Fourteen months ago we left Peer being wheeled on a hospital trolley into surgery. Now it’s time for me to dredge the sequel up from my memory.
When Peer had been taken away I had a little cry, and my mother had a little cry, and we the brushed ourselves down and agreed that, of all our options, staying in the hospital during Peer’s surgery would be the least productive. The ward receptionist gave us a vague idea when Peer might be out of surgery, warned us that even then there would be a two-hour recovery period during which he would be essentially unconscious, and we settled on 2 am as a reasonable time of arrival back in the ward.
With a sense of timing unsurpassed by the meteorologies of any other nation, the heavy rainclouds that had been hanging over London for the previous forty days and forty nights had chosen the moment of Peer’s withdrawal into surgery to stage a retreat of their own, and the sun was now casting scalloped shafts over the damply verdant city. Some necessary phone calls made, my mother and I set off along the Thames to try to clear some of our own rainclouds. The evening air was cool and fresh, but my kept turning to the thought of Peer under the knife, and what might befall him in surgery.
There are times when rationality isn’t enough and the remote possibility of great distress weighs far heavier than the close promise of relief. The chances of Peer dying on the operating table, or being left with severe impairment were, I knew, slim, yet I could think of nothing else, and the knowledge that four months of suffering were at an end did nothing to counter this fear.
We ducked into the Dove for a swift, medicinal half, and then wandered back up to the Bush to dig ourselves in for the evening. Thai takeaway and half a DVD later, I decided to try to sleep. We decided that waiting till two and then phoning every hour for news would be folly: we should just get some rest and contact the ward early in the morning, by which point Peer should be out of surgery, and the news would be more conclusive.
Of course I didn’t sleep, and my fantasies became more morbid with each sleepless minute. How could I imagine life without Peer? I would be without the person who had spent the last five years with me, who had given me the support and love to slough off the depression and self-hatred of my younger years and become someone who might just be worth caring for. And now he was at his most vulnerable, his scalp flayed, his skull trepanned, his grey matter cleft to let the NHS’s finest butchers dig around in the seat of his very being. And what would I do then? Would I return to my sad old ways, or would the grief make them worse? With my outrigger cast away, would I founder in my old despair?
Somehow I must have entered a restless doze, as my alarm wakened me at six. The cobwebs still about my eyes, I phoned the ward: Peer was out of surgery, had returned to the ward at one in the morning, was in intensive care and was awake and sitting up; we could pay him a first visit straight away.
I woke my mother, and we walked through the clear cool morning to the hospital. Peer was propped up in bed in intensive care, looking somewhat bruised, battered and bloody, but recognisably himself, and free of headaches. He was, of course, somewhat delirious from the anæsthetic, and some of his comments were perhaps a little puzzling, but he was alive, and that was the most important thing. I did my best to hug him through the drips and oxygen tubes, and then we had to leave him to rest, and go and spread the news to the families.
And so we found ourselves taking our second riverside walk in twelve hours, the evening’s apprehensions superseded by sheer joy. We watched cormorants fishing in the river, drank fizzy water at a riverside pub and felt the dark clouds blow go the way of their counterparts in yesterday’s sky. Later that day we would have to start thinking about Peer’s recovery, but at this moment we just wanted to enjoy the exhilaration of his survival.
Note: this post was previously published elsewhere, and has been copied to this site to keep it on line.