Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hospital Visits and Good News

Although I realize that within the sterile white walls of hospitals incredible work -- life changing work -- is happening, I still can't help but feel they are completely spooky. I've pretty much always felt that way, but as I get older it's harder to hide. 

When I was a wee lass of five or so, my brother and I had the type of relationship that exists between sitcom brothers and sisters.  We pretended to despise each other, but actually, we got along royally. I admired his athleticism and was proud to have him as a brother, especially when watching his Pop Warner youth football games. He had told me he was the best, and I believed him. At one game, I remember starting a more amusing game with myself and the grass and lost interest in watching his football game. When the noise on the field died down, I looked up to see my dad carrying my brother off the field and towards the car. 

I can't remember exactly what was wrong, but my brother had to be hospitalized for a good couple of days. Even back then, the hospital was an intimidating place, one where everyone was taller than me and where people rushed about with little regard for the little girls playing with grass in the hallways. My cousin took me to the gift store to pick out a nice "get well" gift for my brother. I picked out a roll of Necco candy wafers. And then on the walk from the gift store back to his hospital room, I ate the entire thing. But see, that was part of my plan. So that when I finally got to his room and had to see him, I could talk about how I sabotaged his "get well" gift and we would have something else to focus on. 

Now I probably couldn't eat Necco wafers if you paid me (they are one of the lowest ranking candies on my list) so it's hard to use them as my crutch anymore. I just have to suck it up and keep it together when visiting people in the hospital because I am terrible at it. And if I ever have to visit you in the hospital, I apologize in advance for my poor consoling abilities. Just know that while I am laughing nervously, what I really mean is I am so sorry for what you're going through. I can't even imagine what it must be like. Please laugh with me so we can cover up this uncomfortable moment. 

All it takes for me to break up and to have the water works start is for someone in the room to give me a sad look. It doesn't even have to be the afflicted person. It could even be from the star of the herpes commercial playing on the TV in the background. Sad, moist puppy eyes is all it takes. Or when the hospitalized person starts talking and I can hear that they are not talking in their normal voices, no, but in their hospital voices. No one ever sounds normal when they are in the hospital. Everyone that is admitted to an overnight stay sounds like a crumpled piece of paper put through a shredder. And I can't take it. 

Today Alan went in for surgery so that the good, kind doctors could snip out the tumor squatting on his intestine. We arrived at 6 A.M. and for the next 12 hours I waited. At first I waited alone, sleeping in a low-backed chair in such a neck craning position that I woke up with a splitting headache. But soon enough Alan's parents came. Then Alan's sister came. We all waited together, every hour sending his mom to the front desk to find out his status. And after 5 hours of being in surgery, his surgeon appeared and told us the good news. He had responded so well to the chemo and radiation that the tumor had completely dissapeared. All that was left was the tattoo indicating where the tumor used to be. This was a miracle seeing as how just 2-3 weeks before Alan had gone in for a CT scan and the tumor was still present. They removed the surrounding tissue to be safe and a few hours later he was finished with a tremendously successful surgery. I breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing the good news. We would have lots to smile about. Maybe I wouldn't have to be a nervous wreck in front of him after all. 

While his parents and I waited outside his hospital room, I felt hopeful. This time I would be a good consoler. But then I saw him being rolled down the hall and his face looked distressed, taut, not like him. He lifted his hand in a feeble wave and when he was close enough he opened his mouth and out came the crumpled paper voice. That was when it was all over for me. I guess the nervous laughter will continue to be my best defense. 

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J&D said...
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