The worst part is the wait. Of anything. Waiting in line at the DMV, waiting for a ride to start once you’re seated at an amusement park, at a restaurant when you are starving and you’ve just ordered your favorite dish. The wait is awful.
They called me back, she was prepped and just waiting her turn in the operating room. The IV was hooked up, she was in a hospital gown and covered to her chin with a blanket. I had never seen her like this. In the past, it was always me laying on the bed with the rails up, a chirping machine watching my vitals, and a blanket to my chin. I just wanted to crawl up there and hug her, the embarrassment from the waiting room now a distant memory. The nurse let me know they gave her something to relax and that we would be seeing the anesthesiologist and surgeon soon.
Inside our curtain cacoon, it was just us but we could hear the neighboring couple chatting. It seemed she was having a similar surgery and he was having none of the drugs they gave her to calm her until it was her turn under the knife. She mentioned she might like a potato or some toast when she got home. Clearly not having had breakfast was on her mind. He told her to just lay back and relax. She chattered on and we listened, being silly and whispering to ourselves. He told her to lay back, close her eyes and go to sleep. She didn’t but I was taken aback by his curtness and wondered if she lived her whole life with him under his authority. I wanted to rip the curtain back and demand he not speak to her like that again but didn’t. Instead, I chattered on our side, if she wasn’t allowed to speak I would conversate for all of us.
I looked at my poor bedridden wife and she knew exactly what I was going to do. She gave an approving nod, not that I needed it. I started to tell her funny stories, partly for her, partly for the poor lady beside us who was basically told to shut up and go to sleep, and partly for myself to keep my mind from decoding all the possible things that could go wrong once she was no longer at my side.
I mentioned I was a little hungry just to get her going, she wouldn’t be allowed to eat for hours still and I wanted to tease her a bit. She mentioned to me that she saw me shoving down food in the kitchen just before we left. I concurred I did have a banana and a diet coke.
I told her about my nervous stomach, that when I get stressed and anxious I generally get a sensation that if I don’t move to the nearest toilet my bowels will blow a semi-liquid stain into my pants that will be less than lady like. It’s a genuine flaw I have learned to live with so I pick my pre-stress food carefully. I told her quietly but loudly enough to annoy the overbearing neighboring spouse behind the curtain. I made it clear that I ate the banana in hopes I didn’t $hit my pants while she was in surgery. We both fell into a giggle fest and the mood carried us all the way to our final goodbye before they wheeled her away.
The hospital bed valet was a kind-looking gentleman wearing a red cap with the Ohio State Buckeyes theme on the front. Being a Kentucky fan and under the influence of “calming medication”, she took no time to tell him she didn’t like it. He misunderstood the drugged southern accent and thought she said she did like it. As they wheeled her away she made sure it was clear she didn’t. I giggled nervously and wondered what else she would say until they put the gas mask on her.
I carried her belongings bag, my backpack, and my last shred of decency to the waiting room to sit again and eagerly wait. I text my poor mom all of my anxiety and fears and she calmed me the best she could from states away. It seemed forever before they came to get me and let me know my beloved was doing well in recovery. I got to see pictures of the inside of the shoulder and what they did to the bone and tendon to correct a lifetime of damage done. I was grateful both for the fantastic surgeon and for that banana I had before we left. She was out, alive and well but I was still an emotional wreck.
When it was time I went back, spoke to her nurse and got her dressed, very carefully. I drove her home and put her into the recliner and breathed deeply a sigh of relief.
Little did I know for the next 3 days I would be more exhausted and more appreciative than I had ever been, including when I was the patient and she the caretaker.
For those nurses, medical staff, and patient caregivers, hats off to you. I couldn’t get back to my stressful, overbearing, sometimes annoyingly irrelevant management desk job fast enough.