Tag: telling it how it is

The week that was …

Last weekend saw me help shepherd my sister out of the shadows of a broken marriage and into freedom. Freedom from years and seasons of pain and sacrifice, and freedom born out of an indelible cost to her humanity and identity as a woman. A big group of people who love her ferried her out of her grief and into her new life on Saturday night where we celebrated into the night at a swanky bar in town. Having recognised the best thing about this ending is that there is now a new beginning that awaits her. That, and I have my sister back. Back to her maiden name and back to the person she was – not the broken, shackled woman she emerged as … there’s only so much I can share. We’re all little broken and our friends and families are the glue who build us back up to who we once were. That and love, of which she has in spades.


But just when you think you’re getting on top of one thing, the wind changes and bowls you over. I noticed that my right nostril was a little sore when we were out, but didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I woke up a little swollen across the bridge of my nose. I hazarded a guess and thought I might have cellulitis – an infection in the skin – so I called my transplant consultant and he said to pack a bag and come to clinic the next day. It was a swift response once they saw me. After blood tests, I ended up having the worlds fastest sinus CT scan and was diagnosed with having septic sinuses. So yeah, a touch of septicaemia due to a slightly diabolical sinus infection (thanks Cystic Fibrosis – you just give, give, give …) I was taken up to ICU for a central venous (CV) line to be inserted into my jugular so powerful intravenous antibiotics could be started as soon as possible so the infection wouldn’t spread to my places like my eyes or my brain. Here was my view for the afternoon. Whoever invented the heated blanket box needs a Nobel prize.


It was tough going. The doctor who performed the procedure was determined not to use a scalpel on my ‘soft and lovely’ skin, and because he had to push in 14cm of tubing through my skin and into my jugular vein, he pushed as though he was doing CPR on my collarbone. My chest was pushed into the bed so brutally and it really hurt me (there’s only so much local anaesthetic can do). While I was waiting for a bed on the ward, intravenous vancomycin and meropenem commenced. I’m also on oral ciprofloxacin because IV cipro totally incapacitates me and tears my gut to shreds.

I was in a lot of pain from my nose as well as having a tube shoved into my chest, so I was given some pain killers for the night. And it was one of those nights where I had a nurse who just should not have gone into nursing. On Tuesday, I woke up looking like I’d been in a cage fight and I now know what it feels like to have my nose broken. It’s really quite fucking excruciating and I have a newfound respect for boxers and other sportspeople who have their faces regularly rearranged. Here I am looking a little different to what I was on Saturday night …


So I need sinus surgery and I need it soon. The last time I had surgery,  my ENT specialist said that they were scraping the base of my skull and that removing the actual infection (the snot) was like pulling out chewing gum.

And so the week went on. Yesterday was my graduation from my pastoral care training, but I was too ill to go. My beautiful group kept me updated with photos and videos which made me feel like I was with them. I was so disappointed not being with them as we officially became hospital chaplains, but when your body shuts down you have to listen (even if it is telling you to forget about your antibiotics, get in a taxi and go to your graduation).

The universe works in remarkable ways. I’ve always found that with pain comes great beauty. Thousands of words of poetry have poured out of me and I’ve come up with a humdinger of an idea for a poem that involves water. Of course.

After coming home today, and then having to return to hospital twice, the levy finally broke. Today was tough and I’m simply worn down from pain and the onslaught of infection in my body. My white cell count is up and the gravity of the week had me drowning. I think a little piece of me broke. I can’t even do a solid shit (and won’t for at least another ten days), I got my period yesterday, the skin where my CV line is is red and angry and my belly is bruised from clexane injections to prevent blood clots, so … I took a deep breath, put Xerxes, HWV 40: IV. Largo (Ombra mai fù) on repeat, had a long, restorative shower and redressed my CV line. This is how it looks sans adhesive dressing. The four stitches are to keep the line anchored so it doesn’t tear out of my jugular. Tears are optional.


This week has left me feeling crestfallen. I got through the Harry Potter book where Dumbledore dies and the nurses looking after me thought I was howling in pain, but it was more existential – observational even. It’s odd because I’m so used to crying with joy – not immense sadness. Out of the mire of pain comes a stockpile of words – more than I even need, so after my blue moon ritual tonight I’ll hook myself up to my IV’s, put words down – both gently and ferociously – and feel safe in the knowledge that tomorrow is a new day.


There is no indecision.

Just the untangling of hair

you manage to do so elegantly

just as your door rises akimbo to the air.


The clang of chain takes a crack

at chipping away your softness,

but nothing can touch you.


You graft to my pupil; that absence of fear

swimming in your eyes; sailing on your skin

to a gentler harbour.


Urban cowboy – smile a tripwire.

Some mornings you are quiet in stare,

cutting a lonely figure, looking past what is in front of you

(restless rivers run deep)

and there are days your body lopes,

moving around all limber like you’ve just walked out of the ocean,

having washed away time-worn algorithms

by holding your breath under water until the panic becomes peace.




The heels of my boots skip across asphalt to cross the road.

Stain my neck with your wine soaked mouth, pour milk into my coffee,

hoist me onto the table in the cantina –

layering up my skirt and ruining my finery.


Do you sell boxfuls of faith?

Because you’re almost here, but just about gone.

Or do I kiss you from a tree, sticky with pregnant fruit

only to fall into your ripened hands?

cold pressed

Kneading breath and something that looks like dish water,

you serve air and platitudes from your square face that

I always thought was vacant.

Your jaw, so sharp,

it cuts my cheek when you pretend to kiss me in greeting.

Salutations to you.


With a hook tooth and narrow eyes and skin that shines

from too much cheap make up,

there is no warmth about you. No fire.

Your stare, as cold as the steel chatter of a wicked step-mother,

your eyes scalp me like a tin roof in a hurricane,

shaking the birds from their trees and sending earthworms underground.


You’re in my sights – my angle precise down to the breadth of a hair.

I never wanted it to be like this;

flying into firm and feathered webs,

so tangled in your own mess are you.

But understand this – idle time is the devil’s time

and the devil always bets on black.


You look at me, but you don’t see me.

You talk at me, but you don’t speak to me.


For it is no secret that you will always be the popular blonde

who came so close to her peak only to bottom out

believing your own spin and crowning your ego with a plastic tiara.

With your chipped scarlet nails and pilled hosiery,

is it little wonder why you cannot sleep?