The ride to the the hospital the following morning was a brief trip of silence. I drove with a white knuckle grip, lost in my thoughts, and she sat in the passenger seat sending text messages to her friends, family, and co-workers to fill them in on the details of her day surgery.
We were both in semi good spirits and came to a realization the night before, while packing her day bag, that this hurdle was a necessity. It’ll be over and better before we know it. Just something we have to get through. Just like any other hurdle in life. Jump over it and keep on moving forward.
Her biggest complaint was not being able to eat anything the night before. God love her.
My mistake was not asking more questions.
Always ask questions. Dig for information. Read the fine print. Read, research. Question everything. Absolutely everything. Take nothing at face value. Burrow under the surface. With the right information, we can be better prepared. Preparation is everything.
Regardless of my mistake, we entered the hospital and made our way to the designated room.
The drugs were taking effect after a short time, and she was feeling giddy and light headed. She relaxed into her chair, licking drool, eyes rolling around, giggling at nothing, and I could tell it was almost time and that’s when the nurse approached us and said, “OK… we’re ready now.”
I kissed the top of her hand and watched the nurse wheel her away through the double doors. A moment later a second nurse came up to me and said, “Nancy asked me to text you from her phone when it’s over. Is that OK?”
“She’s in good hands. It’s a fairly quick procedure and shouldn’t take too long. I’ll text you when she’s in recovery.”
I left the hospital and immediately went to my place of employment.
Concentration was impossible. Focus was all but gone. I couldn’t think. I paced throughout my office. The words and numbers on the computer screen transformed to foreign languages I couldn’t understand. Co-workers tried to make conversation and all I could hear was gibberish.
After a few maddening hours trapped in my mind, I received a text message.
“It’s all done. She’s in recovery. This is what we removed.”
The message was accompanied with a picture.
(I was going to dig up the old photo from her phone and attach it to this post, but to this day it makes me squeamish. I decided not to include it.)
The picture showed the removed mass cradled in two cupped, Latex gloved hands. Under the extraction, I could see the bloody tools and scalpels, and wadded up blood crusted gauze on a silver tray. The tumor was the size of a softball, dark crimson, and streaked with black lines.
I couldn’t believe something that large was wedged and growing inside someone that small.
I almost lost what little I had eaten for lunch.
Feeling a little overwhelmed and off balance, I bolted for the car and sped back to the hospital.
After I checked in with the receptionist and found her location, I hurried down the hall to her room. Staff was entering and exiting with clipboards, whispering to each other in their own secret codes, and the doctor we consulted with the day before was sitting on a wheeled stool at the foot of her bed, making notations on a tablet.
I couldn’t breathe. I felt as if I was teleported elsewhere. I was in someone else’s reality looking through the eyes of another.
This is all a bad dream. This isn’t happening.
Oh, yes, it’s happening. The question now, is what to do about it.
She was partially reclined and unconscious. A thick plastic tube was stuffed in her mouth and taped off at the corners to keep it secure. A see-through plastic accordion device sat on the floor under her bed pumping blood through hoses and beeping machinery. She was connected to the wall behind her with wires and small digital contraptions and displays, and the room was a cold, dark tomb. Her hospital gown was partially opened in the front and a long white bandage was taped to her breastbone; starting at her throat, and disappearing under the blankets which were folded down neatly and perfectly across her stomach.
The doctor stood up and approached me. “The good news is that we didn’t find any cancer in, or around the tumor.”
My face reddened and my legs weakened. I lowered my voice. “What’s the bad news?”
He snatched up a clipboard and half smiled. “No bad news. The procedure was a complete success.”
Feeling on the verge of fainting, looking at her from the corner of my eye, I asked, “What’s the recovery time?”
“It varies. She won’t be able to climb stairs for at least a month, possibly six weeks to be certain.”
Our bedroom is upstairs.
“She can drive a car again, to be safe, eight weeks, but keep it local. The bandage will need to be changed often, probably every few hours to help fight any potential infections. Infections can lead to fevers and if her temperature climbs anything over 99 degrees, she’ll need to be brought in right away. She’ll need to have her temperature taken every hour.”
Keep going, doc.
“This is her pillow.” He places a thin white pillow over her feet. “During the healing process she’ll have a natural instinct to cough. If she coughs, or feels like coughing, put this over her chest and tell her to gently hug it.”
You’re not done yet. Give me more.
“For the first couple of weeks she’ll probably need help getting to the bathroom. She’ll be sleeping a lot. Simple tasks will be difficult and she’ll need assistance. We’ll provide ointments, prescribe the medicines, pain killers, and all the materials needed to make the healing process as quick as possible for when you bring her home. We’d like to keep her here for a few days and monitor. You can visit any time you want and if you want to stay the night, we’ll make you a spot.”
“See, doc? There’s always bad news.”
My vision tunneled and the room stretched out. The nurse in the far corner seemed a mile away and I had to blink through the disorientation and lean against the closet.
“Are you OK?” The doctor asked.
My eyes opened wide. I was morphing into something I always try and suppress. Bringing the internal darkness to the surface is always dangerous and I fought the impending violence festering in my head. A fight I felt I was bound to lose.
“No. Not really. I’m fucking far from OK.”
Something clicked in my mind. I was watching a scene unfold that I couldn’t control.
I reached to the floor, grabbed the silver stool’s leg, and swung the lightweight chair at his face with all my strength.
It was bound to break something.
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