I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew. My son and I often evoke this title of one of our favorite Dr. Seuss books when things don’t go according to plan. That absolutely turned out to be the case earlier this month. There I was, minding my business, going about my life. I had taken the week of Memorial Day as vacation from work to move my recently graduated son home from college. I excitedly put together a fun Chicago weekend trip for my son and MOH (my other half), scheduled for Father’s Day weekend. I had some big, but manageable, work initiatives and I was hoping to fit in a weekend getaway for MOH and me sometime before the 4th of July holiday.
That was my status on June 3. By June 7, I’d been admitted to the cardiac care unit of the hospital with tachycardia (high heart rate), uncontrolled fever spikes, and an unidentified abdominal mass which appeared to be the source of the high heart rate and fever. I’ll confess right now – I’m a big chicken when it comes to medical conditions and procedures. But I was so sick and so impaired I didn’t have the wherewithal to be particularly worried as the doctors explained my condition and tried to determine the best timing for my sudden impending surgery.
There is comfort to be found in almost every situation. I had been to the cardiac unit to visit my mom on numerous occasions. Although it was certainly more disconcerting to be the patient, my mom always used to say if you were in the hospital, then you were in the right place and already on the track to getting better. I don’t know if it’s a common practice in other hospitals, but at St. Joe’s, they play a few bars of Brahams Lullaby over the intercom speakers whenever a baby is born. It always made my mom smile, no matter her condition, and when we visited her, she would happily tell us how many babies had been born since we were last there. I found myself doing the same.
After many starts, stops, changes, reviews and adjustments, my surgery was performed over the weekend, the mass was removed and my prognosis declared excellent. I can’t say enough about the wonderful care I received from the many different doctors, nurses, techs, pastors, residents and students at St. Joe’s. The hospital marketing tagline is ‘Remarkable’ and that is an accurate description of my care experience.
Three days later, and glad to be going home, I could not have been less prepared for how unaccommodating and uncomfortable my comfy house would turn out to be. There was not a comfortable chair in which I could easily get in and out, my bed was too high for me to get onto (forget about laying down), and the toilet was too low to the ground. Wow! I was ready to go back after two short hours, but we adapted. My little wiener dogs were less adaptable than me.
As I walked in the back door, they raced around in circles, wiggling their butts and jumping up on my shins. They were not quite as excited once I was ensconced in the recliner and a doggy barrier had been set up around the perimeter of my chair. I love my little dachshunds, but they pouted as they waited for several days until I could trust them to sit calmly beside me without jumping on my lap.
I lived in a weird time warp over the next days. I became one with the living room recliner and although I dozed on and off, I didn’t sleep like I thought I would. I couldn’t seem to sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. The TV kept me company all hours of the day and night. It was a good thing I didn’t really care about what was on, as I was too tired to change the channel, even with the remote in my hand. I sat, endlessly doing nothing. I would stare into space for 45 minutes and contemplate whether to ask somebody to bring me a sweater. Time slipped by. I finally had to write myself a to-do list each day. My first one looked like this.
- Brush your teeth
- Get up and walk around the house
- Practice getting into bed
Some friends came for a brief visit. I didn’t feel like anything was amiss during the visit, but when they left, I asked MOH, “Was I awake the whole time they were here?” He assured me I had been. I felt so disconnected. “Do you think I’m high?” I asked him. “You’re on Tylenol and Ibuprofen. I don’t think so. Your body is just trying to heal.”
Steri strips have become a fun post-surgical activity. My first experience with steri-strips was when my mom had a chemotherapy port inserted just below the skin in her arm and two steri-strips were put in place to hold the skin together. “You can just leave those,” the nurse told my groggy mother. “They’ll usually fall off on their own in a few days.” The next day when I came to the hospital, Mom was picking at the edges of the strips with no conscious memory of the nurse’s direction.
“Noooooo!” I wailed, quite sure that what was supposed to stay inside her would come pouring out if she removed them prematurely.
I am now the somewhat squeamish owner of a 12 steri-strip incision. The strips don’t seem inclined to be going anywhere on their own. My Patient Discharge Instructions say they can be removed in 7 days. It doesn’t say to remove them after 7 days, it says “they can be removed.” I don’t see a need to rush into anything, but neither do I want to be the person that shows up for their 3 week follow-up with steri-strips still intact. My family and I have engaged in an odd activity of observing my stomach each day and deciding which strip seems least likely to be holding me together. Each day a strip is removed – like a macabre game of Jenga.
I cannot believe this is how I spent my June and that the month is almost over. My guys’ Chicago trip was cancelled as they took turns being my nurse. My coworkers are covering for me with no notice and no preparation. MOH and I will not be headed on any weekend getaways in the near future. But I am thankful, So Thankful, for loving friends and family; for the power of positivity and prayer; and for medical care providers and restored health.