Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tenth Floor

The day is gray. The wind is blowing, making it cold. It's the type of day where you want to be inside, curled up with a cup of hot herbal tea, a book, and a blanket.

Instead, I take the elevator up to the tenth floor and quietly step off. My brain is hazy as I glance up at the sign in front of me, I turn to the right and start walking towards the nurse's station. 

I stop at the reception desk and a woman asks who I'm there to see. I say his name and she checks the white board on the wall behind her. I suppose it's in compliance with HIPAA

"He's in ten-forty-three," and offers a smile. I thank her and turn to my left. His room is across the hall and down two doors.  

I take a deep breath and knock softly on the slightly open door. I gently push and it slowly opens, as if by magic. As I step into the room, I hear machines pumping. Something beeps. And then a hiss. I know he's on oxygen; the Man ENT told me when he briefed Jeff and I about how Randy did. He spoke with us when his work was completed, in the surgery waiting area a couple of hours before. 

"He did really well," he told us, after asking who Jeff was. 

I introduced them and they shook hands. 

"A dear friend of ours," was all the explanation he needed. 

"I removed the tonsil. And also took several lymph nodes."

He paused. I nodded. 

"The incision on his neck is much larger than I anticipated. And I used 17 surgical staples to close the incision."

I nodded. 

He continued: "He's in recovery now, and will be there for another hour-and-a-half or so. Then they'll take him up to his room. You'll be able to see him then."

I glanced at the clock on the wall: 11:35 am. 

As if reading my mind, the man who, less than 30 minutes before, had his hands inside of my husband's neck said "Surgery went much faster than I anticipated. And that's not a bad thing!" He smiled at me, like a child who is pleased with himself and a drawing he created.

I smiled and felt some relief.

He continued, "We'll have the pathology's, given the holiday on Monday, we'll likely have the pathology report on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. But maybe a bit longer. It just depends on the lab. We may need to keep him an additional day because of the incision. And I know it takes a lot for you guys to get here, and with making sure the boys are covered, so I'd rather keep him an additional day if needed."

From a fog, I felt myself nod my head and say, "That's fine...whatever he needs. Thank you for helping my husband." Because, really, what else is there to say?

"You can go up and see him in a couple of hours. It's lunch time, so please be sure to take care of yourself. Have you eaten anything?"

"Yes. When you guys went back for surgery, Jeff and I went to get a big breakfast. I'll be sure to eat something before I go up and see him. Thank you."

Jeff nodded, "she's covered. And I'll be sure to get some food in her."

"Alright," he said. "I'll do rounds tomorrow morning, I'm generally on the floor about 6:30 or 7. I'll see you then...?"

"Yes, I'll be there."

We said our goodbyes and he left.

I took a deep breath and looked at Jeff, who, for the past 2-1/2 hours had been providing me with the great distraction of how to make positive changes and beef up my on-line health class. Jeff teaches physics. And astronomy. He's one of the most intelligent people I know, and I trust his advice. He is incredibly generous; he took the day off of work to help us. To help me.

We looked at each other and I started to cry. I couldn't breathe. He gave me a hug. And getting a hug from's like being swallowed whole and wrapped in love. He's a big guy, and really he's a Teddy bear; although his students would likely disagree.

Ninety minutes later, I heard my name being called over the loud speaker in the surgery waiting area. I went to the desk where the man who had paged me said he had a nurse on the phone for me. I picked up when it rang and the nurse told me they had just wheeled Randy into his room, and that I could come up in about 30 minutes.

The first thing I saw was the incision. My heart stopped. I wasn't prepared for the size of it. It started behind his right ear, about half-way up, and then rapidly descended down the length of his neck and stopped where his collar bones meet.

"It's bigger than mine," I thought. Dammnit. Randy wins that one. I made a mental note to ask the doc how big Randy's tumor was.

I counted the staples: 17. It's a prime number; Randy will be pleased. 

More beeping. More hissing.

He was groggy, and coming to a little bit. He opened his eyes and reached for my hand. I took his right hand in mine and whispered in his ear, "I'm here, dude. And I love you."

I stood in silence for a long time, just holding his hand, listening to the machines, and staring out the window. In between the buildings, a black bird dipped and rose on the wind currents. It's wings stretched and strong.

I was envious of it. It had the freedom to go where it wanted, knew how to ride the currents so that it could fly away. I wanted to get out of this hell that cancer creates.

I asked Randy if it was ok to take a pic of his incision and send it to Jeff, who was waiting patiently in the surgery waiting area, on the first floor. He said yes, but now doesn't remember that conversation. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would've gone out and purchased a new 4Runner, gotten his signature...but then we'd have a truck payment and I know neither of us really want that additional stress right now.

I also took the pic because I wanted to make sure that the swelling was going down over time. If the incision was more swollen or less swollen when we got home in a few days, in a week. Sometimes I really do have my shit together and can plan, even during a moment of crisis.

Jeff came up a bit later for a visit. I was coloring, working on a postcard with very intricate details. I took a break. I went into the lounge they have on the floor and cried. My emotions were raw.

The nurses and assistants flitted in and out of his room over the next several hours. There was a note on the reception desk that when Randy buzzed for a nurse to come in, they actually had to walk into his room because his voice was no louder than a whisper. He didn't have the strength to push his voice and reply back to the nurses when they answered his call on the intercom.

It was heading into the evening, and Jeff and I were getting hungry. Randy was swallowing water; one of the rules the Man ENT set was that he wouldn't let Randy leave the hospital until he could swallow water. He joked that the rule should be "can swallow water and don't need morphine" and that was totally logical.

We said our good-byes to Randy, wished him a good night's sleep and walked to the elevators. We rode down in silence, crossed the lobby, and headed to the parking garage, stopping to pay the bill at the machine before getting to the car.

When we got to Jeff's car, I pulled out my pen and asked him if he minded if I had a couple of hits before getting in his car. He said no problem. We had discussed dinner earlier in the day: dim sum. It's his city; he knew where to go. I wasn't driving. I didn't have time to wait for a glass of wine. I needed instant gratification, and after taking two hits on my pen, the marijuana worked, and I felt calmer than I had all day. I was ready to get the fuck out of the hospital and get some delicious Chinese food. 

No comments:

Post a Comment