Monday, September 04, 2006

<1 in a million

I was back in the hospital for a short while yesterday, and felt a strange sort of nostalgia for the place. I was happy to see Mary on duty, who welcomed me warmly: “Room 61, 6 days, couldn’t get on the internet.” A little embarrassing really, but she definitely remembered me.

When I woke from the anesthesia after the second operation, there was a cluster of nurses at the window, watching someone trying to extricate himself from a parking spot. Over and over it seemed, the person reversed back into the car behind, accelerated into the car in front, then reversed straight back again into the car behind. I followed the nurses’ commentary as closely as I could, which really wasn’t all that close. I think I heard OMD on the radio, possibly for the first time since 1989.

My real fear going into the operation wasn’t the surgery per se, but the projected 7-10 days of bed rest after. I was worried about losing my mind. I brought enough reading material for a six-month stay (including an iPhoto manual.) I had DVDs and podcasts and knitting projects suitable for a prone posture. I had magazines and meditation CDs and pens, pencils and notepaper. I was prepared: no matter that I hadn’t read a word, knit a stitch or slept more than a three-hour stretch since the third week of July.

A morphine drip helped me through the first day and a half. Soon, I adapted to the strange rhythm of the days, the unappetizing meals, the turnover of shifts, the morning carpet vacuum, the arc of the afternoon sun. Other than the bedpan factor, I felt that strangely enough, this was an appropriate place for me given my circumstances: weeks before, I’d been fantasising about being wrapped in warm, white sheets with Buddhist monks laying their healing hands on my body, and though this wasn’t quite the same, it was close. Nurses are gods, I tell you. Over and over, they mopped up ooze and blood and urine and tears with calm talk about knitting and Eric Clapton and In Style magazine. I grew terribly attached to my favourites, and fearful of those I saw as stern or perfunctory or brusque. Nights were the worst, when I’d lie awake listening to far-off groaning, and the animated day-time voices of the night staff. Sometimes, a nurse would come in to take my blood pressure or temperature or unlock the medication store, and rather than use the dimmer lights, would switch on the blinding, white light overhead. At times like this, I’d think, No. That’s not the Andy Paulson way. A certain dismissive tone, and I’d think, Andy’d never say something like that. Or something minor would grate, and I’d think, No rose for you, young lady! But I left wanting to bake cakes, bring presents, heap praise. I left knowing a little of what it will be like to be old. I left feeling as if seared by fire, with total strangers reaching out their hands.


Thank you for all your messages yesterday. I am enormously grateful for my friends: the ones I know and all those I didn’t know I had.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh you poor thing. How bloody awful. I was mesmerised by your brilliantly written account of your experiences. I can only offer my sympathy and best wishes.

3:11 AM  
Blogger K8 said...

I second the offer of sympathy and best wishes - I hope things go well.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

soo sorry to hear these many things. i do not know you but the tone in all your voices always tells me that you're swell. and true to the knowns and unknowns.

i like reading about your creations and processes. in art and living.

i hope you can keep your blog's always been about seeking and waiting and finding. at complex times in my small worlds i've wound my thoughts back through your posts and each time found a precious glint of guidance.

i send you every smile i can spot for you to use when you need it most.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Kristen Doran said...

I agree that nurses are wonderful. My experiences in hospital with my son have always proved that nurses have a very special talent. I hope you heal soon.

6:40 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

i just have to say i think it's hilarious that you've scratched his face out of your banner photos - must have been oddly satisfying.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yay for leslie, for articulating thoughts I never realised i had. I agree. I am right here for you Caro, additional the regular personal contact. Thank you for ever for your wonderful blog illustrating that much more to me.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't have cried more over this if I'd written it or lived it myself. Keeping you in prayers and warm, white thoughts, and wishing you only the best rose-worthy nurses, dear friend. xoxoxox

9:55 AM  
Blogger marion said...

you are such a talented writer, i love reading your words, xo marion.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You definitely don't know me BUT I used to live in Cleveland and was familiar with your printing fame!!

Keep your chin up my dear! Hard I know but my thoughts are with you and if there is anything at all that can be sent/done/said from Seattle to you to add cheer to your days...then just drop me a line or two ok?? Stay well and be good to yourself.

4:19 AM  

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