Birthday & Surgery Day
What do you say to you husband, when you both wake before 5 am on the morning of his heart surgery?
I said, "Happy Birthday" and we both softly chuckled. An hour later we were sitting in the waiting room at Sugar Land Methodist. The world felt too early and too serious, to push Don into wearing a birthday party hat.
I did convince Don to hold my donkey mascot, though. Ms. Donkey went with me to my lumpectomy surgery and chemo and radiation treatments, 5 years ago. Silly, but it worked for me. You do what you need to do. But what does Don want?
Don was a perfect nurse/buddy, during my months of cancer. But we're different people. Different needs. It's going to be tricky figuring out what Don wants in the way of support. Do I play cheerleader or tiptoe gently? I have to read him, I guess. And ask him. Did he read me all those months? He always seemed to know how much attention I needed. He handled my ups and downs beautifully. I worry about my role, with him.
It was so tough saying good-bye, when they wheeled Don away. But the nurse said they'd sing Happy Birthday to him in the operating room. I was skeptical.
It felt sad to have DON as the patient, the vulnerable one. He's hasn't spent a night in a hospital, in our 42 years together. It was scary to think about what actually would happen in that operating room. I headed to the waiting room and found a quiet and calm place corner, next to a fish tank.
I read and texted family, then I figured I should educate myself as his nurse. I read the paperwork about his procedure and I cringed and worried. I knew he had been worried, too. I felt relief, when I got a "hospital text" saying the surgery had begun. I knew he was asleep (for maybe 7 hours) and he was no longer worrying. Glad for that.
I reminded myself that I was lucky to be at the hospital and not waiting at home. In recent months, hospitals didn't allow family inside, due to Covid. I can't imagine dropping Don off and coming back to get him in 5 or 7 days.
After a couple hours of mask wearing, I took a break outside. It felt good to take my mask off and feel the fresh air. At 12:40, I got a text saying surgery was ending soon and the doctor would speak to me in the waiting room. Faster than I'd expected!
Don in ICU
By 1:00, I was in the waiting room, listening to a promising report from Don's surgeon. By 2, I was greeting my groggy hubby in ICU. So many tubes, so many beeping machines, so many nurses and assistants and doctors checking in on him. I asked, "Can I touch him?" I felt so new to this. I kissed him awkwardly in my mask and pulled up a chair next to his clunky bed.
I searched for a part of Don, that wasn't covered in tape or tubes. I sort of neurotically stroked that one part of his arm... then asked, "Am I annoying you?" I laughed awkwardly. "No." Don answered, with a voice I didn't recognize. I told him that was good, because it was really comforting to me.
I realized how hesitant I was with my new role. Should I stop talking and let him sleep? Am I in the nurse's way? Is someone going to tell me how long I can stay?
Eventually I settled in, feeling less worried about how right or wrong I was doing things. I conversed casually when Don was alert and I studied my surroundings when he dozed. What an amazing place. All these things and all these people, attending to my ole sweetheart Don.
And then there was that crazy pillow, with the veins and arteries. They showed Don how to clutch it to his chest, if he needed to cough.
As Don rested, the pillow sat looking sort of comical, beside his folded hands. The room was filled with complicated machines and pieces of equipment and here was this squishy little pillow, that I could have made at home. It amused me. I needed to see something simple, that I could understand.
Talking with Staff
I started getting used to all the people attending to Don. It made me feel safe to know he was in good hands. I asked how it had been in the past 18 months, during pandemic. Don's ICU nurse admitted it had been rough during the last surge, dealing with patients who filled the beds, but refused the vaccine. "A woman in nearby Beaumont was rushed here, because of a stomach issue. There were no ICU beds in Beaumont. She died because of the delay." He shook his head and added, "That's a Covid related death."
He reminded me that last week, there was only one ICU bed available at this hospital. Again I felt lucky that Don's surgery had not been delayed. At one point a nurse pointed out the window. (Don's view wasn't the best) The building directly across was the Covid ICU. I paused to process. Heart surgery is scary, but it's routine, when the patient is healthy. Covid is still a mystery. I am so glad Don is in this section of ICU.
I will try to be the best nurse I can be.
Cancer - Covid
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast cancer and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. Only this time, it was affecting more than me.
Coronavirus and Cancer! Both are evil, but neither can totally get me down... if I vent! I hope with Covid, I run out of complaints before 200!