River Rat Diary - London

Date September 12, 2017 15:07

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Coming up for air 

Well, greetings from the other side - of the operation, i hasten to add (no, that's not me in the picture - there have been concerned enquiries) . Those of you who got my email after i was discharged will know that as an ordeal the procedure didn't disappoint, but that the most important thing - the installation of a working kidney - has, so far, mostly gone extremely well. (The only hiccup came on Day 4, when the aforementioned organ toyed with not doing so brilliantly. That day of hilarity passed - let's hope it continues to behave itself).

And one is tempted to say 'for the rest of my days'. In this game though, it's one day at a time - there are too many hair-raising stories out there to be blasé. So the best move seems to be to keep my head down, and just get on with it. And be happy! I have a kidney that works today! And in all likelihood, it will tomorrow! (I foresee a lot of exclaimattion marks in this update - and a few question marks no doubt).

So, what's it like having your sibling's right kidney tucked in above your waistband? Is it always on my mind? Am i aware of another's physical presence? Do i feel - different? Well, actually ...not really. It's strange, but I think I've been so preoccupied with survival and the basic functioning of my battered body that I've never made a distinction between my new bump and the rest of me. All I can say is that I have felt entirely ready to absorb him. This can only augur well for our future together.

My brother Paul is currently enduring his own hardships. A formerly healthy, capeable, problem-free man has been reduced to shuffling around in tracky bottoms, fighting to regain appetite, a servicable night's sleep and some sensation in his nether regions. (I empathise to a point). His trials are almost enough to keep me awake too. Poor paul. Saving my bacon has come at a price. We saw each other a couple of times on the hospital ward. Ghostly shades of our former selves, we managed a smile and a laugh of sorts, not so easy when you're carrying a big bag of bloody urine. At that point i felt amost as bad for him as i did for myself.

There were times in the immediate aftermath of the operation when i wished, frankly, I was anyone else, anywhere else. And permanently if need be. The grim cocktail of pain, insomnia, incessant ward-clamour and anxiety about how this was going to pan out (and worry for my brother too) for a time became almost too much to bear. The new medication alone was playing havoc - try 10 days on the trot with a couple of hours doze-sleep, and road test the experience - but first, stick a tube up your Johnson! Bed 22, Ward 10 South, Royal Free, was something of a necessary hell.

But somehow, it passed, and i did not crack up, and they let me go one day. Discharged to my mum's (in Crouch End), I practically flew out of there on wings of light.

My only enduring complaint is that i had to leave my belly button in the operating theatre.  No really. They bisected it, with the help of their headlining robot, when they told me they wouldn't. I will never see its inny-yet-outy loveliness again. It seems churlish to mention at my twice-weekly clinic . Maybe they've kept it for me.



Tonight, the boat sits heavy in the harbour, under a sliver of moon, a westerly at her flank - mooring lines will strain, creak and crack. The rigging in the boatyard will play in the wind, clickety clickety click, and the tide will slip silently over the shining mud.

And i will not be there.

Posted September 12, 2017 15:07


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 In the summer of 2016, Mark Tunnicliffe threw his life to the wind and moved 100 miles to a boat on the Deben estuary in Suffolk. He now collects buckets, and shouts at birds. Can his dreams stay afloat?  

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