Okay, now I’m ready for my Hospital Report, and I need to start with The Big Story: The central, definitive anecdote that set the tone for the entire week.
It was a week ago yesterday that my surgery, which had been scheduled for noon, started more than an hour late. It was supposed to take two hours, but lasted almost double that because the extent of my pneumonia made the operation so difficult.
So I didn’t get shipped up to ICU until six o’clock — just as visiting hour were shut down until 8:00, so my wife had to wait another two hours to see me.
When she finally did get in, my respiratory therapist had beaten her to me, and was in the middle of my first respiratory session.
So Karlyn waited patiently by my bed, holding my hand until the therapy was over.
Then, when the therapist finally left, I asked my wife if she had talked to the surgeon, since I hadn’t been told anything about how the surgery went. She just said, “Yes”, so I said, “So what did he tell you?”
As I asked that, a very pained look came across her face, and she looked like she was going to cry.
I thought, “OH CRAP, that can’t be good … “
In the flash of a second I saw a bad surgeon’s report: A tumor that had spread much worse than they had thought, or a complication in the removal of the tumor, and a much-shortened life span for me …
These morbid thoughts were almost immediately brushed away, though, when I saw her head slump forward and felt her body start to go limp.
I knew know that she was fainting, and that the hopeless look on her face was not one of grief.
I had seen her faint once before, on her birthday in 1996, and this was showing all the signs of being a repeat performance — especially when she sunk below the side of the bed.
The only probably was that in spite of the fact that she was now unconcious, she still had a python-like stanglehold on my right wrist.
This was the same arm that I had sprained in December when I slipped on the ice, and the injury had been compounded during surgery, when they had to hold my arm up over my head for almost four hours in order to cut into my side.
It was this same arm — the wrist part this time — that was now being crushed into the bed railing. I was finally able to extricate myself from her kung fu grip (she was already mostly on the floor) and press my “Call Nurse” button.
The respiratory therapist, who had left the room only 30 seconds earlier, reappeared with a look on her face that said, “This had better be good …”
I could tell that she didn’t notice that my wife was no longer visible from where she was standing.
I said, “This isn’t for me, it’s for my wife. She fainted.”
She gasped and said “Oh my gosh!” and hollered out the door for help. A nurse came in, followed by a couple more, one of whom left to call in reinforcements.
So then a few more people in scrubs rushed in, followed by a few more; I heard one say, “I saw people running, so I ran with them!”
Then came the guys in rescue uniforms and badges. There were soon so many people in the room — I estimate about 20 — that they had to push my bed over to the wall so they could all fit in.
It wasn’t long before someone came in who was scheduled to take my vital signs again, holding her little clipboard and my chart.
I could tell she was startled: On one side of the room she saw a guy in a bed, with tubes coming out of his nose and arms; on the other side she saw a crowd of people working with someone on the floor.
She looked at her paperwork to see exactly what it was she was supposed to be doing.
I raised my hand and said, “You’re probably here for me.”
At one point, one of the nurses remarked that it was amazing how calm I was being, even though my wife had just fainted. I didn’t know how to reply at the time, but in retrospect, it seems an appropriate response might have been, “Hey, I’ve got half a lung less than I did this morning, and I’m on a morphone epidural drip. It’s hard for me to get too worked up about anything right now.”
Seriously, between the pain and the drugs, it was like I was watching this whole bizarre scene take place on TV.
So anyway, they finally got a neck brace on her, and got her strapped to a hard stretcher and loaded on a gurney, then wheeled her down to the emergency room, and for a couple of hours I didn’t hear anything, even though the people taking her down promised they would report back.
Finally, about 11, I asked Michael, the first in a long string of nurses assigned to me over the week, if we would try to find something out for me, so he called down to ER, and soon had an answer: Karlyn had indeed hit her head on the way down, but that scans had revealed no damage. The real problem, surprisingly, was that she had somehow broken her foot in the fall, and had been fitted with an orthopedic boot to keep her bones in place. They had tried to keep her overnight, but had refused, since she needed to get back home to take care of the dogs.
She was finally wheeled up to see me just before midnight. One of the nurses told her that visiting hours were over, but after all she had been through, she wasn’t taking no for an answer this time.
We visited for about an hour, then Michael, going above and beyond the call of duty, wheeled her down to her car and even helped her in.
And so now you know The Big Story, and you have a good idea what the past week has been like for us …