This was the blog I didn’t want to write. This was the blog I should have put out on Sunday, and it’s Wednesday and I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to re-live Christmas in Vauvert. I almost lost Ian. He had several episodes of “sudden cardiac death.” You’ll have to google it for more information, but basically it’s like “little death” or something. At one point he was watching himself in the bed from the ceiling but the defibrillator brought him back. Thank God. At this time I used the internet and mostly Facebook to get help to find out how he was doing. We managed to get the ambulance here to get him to the hospital, but then I couldn’t get any information and I speak French so badly that all I got was passed to another ringing phone and people who didn’t understand what I was trying to say. During this time Wendy from Facilitutors was my angel. She immediately answered my plea for help and started phoning hospitals and non-English speaking friends of Ian. Then throughout the holiday, kept phoning to find out more information for me and communicated with Ian’s Godson, Philippe, who immediately came to my aid and brought me to see Ian in hospital. Basically, that was my first Christmas in Vauvert… but I didn’t really care about the Christmas part as long I knew that Ian was all right and coming home to me. I was really ok with being alone, in a foreign city, where I can’t even communicate simple basic needs to anyone in my immediate range. Ian was coming home and all was right with the world.
Today I sit here, trembling, nauseous, in the middle of an asthma attack bordering on my own panic attack. I’m wearing Ian’s socks and jacket as well as my own 2 sweatshirts, scarf wrapped around my neck and a wool beret my friend Bill gave me as a “moving to France” gift… came in very handy… and very glad it’s wool. It’s freezing cold here in the south of France. The Mistral winds are blowing cold air in from the Alps. The 2 tiny heaters we have in the apartment are not enough in this kind of weather so Ian usually has the kerosene heater going as well and that keeps us pretty comfortable. At the moment it’s out of kerosene. I know there is some kerosene somewhere, but I don’t have the slightest idea how to siphon it out of the canister it’s in, into the canister it needs to go, and I can’t lift it to attempt to pour it. Any heat that was in the house is now long gone because my Ian got rushed to the hospital today. All doors were wide open to the cold for a long time with EMTs rushing in and out and then trying to get him down 3 flights of stairs.
Early this morning Ian woke up not feeling well. He’s been suffering from panic attacks for weeks. I don’t think they have the medication quite right for him yet and he seems to depend on the pills to make him feel better. Really all he’s been doing is sleeping and waiting to be able to take the next pill. Sometimes he has good days. Yesterday was pretty good. But when he doesn’t feel right he pops a pill and goes to bed in fear that the attacks he was having at Christmas time might return. I don’t blame him. I know about panic attacks. I’ve been dealing with my own for more than a year. He goes to bed. Sleeps a few hours and feels better when he wakes up. So this morning when he wasn’t feeling well he went to take his pills and jump back into bed. He usually puts the kerosene heater on in the morning so it’s warm enough for me when I get up and into the kitchen. He always thinks about me. He thinks about me more than I think about me. But this morning, he just took his pill and jumped back into bed. I fell back into sleep because I couldn’t get to sleep last night (insomniac) until almost 4 am. He started breathing a little more quickly than normal. I woke up and he seemed to be having a panic attack so I went through some breathing exercises with him trying to get his breathing slowed down and so that he wouldn’t hyperventilate. So we breathed together. Then he said he was getting dizzy from the breathing thing, so I said… ok just breathe normally but try to stay calm. I don’t remember how long it was after that he had the first of his seizures. It was a small one. I grabbed his arm when he was shaking and kept saying, it’s all right, you’re all right, you’re all right. No sooner did he come out of that than he got a shock from the defibrillator. As soon as that was over we both stared at the defibrillator monitor in the room. It’s supposed to do something when he has a big shock, but the lights all looked normal. “I love you.” He said. “I love you too.” I said. We held each other tight. I know he was scared. I was scared too. “What should I do?” he kept asking me. “Why did that happen?” I said we’ll call the doctor and see what he thinks we should do. The last time we called emergency, they didn’t take him in because he was having a panic attack and they were able to give him the same meds he would have gotten there. So, we weren’t really sure if we should get emergency here again. We just held each other tight for as long as we possibly could because we both knew as soon as we pried ourselves apart, we had to deal with the situation. Then he got nauseous. I went into the bathroom to grab a bucket and the phone to call the doctor. One of the advantages of small village doctors is that they make house calls. He said he’d be at the house around noon…. Good, that was only an hour away. I got dressed and put together his bag for the hospital trying to remember to throw in everything he might need. I heard a shout from the bedroom. I ran in … I’m here, I’m here… he was having another seizure. This one a little longer. This one scared me…. Breathe baby, breathe, you’re ok, it’s ok, breathe… No sooner did he come out of that horror than the horror of another difib shock began, a little stronger and longer than the last time…. After that one he bolted to the other side of the bed to vomit. I ran over to get the bucket to him (visions of cleaning puke from the bed, guiltily, popped through my brain). My poor Ian suffered two more seizures before the doctor finally got there. All I could do was watch in horror and helplessness. I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t make it go away. I could only make sure he knew I was there and that I loved him and to hang on and be strong. After the doctor came, he had a couple more seizures and by the time the EMTs got there, gave him oxygen and got him wrapped up on to the stretcher (and moved around most of our furniture) and got him down the three flights of stairs… my Ian was just hanging on by a thread. They put him in the ambulance and even though I had no coat and the Mistrals were blowing through the town in a rage… I stood there looking into the black plated glass knowing that my Ian was lying there and they were attending to him. The doctor was in there and something was going on and he better not be leaving me… The doctor better not come out with the “I hate to have to tell you this” face. I was out the door of the building on the street sobbing and totally aware people from the village were passing but I didn’t care if they heard me sob, I didn’t care what they thought. I just prayed and prayed that he could hang on and come back to me. Please don’t leave me … I just found you! The doctor finally came out of the ambulance. To my great relief he didn’t have the “I hate to have to tell you this” face, so I was relaxed a little immediately. I said, the seizures… they were his heart? He said yes. I asked, will he need surgery? He said no. They will probably need to adjust his defibrillator. He’s going to pull through this right? I asked him… tears in my eyes… knowing full well he most certainly isn’t going to say… no, I doubt it, looks bad…. But I didn’t care. I’d settle for a lie. Just tell me he’s going to be ok… and he did. He also said he’d call and let me know how he is doing. That made me feel a little better. I knew from experience, with my limited French, I can never get anything out of emergency rooms and you can’t usually talk to the patient until he gets a room.
I walked back up the friggin three flights of stairs… sobbing more at each step. By the time I got back up to the apartment I was definitely hyperventilating and I knew I had to try to put a rein on that cause then I’d go into a panic attack and I don’t have medical coverage here.
I was chilled to the bone by the time I got back upstairs. I couldn’t put on the kerosene heater for reasons I’ve already explained. I felt really alone so I opened my computer to get on the internet and connect with friends I knew could calm me down.
My internet was down! I was afraid to unplug it and reset it because the tv and phone are also attached and the most important thing was to be able to hear from the doctor. I called the only person I knew would be up at this time. Billy. I knew he had to go to work and I didn’t want to keep him long, but I just wanted SOMEONE to know. So I told him my story. He prayed for Ian. Then he had to go to work. So I was sitting there, alone, scared, no internet, no language skills, no heat. I made some soup. This meant I had to shut off one of the small heaters first so I didn’t blow a fuse. After I had some soup … “tears of asparagus” I realized I was sobbing and hyperventilating again. I knew Ian’s panic pills were the same I took back in the states, so I popped one and climbed into our bed. Fully, clothed, complete with hat and jacket and scarf I promptly scrunched myself into the fetal position and WAILED and WAILED and WAILED. No internet, no heat, no Ian, and now.. NO TISSUES! Damn I finished all the tissues…. I buried my head in Ian’s pillow that smelled like him. Don’t you DARE leave me… we got a life to live damn it… we have time yet…. We have a lot of things we want to do…. YOU’RE NOT DONE YET! You better not be going anywhere. No one can love me like you love me. No one can take care of me the way you want to protect me. No one knows me the way you know me. I’m selfish. I want you here with me. I want to be your baby girlie… only yours. I want to make you proud of me. I want you to show me the things we spoke of and teach me the things we dreamed for each other. You promised to show me your Europe. Our Europe. I slept with the phone in my hand.
I was no warmer when I woke up than when I fell asleep. I went inside and made more instant soup. It was hot and it was warm and I could dunk some bread in it. Plus I ate some salami and olives. I didn’t want any more than that. The phone rang. It was the optician. Ian’s glasses were ready. I know he still had a balance on them so I wasn’t sure how he wanted me to handle it. I just said “a demain” I’ll ask him tomorrow when I talk to him. I was hoping the doctor would call. If I hadn’t heard from him by 8 pm I’d call him but Ian called me just a little while ago. Oh my god, I was so happy to hear his voice. He sounded good. He said they still don’t know but he got terrible shocks 8 more times and they all but had to disable the defib. He’s thinking it was the meds that didn’t interact well with the heart meds. He said he has a long way to go. But oh my god, the sound of his voice was exactly what I needed. I packed his phone but forgot to pack the charger… I didn’t think of that. So I guess he can only use it for a while before it dies. Then I’ll have to wrangle my way in bad French to find a phone to him. I could do that. I’ve done it before. I hate doing it, but I could do it. But I had heard his voice. He sounded good. I was so relieved I felt a weight lifted off of me.
Now I didn’t care how cold it was or that I had no internet. I knew he was all right. I could get through anything else I needed to. First order of business???? GET PISSIN DRUNK! Yes PISSIN FRIGGIN DRUNK ON MY FAVORITE APARATIFs… that started out as Dubonnet. Dubonnet Rouge. I knew the Ambassador was more expensive, so I went with Dubonnet. Well hell, there was only about a third of a bottle left of it so I downed it pretty easily… with some shortbread cookies. Then I graduated to the Ambassador which went down VERY easily , especially with salami, cheese, bread and olives…. Mmmmmm. Now I’m very very pissed. And I don’t care. Cause I’m going into a very lonely bed, and a very COLD COLD COLD one. I’ll probably wake up really late cause I don’t like to get up and deal with reality, but once I do get up…. I’ll call my Ian and see what he needs and what I can do and down about 3 cups of very black and very strong coffee and pray I still have my ibuprofen left.
NOTE TO MY EX-PAT FRIENDS HERE IN FRANCE… I know that I could call you. And I just might before this all over. I just didn’t want to get everyone excited when really, all I needed was a ride to the hospital. Philippe was having back surgery today, so timing was not the best here. But yes, I may need help with getting a taxi to understand when to come to pick me up and what I need him to do. But at the moment, we’re playing it by ear. I know Wendy you would just jump right into action…. I owe you so much already. I know that you are there if I need it. Same with Rosalyn, Paul and Jillian and Keith. I have good friends here. I am very forturnate and thank ful for all of you. I also know that you, Christine, would also be at my side in a flash. But Pertuis is still a little far and I don’t want to have to put you out unless I’m so desperate that I have to ask such a large imposition on your life. But I thank you for your offer and your friendship, which I treasure more than you know.
With that… it’s midnight. I am sufficiently drunk to lie down and get some sleep without having to think about my poor Ian suffering all day. I know that he is in the best possible place getting the best possible care right now. If I can’t see him till he gets home. SO BE IT. As long as you GET HOME TO ME…… I don’t even care if you yell at me for drinking all your expensive liquor. I don’t even care if you yell at me cause I had one of your ciggies. I don’t even care if you yell at me cause I forgot to pack your phone charger or your good eyeglasses…. I’ll take my grumpy old man Ian…. I don’t care…just come home healthy and ready to roll! I love you Ian. I love you with all my heart and soul. Forever and ever and even after that. You are all I want and all I need. I can’t do this without you. Please come home to me.. my heart, my soul, my strength…