I was reading one of my late wife’s posts on a blog she wrote, about how it hurt when she went to see the doctor to have some bandages removed. She wasn’t exaggerating either, as the side of her head, her scalp, was open, without hair or skin. The doctors had tried to transplant skin from her head onto her face to refashion a nose. The transplant had failed for the third time.
They never knew that she had a disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis (named after the German concentration camp doctor - of all people - who discovered it!). ‘Oh, said her brothers, ‘she lost her nose because she took coke’. Not so, even if you wanted an excuse to cut her out of your parents’ will.
We had run out of money by 2002, cheated in a furious swindle. The cheats even had me drive down to a lawyer’s office in Torremolinos (in a borrowed car) to pay me a portion of what they had agreed to a few years earlier, only to not be there at my destination (neither was the lawyer for that matter).
We were broke, selling off bits of this and that, and much of this went to pay for Barbara’s bills. The hospitals were free, but the hotels and meals of course were not. We had Sanitas health insurance until 2008, when I could no longer pay for it. This meant that subsequent hospital visits were to the public hospitals of the social security. We attended hospitals in Pamplona, Madrid, Almería, Huercal Overa, El Ejido, Murcia and Málaga. Barbara had thirty two major operations between 2002 and 2014, when she died. It was the first of these, in Madrid in 2002, where she had her jaw broken, her teeth removed and her nose excised. This novel treatment by the doctor (I had to slip him 1000 euros) failed completely.
A plastic surgeon built her a 'nose' (for 3000 euros). You could wear this life-like looking thing with glasses to hold it in place, like a cruel version of a child's mask. Walking through Madrid with her nose in a small box in her jacket as she came back from the clinic that day, she was pick-pocketed.
Barbara talks of ‘the Scary Room’, the place where you visit, fully conscious, for your appointment with the surgeon. I would wait outside: Spanish doctors are very good at what they do, but they sometimes forget to tell the ‘family member’ how the patient was doing. None of them knew why she was ill, until the local Mojácar Doctor Galindo recognised her condition, a form of auto-immune sickness. He put her on to prednisone, a nasty but lifesaving drug. Later, she would take ketamine (horse-tranquilizer!) for the pain and eventually, as her kidneys failed, she was on twice-a-week dialysis in Huercal Overa.
Finally the palliative doctors came to visit her bedside and left her a heavy dosage of morphine, to be administered (by me!) every six hours until the end.
Reading Barbara’s blog again today, I feel such tenderness towards her and hope that she is blissful in Heaven.