At the hospital, same day surgery department. Waiting. The setting is not quite as scenic or comfy as last week when I sat, happily, in Mon Ami, waiting for my car, and I might add, the coffee is, uh, hospital grade. Oh my.
My husband is in surgery and I’m waiting — with a very slightly talented boy band on TV, a cup of
foul bitter barely tolerable coffee in hand, and seven other very quiet, “waiters,” the latter not of the please-bring-me-some-decent-coffee kind. Sadly.
Hospital waiting rooms are quiet. People are strained and anxious. This one seems particularly oppressive; most of the people waiting for news are older and I have to believe those they are waiting on are elderly.
Waiting for a loved one who is in surgery is, at best, tedious and anxiety producing. I’m guessing it doesn’t matter if it’s same day surgery or emergency surgery or all day transplant surgery. Even though the two are very different it’s much like standing by helplessly as a loved one dies. Surgery is one quick kick to the stomach, a serious adrenaline rush, and numbness for the duration. The other has the same kick and adrenaline rush and then an enduring pain in your chest and hollowness in your heart.
I’ve been through both — a heart attack with my husband where the surgery was over before I could get there from an hour away, and a long, slow fade for my sister who died of cancer when we were in our late 30s.
The drive to get to my husband was torturous, so unexpected. He’d been to a lunch-time Krav Maga class where he felt light head and ready to collapse. Back at the office he complained that his jaw was tight. A savvy co-worker looked up the symptoms and got him to ER within three hours of the incident. (Being a man he complained, first, that he didn’t have time to go to the hospital and, second, that he could just drive home.)
Because my husband is a joker my initial reaction to his “I’m in the emergency room. I had a heart attack” call was, “Yeah, right, where are you really?” On my drive to the hospital I kept playing out the worst case scenario . . . what will I do without him?
For both of us, it ended well. He had a great surgeon (said to have been honored as the best in the Portland-Vancouver area), a great friend who saved his life (the doctor said if he’d driven home he wouldn’t have made it), and kind care from the hospital staff. We should not have been surprised at the sudden heart attack. Despite the fact that he was young, healthy and in good shape, the men in his family have a history of heart issues. We just didn’t connect that with my husband. Duh.
Losing my sister was a much darker, more pervasive kind of anxiety. Exhausting. A story for another post.
In the meantime, five of the people have left — off to have lunch and call family and smile for the first time in hours. Only one new waiter has joined us. And, TV is now all about people who have been taken by aliens.
And, just to add a little frivolity to the scene, there’s a wonderful old man in a wheel chair who is hard of hearing and having a WONDERFUL time answering the desk nurse’s check in questions. He’s currently describing his whole medical history because she asked him if his visit was a result of an accident! They’ve already been through his insurance information (good grief) and if and where he has his advanced directive (I think it’s filed at home but I don’t know if it’s in the desk or my briefcase.) and asked which doctor referred him. (“No, no, no doctor. It was this friend we had down in Hermiston, Edna and she had this same kind of thing and she recommended Dr. Wilson and said he was real good and could fix it and that’s why I’m here and I had the same problem before but we didn’t know Edna then and we wasn’t living in Hermiston and so I didn’t use Dr. Wilson. But now I have it in both knees and, by the way, I haven’t eaten since . . .”