Experience beyond my age.
Recently I had a friend describe me as having “experience beyond my age”. I wasn’t really sure how to take it at the time. Insult? Compliment? It caused me to reflect on my life so far and where I am today and I concluded that really what helps define me as me is the experiences I have, which are just overwhelmingly human.
A little over two weeks ago, I was standing over my wife holding her hand and feeling the occasional tensing of hers against mine when she experienced sharp pain, I looked around at those nearby. I remember seeing a range of different emotions playing out. Reflection like mine, anger, sadness, sorrow.
While standing there I saw a man crying over his motionless spouse. He repeats over and over again “Mel, please wake up.” He alternates between a mildly raised voice and a quiet sob. Mel is unconscious and laying on her side. Medical staff check on her, she’s still alive, then move on to other more critical patients. The man resumes brushing her hair off her face, urging her to wake up and swearing quietly to himself. Within a day this would be a scene I act out myself.
This is an inner Sydney hospital on a Sunday night. We arrived a few hours ago, and having been the primary support person for someone with a chronic illness, this is a scene that’s played out plenty of times before. Quiet sadness, loud anger. I’ve seen men throw themselves at a thick glass window trying to break their way through, heavily affected by the drug ICE, the same drug that gave another man the strength to throw two large Tongan security guards off balance while they worked to restrain him so the nurses could treat him.
Domestic violence victims describing an explainable scenario that led to their injuries, car accident trauma, sports and other physical accidents, heart attacks, stroke and old age. There are so many stories unfolding every day here, outside of this place it’s easy to think that the worst things that can happen to us is being cut off in traffic, missing out on a special or being passed over for a promotion. Sometimes the anger we feel as humans are the cause or result of many of these emergency department stories.
Beyond the ED, clinic days, workshops, conferences and support groups all give you a wealth of stories and experiences which change the way you process information. I don’t think I see the world the same way I did 15 years ago, it’s different. It’s through this new lens that I decide what to do with the life I have, so I say yes to a lot of things. Travel, helping, new jobs, new disciplines, charity and speaking out.
I fight. Figuratively and literally. I cry. I laugh. I can share in someone’s guilt, another’s joy. I’ve danced in a costume to make people laugh. Now I’ve held my wife’s lifeless body in my arms and helplessly asked her to wake up.
I wish I could transfer this lens to other people, a perspective I have because of the pain I’ve endured and one I know for them to have, they had to endure the same. I don’t carry this pain alone and I don’t let others do the same.
Mel’s spouse will for the rest of his life have a different way of reacting to situations that surround the events of today, his connection with her will forever be different, his perception changed. A personal pain he endured alone, bent over his unconscious Mel, on Sunday night in August.
For me, my walk is not yet done on this chapter of my life and my fight, our story; has yet to show itself properly. When it does I will be ready, I will be strong. As a husband I am terrified but in humanity I see what makes us strong. I see our resilience, the things that bind us and divide us. I see these things through my unique perspective. One I want to share, so you don’t have to learn.