I’m back home. Well and truly. And what a wonderful trip it was. We spent nine days in Portugal (Lisbon and Cascais), two in Madrid and four in London, a total of 15 days.
My original plan for this post was to write a little about the trip and a lot about the dialysis experience: how it went, how I managed, what I liked, what I didn’t, what I would do differently, what may be useful when you plan your trip. But life, in the form of a call from home, interrupted this plan. It’s my internal top story, and it’s pushed dialysis aside.
A little about the trip
As planned, we arrived in Lisbon five days before my speech to the Diaverum Annual Conference so I would be well over any jetlag on the day. This turned out to be a good move, because I was pretty dopey on the first day or two.
Those were the days of our first adventure, sightseeing in Lisbon and taking a course in wallet management. Aside from that small diversion, Lisbon was exciting and delightful and I absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking of a European holiday by the sea.
One of the things we noticed in both Lisbon and Madrid was the importance shops, cafes and entertainment spots place on customer ratings, especially from TripAdvisor. Most print out and display their current rating on the door or in the window.
In Madrid, at a Flamenco café, after the show, the MC urged everyone who liked it to rate the show on TripAdvisor (we did).
Then, on April 20, I was thrilled to make my speech, titled “The view from the chair”. It went well and was recorded on video; hopefully, I will be able to provide a link to it soon. In the interim, here’s my Twitter summary:
We left Lisbon on 25 April (Anzac day in Australia and NZ, and Freedom Day in Portugal) for London. Our original plan was to stay 10 days in the UK: seven in London and three in Cambridge, but that was not to be.
A call from home
About 3am on the third London day we had a phone call from one of my four sisters to say that another sister had collapsed in the street and was now in ICU at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The collapse, we later found out was a cardiac arrest, cause unknown. Two very wonderful passers-by had carried out CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance paramedics used heart resuscitation paddles to restart her heart and drove her to hospital. After assessment, doctors placed her in an induced coma to limit brain damage. They were concerned: if the CPR was not done well, it was likely that insufficient Oxygen had reached her brain and that it may have been damaged. How much damage was unknown: she may wake with no more than a small memory loss, or with massive brain damage.
Julie and I looked at each other and agreed it was time to go home. We changed our return flights to the following day, then spent a couple of hours cancelling accommodation, plans, etc. The most difficult cancellations for me were the dialysis appointments, which had taken such an effort to set up. Also, I was looking forward to meeting up with Suzi, a BigD reader and commenter from Cambridge. There were plans to take a punt on the Cam… Next time.
We arrived home, slept and went to the hospital. In the interim, the doctors had decided to gradually wake my sister and as time went by, the news was good: no more damage than a small memory loss. She was weak but OK. The cardiac arrest seems to have been caused by an arrhythmia and they have diagnosed Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), which was a surprise to all.
Two days later a surgeon implanted a defibrillator, so if her heart goes into any kind of arrhythmic disturbance, it will shock it back into rhythm. She left hospital three days ago and is staying with family. She is weak and it will take months to recuperate, but she is alive and bright and chirpy, thanks to the fantastic work of two heroic strangers trained in CPR and our wonderful medical system.
And coming home six days early means we’ve got six days already in the bag for our next holiday. Winners all around.
Next post: Managing travel dialysis, lessons to keep in mind when planning your next trip, rating the units.