AIDA AUSTIN: ‘I will be very proud if I achieve inner turmoil and outer calm’

Monday, 11 am, and I am in hospital, about to undergo a “routine” procedure which requires “conscious sedation”, a tiny camera on a long black cable for bodily insertion, and for me to “just relax”.

11.10am. I’m put into a side room. And left alone with my thoughts.

11.12. I am wondering about the applicability of the words “routine” and “relax” to a medical practice that requires a long black cable for bodily insertion.

11.13. My centre of calm is in there somewhere.

11.14. I mean, “routine” for whom?

11.15. Perhaps, I consider, as a child enters the room and tap-tap-taps my inner elbow in an attempt to find a “decent vein” – I might discover my centre of calm by chatting, for it is not proving all that easy to unearth in silence. I start chatting.

11.16. It’s odd but a huge bird seems to have flown into my heart and and got stuck in there, flapping.

11.17. It’s a pterodactyl. I wonder how it got in there. I think I might discuss this with the child.

11.18. I have made several discoveries: the child is a fully-qualified doctor, there was no Transition Year in his secondary school, nightlife in Cork is pretty dismal and he is 23.

11.19. I think it’s important at this point to raise the issue of the pterodactyl that won’t stop flapping.

11. 20. I am smiling but inside my mind is a disaster area, an inner landscape of blood.

11.18. Perhaps, on reflection, (tap-tap-tap) in reality, this is what finding your centre of calm is: smiling while your mind is a disaster area. I think I might move the goalposts a bit.

11.19. Yes, I am moving the goalposts: never mind the centre of calm, I will be proud of myself if, after this morning’s events, I have achieved and maintained a state of inner turmoil and outer calm.

11.18. My mind is a disaster area of death and tears.

11.19. Of paralysis, from the neck down.

11.20. My work is not done with my children yet, is all I’m saying.

11.20. The child has left. The needle is in. And I only mentioned the pterodactyl once, just in passing.

12.00. I have been taken to another room where the consultant is about to administer “conscious sedation”.

12.01. Oh thank god he is not a child.

12.01. Just because he is not a child doesn’t mean he isn’t the Lord of Death.

12.02. I think the Lord of Death is about my age.

12.03. The Lord of Death explains that I will remain awake throughout the procedure. I am going to be given a combination of medicines to help me relax, he says, and to block pain.

12.04. I think it might help if I don’t look at the Lord of Death and look around the room instead.

12.05. I locate two smiley nurses.

12.06. “You will probably remain conscious,” the Lord of Death says, “but you may not be able to speak.”

12 07. I am holding the nurse’s hand: I have located the long, black camera cable for bodily insertion.

12.10. I can’t think of anything to say to the Lord of Death that doesn’t contravene my “inner turmoil outer calm” rule.

12.11. While I can still speak, I might just say, “not today,” to the Lord of Death.

4pm. My husband is standing by my bed. He is smiling. “I remained outwardly calm throughout,” I say. “Great stuff,” he says, and I feel proud of myself.

4 01. A nurse arrives with a cup of tea and toast. I have not eaten for 24 hours, so busy myself with toast while the nurse talks to my husband.

4.05. “Well, what did she say?” I say.

“You became very distressed under sedation,” he says, “which made the procedure very difficult to perform but everything is fine. Perfect in fact.” “What I do under sedation doesn’t f****** count,” I say.


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