Reflections on the Twists and Turns of My Small Bowel
Episode 3: Fear
By Patrick Doyle
Psychology tells us that fear is a vital response to any physical or emotional danger.
They say that fear is essential for our survival and something so hardwired in our DNA that it has been preserved throughout our evolution.
If people didn’t feel fear, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently would have resulted in life-or-death consequences.
That may be so. But as they say in Ireland: “Psychology my arse!”
When I was getting wheeled feet first to the OR, looking up at the ceiling tiles lit by the glare of the fluorescent tubes that line all hospital corridors, I felt fear and it didn’t feel like it was any kind of response that was going to help me survive or escape from my predicament.
I was afraid.
I felt trapped.
I felt helpless.
I felt terrified.
Even more than fear, I felt very alone – despite, or maybe because of – the meaningless chatter above my head that went between nurse, doctor and porter as we clashed through another set of doors like some bad imitation of a ghost train ride at Halloween.
I felt scared for my girlfriend whose hand I had just let go before being taken away. She tried her best to look calm and gave me a reassuring smile and told me that everything was going to be ok and she would see me soon and not to worry.
But I knew she was scared too. We had just moved into our first home together some seven weeks prior. We still had unopened cardboard boxes everywhere from the move, still figuring out where things should go. We had all sorts of plans for a future together. But now this.
From a previous marriage, I have two sons and I was scared about how this was all going to impact my relationship with them. What should they be told and how and by whom?
I was still dealing with issues relating to my divorce, which, let’s just say didn’t fall into the category of “amicable”. It had been horrible. Dealing with shared custody access issues and scheduling had proven difficult and so I began worrying about how I would be able to see them.
I wondered how long I was going to be in hospital?
How long the recovery would take?
How mobile would I be and when?
Then I began to think about my job. I was self-employed. I was a partner and co-owner of a small marketing agency which employed around a dozen people. At our peak, back before the financial crash of 2008, we had 18 employees.
Since then, we had been struggling to recover from the recession and the partnership was under strain about how to move forward, faced with a new economy and the impact of how technology was transforming our industry.
These were challenges every business was dealing with, but, like everything else in life, it was relative. It wasn’t the biggest challenge a business has ever faced, but it was ours. It was mine.
And as I lay on that gurney, en route to the OR, I felt my fear increase as I thought about how my illness or whatever it was, was going to impact my job, my career and my livelihood.
I thought about my family in Ireland. My elderly Mother will be worried sick when she hears I’m in hospital, I thought. Irish Mothers are famous for meeting trouble half-way, so best not to tell her anything until it was absolutely necessary.
As the medical team prepped me for surgery, going through their usual routine: checking blood pressure and oxygen levels, adjusting my position, checking in to ask if I was ok etc – I seem to recall that it was all done in a very matter of fact way.
There seemed like of lot of people milling about, yet everyone seemed to have a particular job to do. Not hurried, yet distinctly precise with no hint of hesitation to their task at hand. I continued to stare up at the enormous light above me and was conscious of how cold the room was.
The pain, which had been so constant that whole day, was replaced with a more numbed and stifled feeling. I knew it was still there, I just couldn’t feel it in the same way.
And then, as it is for every patient who is administered an anesthetic, everything goes into slow motion mode. Voices and sounds become just mumbles and you feel like you’re being submerged into a deep bath of warm water and then…the lights go out.