This week I have experienced a new type of exhaustion I’ve never known before. It’s one of physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion and even exhaustion of exhaustion. Work has been busy, like someone all of a sudden turned the pace knob all the way up to break neck speed. After work, I pull full shifts at the hospital. I wear the same look as the nurses that pull 12 hour shifts so well that when nurses see me in the elevator they ask me if my shift is over. After the hospital, in the wee morning hours of the next day, it’s time for facial expression and tone practice in front of the bathroom mirror. Here I practice sounding upbeat and positive. I fight looking frustrated or panicked and instead replace these looks with ones of delight and hope. Today’s practice will require extra special attention to sounding hopeful because now even I am starting to worry. Today is day 9 of Alan’s hospital stay and he has a fever of 102, which means that not a day has gone by where he hasn’t had a temperature. We don’t know when he will get to go home and although I tell him it’s going to be just fine when he looks scared, inside I am beginning to worry that he might have to start having his mail delivered here. That we might have to arrange for special visitation rights for Bilbo to come spend time with him. That soon the nurses will realize that I come by every day and that they can stop taking care of him because I will help them do their jobs.
The other day a nurse told me she was going to teach me how to change his wound dressing. This involved a wet to dry procedure, as they called it, and involved pulling out the dressing inside a gaping, bloody hole in his abdomen, only to stuff it back with new gauze. They call this “packing.” Now, there is love, and then there is packing someone’s wound. Where the two meet is where a man will owe his girlfriend for the rest of his life.