Apr 3, 2013

The Greatest Challenge? Let me go.

This month's question for the group of international bloggers who like to chat on a given topic,
is somewhat of a challenge in itself.
The gem was to discuss a challenge which has changed you, from which you have grown.
I can think of a thousand challenges we face every day,
as modern women trying to balance great expectations in work and relationships 
and motherhood and sanity.
Balancing our insane expectations of perfection in everything we touch...
...wanting to fit so much in to every day... and keeping it all together for those who depend on us.

But when I read Marsha's words, talking of something personal which has been the greatest challenge,
for me there was only one memory, one thought, which shined so clearly through the mire of ideas.
It was the challenge of holding onto life, when it would be easier to let it go.

But first, I need to take you back....14 years ago... to explain...

When my third child was born, there were complications.
Not for him. But for me. His body was full of life. Mine had other ideas.

First, there was a fever which wouldn't respond to antibiotics. 11 of them.
There is a new one, they said, only in the US... if we can keep you alive, we can fly it in.
So they put me in an ice bath, with a huge industrial fan blowing over the shards of coldness,
to bring my temperature down until the plane could land with the promise of a miracle medicine.
My husband, bewildered, held my iced hand, his own so very warm and full of love.

It worked. The fever broke. We thought it was over. We could now focus on our week old baby son.
So the doctors performed a D & C just to be sure.
And then I contracted Septicaemia. 

In and out of consciousness, the world floated around me.
My mother, who was a midwife before becoming a farmer, recognised the signs.
I heard her voice echoing around the room, talking with the doctors, but I was strangely detached...
this was not me.. this was out of control...the body which shook uncontrollably in the bed was not me...

More antibiotics, more drips, more machines, more wires, more rushing through hospital corridors
to better care, to better machines, to better medicines.
Hushed voices...in and out of reality...we are going to lose her...we can't...

It worked. The fever broke.
But still I wasn't well. My body did not want to want to get on with life. I was growing weaker.
Our son was now 4 weeks old, and he was still in hospital, 
getting to know the wonderful nursing staff better 
than his own mother, who was deteriorating rapidly, too weak to move by herself, 
too frail to even sit up in the hospital bed.

Another operation, just to be sure. And then a third, just to be sure. Just in case things would work out.
Then more complications. Deep Vein Thrombosis - you know, something you may get when flying?
Or when you spend 5 weeks in hospital.

So now the doctors were caught....too risky to operate with the chance of a DVT causing a stroke or heart attack.
Too risky not to operate, with the patient slowly haemorrhaging to death.
Held in suspension...another week passed...the vital blood transfusions dripping life into me...
drop by drop I watched it flow into my arms...never had I realised how generous a gift blood donation is...
how one person's kind gesture is another person's chance at life...

But mathematics was against me. My veins, now so weak, collapsed. 
A simple equation: I was haemorrhaging faster than the gift of blood could be pumped back in.

"Let me go..." I whispered to the doctor...."please just let me go..."
I could fight for life no longer...too much pain...too much exhaustion...as if my body had turned to immovable stone...
...there was simply nothing left to give...

"Just wait, promise me you will wait till I come back?" she said.
The look in her eyes, filled with tears, held me to the promise. I fixated on the promise...thinking only a few more minutes... then I can let go...close my eyes forever...no more fighting for life...

She returned with a quickly snapped photograph of my baby son 
(obliviously happy in the nursery upstairs),
 a walking frame, a texta and a roll of surgical tape.

She scribbled something on the photo, taped it to the frame,
and placed the arrangement over my wasted body, centimetres from my face,
so that I could just read the words she had written...

"You are a Mother. You must not let go."

And as I took in the words, the doctor, a young anaesthetist, spoke...
"You are a designer, a professional, a wife, a friend....these things are all your choice and you 
have chosen them to be who you are. But first, and forever, you are now a mother, and that is not a choice.
You must fight for life, you must not let go, you are a mother."

Were there ever greater words of encouragement or wisdom spoken by a doctor to her patient?

I needed them, because in the next moment the room was filled with medical staff.
What's happening....who are all these people...
My surgeon leant over and whispered..."I have just done the maths...we have to move fast...
you have 3 hours left to live if we do nothing...and a 50% percent chance of surviving this operation...
so say goodbye to your husband and your parents, they are here...and remember the anaesthetist's words..."

The challenge of holding onto life,
when sometimes it is easier to let go. 
I had read of it in books, before I understood it, before I realised just how almost impossibly difficult it can be...
to hold on mentally when the body has given up...

For me, the doctor's words were the key to winning the challenge.
After the final surgery, a hysterectomy, my surgeon told me they didn't think I could survive it, 
....couldn't understand how,
with all the odds against me, I was still alive. 

But the answer, ever so simple, was in those words...
"you are a mother, you must not let go"...

To read their interpretation of their greatest challenge,
do be sure to visit Marsha here, to see how everybody else in the group reflected on this task.

If you would like to comment, you can do so on the 
new glamour drops site here.


  1. What a story! I am completely gob-smacked by what you have just written. So profound. Wow. The doctor deserves a medal! So do you, Virginia! Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Certainly puts things into perspective doesn't it?? Rxo

    1. Indeed it sure does put things in perspective...my gratitude for life sprang from the experience...and I hope I have a greater understanding now of the difficulties which other's have to bear. x

  2. I am staggered by your story. Staggered.

    Those were the words you needed, the purpose you needed. Our children needing us can be the backbone to keep going. You've proved that, against the odds.

    1. Backbone, yes, a marvelous word to describe it. To give strength where otherwise there would be none. Delighted to "meet" you via the beautiful Marsha's work.

  3. Beautiful Virginia, I am overtaken completely with your wonderful story. A story of our ultimate challenge, to stay alive against all odds. This is so well-written and conveys the sense of being totally out of control for a time, only to have our minds give us the power to take control right back. Congratulations! And, thank you for sharing this.

    1. Mind over matter - I hadn't realised just how powerful the mind can be until I experienced it myself - so I hope I now have a greater understanding of the way other people can do the same. x

  4. Oh Virginia.. how wonderful to read your very challenging 'easier to let go, than hold on' story, and I know you made it! So well done, on holding on! Your beautiful writing should be published into a book. What a blessing to made contact with you. Thank you for visiting my blog as well. Much appreciated.. we're connected now! And once again, well written piece of heartfelt mumhood! Congrats.

    1. So it has been a delightful "meeting" for both of us then - isn't Marsha a clever gal?

  5. I'm crying, something so beautiful, came out of something so terrifying. What very special doctors you were blessed with, to think that a 100 years ago, you wouldn't have survived is chilling.

    1. Yes, my children often remind me of that, whenever we watch old movies or documentaries or even the Downtown Abbey episode which was so sad - it's a stark reminder of how lucky we are to live in this age of medicine. x

  6. What an amazing story Virginia, and how wonderful that you are here today to tell your story to us and most importantly to be the mother to your child.
    I'm sure you would often wonder what would have happened if things were different. You obviously have a strong will power to survive such
    challenges. Amazing!! xxx Coty

    1. One of those "sliding door" moments which we all have and ponder about....! x

  7. Oh my goodness, what a challenge you had to face Virginia ...... and, what wonderful medical staff. It really does illustrate the strength of the human mind, to fight for ones child. It certainly put my BIO post in the shade !!!!!!!! haha.
    Beautifully written and very inspiring and, that doctor was your saviour. XXXX

    1. Nobody could put your BIO post in the shade Jacqueline, and certainly not I, because it was an amazing insight into what a strong person you are, and I loved every beautifully written sentence - especially the sense that I didn't know where the story would take me, and didn't see the outcome at all from the beginning. Love that! x

  8. What a story Virginia - what a story! Glad you held on xo

  9. And you call that "navel gazing"?!???
    I am crying hard my friend. Deeply moved and shocked by your story, especially in light of your husbands recent illness. But I know enough of your amazing family...whew. Hard to type. Just thank you.
    This is such a personal story but it is so exceptional too--would you consider trying to get it published?
    With much Love

    1. Oh my darling Heather, I can think of only one place this little story would be useful if it were published, and that would be in encouraging more people to donate blood to Red Cross all over the world. x

  10. A mother whose children are grown and out of the house, I should not have read this before going to work - I can't stop crying.....bless you for your strength!

    1. Oh dear - I hope that didn't cause you too much grief then? That was not my intention at all. But there is such a strong bond as a mother, isn't there, no matter how old one's children become, the "motherhood" is always there, and forms an unwritten connection amongst other mothers. It all sounds very clubby, which it sort of is, but isn't too, because women without children seem to feel the same way. Oh so complicated...

  11. Well that brought me to tears this morning, what a journey for you. So happy that you are here in this world! My heart swells with gratitude!

  12. Oh my god! I cannot believe you went through that. Gave me chills. The doctors knew what to tell you to bring you through. Your poor body. "You are a mother, you must not let go." It's the most amazing thing.

    Now I want to meet your kids.

    1. I guess it changed them - the eldest who was 6 at the time has blanked it out of his memory. But as soon as he turned 16, he started regularly donating blood to Red Cross, and when we asked him why, he replied "because Mum would have died without it". Apart from that, he has never, and will never, speak of it.

  13. Wow, wow, wow...what a fight and I am so moved by your struggle and the power of a mother's love...such a beautiful story...

  14. Oh Virginia - I have tears rolling down my cheeks. What an amazing story, and how tough are you for fighting through and winning this. And what a superb doctor - she knew what you needed most. I am almost speechless - thanks for sharing such a personal story. And glad you come through on the other side:)

    1. My surgeon said the anaesthetist deserved recognition for such an insightful thought - I hope she has gone on to have a very beautiful life herself, with such wisdom at an early age - she was quite young but obviously quite brilliant. x

  15. This story is as chilling as the first time I heard it! Thank goodness for some wise words and your mental strength xx

    1. Which reminds me Penny, we are more than overdue for our next catch up and chin wag! Sending you an email now to arrange it. x

  16. Cried from the beginning to the end. What an incredible life story Virginia! It resonated deeply. How much inner strength is hidden to pull us away from the edge of abyss.
    My future husband proposed to me in intensive care unit where I was after 8 hours surgery and several transfusions. When doctors struggled to bring me back. The first thing I asked if HE was waiting and slipped back into darkness. Nurses made unthinkable: allowed unauthorized person (changed in full gear of course) into the unit. I had no idea that it was already two days after surgery, but I've heard him whispering, he ...proposed, I opened eyes and smiled. That was it, 50/50 decisive moment, I started to want be back. I even remember the nurse's joke: ask her again when morphine wears out. Well, two sons later we're happily married for 23 years...

    1. Oh Natalie now I am the speechless one. What a story - what a proposal - what an experience!!! That is the most beautiful story, no wonder you are still happily married after 23 years after such a deep beginning. x

  17. Goodnes. What an incredible story, I had tears reading it. Surviving childbirth is something we just take for granted these days... and Motherhood with low infant mortality rates can be a little the same. What wonderful doctors you had, and how incredibly lucky you were. We have a family member that lost her first child in childbirth, then she hemmorraghed, nearly died, had to have a hysterectomy, nearly died again but survived to come out of a medically induced coma three days later to find that her baby had died, and she could not carry another. Soul destroying. She has been so brave, and through the miracle of modern technology has her very own biological child through a surrogate. Her little girl is now 2. Life is a precious thing. xx

  18. Virginia, your story is so bitter sweet...
    Like all your readers I am teary and emotional over your shattering ordeal but I am also filled with joy at the incredible strength of the human spirit. Women are gladiators when it comes to facing life but mothers... mothers are the greatest of all...
    Thank you... xv

  19. What a story! I am speechless...Health is the greatest gift, it's all the wealth in the world and motherhood a reminder of holding on to that gift and never letting go. It all ends up to LOVE. Love for another human beeing and love for life itself.
    I hope you are always well!


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