Wednesday, May 26, 2010

#169: Slow Fade

As I write today, I am heavily drugged. I had a feeding tube placed yesterday, and am really loaded up on pain killers. I'm kind of interested to see how this turns out.

As I remember the time around my surgery, I don't really have a linear narrative in my mind. More like a series of loosely connected episodes that fade in and out.

Arrive at the hospital, suitcase in hand. A very kind lady talks to us about how to get financial aid.

Ride the elevator to a large atrium/waiting area.

Follow a nurse through many, many doors after giving Mrs P my wedding ring.

Paper robe. Gurney.

Tim, our priest pops in to my pre-op cubicle. We don't really know one another very well, but I am very grateful for his company. He sits with me for a long time.

Doctors and nurses with clipboards ask me questions. They stick me with needles.

Groups of loved ones stick their heads through the curtain like farm hands welcoming Dorothy back from Oz. We laugh and pray. Mrs P is being brave.

I am in the operating room. There are lots of tables and instruments laid out along the walls. I remember thinking that these people are planning to be here for a while. I scoot off the gurney onto the operating table.

Mrs P is smiling at me. "You're finished." She tells me I was in surgery for six hours.

In a new room. Bigger. Dr Colin in scrubs. "Was it Cancer?" Yes, but they were able to get everything visible or palpable. He asks me to pucker my lips. The muscles around my mouth still work.

Holy cow! I am peeing through a catheter!

I am in Intensive Care. Big room. Glass doors. Just like Princeton Plainsboro. A nurse removes an IV line from an artery in my hand. It takes a long time to get the bleeding to stop.

I fall asleep with a cup of ice water resting on my chest and spill it on my lap. I am awake.

Two voices are discussing my incision. Dr. Colin does such beautiful work.

Am I in pain? Yes, very much. Morphine into the IV line, chased by a little anti-nausea medicine. POOF! Pain's gone.

A hazy, angelic presence enters the room, approaches the bed, and very gently pulls about fifteen feet of rubber hose out of my privates.

Dr Colin is standing above me. It is early in the morning.

I eat a hearty breakfast of Jello, Cream of Wheat, and Ensure. The phone rings, and it is Mum. Yes, it was Cancer. They got it all. It's going to be OK. My voice sounds good. She'll be here in two days.

Mrs P brings me a book and my Rosary. She looks very tired and very beautiful.

In order to confirm that my kidneys are functioning, I have to pee in a bottle and call a nurse to contemplate it. They are pumping IV fluids into me. I have to pee a lot.

I am sitting in the chair, reading a book. Is this really all there is to Cancer? A couple of days in the hospital? What's the big deal?

I am in a wheelchair moving from ICU to a regular room. The person moving me says, "Well, at least now you'll have a male nurse." I try to think of a single way in which this is an advantage.

Is it easier to ask a man to help you empty your urinal? No.

Mrs P brings me my phone. I call the family and a couple of friends. I kind of wish there were room for two on this bed.

Restless night as I take stock. Voice? Check. Tonsil? Hideous scar, hurts like the devil. Neck? Huge incision from my ear to the middle of my throat where it meets my chest. Numb from my jaw to my collarbone. I have no sensation in my right ear. I can hear with it, I just can't feel it. There is a little rubber bottle attached to a hose in my neck. Fluid drains out of the incision site into this bottle and someone empties it every few hours. I doze from time to time, but am awake more than asleep. Can't quite figure out where to put my head.

Dr Colin comes in before the sun is up. I'm going home today, as soon as the little drain is removed. I call and get Mrs P out of bed.

One last pee in the bottle.

Wheelchair ride. Into the car. Back to the house. Into my own bed.

No bed ever felt so good.

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