An Unexpected Absence: The Unforgettable 70th Birthday

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

Roger (my husband) turned 70 last Sunday 8th March. Not being a cook or a good housewife I baulked at the thought of organising a party but on the 27th March I thought I could not let this auspicious occasion pass without acknowledgement so I invited the first guest to a surprise birthday party. By the Monday I had 16 guests and planned on doing the last invites and preparation whilst Roger played golf on the Wednesday. This did not happen as on the Monday he chopped the top of his finger off.

We had eaten some superb onion pickle which he planned on reproducing. Our food processor did not allow the passage of an onion down its throat so he removed the lid, held the onion and held a knife into the mechanism, fooling it to spin the blade. The scream when it came was loud and the blood flowed freely. Why men will not elevate limbs in these circumstances is beyond me. Luckily only a small amount of finger was lost but enough that he could not play golf.  Nor could he go to his ukulele lesson. I decided not to worry with further invitations. I had some finger food and that would be enough.

Thursday 5th saw Roger depressed at his impending decade change and I arrived home to find him busily eating his way through the party food I thought I had hidden. Friday 6th we went to dinner with friends – they were all coming Sunday afternoon but acted surprised that he was turning 70. They  asked “What are you doing to celebrate?”

Roger’s answer “If I have my way I’ll put my head under the pillow and stay in bed all day.” In retrospect I told him in future  be careful about what he wished for.

Saturday night I decided to take him for a romantic dinner but as we were going to one of the premier restaurants for lunch on the Sunday with my mother we decided we would have a meal at the surf club where the restaurant has a great view over Noosa main Beach. We were lucky as we managed to get a table on the edge of the open balcony giving us a great view of the beach and the sand sculpture of a dragon below us.

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

Sometime during dinner I said “Somethings happened to my vision. I can’t see as well.” Roger was his usual unsympathetic self. After a delicious meal that happily came without chips we wandered downstairs to have a closer look at the dragon.

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

We then continued walking along the boardwalk and back down Hastings Street, the tourist strip of Noosa. We rarely go to Hastings Street but it certainly had a vibrant atmosphere and the trees made the strip twinkle with holiday happiness.

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

By the time we arrived home we were both complaining of painful gritty eyes. I assumed we had allergic eyes and used some old antihistamine drops but this did nothing to alleviate our pain. By the time we retired our eyes were swelling and the pain unbelievable. “I’m going to the hospital. I won’t be able to sleep.” I said at 11pm. Roger refused to accompany me as he has no patience for sitting in hospital casualty waiting rooms. When I was finally seen the diagnosis was severe burns to the cornea. There was nothing they could do apart from antibiotic eye ointment which would also help with the graininess.The doctor told  me to go home, take some panadol and come back the next day for an eye check.

I arrived home. Roger I think was worse than I as his entire face appeared swollen. It was next to impossible to get the ointment in his eyes and even harder to find panadol as by this stage I couldn’t see anything fine. I eventually located a box which said STRONG PAIN RELIEF in huge letters so I gave two to Roger and two to myself and settled down to sleep. A stupid thing for a nurse to do but with two of us unable to see you do the only thing you can.

Within an hour I was in agony. I lay on the floor in the shower running hot water over my stomach and side with some easing of the pain so I returned to bed. The pain returned and I called the ambulance. That was difficult in itself as I could barely move, I couldn’t see and Roger couldn’t see. There were tasks to be done. The lights had to be put on. We’ve never known how to do this so doing it without sight was difficult. I had no idea what time it was but I knew that Roger had to lock himself in the bedroom with the dogs otherwise the barking would wake all the neighbours when the ambulance arrived. Gates and doors opened I writhed in agony on the lounge. Time passed. I rang the ambulance again. By now I couldn’t see, had an acute abdomen and asthma as the pain changed my breathing pattern bringing on acute attack. This time the emergency centre stayed on line calming, encouraging, telling me every turn the ambulance was making. Her response from me varied between screams of pain and asthmatic wheezes.

Finally the paramedics arrived and instead of giving the whistle pain relief and taking me to hospital they decided a cannula had to be inserted. Due to my writhings this took a long time. Roger tells me that after listening to my screams for over twenty five minutes he couldn’t take it any longer and stormed out of the bedroom, eyes shut in obvious pain himself saying, “For F…s sake give her some pain relief and get her to hospital.”

“We don’t need any lip from you” said the ambulance woman. With that the dogs escaped the bedroom. Zac was in attack mode. Here I was a strange man holding me down, me screaming with pain, Zac saw his job was to protect me. The ambulance woman screamed. Roger grabbed the dogs and returned to the bedroom. Finally I eventually got to hospital where the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was given. The result of a sensitivity to the codeine phosphate that was in the pills I had taken. I was admitted.

Five thirty am the next morning, his 70th birthday, Roger arrived to the hospital with eyes that could barely open and certainly couldn’t see well, a face that looked as though he was trying to rival Norman Gunston for shaving cuts (he had a beard when I had last seen him) and still in agony. He told me the pain was so bad that if he’d had a gun he would have shot himself overnight but instead had to remove his beard from his pain ridden face. This he did in the dark as the light created more pain and he couldn’t see anyway. Finally he agreed to see the doctor and again received a diagnosis of burnt corneas. He agreed we’d have to cancel lunch and when I told him about it the surprise birthday party. Neither of us could see however to do the necessary calls so in desperation a friend came to the hospital and armed with a list of people drove Roger home to fulfil his wish of a day in bed.

To cap things off as he ate a solitary dinner on his birthday he bit down on a bit of overcooked calamari and broke his back tooth requiring a crown which was done on Wednesday.

We have both agreed that we will not even plan to celebrate his 80th birthday. I don’t know that either of us would survive that again. Luckily the damage doesn’t appear to be lasting as the cornea regenerates quickly and today for the first time I can look at a computer screen and see it, the headache has gone and generally I have lost the desire to sleep every minute of the day.

I was discharged from hospital on Tuesday following an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreaticography just to check that the pancreas was okay and there were no tubes kinked to the liver. The anaesthetist told me I was one of 6 people who had reported eye injury post dragon watching. Someone else in theatres told me the police and fire brigade had gone down en masse Sunday night and found he was using illegal firestarters. I don’t know this for sure but I will definitely not go near any dragons with fire coming from their nostrils in the future.

Wednesday I picked up Roger’s cake from Jaspers that should have been eaten on Sunday.

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

Still delicious I have already  put on 2 kgs as we are eating a melt in the mouth cream sponge cake for 24 by ourselves (we have given a few pieces away). This is a birthday we won’t forget.

My apologies for any tardiness with my replies to your comments but you now understand why.

 

 

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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53 Responses to An Unexpected Absence: The Unforgettable 70th Birthday

  1. Jeff Kimm says:

    Irene and Roger. What a rundown to an unfortunate chain of events surrounding Rogers 70th Birthday. I’m so glad you both have recovered and wish you the very best for your birthday today, the 12th of March. Hope it was as good as you deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Uncle Spike says:

    You couldn’t write a film script to top that!! So gşad you are both ok, but what a tale to tell. All the best guys (and thanks fore reaffirming why I do NOT celebrate my birthday ever).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my! I’m glad you and Roger are on the mend.
    Odd thing here, a friend told me recently about having “Welders Burn” from being near someone welding and he not wearing a mask. He described it just as you had (except without the pancreatic condition). In all my years I had never heard of that and now twice within a few weeks. I suppose this is why the tell you not to watch an eclipse with the naked eye as well.
    A cautionary tale indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sherri says:

    Oh Irene, I ‘liking’ this post only because of the way you have written about such a frightening experience with your usual wonderful humour and dry wit. And there I was imagining you and Roger having the time of your lives, celebrating with friend and family. Certainly the time of your lives, but not the one you intended 😦 So, so sorry for all you’ve both been through. And a broken tooth to top it off…you couldn’t make it up could you? But, and please forgive me my friend, I burst out laughing when I read the part when Roger burst out of the bedroom, swearing and your dogs about to attack the paramedic…seriously Irene, you should write a film script out of this. I was wondering all the way through what on earth caused the burning in your eyes that started it all, shocked to read the conclusion. And then the pancreatitis on top of all that? No wonder you were in agony. This is like one of your flash fiction nightmares turned into a real life BOTS.
    So relieved to see you back here knowing what you and Roger have been through, and that you are both recovered, if not more than a litle shaken. I’m so glad it ended on a sweet note, thanks to the delicious sounding sponge cake.. and to hell with the weight, if there is ever a time to enjoy cake, surely it is now, and the more the merrier 😀
    And definitely a very sobering morale to this story: Never go near a sand dragon with fire coming out of it’s head o_O Duly warned my friend, duly warned…and huge hugs coming your way… ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. colinmathers says:

    Glad you are recovering well. Must have been incredibly worrying. Perhaps the pancreatitis pain was a helpful distraction in disguise? You should have a birthday ditty on your voicemail, Love, Colin

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glenda says:

    Hi Irene, My goodness, the things you get up to! Glad you are both now recovered. Mike had a birthday on the 7th, much tamer affair though. Had my best laugh at Roger shaving off his beard, still not sure why, but it so reminded me of when Mike did the same thing just before we flew home to Australia from London after being os for a year. His face was so swollen and grazed from his tipsy midnight razoring with a pretty blunt razor that his own parents didn’t recognize him, even though I was holding his hand!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. TanGental says:

    Ah ha so Lemony Sicket lives in Noosa. Poor you, poor Roger, poor dogs. It does rather explain your unexpected absence from our screens over the last few days. It’s grand to know you are sufficiently back to normal to be blogging again. :-))

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Irene I cannot tell you how sorry I am to read about Roger’s 70th birthday and all the “Keystone Kot” events which celebrated it, but I also have to tell you I laughed at the way you told it. Very glad you are both back on track. Happy birthday Roger.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh dear, all the best for you both. That is scary about the fire starters. Look after yourselves and take care

    Liked by 1 person

  10. noelleg44 says:

    Dear heavens, Irene. What a horrific experience for a 70th birthday! I’m so sorry, but glad to hear you’re on the mend, both of you. It certainly will be a birthday you won’t forget.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. pixiejan says:

    Dear God, I thought I was a drama Queen but you two have taken the cake. You poor darlings what a horrific, frightening situation. Written in the most delightful way dear Irene…one shouldn’t laugh at others expense, but seriously this should be made into a comedy of errors…How about the Paramedic…Jeez if you had been well enough you would have said a thing or two…It just was one thing after another…YOU SURVIVED GUYS…JUST…welcome back and next time stay at home with the furballs and drink lashings of yummy wine…xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    The most memorable, horrible surprise birthday ever! Here I thought you were off on some fantastical birthday adventure. You remind me of my niece who is a paramedic. Even when the emergency is hers or one of her children’s, she describes in clear detail the medical procedures. You must share a passion for nursing the way she does for first-responding. Your poor dogs must have been so baffled! Heal up, Dear Friend and enjoy that cream sponge cake as if it were solace. Dragons, evidently, are still dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Certainly memorable but preferably a once only event. You are probably right about the passion for nursing or perhaps it is just so ingrained into my psyche when it comes to medical stuff. The dogs, particularly old Zac, don’t cope well with anything out of the ordinary. They are happy now I am home. I have no idea what pills Zac was given whilst I was gone but he is now quite perky. Tonight we finished the sponge just as the cream started to turn. It was delicious though to the last mouthful but I admit I don’t want to see cake again for a long, long time. Glad to be back, missed you and the other rough writers and furious I missed turquoise. We’ll just have to pull out the unicorns to fight off the dragons. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. bkpyett says:

    Irene what a traumatic birthday! I did laugh when you mentioned finger food, after Roger had lost the tip of his! My goodness, I’m glad you both didn’t lose your sight and the retinas are recovering. It makes me think, be careful what you wish for! Belated birthday wishes to Roger!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Barbara. That is funny – finger food was unintentional but an additional additive. I’m relieved also that we won’t have any lasting effects. I now know when asked the question whether I’d prefer to be deaf or blind that the answer is most definitely deaf. I’ll pass your wishes on.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. bkpyett says:

    Thank you!! I shall pass this on to my husband who has just lost the hearing completely in one ear! It will make him grateful! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always thought I would be so frustrated if I couldn’t hear (which no doubt your husband is feeling). I thought you would feel isolated and as I love observing life and am a listener rather than a speaker I believed I would prefer to keep my hearing as I already had beautiful pictures and images in my head. Not being able to see was far worse than I imagined it would be. Hope it helps your husband accept. I feel for him.

      Like

  15. sue marquis bishop says:

    Good heavens! That is a terrible series of events…. Unbelieveable! I’m so glad you both have improved and are climbing on the healthy track again… One of those events was enough… This is like the perils of Pauline! Sue
    womenlivinglifeafter50.com

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Tena Carr says:

    Quite an adventure. Glad you and Roger are ok.

    Liked by 1 person

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  18. Norah says:

    Oh, Irene. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to catch up on this story. How tragic for both of you. A disastrous birthday indeed. I hope the cake was good, but even more importantly, that you have both recovered and are now back to normal. The top cut from a finger was bad enough. The irony of planning on serving finger food did not go unnoticed. And such wonderful plans for a birthday surprise. What you both went through on that one night is more than enough for anyone at any time. I can understand your reluctance to celebrate the 80th birthday, but I think it will be worth celebrating after what you’ve been through – if you can wait that long.
    I had a dreadful 40th birthday. My hub planned a surprise get-together for me as well. With the events that occurred during the day I hadn’t even thought about it being my birthday and couldn’t understand why people started arriving in the evening. It didn’t make me decide to not celebrate future birthdays, just fearful when anyone’s 40th was approaching. I didn’t want a repeat. It has taken many years but I have finally realized that 40th birthdays are not jinxed and relaxed a bit.
    Take care of yourselves.
    PS I’ve come to this from your post on bullying. Thanks for linking. I’m pleased I got to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

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  20. OMG!!!! I’d love for you to tell me this is a fabrication, but I know it isn’t. My husband turned 70 in September. We had a boring dinner with friends and family at a restaurant. Next big birthday event I’ll have to ask you for some original ideas, though not for finger food recipes. Very glad to know you’ve both healed.
    I’m off now to blow out the candle on the mantle. Yeesh!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. angieoakley1 says:

    All’s well that ends well, thank goodness

    Liked by 1 person

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  23. Valda Narron says:

    Thank you for reposting Irene. I know I shouldn’t be laughing, and because you are both now okay, I myself permission to scream with laughter. Dear Zac, it’s a wonder the paramedic didn’t die of heart failure at the size of him.

    Liked by 1 person

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