As this entire series of blogs is my and my family’s experience through a difficult period in our life, I claim no scientific or well-researched study; I use my own interpretation of “Angels and Demons”. For me, a demon is basically a non-human-being that pursues your task as determined to ensure failure of outcome. Therefore I ask you to take this definition on face value.

So, here is my short list of demons that closely followed our entire experience, making it even more unbearable than it might have otherwise been:

  • Demon of Death: You may recall from the previous blog (ANGELS), I shared with you a very vivid encounter with my own ‘Guardian Angel’ who, for as long as I remember, kept a watchful eye over me and only intervened when I was in terrible plights. The experience I had was at 03:45 on Tuesday 4 September. She appeared in voice and almost a shadow form, touched my shoulder and assured me I was going to be alright.  What I omitted to mention was the frightening out-of-body I experienced 2 or 3 minutes before.

All of a sudden, I sat up in bed, something that at the time in ICU required two nurses to help me do, clutched my chest and screamed NOOO!  As I screamed I could just about make out the form of a tall person, at the bottom of my bed, making a horrible noise like a growl.  I could also discern that my chest was emitting a very bright sea-blue light.  Seconds later, the growling image disappeared from the room.

Almost immediately after my Guardian Angel left me re-assured, two nurses ran in and gently rested me back in bed and began a battery of tests as I drifted back to sleep.

What I was blissfully unaware of, because I was not sufficiently cognisant for the medical team to brief me on, was the fact that over the 48 hours of Monday and Tuesday, 3 and 4 September I was sailing close to the edge of life with liver failure. However, Claire was  fully informed and when I shared what had happened to me, Claire helped me connect the dots, so to speak.  A coincidence?  Yes, it is possible but, the encounter was vivid enough for me.

  • Needles, Cannulas & My Veins: My apologies for the terrible picture above.  The individual parts of this demon are known to almost all of us. If I was speaking of any of these three things individually, they would by no stretch of my imagination be referred to as demons. When, however, I combine them together, they are a truly dreadful amalgam of a demon.  Clearly, a simple needle jab is a tolerable one necessary to either withdraw blood, or administer medication.  Done expertly, the whole experience should last a few seconds, or minutes if you’re donating blood.

A medical cannula is essentially a needle housed in a miniature mechanism with two or three entry points controlled by a valve that allows doctors and nurses to perform multi- flow (in and out) procedure such as slow drips-in, withdrawals of blood, a flush through, and so on.  The whole implant of a cannula is unpleasant, to say the least, made much worse that it is left attached to the arm or back of the hand for as long as 4 or five days, only to be replaced by a fresh cannula!

My Veins, which I was more than delighted to have throughout my life, are apparently not so popular with the entire medical staff at the American Medical Center, This is because my veins are well hidden under my skin and a great deal of persuasion is required with tourniquets, gentle stroking or repeatedly smacking of my skin, inviting the affected vein to come out and play.  Sometimes, all these techniques had to be recruited to get the vein to make a rare appearance long enough for the nurse to jab the cannula needle as quickly as possible.  All of this process was repeated two, three, even four times before the needle / cannula was eventually inserted to the vein.

Given that, without exaggeration, I had more than 150 experiences and on a number of occasions 3 simultaneous cannulas, I came to hate this particular combi-demon with passion.  I hope the resultant picture featured above gives you an idea of the state of my arms over a sustained period of time.

  • William Rubin: This Demon is not a person but a bio-chemical compound produced by our bodies in controlled amounts. The proper medical term is “Bilirubin”.  The reference to it as a pseudo-person is for us, family and friends, is a coping mechanism of creating a hate figure to focus on, when we needed such an outlet. Bilirubin claimed the highest ranking demon in our collective experience and we hate him with such passion that he stuck with us on hourly and daily basis just to make sure we gave him the maximum perverse combined pleasure of dread and respect by us.

Rudolf Virchow was a 19thCentury German polymath who was renowned as a physician, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician.  This worthy gentleman is credited with discovering Bilirubin and for a while I wasn’t sure whether I should thank or curse him.  In the end, I feel he should be warmly thanked.

I am not nearly qualified enough to give you chapter and verse on what Bilirubin is, where and why it comes, what useful role it plays in our bodies and at what point  Bilirubin flips to become a nasty piece of work, causing so much damage.  I will however, piece together some general descriptions, in layman’s terms, to give you a rough idea of all of the above. So, here we are:

Bilirubin is a yellow chemical compound produced by the liver and gallbladder in very small amounts to help clear the waste caused by faulty or old red blood cells.  Excretes in the form of bile and urine, if the production of this compound is produced in elevated amounts, it indicates the presence of some diseases that will require immediate attention & intervention.  The external signs are either yellowing of the skin or the white of the eyes (jaundice) or browning of the faeces.  So far, so good.

The compound, released by the liver and gallbladder and passed by two bile ducts into the small intestine via a tube that connects the stomach via a tube. The production can be temporarily boosted if one consumes a heavy, fatty meal that needs to be dealt with.

You must admit, this is some clever process however, I suggest you don’t go in to the proper scientific explanation unless you have a brain the size of a small planet or, you fancy giving yourself a nasty migraine.

Back to our Bilirubin.  For anyone of malfunctions, Bilirubin gets out of hand and is over-produced.  The longer the malfunction is undetected and treated, Bilirubin is happy to multiply and cause increasing havoc inside the body.  To begin with jaundice and messed up faeces, to such ultimate dangerous levels that Bilirubin begins to attack and gradually damage vital organs such as kidneys, the liver itself, the pancreas and so on.  Gradually, Bilirubin flips from being a good guy helping cleanse the blood from dead haemoglobin red cells and turns into a psycho killer of vital organs. This metamorphosis reminds me of those cute innocent Gremlins in the film of the same title, until they come into contact with water, whereupon they turn into vile, destructive creatures that destroy and consume everything within their reach.

The normal range of Bilirubin in the body is between 0.2 to 1.0 of some complex count that we don’t really need to know.  Over a period of some 50 days, my Bilirubin demon showed a daily fluctuation between an alarmingly low 6.5 (way above the ceiling of 1.0), to 21.00 which is equivalent to a Gremlinite level whereby one must say his/her last goodbyes to family and friends!

You can imagine that this ridiculous name of Bilirubin had becomeeveryone’s focal point of interest, willing it to show a downwards trend.  Of course, it did that on a few occasions but, it suddenly reversed around the corner and moved rapidly upwards.  The “Bilirubin Ride” was unpleasant at best, and underwear-wetting feeling at worst.

By way of illustrating the destructive power of the Three Demons, on the morning of Monday 22 October, after exhaustive tests and intricate preparation for a very sophisticated procedure to locate a leak around the liver that allowed bile to seep into the abdominal cavity, instead of normal streaming through the intestine and the rest of the digestive system. Two specialist teams had to work in close coordination (one through the stomach, and the other through a small incision in my back), using specialist microscopic equipment to rendezvous at a precise location, already calibrated beforehand. So, technically, all was set; psychologically, I was more than ready for the procedure to go ahead; my angels were all on standby to protect me; all my family and friends were sending megawatts of positive energy.  We couldn’t possibly fail.


The procedure did not work, in spite of all the above; no one, especially the technical team, anticipated this set back. Demons are demons and they won that particular battle.  So, what do we do?  The answer is simple really:  We fight on.

In the forthcoming blog, I will relate to you my story of being stripped of my ‘Dignity’.  But, don’t worry, I have ordered a new one.

Thank you for continuing to read my blog.  If you have not subscribed to this particular series, you could do so by scrolling to the bottom of the page of any of the first three postings, enter your email address and click on ‘Subscribe’, which will send you an alert when the new blog is posted.  You can ‘Unsubscribe’ by clicking on the same button as ‘Subscribe’