The little things count
Right now as I write I hear a midnight train bellow its whistle as it whooshes on the tracks in the back of this pit stop of a town…
Last year if any of my physicians announced that I’d be having more than one surgery and spend time in the hospital in Spring 2013, I’d personally check them into a psych ward.
The early morning my family and I left for my surgery was surreal. Confidently I pulled the front door shut behind me after telling my kitties how much I loved them. When I walked out I listened for the familiar sounds of morning, knowing I won’t hear them anytime soon once in the hospital. But when I listened for the birds singing, I heard silence. This early time was much too early for the birds, it was still dark outside. My head then focused to the “night” sky. I remember sighting the full moon with the stars and still being humbled by the beauty. My skin detected the 25 degree chill of the temperature, it was very unpleasant. Eventually my mother started the car and I helped scrape frost off the windshields. While in the car my family and I were quiet, not saying much. We had no idea what challenges lay ahead when we left the house that morning.
The first week in the hospital I barely remember. I remember the intensity of the temporary pain the surgery left for me as a souvenir. I was given a number of options to keep the pain controlled, one of the reasons why I don’t remember much of the first week. Sometimes not remembering everything is quite a good thing, perhaps it’s how people get through things.
The second week of my stay was terrifying. It wasn’t just the general experience of being in the hospital, it was everything else that was happening. Once 6 am ticked on the clock I had specialists come look and take care of the surgical area, there was no safe amount of morphine to control the pain when the specialists worked their magic. You know what waking up to pain and fright can equal? Yup, nightmares and infrequent insomnia. Possible infection was in the air and the severity of it was concerning, but my body was still very strong. By the second week I was feeling very lonely even though my parents barely left my side. My friends phoned and came to visit, even a teacher visited. But home is where the heart is…and where my kitties lived. The highlight of my days were when friends visited and called. Or when it rained because I could smell it through the filtered hospital air.
My nurses were absolutely incredible. I’ve always respected nurses, but I have further respect for them. They save lives everyday, problem solve and perhaps the most undervalued skill that nurses have is the skill to comfort patients. A smile, a hug, or somebody to talk to while feeling horrid is never unappreciated.
When my friend C came to visit me, I knew how much it scared him to see me hooked up to different medical equipment. The way his face creased in places I didn’t know could crease at our age, I knew it scared him. I could never ask for a better friend, he’s amazing. When C would call I’d feel myself melt into the phone because I’d be so happy to hear his voice. He always remembered my silent rule. RULE 1: Never ask how I’m feeling.
“E, you’re going to be okay, right?”
“Yes, I just have to take care of a few things”, I’d laugh.
The other friend that came to visit me was a surprise. I’m so happy that she did come though. She’s (D) one of the toughest people I’ve ever met but she’s one of the sweetest. Okay, she skipped school to come visit me (which I DO NOT condone) and I laughed so much that afternoon while she was there. (Karma: D also visited at the same time me when one of our teachers/coaches was visiting) I learned more about her that afternoon than I could have in a thousand years. I knew that D had suffered through many hardships in her life but I didn’t realize that lightning could strike 3 times in the same household in a year.
The third and final week my personal sky was beginning to brighten. My nurses and physicians were finally talking about discharging me from the hospital. Finally Thursday rolled around and I left my hospital room for good. I didn’t look back. The weather was about 65 degrees and sunny when I buckled my seat belt that late afternoon. I cried when I realized that missed the majority of spring. When I entered into the hospital the high temperatures were between 40-53 degrees with rain. Now weather was in the 50s-early 70s and sunny. My unpleasant trip in the hospital is something I will always remember. Most importantly I will always remember what it taught me. As human beings we have a fire that burns within us even in the darkest of our days when we feel that we have nothing left. That urge you feel deep in your chest that whispers, “keep going”, listen to it. Insanity my run deep while cooped up inside your wilting body but the insanity will leave as your body heals. The sanctuary of your mind where you keep your happiest memories can sustain you when frightened. The friend you think will visit you may not be as genuine in more than one way than originally thought. There were several life lessons I learned while in the hospital. Lessons that should not have been taught in that environment. But valuable lessons none the less. Yes, the little things really do count. My mother asked me a few days after I was discharged if I had any advice to give “after that whole ordeal”. I smiled and said, “I don’t give advice, make your own decisions”. IF I had any advice to offer it would be to keep a good attitude during difficult challenges and to treat people around you with respect and kindness.