It's Sunday, June 18th, and my stomach is sour.
Several reasons for my discomfort come to mind--the pizza from the new-to-us restaurant yesterday, the overabundance of fast food I've been consuming lately, the overindulgence in sweets and carbs....the stress of my teenage son's surgery. We leave before dawn for the hospital tomorrow.
I've gained the ten pounds that should be on my son's frame. What will happen when he can't chew for the next 120 days?
Seeing a movie together is but a momentary distraction; the surgery is already on my mind before we leave the theater.
It's Monday, 330am, and I am praying.
Prayers of gratitude for medical expense loans, to cover the large check I must present this morning. Prayers for compassionate nurses, competent doctors, effective pain management.
We arrive at the surgery center at 530a, as directed. The doors are still locked in the predawn gloom, with only a receptionist visible in the office across the foyer. Someone else finally comes out and opens the door for us. At 630a, we are taken back to the pre-op area. Preparations are made, and he is wheeled to the OR just before 700am.
Still Monday, 900am, and we are anxiously awaiting an update. Crocheting keeps my hands busy, the nonstop barrage of TV chatter only mildly distracting. The update comes a few minutes later. The surgery is going well. Then it's 1030a, and we get word that they are a little over halfway through. Surgery was supposed to take four hours; the math in my head doesn't add up.
Noon, and we are finally ushered into a small consultation room without enough chairs, to hear from the surgeons. They are happy with the outcome.
We are called back to recovery a half hour later. Our son is still drifting in and out of sleep. He looks pale. When he wakes up, he coughs up blood, bright red splatters on the blanket and paper towels. There is a man shouting from across the room, hidden by his curtain. At first his rants just seem like a bad reaction to coming out of anesthesia, but then he yells "INCOMING!", and we realize he suffers from PTSD. In the midst of my worry for my own child, I feel for this soldier and his family.
It takes our son forever to wake up long enough to raise his oxygen levels without a mask on. We remark to his nurse that we haven't watched a monitor this closely since his sister's stay in the NICU. He is the second-to-the-last patient to leave; the shouting soldier is long gone. It's now 515pm.
We get him home, thankful we had prepared the couch the night before with sheets and a blanket--but the blanket is white, and soon ends up in the washing machine, spattered by another bloody coughing spell. Old towels are quickly piled up and put to use, as he drifts in and out of sleep again, only to wake and cough some more. At some point, he is alert enough to change into comfortable clothes, and then falls asleep on the couch for the night. I listen to his breathing, see his chest rise and fall in the dim light from the kitchen.
I fall into a fitful sleep in the chair next to him, only to awaken minutes later and often through the night, not unlike his first night at home, nineteen years ago.