Saturday, July 16, 2011
I think but do not recall if this is St. George slaying a dragon. It's from one of the many side chapels at Exeter Cathedral in Devonshire. I need that imagery right now - good vanquishing bad, all of those dualistic paradigms that spur flickers of hope in me.
By 9:30pm Thursday night it was fermez la bouche! No eatie, no drinkie. Food I can do without for awhile but I'm a water sipper so that part was hard. A night of neo-hell getting 2-hour blips of sleep on my sofa. Up by 6am and eager for my dear friend Carol L., in her Episcopalian priest's collar for good hospital oomph. She came earlier than 8am as I'd silently wished, God bless her.
The inability to take a proper breath even on supplemental oxygen as well as the absence of long, lush deep sleep are wearing on me. I cried. She counseled with gentle but clear wisdom, and then off we went to the jolly Novato Hospital.
Poke, prod, test, get on down, lay on bed-gurney, jealously eye Carol's commuter cup java. Nurses came and went. The 3rd attempt to get a needle in my arm succeeded while I cried and Carol let me squeeze her hands to bits. "My veins are heavily scarred and they roll," I told them clearly from the start. Wouldn't believe me, wouldja? They'd get fooled by a nice fat one and then... needle goes to the wall. Ah, but they poked me with a little lidocaine first and that did ease my oww-owww-owww. Finally I'm wired, still eyeing Carol's secret morning drink.
Dr. Koenker came in and explained the biopsy procedure. That's what I was there for. I don't often beg but now I was when I added, heaving, "Doctor, I can't breathe properly. Help me, please. If you could tap me and take some of this fluid out that they refused to do on Monday, please... I can't live like this." He listened compassionately and explained with no rancor that there really was nothing he could do. Carol stood up and advocated for me: "She can't breathe. Can't you help her?" He could not. I sank back into the bed. After he left my room, Carol added, "You know, he's honest and clear and that is a good thing."
My blessed friend Julie L., who has just published her first (but not last!) book entitled "Disrupted: On Fighting Death & Keeping Faith," surprised me with her arrival. She brought a copy for me and signed it. We hugged and chatted, and then she left.
My sister Jean arrived soon after, who was to caretake me the remainder of the day. We weren't raised together and have a not insignificant age difference. Same mom. Yeah, THAT mom!
Off to the operating room. Gasping through two CT scans of abdomen and pelvis because I was lying almost flat on my back which I am virtually unable to do. The nurses and techs were lovely. One gal from Mississippi with that creamy butter Southern accent. Dr. Koenker close by. So either before or after the Versed & Fentynol began to drip in, he said, "You know, I think I'll try to take out a little bit of this fluid and adjust your drainage tube, as well. It won't be much but I'll do what I can." I don't remember if I cried but I grasped his arm; "Thank you SO MUCH." Sometimes when I surrender, goodness can find me.
Poke poke here, poke poke there. I wasn't fully out; there was little pain. And then it was over, me with a little bandage on my breastbone where we think by Wednesday we'll have some news as to the nature of that growth.
That morning pre-op phone calls were made to Metzger's assistant Gloria. When done, I had a prescription for oral morphine (told best at relaxing lungs themselves) and Atavan. I had her assurance that she would put in a standing order with Novato Hospital Radiology for me to call the day before and march my little heinie in there for a tap. I'm concerned that they have a tendency to refuse, but I will counter with a new tendency to insist. And phone numbers of lung specialists. A trail of possible solutions is beginning to take shape.
Jean was a champ. She drove me around, we quibbled in only a piddling manner (we are related, after all), I got dee drugs. I was so weak she had pushed me in a wheelchair both at the hospital and pharmacy - a first for me. By 7:30pm I was curled up on my sofa with a first hit of morphine. She watched me breathe as I dozed, deemed me safe, and left by 9pm. My 2nd morphine dose was at 1am. Early this morning I remembered; I needed anti-nausea meds when I got this !*#%! in the hospital! Let's just leave it at that. The bottle of foul-tasting liquid will be hidden for extreme emergencies.
I miss my mojo. I miss dashing around with verve and energy. Today's exhaustion allows me to say, "You're recovering from surgery; chill." Carol will stop by later and there are many I can phone. YOU are beaming me love, wishes, lit candles, encouragement.... you! My landlady (a Master Gardener) left a vase of her roses by my back door. I haven't said the Daily Office in ages; most of my prayers now are "Jesus!" when I'm heaving or saying The Jesus Prayer when I am frightened:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me, a sinner.
"O God, You are my Rock and my Salvation, to You I cling during this dark hour of tribulation. Hold my hand tightly, for I lack even that little strength I need to hold on to Your Hand."