Surgeons take charge of The Boss

When The Boss ran out of puff, The Chief Inspector booked him into hospital. Charlotte Rietveld plays nursemaid.

In Home Block5 Minutes
Grandchildren pay their respects to The Boss, in convalescence.

When The Boss ran out of puff, The Chief Inspector booked him into hospital. Charlotte Rietveld plays nursemaid.

SPRING HAS ARRIVED AND WITH IT, considerable change. It started as a minor, albeit uncharacteristic, complaint from The Boss about being puffed when walking up hills.

As a greyhound-limbed six-foot bloke, he strides with ease. At least he does when compared to my rather more dachshund-esque 5’3” maternally inherited physique. And so, when the puffed complaint arose, I realised my opportunity to seize some ground – in this case, hectares of it.

“You’re just getting old,” I generously advised him in my kindest condescension. At 71, he’s fit, lithe and hardly what we’d call old, but we shorties gleefully compensate height with bite. Unlike myself, The Chief Inspector refrained from the pack and promptly called the medical centre to book him in.

What followed was a gradual escalation through the medical hierarchy. Angina morphed into angiogram as a second appointment became a third, then just like that, he was frog-marched to hospital.

With main arterial blockages, my father was apparently one lamb-break away from disaster. Doctor’s orders were to remain within the single hospital ward on strict observation until surgery could be scheduled. This was all a far cry from his usual 10-hour hill country days, though after 50 years married to The Chief Inspector, strict observation was rather more familiar.

Like so many blokes of the back blocks, The Boss does not often come to town. Thus, the great cross-section of city life that is hospital was rather an eye-opener. Croc Dundee meets Christchurch.

Not that he was complaining – he’d long ago done the family tree calculations, concluding that the average age of his male predecessors was 72. Six months off the magic number for the family’s dominant genetic heart condition, he was practically delighted to be under hospital house-arrest.

With the novelty of three meals a day delivered with a smile and the daily code cracker aced at pace, The Boss had little excuse not to master the final frontier – operating a smartphone. He’d slipped the collar on many an occasion, falsely protesting that his dumbphone was more than adequate. But his day of reckoning had arrived.

Apps were downloaded, socials installed and swiping tutorials supplied. Years of family group Whatsapp messages were surveyed, emails sent and the watchlist scrolled. After seven days, just as he’d discovered the dubious world of emojis, he was released from the hospital holding pen.

Despite open-heart bypass surgery considered little more than a stroll in Hagley, The Chief Inspector and I knew how to ensure the five-hour surgical wait was as distracting as possible. Having waved him off on a hospital gurney, the last words I heard were my heavily sedated father informing the surgical nurse “Sssshhhe shhhould be out ffffffarming”. But after a week of stepping up in my big-girl pants and the threat of an anxious afternoon, we decided some leisure was permitted.

Having quaffed the lattes and lamingtons, the mop-chops had barely been blow-dried before the phone rang advising surgery was successfully completed. Cheated of half our supposedly anxious actually glorious afternoon, we reluctantly left the shops untouched and credit cards complete to dutifully return to the patient.

Sporting some impressive wounds, all had gone to plan and I am pleased to report The Boss is now home and recovering well. Perhaps a little too well. Despite a sawn sternum and a lengthy vein-donor leg scar, walking is his current occupation. While initially outpaced by the toe-dragging geriatric heading dog, my father’s daily walks now appear to be markedly increasing in both pace and length.

Having thought I might be footloose to make all manner of farming errors for another month or so, it seems I’ll have to up my game smartly. New tricks might be limited to smartphone clicks but there’s life in the old dog yet.