scream but I couldn’t handle the pain.

She got me into a hot shower hoping it would help. Yet, things only got worse. When she came back a few minutes later, I had vomited everywhere and I looked deathly grey. It was at that point that we both realised this was more than a backache.

Tracey dialled an ambulance and got me to the lounge room, which was near the front door. There I waited in agony, unsure what was going on until they arrived. In hindsight, they came quite quickly but it felt like an eternity.

Somehow, they got me onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. By this stage, I was a little bit vague about what was going on around me. I do remember being asked to score my pain out of 10. It was quite intense. Yet I thought it could get worse, so I scored it a 7. I also remember that I was given several shots of morphine which did not touch the sides of the pain searing through my body.

The ambulance pulled in at the Mackay Base Hospital. The emergency department seemed dark and dingy. It was part of the old hospital which is gone now – replaced by a wonderful new building. The doctor told me I had to get out of bed and into a weigh chair. I honestly thought he was the devil incarnate. It seemed impossible but I threw myself into the chair he was holding.

At that stage, he told me I was having a heart attack but that everything would be all right. The thought of surgery scared me more than the thought of death. I believed him that things would eventually be okay, yet could picture my chest prized open in some ominous operating theatre.

He gave me a whole bunch of clot-busting tablets and I swallowed them dutifully. I hadn’t even heard of these. In his deep voice, he explained that they were the reason I needed to be weighed, as my weight determined how many tablets I needed. He went on to tell me that my heart attack was the result of a blood clot in an artery close to my heart and that the tablets were working to dissolve this clot.

I think my family came in about then. I believe I remember seeing my 2 children, Eric, and Niamh (pronounced Neve) amd I recall my wife talking to the doctor about moving me up to the ward.

I don’t know how long the pain lasted, but it did subside and I started to feel normal again. I was moved to the ward and relief flooded through every fibre of my being. Things were going to be alright.

Eric and Niamh were sitting on my bed. My wife was sitting beside me. We were all relieved and chatting about anything.

It was the night before school started again for term 4. I was pleased that things were okay because I was looking forward to seeing my class of year 7s again. I really loved teaching, along with the wonderful children in my care. Therefore, I was devastated when the nurse told me it would be at least 6 weeks before I could work again.

Yet, I was alive and had my family around me. Things were okay.

Then, unexpectedly, I started feeling nauseous. I called for a nurse and a vomit bag and it arrived just in time. But that was just the beginning.

As I wiped and rinsed my mouth, the pain was back.

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