Well, the post I’d planned to write next was going to be about how much I’ve learned from blogs written by cancer patients, and how that knowledge has impacted my work in a basic and translational cancer research department.
But that plan, like all our other plans, was shattered by a phone call on Friday morning: Mr E Man’s oldest sister phoned to tell him that their Mum had had a brain hemorrhage, and was in hospital on the Sunshine Coast waiting for a helicopter to transfer her to Vancouver.
Since that initial, terrible, huge piece of bad news, every tiny morsel of information we’ve had has been on the positive end of the spectrum of possible outcomes for each stage of the journey: her vitals have remained good; the initial surgery to relieve the pressure in her skull was a success; the angiogram they did the next day identified exactly what they’d expected it to; the bleed was small and accessible; yesterday’s surgery to fix the blood vessel went smoothly. But we won’t know the extent of the damage done until they lift the very heavy sedation she’s currently under, and which they plan to maintain for at least another couple of days. So after spending all day Friday and almost all weekend at the hospital we’re all at work today, trying to concentrate and waiting for updates (they told us that having noise and movement around her would cause too much brain activity; they’d rather everything was as quiet and still as possible, so they’ve asked us to stay away for now unless they call to say otherwise).
So, instead of writing about how much I’ve learned and how useful it’s been, I’m left pondering the very opposite…
All those years of studying and researching how human cells and genes work?
Completely useless, when it comes down to it. I didn’t know a single thing more than anyone else while we were waiting at the hospital – not one useful thing that could help anyone – and I couldn’t answer a single medical question that anyone asked me. It was a very humbling experience, to say the least.
We agreed yesterday that the current situation feels like we’re in limbo: there’s a small army of us, all desperate to help, but absolutely nothing that any of us can do. This will change over the next few days and weeks, obviously, but right now we have all this nervous energy and nothing to do with it. Some people are frantically parsing every single possibility – if this happens we’ll do X, but if that happens we’ll do Y – while others (including me) are passing the time with busy work, like cleaning the house.
I did manage to contribute one thing: I used LinkedIn (which no-one else in the family is on) to figure out who my globe-trotting brother-in-law is currently working for, and which country he’s in, as no-one had been able to contact him by phone, email, or Facebook. I then called the parent organisation’s head office in Washington DC, and the people there managed to get in touch with him. He’s flying in tomorrow. I’ve also made approximately 107 cups of tea for everyone.
So: social networking and basic kettle skills are, officially, much more useful than letters after your name. Also: blogging is therapy, as always. Once the limbo lifts, I probably won’t be online much for a while, but for now I’m very grateful to have this space.
Thanks for listening.