“I heard what happened out there,” the male nurse said, standing on my right side as I lay on a bed in the Emergency Room last week. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Sniffling and dabbing my tears, I said, “No, not really. It’s just that this is the first time I’ve been back at this hospital since I was here with my husband. And coming back from the CT lab just now, I spotted the ramp and waiting room where we’d been when he had a CT scan just eighteen hours before he died…and all of a sudden ALL the memories flooded back.”
When I’d returned from the scan to the ER a few minutes earlier, my daughter looked alarmed: “Mom, what’s wrong? Did it hurt?”
I’d lifted the two doubled, paper-thin, so-called bath blankets, supposedly warming my chills, up over my nose to mask my spontaneous sobbing, so I muffled out my story.
On the way to the scan, I couldn’t place where I was in the hospital. Floor-to-ceiling heavy plastic drapes hung on the left side of the hallway. “What is this construction about?” I asked the gal pushing my bed. “We’re getting our own CT lab,” she said. “It will save us from having to wheel patients over to the lab in the hospital.”
As I bumped along, I spotted employees arriving to work who needed to peek at me to see who was on my rolling bed, and a closer CT lab sounded like a good idea. I was tempted to wave at the folks and announce: “77-year-old white female presents with history of acute abdominal cramping, followed by a fainting spell, resulting in a fall (as evidenced by a large egg on the right temple), and loss of consciousness on the floor for an hour. Patient has no memory of the fall or the bathroom cabinet’s attempt to crack open her head.”
But I didn’t say a word.
The CT scan of my head was uneventful, unless you can count my successful hoisting my body, without help, over the hump from my bed to the CT table. I was very proud of myself as I knew these very young people in the room would have to be impressed that this 77-year-old woman was able to use her abs to wrench herself way up and over the hump, and, after the scan, to return herself, with the same Pilates moves, to the bed.
So far, so good.
As I was being rolled back to my room, I was staring at the ceiling when I thought to try to figure out where I was in the hospital. I glanced left just as we arrived at a ramp that I instantly recognized as the one I’d had to help Marv up and down when we went to the hospital at 4pm on July 23 for an emergency CT scan. The waiting room came right next door, where I’d had to coax Marv to drink, ounce by ounce, two bottles of contrast material.
The outburst of sobs arrived immediately. A very, very traumatic flashback.
You may recall my blog post at the time:
Marv’s final turn in his condition started just a month ago, about six months after diagnosis. Six months of nearly normal living. Six months that we gave thanks for every day of this last month.
His worst pain emanated from his abdomen which began to grow noticeably from day to day. On Monday, three days ago, the hospice doctor ordered a CT scan. Marv and I just had to know exactly what we were dealing with. Bowel obstruction? Fluid retention? Tumor?
Our daughter brought us to the hospital at four. For Marv, who has always walked ten steps ahead of me, shuffling slowly at my side, cradling his painfully distended abdomen with his arms, the trip to the lab for a blood draw, then to the cubicle for the start of an IV, then to another room to drink the two bottles of prep, then to another room to get on the table for the scan and then down again, was summed up to me as I retrieved him from the CT tech, “I could hardly do it,” he whispered, “Do what?” I asked. “Get my legs, my body, up on the table.”
Oh, oh, oh. Every second of that painful afternoon appeared before my eyes in those few minutes. As I was emerging from my blanket of tears, my daughter said softly: “Dad said, ‘You’ll do fine.’” A gentle reminder of Marv’s confidence that I would be able to handle life without him. My cheeks creased into a half-smile as I thought of his resoluteness about my ability to go on alone.
Now, as I look forward to Thanksgiving in the comfort of my daughter’s family here in Sioux Falls, I remind myself, of course, that grief is normal, that grief is different for everybody, and that I can be expecting these unexpected triggers. And I am very thankful that I’ve recovered with no lasting abdominal problem, broken bone, lacerated skin, or evidence of a closed head trauma.
Just a blow to my ego and an egg on my head.
In the ER, my daughter and I were trying to figure out my position on the bathroom floor when I awoke from my unconscious state. I pondered, “If my face was facing the shower and my backside was facing that same wall, where could my right arm have been?” She asked, “Well, do you have it now?” I looked down at the cylindrical bump under the pile of bath blankets, “I think so,” I said. “It’s seems to be right where it should be.”
What would we do without humor?
But it’s not very humorous when your daughter threatens you with needing to get a medic alert necklace. Those are just for old people. And I am NOT old.
Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!