Surprise! Surprise!

These last few months have been a roller-coaster, which surprise! surprise! is a fairly recent phrase having only been coined in the 1960s.

The reason for the upheaval in my life started when surprise! surprise! our daughter divorced her husband. They had rented a very spacious apartment shortly before the divorce but surprise! surprise! living on one salary she could not afford the upkeep of this very comfortable apartment. The options were for her and her then 2 year-old daughter to live in a smaller apartment. The difference in rent would not have been much less, leaving them to live in the basement of someone else’s home. There are many of these ‘residential units’ in our town, but none are really suitable for human habitation, although most are occupied, mainly by those who have no choice.

As a concerned parent and more concerned grandparent, my wife suggested that we renovate our house and construct it in such a manner that we would have two units to ensure privacy, while having a shared kitchen and dining area.

The municipality has given a general permission to add another storey onto our two-storey home. This would ensure the privacy we needed. The engineer we tried to contact was on holiday, so a work colleague of our daughter recommended an architect who promptly came to consult with us bringing an assistant who surprise! surprise! also worked for the vacationing engineer. More about the assistant later. The engineer eventually returned and we took him on to draw up the plans. Surprise! surprise! our initial plan was denied, as it did not meet the criterion and had to be revised. When the revised plans for a third storey had been approved, some six months after our original submission, surprise! surprise! the architect advised us not to build the proposed plan as there would not be enough room to ‘swing the proverbial cat.’ The engineer, when I had asked him, had told me that the space would be ‘almost as big’ as our original plan and not to worry as ‘I was in good hands’ — his. That was really a surprise — being told by an Israeli that ‘everything will be OK.’ This obviously was not true, so it was fortunate that we had a second opinion from the architect. It also became clear that the engineer, besides not being a man of his word, was the rudest person I have worked with in my 37 years in Israel, and that is saying something. His assistant had learned well from his employer and he was not only rude and lazy, and never listened to my concerns.

Surprise! surprise! It was literally back to the drawing board adding two rooms, one above the other, laterally onto our house, enlarging the existing space. Our lounge was to become our bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. This was providential, as my wife and I would be on one floor, with no steps to climb, while my daughter and granddaughter would be upstairs. We are not yet that old, but surprise! surprise! we are not likely to get any younger and not having to climb stairs will be helpful.

In August, we finally were able to tell the builder to start the work.

This renovation had been our main focus for about 18 months, but other problems big and small continued to be ubiquitous. One of my main problems for a while had been an enlarged prostate gland, surprise! surprise! While I knew from blood tests that it was unlikely to be cancerous, it caused me to wake me at regular intervals throughout the night to pee — a real nuisance.

I consulted a urologist, who prescribed me a variety of drugs. Surprise! surprise! there were side-effects. One drug made my eyes red and itchy, another caused me to have rhinitis, a runny nose, while a third caused me to nearly faint after just one dose. Finally I was put on Cialis, a drug also used for erectile dysfunction, useful for a man of my age, but which has also been found to be helpful for BPH — benign prostate hyperplasia — or an enlarged prostate. After about two weeks, I began to feel the beneficial effects, but surprise! surprise! I had terrible dyspepsia — heartburn to the layman. Heartburn in a man of my age is accompanied by the fear of heart problems, so my dear wife, whose father had died of heart failure, as had my own father, persuaded me to consult a cardiologist. To keep the peace at home I did as ordered, surprise! surprise!

At my first consultation the cardiologist took some notes and told me to come back in six months. On the revisit just a few weeks ago, he referred me to the cardiac institute of my medical aid society to do a stress test and an echocardiogram, which is a type of ultrasound.

The stress test showed no signs of any problems but surprise! surprise! the echocardiogram showed a problem with the left ventricle of my heart. I consulted with the cardiologist once again and surprise! surprise! he referred me for a SPECT or imaging-scan — the last word in medical technology. One institute was unable to do the test for at least three months. To say I was a bit worried was an understatement, as the cardiologist had surprise! surprise! already mentioned that I might need cardiac catheterization — scraping the plaque off the walls of my coronary arteries. I was able to arrange to do the scan at one of the local hospitals only two weeks later, but I was preparing for the worst. Although my late mother died before her eightieth birthday, she has two sisters, one who is 102-years-old and the other 92. We always joke that if I inherited my mother’s genes, I’m going to live forever, but now this didn’t seem likely. I was racked with fear and disappointment that I wouldn’t live to see my 5-year-old granddaughter reach her teen years. As she is surprise! surprise! the apple of my eye, I found this very depressing.

Having moved back into our renovated home just a few weeks ago, I could not help with the mass of reorganising which surprise! surprise! is necessary, putting the onus on my wife. I was really worried that I may strain my already diseased heart and took extended rests.

The day came for the imaging scan, a two-stage procedure starting on the afternoon of the first day and returning the next morning for a comparison scan. Both stages involve the injection of radioactive material. Fortunately I was not turned into Spiderman or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I would have settled for the ‘teenage’ and perhaps the ‘ninja’ but not the ‘mutant turtle’ transformation. The first scan is done after a stress test to see the working of the heart after exercise and the comparison is done after a normal night’s rest. The imager used is called Hawkeye, which those of you who follow sports like tennis will know is used to see if the ball was ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the lines.

When the results came back two days later surprise! surprise! it showed that there seems to be nothing wrong with my 70-year-old heart. As the cardiologist is not available for consultation for another three weeks, I am going to ask my family doctor to confirm that I have not misread the results. Surprise! surprise! I am now feeling better, although I do get tired and short of breath at times, but perhaps that is due to my age, a lack of exercise and a smidgen of self-pampering, not to mention a penchant for avoiding the hard labour necessary for reorganizing our renewed home and keeping it tidy.

Update: I returned a while ago from consulting my family doctor. Surprise! surprise! he confirmed that there is nothing wrong with my heart, but he advised me to keep my appointment with the cardiologist. His explanation that the echo cardiogram works in a different manner to the SPECT scan and is much less reliable was clear.

Being taken off the critical list has cheered me up no end, but now I can’t plead ill-health when my wife ropes me in for housework. Everything, even good health has a downside. Surprise! surprise, I’m just kidding. It’s good to have my health officially restored.

THE END (of the story, not of me).

About the Author
The author is a husband, father and grandfather, writer and editor. He trained as a pharmacist. He has just published his first eclectic anthology of short stories, 'Just for Fun' available on Smashwords, B&N and Amazon and other e-book retailers. Soon in print at CreateSpace. His next book, an historical novel of the Holocaust will be published in 2016. Born in London, raised in South Africa, he has lived in Israel since 1979.