The thought of a lengthy separation from Ann, his wife of more than half-a-century, has Harry Smith close to tears.
“I can’t imagine life without her,” the New Plymouth man said.
“We pretty much do everything together.”
However, a shared hospital stay was not entirely what Harry meant.
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“We were at the conservatory having a drink and I started getting these split-second warning signs,” he said of the blackouts he’s experienced over the last five years.
The ringing in his ears grew to a deafening screech as Harry put his drink on a table.
“Then I blacked out for a few seconds, I was told.”
When Harry awoke, Ann had rung the ambulance.
“And while they were seeing me, Ann got an angina attack.”
Angina is caused by a reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle and symptoms can mock that of a heart attack.
“She was in shock, so to speak,” Harry said.
The ambulance crew then turned their attention to Ann and said, “‘We better get you both to the hospital’,” Harry continued.
“It was two for the price of one.”
The couple, who have been married about 55 years, were taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and managed to remain upbeat, laughing at the unlikely event.
“The doctors and nurses were all saying it was rather unusual to have a man and a wife come in together,” Harry said with a smile.
“I said, ‘well get a picture of us’.”
Together they laid in hospital gowns, bed by bed, and grinned at the camera.
Their smiles echoed the love they’ve shared throughout the years.
They met in London in 1958 while at a dance school.
“They had us lined along a long wall and told us to pick a partner,” Harry recalled.
“I went straight to her because I was attracted to her more than anyone else.”
And throughout the years since he’s thought: “Lucky me.”
But during Tuesday’s drama the pair were separated at night. Harry was placed in a medical ward while Ann was taken to the intensive care unit (ICU).
“We were texting each other all day (Wednesday) long,” Harry said.
“It’s a wonder my phone hasn’t broken it’s been so alive.”
But texting was not sufficient.
With a tracking device strapped to his hip and permission for a quick visit, Harry hauled himself to see his beloved wife and best friend “a few times”.
But he said doctors had decided Ann needed to be taken to Waikato Hospital for an angiogram, which would X-ray photograph her blood vessels and determine whether or not she needed a stent – a small mesh tube used to treat narrow or weak arteries.
“There was talk about getting me to the Waikato for a pacemaker,” Harry continued.
“They wanted to get us flown up together, but it never worked out. So I’m here and she’s there.”
As his wife was transported to Waikato on Thursday, Harry began texting his granddaughter, who happened to be a registered nurse at the hospital awaiting Ann’s arrival.
Harry expects his wife to return no later than Saturday and said he would not be discharged without her.
“I told the doctor, ‘we’re not joined at the hip, you know. We do separate’,” he joked.
And as he thinks about the future, Harry knows he and Ann still have the chance to make many more memories together, including their July wedding anniversary.
“We’ll be around a few years yet.”