March 18, 2000

Afloat but on Rough Seas

[For background please see the previous few entries.]

Another Saturday -
2:30 PM -
In a small lounge near Daddy's hospital room.

Dad's recovering nicely, especially considering his age (84). The day after major abdominal surgery he was able to sit in a chair for a short while, and this morning he took a few steps, aided by the nurse and his IV pole.

All that disruption caused more pain, so the nurse reminded him that he was entitled to morphine injections every four hours. He hadn't requested any pain medication for more than a day! So now he's sleeping, snoring loudly, which is why I moved to the lounge. I cannot abide snoring. It just makes the walls close in.

The surgery was Thursday afternoon. I went home for awhile to rest, as I expected to spend the night at the hospital. By 5:00PM I was too nervous, jumping at every phone call, so I went back to the hospital. I found the surgical ward, and then the recovery room, and someone there asked, "Can I help you?"
Me: Yes, is Mr. (Dad) here yet?
Her:( looks around ... smiling..) No he's not.
Me: (hopefully) So he's still in surgery then?"
Her: "Where else would he be?"

*long pause while I give her a long incredulous look, trying to see if she's joking or just stupid*

Me: uhhhhhhh he's 84 years old.
Her: Who's his doctor?
Me: Dr. Whirlwind
Somebody else nearby who took pity on me: Oh Dr. Whirlwind is just finishing up. Your father should be here soon.
Me: (leaving) Thank you.

I didn't make that up. It was my most surreal moment in recent memory.

We still don't know the long-term prognosis - they have to do an analysis of what they removed from Dad. That takes two weeks. When the doctor told me, right after surgery, that he found more than he expected to find, that the obstuction and inflammation had been extensive and cellular tests were necessary on what they took out, I felt the room start to spin. I really had to struggle to focus on the doctor's words, and not fall apart. It wasn't a surprise to me, nor was it a confirmation of my worst fears, but somewhere inbetween. I was alone (the rest of the family hadn't yet arrived back at the hospital) but usually I prefer to deal with things by myself.

I sat in the waiting room for what felt like a long time, just digesting. I sat leaning forward, and the pressure seemed to ease the panic and nausea. After awhile (probably only a half hour) I asked to see Dad in the recovery room. He was all wired up and looked still asleep. I said, "Daddy?" (being thankful that I was still in a position to say that word) and he opened his eyes a bit and was able to mutter, "Pauline" and "it hurts". When my time was up I returned to the waiting room and pulled my novel out of my purse. I'm reading "Jewel" by Bret Lott. Somehow the story of another struggle had a calming and strengthening effect.

They decided to keep Dad overnight in the recovery room so we finally did leave. What I saw when I arrived the next morning, though, made the previous night seem like a bad dream. Dad was back in his room, still wired up but not as extensively, alert, complaining, joking, giving orders, trying to speak Tagalog to the Filipino nurses (no, I don't know why) and trying to con us into giving him water which he's not allowed to have yet.

It's still going to be a long process of recovery but I'm more optimistic now. The feeling is hard to explain and justify but I'm holding onto it, hoping for a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Linque Du Jour:

Nah, not today.

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