Alfred Bragg’s pictures proudly present

Window of Absence

sponsored by Bragg’s Heart bypasses (3 for the price of 2!)

A story of tension, human stupidities, determination, mysterious characters, suspicious events and loads of wonderful South Africans!

“Where’s the script? I need a script right now, come on!“

No Lee, this is out of your control……..just…..relax now” ……BANG!

It’s Thursday night, now over 2 weeks ago, and I am being bundled into an ambulance with huge chest pain and breathlessness. I gaze around as the vehicle rocks on its journey. Where am I going? The lack of a window confuses me. I ask the paramedic which way we are going, whereupon he responds, “the only way!

Arriving in A&E I realise that the heart bypass, I have scheduled in less than a week’s time, is now critical.

I am to be kept in the A&E hospital before the transfer on Tuesday. I would have to spend some long days in a CCU ward. To my left is a woman, who to put it politely, looks like a bag lady, occupying a bed like Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars with all her possessions. She appears to have been here for weeks. I walk past her using my rollator fearful of being eaten. Jabba, apparently, is a big nature lover, country walker, and noisily discusses with the nurses the recent long country walks she has completed. And I am a country dancer!! Is this a hospital or am I on a ward for fantasists!

I was monitored constantly. Lord Bragg apparently had recently freely given 1000 “pay per beat” heart monitors to the hospital. Here I am activating my monitor. Apparently they received their first monthly bill just after I left, and the hospital administrators were looking rather concerned! That pesky Lord Bragg and his selling techniques!

I sleep very uneasy for 3 days, confined to bed as this darn heart disease could attack me at any time. Jabba slithers uneasily constantly throughout.

On Tuesday, I am transferred by ambulance manned by four paramedic goddesses (yes 4) to Southampton. Their professionalism was amazing.

It is near dark when I enter my room and settle in. I am scheduled to be first on the meat slab at 8 am. My surgeon visits, a rather interesting man, whose father was also a heart surgeon and Nelson Mandela’s consultant! You may have heard of the six degrees of separation rule, that is where any two people on the planet can be linked by 6 or fewer people. Well I was soon to become a very close link to Nelson Mandela, but rather more than just being “linked”.

I was about to get a 2 degrees of freedom connection directly from my beating heart to Nelson. How spooky!

Before my Big Sleep, the night before the op, I am also visited by a rather eloquent man, Michael. He is my anaesthetist. We discuss MND and potential complications and he describes the drugs he will use and will not. Who would have that being dealt MND I would also have to contend with this issue. He not only discusses the drugs, but the soft palate issues I have, and is more than fully aware of the potential for MND sufferers to retain CO2. He is totally reassuring and Jean and I are left in no doubt he knows his stuff.  He wears rather smart and beautifully fitted horn rimmed glasses just like Stanley Tucci, who played Nigel, in “The Devils wears Prada”. If you haven’t seen the film, watch it this Christmas. It’s superb.

I am picked up at 7am to be transported through the deserted corridors into a room before the operating theatre. In there stands Michael. He simply pricks my hand and that’s it.

The very next thing I know (almost instantly) is the sound of my wife’s voice

Ok Lee, it’s all over, it went very well. Can you hear me?

I have not had general anaesthetic since the age of 5, and didn’t realise being “under” is NOT like sleep at all. There was absolutely no time aspect, it was instantaneous! If I could bottle this, I could sell it so the whole country can spray themselves whenever X Factor starts. It would be like it never happened! On a serious note, it does make for a very interesting metaphysical and scientific discussion!

The opposite of time passing quickly happened during recovery, constantly watching the clock, dozing for apparently an hour, but then realising that only 5 minutes had passed. At midnight one night I flittered off to sleep only to awake 1 minute later, with Michael, the anaesthetist viewing my monitors like a menacing character played by the late great Peter Lorre, his glasses twinkling in the darkness.

Peter Lorre in Quicksand – public domain

I doze off again.

Being a chef in a hospital must be rather frustrating. Most of your clients have zilch of an appetite, and those who do, taste everything as cardboard, however well produced. I was no different. For the first week, it was a chore. I assume they have a pile of bland food which they issue to people like me, and then changed it when they heard I had got my taste back!

Because of my poor mobility I was held in high dependency area longer than normal.

Once back in my room several days later, the ward was obviously run with KGB like efficiency by a delightful and thorough nurse of Russian descent who could have been Rosa Klebb in a former life. However, I certainly felt the love from Russia. Thank you.

Before being discharged, I was put through physiotherapy every day, including a terrifying stairs climbing and descent session with a beautiful 6’ 3” blonde South African lady. We looked like Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in the movie “10”.

Back I’m at home now, my recovery continues. My dreams are vivid, including one last night where I was in a war zone and had to throw a grenade at attackers. Suddenly I realised I had thrown a Satsuma, which of course just bounced off the head of the enemy! I have been eating a lot of satsumas recently to help my digestion!

Finally before I leave you, there was the main event (aided by the satsumas!) which has all now happened very much to my relief! It was available on pay per view on Bragg TV! If you missed it, it was a titanic struggle, but all is good now.

I should be back before Christmas. What has happened out there in the real world? I can now see out of windows, and fresh air is amazing!