I’m fine…but I wasn’t completely emotionally prepared to be back in the hospital. The last few months have been non-stop, almost up to the point Laura and I fell asleep last night, so the reality that I would be back in the hospital, non-functional, for an extended period of time, never had the chance to sink into my psyche. But here I am. Laying in a hospital bed as the minutes and hours tick away till morning.
I drove to the hospital by myself, meeting my parents in the front lobby, but nothing seemed out of place. I go to this hospital all the time for CT scans, chemo infusions, and follow up appointments. I entered the registration office, but that triggered nothing. I saw another patient with various tubes and mechanical apparatus hooked up to her body, being helped into a wheelchair to be taken to her prep room…but that wasn’t me. We were given directions to the sixth floor, a place I haven’t been since I left after finally being released from the hospital a year ago. Still nothing.
An imposingly tall and stout nurse, but with a happy demeanor, and covered in red scrubs led us away from the registration desk and towards my room.
And then it came back. These lights. This smell. The various machinery sitting lifeless. The bland colors of the hallway. The nurses gathered and chatting at the main desk as they prep for the day. And then my room. It was even the same room as last time, tucked away at the end of the hall, which was a partially welcomed part of this experience as the interruptions are small and the view..well…decent.
The bed sat there ominously, exuding something between welcomed comfort and the despair of permanent rest. I felt resistant to lying down, unready to commit to the horizontal position that I would find myself in for the coming months. I’m unready…but also ready too. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I am, surgery comes tomorrow.
I finally relented and lay down, setting up my computer and getting settled in, waiting out the clock. Almost immediately the expected, necessary interruptions from the nurses began. My hospital gown, these long pieces of cloth in desperate need of clasp and aesthetic updates (dear hospital, the 70’s are over…stripes and polka dots are in…and velcro exists) was laid on the bed for me to change into. Questions were asked. My vitals were taken.
“Do you exercise?”
– laughing a bit, knowing what why she asked, “Yes.”
“Are you a runner?”
– “Yes. I am.”
“Do you know why I’m asking?”
– “Yeah, my heart rate?” (it was 45)
“Yeah, do you hear that a lot? I mean…that’s a good thing!”
She hooked up a pulse counter to my finger. The machine beeped alarmingly. It repeated.
“Oh, I know…it’s low.” she jokingly scolded the contraption.
My port was then pierced, and blood was drawn while I typed away, trying to finish up some work as soon as possible, to get that off my mind. I’ve been through this before. I don’t feel the need to prepare for pokes, prods and pricks anymore. Nurses do their thing and I do mine.
Another nurse came in, gave me a menu for “clear liquids” and then promptly left. I scanned the offerings, knowing I was going to order nothing.
Vegetable broth. Chicken broth. Ginger ale. Coffee. Diet Gelatin. Etc. Etc. Etc. No thanks.
I convinced my parents to get me a cup of coffee from the hospital Starbucks downstairs…good enough.
The resident to my surgical oncologist then entered, a friendly face and calm demeanor, introducing herself, getting to know me a bit, and explaining the procedure for the day and tomorrow morning. Second verse, same as the first. And that was that.
And here I still sit, becoming slowly acclimated to the coming storm, waiting out the clock, cleaning off my list of obligations, remembering the sights, the smells, the sounds, and pushing away the sense of dread that tries to get inside, forcing me to remember all the discomforts (to put it lightly), unpleasantries and difficulties that began the second I opened my eyes in the ICU just over a year ago.
But I’m ready…enough. It’s going to come and I’m going to meet it head on and I’m going to get past it as soon as possible. I’m not just going to let it come and consume me, then let it pass. I’m going to meet it, and push back. I’m going to force myself to get stronger at every opportunity. I’m going to fill my lungs. I’m going to feed my determination.
But not yet. That time will come. Right now…we wait, go to sleep, then wake up on “the other side”, yet again. And I’m ready. See you then my friends.