The broken bits of me…

The broken bits of me…

I like the broken bits of me, including the pieces that aren’t all there. My missing pieces are the unconnected things, that make me stare at my life and wonder if I could have done better. The cracks in my psyche and the folds in my skin are akin to lifelines. They keep me grounded and without my history, the so-called wisdom I have gained with age, those flaws I have collected and display daily, I would be far less a man than the one who sits here today.

I could say perhaps that these days, the mirror is less kind to me than it once was. But to be fair, what I could choose to see as the cruelty of time as I am being slowly ravaged by each the tick of the clock, is nothing more than a reflection of a life lived. There is beauty in the worst of me.

These days, Covid-19 has put paid to any ideas I might have had about seeing more of the world, for a while at least. Instead I must live this life within the constraints that bind me to my home for the most part, but so be it.

My crinkles, as my daughter used to call the lines on my face when she was small, have got crinkles of their own, my hair is less fulsome and sometimes the stress of life takes its toll on the windows to my soul. Tiredness shows on my face as does pain, perhaps more than anyone I know. My darling Jo knows exactly when I am struggling with pain, simply by looking at my eyes. She’s not the only one. I try to hide it when things get bad, but my give-away eyes hang me.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize the auld fella looking back at me. I’ve changed so much and life has left its mark. Some days he looks so tired, other days he looks positively sprightly. Lord knows what my insides look like. I come to this on the back of my latest medical checkup. I was contacted by cardiology last week, cancelling my appointment for Wednesday last, due to Coronavirus. Instead they told me I would have a virtual consultation. That was yesterday.

I’ve never virtually consulted with a cardiologist before and I was rather curious. Normally I go through a barrage of tests which I can’t undergo online, so I wondered how they would assess me over the phone. It seemed likely we could both be wasting our time.

I hate talking to consultants. I always feel like they think I’m lying if I tell them the full story. Better to tell them 50% of the problem, it sounds more believable that way. I swear that’s just what I’m like. If I lost my arm in some terrible chain saw accident right before the consultation, I’d probably play that down as well.

“So tell me Mr. P, is there something wrong with your arm as well?” To which I would reply looking at the shredded, bloody stump hanging from my shoulder, “This? It’s just a scratch.  Probably a 3 – or maybe a 4 out of 10 pain wise. It’ll stick right back on.”

When the phone rang yesterday, I sighed. ‘Here we go’ is all I could think, a waste of 5 minutes of my life. The voice at the other end of the line was surprisingly rather pleasant. She sounded young and competent. The voice introduced herself and told me her name was Jess. She explained what I already knew, which was that due to Covid-19, they wanted to do some assessment over the phone. That much I expected.

What I didn’t expect was the thoroughness of her enquiry. She asked all the right questions and elicited replies from me that I am normally reticent to give, specifically… the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In hindsight, I was so impressed with the skill of the doctor that spoke with me. She wasn’t my consultant, she was a S.H.O., junior to her consultant. My experience with S.H.O.’s in Irish hospitals has not been good. Generally, they are over worked and ill prepared for each person who walks into the consulting room. They usually look at test results from whatever barrage of tests I had just gone through, pretty much tell me nothing and are reluctant to do anything other than send a report to their consultant at the end of the day.  I always feel short changed and none the wiser. Yesterday, I found someone willing to look at my profile, dig deeper and ask the right questions. She was clear, precise and was up to speed on my current condition. Maybe it was precisely because she didn’t have the usual tools of test results at her finger tips, that she had to draw on a different skill set.

When I came out of the CCU unit 5 years ago, my cardiologist came visiting with a gaggle of students in his wake. He had saved my life, quite literally. While it wasn’t he, that straddled my chest and squeezed fluids into me, and it wasn’t he that had provided CPR mid operation, he was the man who asked one more question, and that led him to sending me for my first heart scan and that ultimately saved my life.

I recall that he told the students about how he first met me and that based on my tests, I was quite a healthy man. He told them that my blood pressure was normal, I had passed my fitness test with flying colours, my diet was good, I was not over weight, I didn’t smoke, there was nothing unusual on my E.C.G and the only significant factors were a family history of heart disease and high cholesterol. In most circumstances, he told them, he would have prescribed medication for my cholesterol and told me to get a recheck in 6 months.

What he then did and I recall it so well, is that he asked them to think about that, given I was recovering in a hospital bed only a few weeks after he had met me for the first time. He told them I could quite possibly have dropped dead on the street had he not done one simple thing. They looked at him blankly as he asked them if they knew what that was. Like the suck-up kid in class who knows the answer, I nearly put my hand up. Luckily, I realized that he wasn’t asking me. They all looked at their feet or at their note pads, hoping not to be chosen to provide an answer they didn’t have.

When no one answered, he simply explained that his decision to look a little deeper came from 2 things. One was experience but more importantly, because experience takes time to acquire and patients don’t have that time to play with, the driving factor was that he had listened to me very carefully and took in all the little details that I had revealed. He had a niggle and that niggle led him to go backwards, to re-question for a little more information on my family history, and ultimately, he made a decision based on suspicion born from a thorough interrogation of the facts. He told them not to aimlessly take notes to pass on responsibility to someone else, but to listen and be present in a consultation and to be a courageous advocate for their patient in deciding what to do. The one thing he had done, he said, was he had listened.

Yesterday, young Jess did all that over the phone. She was monstrously impressive compared to all that came before her. I couldn’t help wonder if she had been one of those students at the foot of my bed 5 years ago. Perhaps she had learned something.

Unfortunately, it means I seem likely to go back into hospital in the near future something that doesn’t sit well with me. The plan begins in exactly the same fashion as it did 5 years ago, only this time I know what went wrong the first time around. I was unafraid the first time until my heart stopped and I ended up in a critical care unit, once I had done a U-turn from the light.

I try to be unafraid always and I think for the most part, little frightens me. But going back to a place where I vividly remember my life passing and all that came with that, no matter how unlikely it is that I could be so unlucky the second time around, is somewhat disconcerting. I have been given no timeline due to Covid-19 restrictions, so I have a wait ahead and I would much rather face the unpleasantness as soon as I can. I write books with stories that play on anticipation to generate fear. I am all to familiar with that notion.

But really, it’s no biggy. I am fine, will be fine and the world will tick its tock regardless. In the meantime, it’s the waiting that could get to me. A time worm, burrowing into my thoughts, poisoning my courage, diluting my self-confidence. If I’m not careful, I will turn up in hospital in a couple of months, with a big fat worry worm resting where my courage once sat. Isn’t it funny, how despite your best efforts and regardless of how much common sense and logic you think you possess, there is always a nemetic thought to unravel your best laid plans…

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27 thoughts on “The broken bits of me…

  1. I heard your false bravado at the end. You shouldn’t have admitted to being like that, or I would have missed it. 🙂 Knowing that worry only makes things worse, and being able to NOT worry are two different things. One day at a time, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you look the picture of health. No wonder you’re worried though. Melancholy can be oh so poetic. Your Junior doctor sounds like a talented woman. I hope she doesn’t lose her ability to listen and I hope you stay with us for many years to come and get to visit many haunts, new and old. If you ever get to Muenster, Westphalia, let me know.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely I will Barbara.. sadly they’ve extended a local lockdown in Kildare into September.. no traveling for some time bah!. I’ll take the sneaky compliment.. one lesson I learned early.. never turn something rare away 😂☘️🎈


  3. Our broken bits and missing pieces, and worry worms, are intrinsic as we move forward, making us who we are even if we’re a fair bit uncomfortable with it… I’ve plenty too, and Covid isn’t helping the waiting, and worrying. Sending strength and hope, and a sword of courage to pierce those worrisome thoughts x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s definitely the waiting that gets you isn’t it – I’ve never been able to understand the saying ‘no news is good news’. I have another blogging friend who has an MRI lined up next week for a suspected recurrence of the cancer she survived 7 years ago – then she has a wait of one week for the results. She is trying distraction methods but I can’t imagine how you would stop thinking about it.
    We need more doctors who listen – especially in these bizarre times. One of my daughters was hospitalised in the U.K. (I’m in France) during the lockdown due to an unexplained seizure. She was discharged after a week of observation and some tests and told she would subsequently have an appointment with a neurologist. However, the appointment is set for three months after the event and will be on the phone!! I can only hope she gets somebody like Jess.
    On a positive note, I think you still look quite the handsome ‘auld fella’ and I wish you all the best with managing your worry worm until they can get your body back on the right track again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that. Great point on the no news is good news front, I couldn’t agree more. I an a great believer in meeting the worst challenges head on. Often the resolve themselves the easiest. Sitting back and waiting makes problems bigger. I hope your daughter will be fine. From my experience Neurologists make good listeners. .. and thanks for the kind compliment, that
      Photo must have caught me in a good light in a good moment- but I’ll. take it nonetheless. One thing my dad thought me was that if you get a compliment, take it and run with it and say thanks.. he said they were good for the soul ☘️🎈

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Patrick, in this modern age, following a life during which I was gregarious, and dare I say, for a long time, hedonistic, I rarely came across ‘genuine’ people, For the past few years since I’ve become totally absorbed in writing, I haven’t socialised–through choice. I have 300+ ‘friends’ on social media but truth be told I could reduce it to 50 while having a coffee. If I were to be cynical in every case I could take the total lower, but you’d still be there.
    You’re a stand-up guy who is able to admit his loves and his fears and there are not that many men around who can do such a thing publicly. Respect. We all have that little fekker sitting on our shoulder, on the window ledge or on the floor nearby, but you are better off than many of us–you’ve met him and told him to wait until you’re ready.
    Until I became an ex-Serviceman I had little knowledge of the inside of hospitals but since the age of 50, I’ve had a few visits. Each time before they do that ‘count to ten’ thing I tell myself that there are people much worse off than me. I tell myself that I’m going to drink a cup of shit hospital tea when I eventually come around (I’m terrible at coming out of the ‘sleep zone’ after an op), and I tell myself I’ll be even more grateful for still being around.
    You’ve got too much good about you, my friend, so one day when you’re worrying, tell that little fekker on your window sill that his plan isn’t working. Don’t make eye contact, just whisper it … and worry him.:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers Tom, I am with you on the friends list and you most certainly are one of those people that would stay on mine in such circumstances. Funny how life draws people across our paths. I’ve entered the ‘bury that’ phase now and won’t resurrect the worry until a very efficient nurse comes into my room and says “were ready for you now.” With Covid about I’m told they can’t give me any date.. In the meantime I won’t be worrying ☘️🎈

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post, Patrick. I can so relate to almost all of it. I love your courage, and I’m another one who will say despite all evidence to the contrary, “No need to make a fuss, its just a scratch.” Your eyes are the mirror to a soul that knows the darkness of pain and grief… and yet you keep laughing and loving, and holding on to the very best in life. I’m proud to be your friend. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Patrick lad, you were tugging at our heartstrings from the very first line.

    I say that, and I’m not even Irish. (spoken with an accent there, not sure if you heard it).

    Anyway, you’ve a wonderful way with words, and I hear they have therapeutic powers that defy the laws of physics, science, even the rules women say we have to follow … all that. (still with an Irish accent, this part too).

    Maybe fear, and doctor’s prognosis.. (starting to sound like one of them positive thinker types now – but still with an Irish accent).


    I’ve always thought, and know from experience, Spirit rules. Sometimes we get dragged into the ditches, maybe for years … and it gets harder and harder to crawl out as you get older.

    But, a bit of Spirit will see you back on your feet, or on your butt, whatever the case may be.

    Whatever you do, write another one for us..

    What about the one with the young lad, the one came from a small town but had big dreams.

    Tell us that one, would you..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Robert.. I can hear the lilt in your voice🤔😀 I’m the eternal optimist, I write away the worry but I know the nights will return on the eve of my trip to hospital.. good to hear from you.. stay safe ☘️🎈

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s rare to come across someone like you who can be totally honest about themselves and how they feel about what is happening in their lives. Reading your words made me look over at this quote by Lao Tzu which I have on the wall next to my computer.
    “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”

    Liked by 1 person

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