24 June 2006

back-ground part 1

My husband just had back surgery.

That sentence typically summons a sympathetic response, and for that reason, I’ve occasionally used it to my advantage – and I’m not ashamed of it. Reason: I deserve some sort of a break, even if it’s just a head-tilted, face-in-a-slight-frown, all-knowing nod.

The first 24 hours, starting with hospital admittance, were the most emotionally draining. Everyone tells you that discetomies are done hundreds of times a day, and that the procedure is straightforward. But when I saw my husband all stripped down and tubed up, my eyes welled with paranoid thoughts.

For the next three hours, I go to work. I’m not functioning properly – quite like our new office at the moment.

I was told the surgery would take 3 hours, so when the deadline is up, I start a pattern of constantly flipping open my cellphone to make sure it’s working. 20 minutes pass, and I’m doubting the nurse, who said she’d give my number to the surgeon. And less reasonably, my mind is twisting over other possibilities.

But the call comes. My husband’s fine. It went fine. We’re all fine. Thank you!

Now it’s down to more waiting while he’s in recovery.

In the family waiting area, I’m sitting across from the Faux Rich Family — an obnoxiously loud gaggle of mother, father and 3 daughters, wearing wannabe-fashionable clothing. Each has their own cellphone with distinctive, cockass ringtones set at high volume. Perfect for the hospital setting.

Frankly, this family didn’t bother me at first. I was willing to give them the sympathy vote, thinking maybe someone dear to them was on a deathbed. My kindheartedness lasted just minutes, because soon, their goddamn freakass ringtones were going, one by one, and I hear: “Yeah, grandpa is doing fine. It was a false alarm. He’s resting now.”


But no, they seem intent on showcasing to their drab co-occupants in the waiting room that they have it all, while whining that no one likes them! Seriously: two of the daughters complained to their parents that people think they’re snobs, while mom & dad shook their heads, saying “Oh honey, how could anyone think that of you!”

My nausea seemed to be cresting, so I headed for the restroom. On my return, I spy the Quiet Area. OMG! How did I miss this? I immediately park myself among the serene people.

A few hours later, still no available room for my husband, so he must stay in recovery. A very kind nurse sneaks me in for 10 minutes. I’m all excited to see him, hoping he doesn’t think I’ve been ignoring him.

He’s awake, and smiling when I see him. But he drifts in and out, and he seems to have even more tubes attached. I guide the straw, leading to a cup of water, into his mouth, and I swallow hard. I do NOT want to cry in front of him. He’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine.

Frankly, the 10 minutes drag. I’m feeling slightly nauseous and ashamedly grateful when the nurse tells me I have to go.

Back to the Quiet Area, where 2 hours later I’ve nearly finished my book and there is still no room at the inn. Other families are hearing the same news. The woman next to me is told that her mother very likely will have to remain in recovery overnight, where the daughter will not be able to visit.

Possibly 20 minutes later, my cellphone rings. It’s the nurse liaison and she asks me to meet her in the hall. She doesn’t want to create a scene, what with everyone else still waiting, but my husband’s just been given a room.

When he’s finally settled in his room, my husband is all fidgety, and just a bit demandingly particular. Reminds me straightaway of my dad, after his hip surgery. The phone has to be positioned just so, the tissues there, the water here, the table at such an angle. He has the Spanish feed of the World Cup playing.

I don’t want to write too much about the next 18 hours because it was pretty damn boring. Him: watching tellie, eating, sleeping, struggling to get comfortable, eventually getting up and walking. Me: reading, watching tellie, feeling helpless or in the way.

When the orders come at 10:30am the very next day for his discharge, I think we’re both surprised. Sure, he wants out of the hospital, but he can barely move. PT has given him pointers, the nurse hands me extra bandages, a wheelchair arrives and away we go.

Getting in the car was a misery. Every bump in the road and every necessary stop was painful for him. I was on eggshells. And of course, upon arrival home, our small dead-end street is filled with contractors’ trucks and vans.

[off the topic for a moment: I’m so f**king bloody sick of contractors and smelly chemicals and loud noises!! How f**king convenient that Franz Landlord and his precious high-heel wearing, civil rights lawyer-to-be, breeder-in-waiting wife can just rent an apartment somewhere else to escape this mess. And we deal with the flooding basement, which flooded AGAIN a few weeks back, and the contractors who start pounding away at 7am on a Saturday morning. What a pair of asshats for landlords.]

I get as close as I can, and we make the snails’ pace path to the house. We’re in.

Now we turn to pain management and a severe lack of mobility. Any movement – getting in or out of bed, sitting down, trying to stand up – it’s all torturous. That night, he considers resubmitting himself to the hospital. I suggest we try to make it through the night.

We do, and we feel more confident by morning. But the pain and immobility are the same. We call the surgeon and leave a message, followed by another message later in the afternoon – and we never got a returned call.

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