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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 52 - A Closed In World

…In the supermarket she had quickly shot out an arm as they passed a display of saucepans, causing the whole pile to tumble noisily to the floor…

Gayle Woodward hears news of her lively 15-months-old daughter Karyn while lying in a hospital bed.

Gayle has just had a cancerous mole removed from her leg. “My world had closed in to the ward I was living in and the three other women I shared it with.’’


I duly presented myself at the hospital the next morning, feeling numb and resigned. I did not think at all that this surgery would save my life, I only thought about the horrible scar which would be so obvious on my leg.

I had eaten nothing since dinner the night before and as I waited to be prepped for theatre, a migraine headache took hold. I felt so nauseous and pleaded for pain relief but none could be given. It was almost a relief when I was given a sedative before going into theatre as it deadened the migraine and I could sleep.

I awoke a couple of hours later in recovery and felt really sick. The headache had returned and I was vomiting. I had to stay in the recovery area until the nausea vanished which meant another hour before Woody could see me and I could get some sandwiches to eat.

I was taken to a ward with two beds on each side, in the plastic surgery suite of Hutt Hospital. I was able to see, strapped onto my lower leg, an upturned aluminium punnet, rather like the ones I had seen strawberries presented in for sale, covering the wound. This looked strange and I could not see my scar at all. However, the skin of my inner thigh had been shaved off in an area nine inches square. It was extremely painful, looking like a deep graze. I did not know this was going to happen to me and it was violently sore.

The next morning I determined to use the public wall phone down the hall to call Mum to ask about Karyn. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand. My legs buckled beneath me and I fell back, luckily onto the bed. A nurse came running. She told me that I would have to return to standing and walking gradually as one of my legs was, in effect, out of action.

I was shown a wheelchair and helped into it. I had to learn to wield this chair out of this room very inexpertly and roll down the corridor. I found the phone but was upset to find it high on a wall. How could I reach it if I could not stand up without falling?

I had to ask a passing ambulatory patient to dial the number for me and then pass me the phone. It was sobering being in a wheelchair and helpless. I was not sick and hated so much to be dependant on others. I gained feelings of empathy for disabled people and immense respect.

The children visited, as did my parents. Weeks went by. I had begun to feel detached from the world of family and in fact everything outside of this hospital with its strange routines and dependence on the care of the nursing staff for my needs.

Mum and Dad told me of the troubles they were having with the very fast 15 months old Karyn. One day she had climbed over the railing of our front deck and onto grass at the side, with the road right in front of her. While they were looking for her in the house, she was gone.

In the supermarket she had quickly shot out an arm as they passed a display of saucepans, causing the whole pile to tumble noisily to the floor. All these stories at one time would have sent me into paroxysms of guilt and embarrassment; now they seemed to be about another time and another place. My world had closed in to the ward I was living in and the three other women I shared it with.

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