Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home—and life is fun again

Other and I are home at last—he stented and antibioticked and claiming to be more comfortable (hard to tell since during the period of his worst, most writhing agony he told an emergency-room intake nurse that on a scale of 1 to 10, his pain was a 3). 

Rushing him around to the emergency room and the hospital and the doctor's office gave me a taste of his life over the past three years as he's partnered me through breast-cancer treatment and followup. Not much fun sitting for hours on the edges of gurnies, flagging down doctors and nurses for this or that, hanging out in grubby waiting rooms and hallways, standing around in recovery cubicles—it's clear the medical community doesn't want family members tagging along (which seems shortsighted since I'm a very helpful person—did any of the nurses want to take off Other's shoes and socks when he was in too much pain to bend over? or tie his gown so his backside was covered? or hold his urine cup when he was trying to give a specimen? I think not). 

I read somewhere that airports were designed to be uncomfortable to discourage loitering. I assume the same is true of medical facilities. Last night I was invited to stand with my son J in a utility corridor to await the transport of Other from the operating room to the recovery room. We waited—on our feet or propped against a derelict table—for an hour. We kept doublechecking to make sure that where we were standing was where we were supposed to be standing, and incredibly it was. J pointed out, however, that despite the shabbiness, there's something cosy about hospitals—they're like college campuses in that everyone's really smart, and someone's always awake working on some project or other, so you've always got company.

The worst of the whole partnering-a-patient role is that you never know whether you're doing enough. Especially when, shortly after being admitted, the patient tells you, "You should go out and have some fun now." Have some fun? 

Googling worst-case scenarios, calling friends whose husbands have had kidney stones, gathering documents and lab reports, trying to figure out whether it's good or bad to spread the word to friends (it's an awkward phone call: "Hi, how are you? Other has kidney stones. Just wanted to let you know")—you try to get all your ducks in a row for whatever comes next, but of course you have no idea what might come next, so those ducks quack around aimlessly.

Despite all we've been through in the past four days and despite our steely determination to anticipate the next crisis, we're just as clueless as we were when we began. Relying on luck to trump ignorance.

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