But First, A Word From Our Sponsor:
|Top Comments recognizes the previous day's Top Mojo and strives to promote each day's outstanding comments through nominations made by Kossacks like you. Please send comments (before 9:30pm ET) by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by our KosMail message board. Just click on the Spinning Top™ to make a submission. Look for the Spinning Top™ to pop up in
Make sure that you include the direct link to the comment (the URL), which is available by clicking on that comment's date/time. Please let us know your Daily Kos user name if you use email so we can credit you properly. If you send a writeup with the link, we can include that as well. The
Please come in. You're invited to make yourself at home! Join us beneath the doodle...
Fortunately - rather amazingly to this diarist - this was not nearly so traumatic or protracted a hospital adventure. More below the stylized ant mill below.
Friday was the day my mother was scheduled to have surgery not just repairing but REPLACING one of her neck vertebrae (and cleaning out bone shards, et al, from a couple of others).
Naturally, she was a bit concerned a bout the surgery and its obvious scenarios that either she:
1. came through just fine
2. came through not just fine, which with neck surgery usually means some non-small deterioration of motor function below said neck, or
3. came through not at all, thus my being handed a copy of my mother's living will by the surgery check-in clerk
My voyage was a rather simple thing. My current schedule is utterly mine, and I can work literally anywhere there's a three pronged power outlet and a chair. That, and it's perhaps 90 minutes from my house to the small hospital on the outskirts of Greenville, SC where my mother was being readied for surgery.
Mom had come padding in, all Southern real estate smiles and loud greetings, as if it was just another house showing. Except of course it was nothing of the kind. Then the surgery RN called for her. I got some work done...but not too much because half an hour later we were called in.
The pre-op berth was rather tight for space, but it more than made up for it by being really bright and loud. I sat on the floor and attempted to do some more writing but this was largely fruitless (and what I wrote the entire time at the hospital was crap copy but sometimes like digestive detritus it's best to just work it on out and make room for the good stuff that comes later). Anyhoo, this is not my story but my mom's, and I digress...and I will digress again, because providing first hand account.
Then a pastor comes in to talk to my mom, share medical adversity stories, the good and the bad and wrap it up with a nice prayer. The topic that a former high school team mate of mine goes to their church comes up perhaps four times but I blame the perfect storm of sleep deprivation and the onset of some really good pain killers for that repetition. All kidding aside, I was glad for the visit.
However, I was a bit unsettled as the pastor told about his father's having been in an induced medical coma which, unfortunately, had left him no longer himself. That hit a bit close to home, as I was That Guy four years ago. For better or worse, I came back, so yay, that. But I can remember the dreamlike otherness of that time between rising up from the coma depths and finally feeling locked down in the reality we presumably are sharing right now in words and access to essentially the same Google News pages. (I can assure you, feeling lost amongst multiple alternate universes is only fun if you're watching it from your living room and watching it happen to fictitious strangers on Netflix.)
Across the way in pre-op, a woman became outraged that her surgery would be yet again delayed because a blood clot had turned up and for some reason surgeons frown upon such things crashing their operations. I speak lightly about this but clots can 'kill you dead' as they say in more rustic than usual corners of upstate of South Carolina. Other places, too, just as likely but I wasn't attending my mom's surgery in those locales.
Then the time comes to wheel off my mom - and when they come to collect her, they are gone inside of a minute. I remember fighting back a few tears, thinking, what if this is the last time I see my mom alive? She glanced at me, vigilant as ever to any emotive nuance. I forced a smile, nodded, told her not to flinch when the ax came down, she half-laughed, half-scowled at that... and then whoosh! Around the corner and out of sight she went.
So, back to the lobby...and some more writing. Nothing else to do but fret.
A couple of hours later we're summoned into a 'consultation room'. This alarmed me somewhat until I parsed out that there wasn't an atypically large amount of tissues in the trash bin. I figured that was a sign we weren't in a room reserved exclusively for the rendering of bad news.
Being thorough I went back out to the lobby to ask the desk clerk if the room she ushered us into had a particularly ominous purpose. She laughed and said, no, not at all. I suppose it was silly to ask; I imagine that the iconic solemn procession of the doctor toward the soon-to-be-grieving family would have taken place in that instance.
As it turns out the doctor comes in, headcap still on, mask pulled down, plops down in a chair perhaps for the first time in four surgeries and pats herself on the back for a truly superlative job in that polite, inoffensive super-achieving way that only valedictorians and not all of them can pull off well.
I did not mind her taking a victory lap one bit; my mother was going to be fine.
Then came the amazing instructions: That my mother needed to move her neck around as soon as possible... just not extending backward (as if looking up at the sky to spot planes or Superman) and it might not be a bad idea to walk around the floor a bit later in the evening.
The surgeon repeated her instructions. Apparently, these days what was once major neck or back surgery is one overnight stay away from being an outpatient procedure.
In any event, it was my duty to stay with my mom while the rest of the clan went off to dinner. Though they did eventually bring me back a chili cheeseburger a plenty plate with onion rings from the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg. Grease, yay...
I figure if you are going to be on the road eating nasty, gross food you have to go old school at get the 1950s-era nasty, gross stuff. The onion rings were good. The burger, not so much. Yep, pretty much like I remembered it growing up.
Ah....so, here I am figuring this was going to be an easy gig. Mom: Just out of surgery. Mom: On some serious pain killers. Mom: Just took a sleeping pill.
Oh... how we forget how hospitals work: They're busiest at night, like a necropolis only your odds of getting out alive are better.
That, and hospitals are bright. Even the dark rooms with the shades drawn are bright. And they're loud.
And everyone's coming in on various peak cycles that seem to come about every two hours with big peaks every four and a monster tsunami of visits at shift change time.
Yep, I remember this well from my tour in Hospital Nam, back in the My Strep campaign of '10. The flashback were strangely comforting.
Oh, Mom: Anyhoo she was in pain, despite painkillers, and content to share this view widely, loudly and repeatedly. She could not sleep, despite sleeping aids, because.. well, I blame the lifelong culprit of her life - keeping the TV on at all hours - for that one. and she worried about the heart rate. And the blood pressure. And not being able to sleep. And if a given level of pain - or its lack - was a bad sign. And if I was too cold or too warm. Or if my chair was comfortable. Or if I needed a blanket. Or ...
Mom, you just got out surgery. It's OK, really, to focus on your own recovery.
Eventually, she...no. She never went to sleep. She would not sleep all night.
My mother was not in wracking pain so much as nonstop displeasure that there was really nothing good on TV. That, and after six hours I was a bit too obviously irked at the nonstop running commentary on Things The Least Bit of Silent Patience And A Bit Less Television would cure. At that point I realized, ok, time to pack up my laptop, grab a blanket, and not be awake as much as possible.
I found it rather easy to fall back into the routine of a night of sleep paid in installments of 20 minutes here, 40 minutes there... hoo boy a whole hour (bonus!) between 4AM and 5AM. To be in a hospital as patient or family is to be in the soporific equivalent of a war zone. You WILL sleep in snatches perforated by bursts of intense activity. I don't think the health pros sleep; I have no idea what keeps them going.
So, morning comes (see: 5AM, and I figure, fine I will wake up and start working again). Twice in the night my mom had gotten up to use the facilities (albeit with assistance getting to and fro) so the doc was right: She could move about.
Late morning I was relieved, handed the keys to my mom's house and drove off feeling pretty refreshed with my own broken-up sleep and more than a little mighty about it. I was telling myself, Hey, I can stay up, get some more work done...
The moment I shut the front door I knew I'd be asleep inside of five minutes. I think I made it eight.
Not three hours later my mom is ushered in, on her feet, into the house. She had still not slept and now she was walking about, though in more obvious pain. It would not be for another two hours, two pain pills and another sleeping pill and an enforced deactivation of her bedroom TV ("How about an audio book instead?" - me) until she finally fell asleep.
A few hours later, refreshed, she made me dinner.
A few hours after that, she watched some Netflix with me, and told me how glad she was I had come down to stay with her.
Well, yeah, of course I did. It was my watch.
Because my mother had been there for me, as much as able, when it was my turn complain about the cold and the heat, and the aches and the sleeplessness and the powerlessness and the uncertainty in the aftermath of a major medical upheaval.
And just because her experience was more brief did not make it any less scary for anyone for the duration.
Perhaps that's the lesson here: That death and life alike, joy and pain too, are metrics of the infinitude of moments in all our lives. Each moment is a universe of experience...and we should probably judge and compare them less and cherish and share them more.