Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It's almost midnight and I'm having a drink because I know I won't be able to sleep otherwise, my nerves are so frayed. Its been a long fucking day.

The morning is a blur. The kids had breakfast, I walked, Michael packed for the hospital. He gave me his wedding band since he couldn't take valuables/jewelry into surgery, so I put his ring on my right hand where it will stay until he can wear it again. Wanting to create as much normalcy as possible, Michael even grilled burgers for the kids for lunch. His sister came over around noon to stay with the kids, and he and I headed to the hospital at 1:30. He had been instructed to be at the hospital at 2:00, and his surgery was scheduled to begin at 4:30. (Why it is necessary to check in 2 1/2 hours beforehand is beyond me.)

It wasn't until we were in the truck driving to the hospital that I started to lose my cool and the tears started flowing. Suddenly, it was really happening, he was really going to the hospital to have major surgery, and all the unknowns and the mere fact that I knew how much I will be missing him, overcame me.

So we got to the hospital, checked in, and were told to wait in the lobby. We found a seat and sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

At one point, a Samoan family appeared in the lobby, and suddenly they were all crying. Of course, I can't say for sure what happened, but it seemed pretty clear that someone had died or something very tragic had just happened. I counted, and there were seven people, all clearly related to one another, and every single one of them was sobbing. I felt bad for them, but it did nothing to relieve my anxiety. I kept thinking that they should have a crying room or something - it's just bad for morale to be a person in the waiting area among a bunch of distraught, crying people.

We sat for an hour, and finally Michael went to the admission desk and asked if they would be taking him back to pre-op soon. The woman pulled his records up on the computer and said, "Well, your surgery is scheduled for 5:40 . . ." WTF?? What happened to 4:30? Apparently the surgeon had experienced some delay which had thrown off his surgery schedule. How come nobody apprised us of this? Were they just going to let us sit there for a couple more hours?

So at that point Michael and I decided to take a little walk. The hospital has some nice grounds and we found a little picnic table under some shady trees in front of the old convent associated with the hospital. We just sat, not saying much, just trying to enjoy some last few moments of pre-op normalcy.

We went back to admissions and the Samoan family's number had doubled. They were taking up pretty much every available seat in the waiting area, and the were all crying. It was very unnerving. Finally around 3:30 we were taken back to pre-op, where Michael had to change into a gown, answer a bunch of questions, etc. They wouldn't use his PICC line for the IV fluids, because apparently that requires an order from the doc which had not been given. So the nurse assigned to Michael comes into his little cubicle to get an IV started in his hand. Unfortunately, he's dehydrated because he was instructed not to ingest any fluids whatsoever for several hours before the scheduled surgery time, so his veins are collapsed. She blows the vein in his hand. I'm sitting there next to him, watching him grimace in pain, and I start crying. He keeps telling her, "You know, the PICC line is always an option . . ." I think we're making her nervous. She says she's going to get another nurse to start the IV.

At one point in her list of questions to him, she asks Michael "Do you drink alcohol?" He grins and says "Yeeessss," and I ask, "Um, I can bring him beer in the hospital, right?" Now I know we're making her nervous; she totally doesn't get how to take us.

Finally at 4:30 I had to leave to go home to take care of Finn. I hugged him hard and cried, knowing that the next time I saw him, he would be different. The nurse softened then, and I actually saw tears in her eyes, and she promised to take care of Michael for me.

So I went home and had dinner with the kids, dealt with one of Daisy's epic tantrums, and put Finn to bed. The whole time I was watching the clock, trying to gauge how far into the surgery he was, thinking moment to moment that he was that much closer to having it behind him. Then, about five minutes to 7:00, my cell phone rings. It's Michael, calling from the OR. My mind did a little summersault - was he done with surgery already? And he was in such tiptop shape that he was able to call me on the phone? No, he was calling to tell me that the surgery was delayed yet again and they were just about to put him under. He was actually on the operating table, and he insisted that they let him use the phone to call me. Wow.

This was a setback, at least a mental one. I thought he must be close to being done, and here he was just getting started. And knowing that the doc was doing surgery on my husband after having already put in a 12 hour day didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy.

I headed back to the hospital after I put Finn and the girls to bed, around 9:00, and Sue, my midwife/friend met me there so I wouldn't have to wait alone. When I got there, Michael was still in surgery. I don't even know what time the doctor finally came out to tell me that the surgery had gone well . . . around 10:00?? He was nice, as far as doctors go, but he had a certain air of arrogance that I could have done without. He's telling me about some of the factors that remain unknown at this point, and he was like, "The goal is wellness." Yeah, that's easy for you to say. You're not laying in some bed right now with your gut sliced open, wondering if all your parts are going to work properly. There's something to be said for quality of life too, asshole.

Do I sound bitter? I just don't generally feel much of an affinity for doctors. And I hate hospitals. And maybe all the buildup to this point just did a number on me.

They let me go back into recovery to see Michael, and all I can say is that it was very, very difficult. He was hooked up to all kinds of tubes, wires, and monitors, he had an oxygen mask on his face, he was very out of it, and in his brief moments of lucidity, he was very clearly in a great amount of pain. I've never seen him with anything worse than the flu, so it was very painful to see him so . . . weak, in pain, reduced somehow. The nurse was putting pain meds in his IV line every ten minutes. I stood next to him, stroking his face and kissing him and crying and hoping he could hear me talking to him. His eyes fluttered a few times and he wiggled his fingers at me and at one point whispered, "What's up?"

I stayed with him there for a while but finally had to come home, and here I sit. I should feel relieved and happy that this part is over . . . but I feel strangely deflated and helpless. I'm glad the surgery is over and that it went as well as it was expected to go, but this whole thing just stinks. I hate what he has to go through.


Taryl said...

I am so relieved the surgery, itself, went well... I just can't imagine the wringer your emotions have gone through and seeing Michael seem so collected and strong in those pre-op pictures is amazing - I'd have been a total wreck!

I hope with all my heart that tomorrow goes smoothly for your sanity and the kids as well as his recovery. You both really deserve some peace after all this cancer crap.

Karly said...

{hugs} Lisa. I can't imagine. I hope today isn't nearly so hard.

Molly C said...

You don't sound bitter at all. You sound like a wife dealing with her husband's doctor. A doctor who clearly needs a lesson on bedside manor.

I hope he has a fast recovery. It sucks, hardcore, what he is going through. I pray that he will be in less pain today, and home with you soon! We're here for you.

Tricia said...

Lisa, Sitting here all the way on the east coast this morning and crying. So glad the surgery is over and just hoping and praying for a fast recovery. I hope that Michael is comfortable soon if not already. I know they said after G's heart surgery that the day after is usually the hardest, but people pick up after that. Michael had a LONG day yesterday--I can't believe the ordeal they put you through and didn't TELL you about--but I am hopeful he will be back to the Michael you are used to soon.

I hope YOU get some rest. I hope you have lots of loving folks around helping with the kids.

Wish I could do more than ramble at you.

Much love and healing.

Leigh Anne said...

still thinking of all of you! i definitely won't try to pretend i know how you feel...i can't even imagine it.

i agree with taryl. i'd be a wreck. you can see what a strong man, what a fighter, michael is.

glad that the surgery went well.

(and i know what you mean about doctors and hospitals...yuck!)

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that each day gets better and better from now on!
LOVE, Asha.

Eternal Lizdom said...

You don't sound bitter- you sound honest. You aren't sugar coating or trying to avoid. I admire that about you.

(((hugs))) I wish I could DO something.

Wendy P said...

(((hugs))) Lisa - what a wonderful man to call you from the OR!

I hope Michael recovers quickly and that today is a better day for you.

Laurie said...

((Hugs Lisa))
I hope that every day now gets better and better...
Thinking of you and your family!

Lucie said...

You are handling all this very well-
I've had those days when you are
taking care of a relative who is critically ill- then you have to switch gears and go grocery shopping
and take care of the kids- I
call it a schizophrenic existence!
Hang in there every day will get
Cancer sucks

Alex and Kristi said...

You do no sound bitter! You sound like a wife that wants her husband well and doesn't need attitude from a doctor! Hopefully his recovery goes smoothly from the surgery and hopefully today you will be easier for you! Keep us posted!!

Jodi said...

I LOVE that Michael called you from the ER. Thrilled that the surgery went well, but can't believe you had to wait so long. Let me know if there's anything you need.

Jodi said...

I LOVE that Michael called you from the ER. Thrilled that the surgery went well, but can't believe you had to wait so long. Let me know if there's anything you need.

Chrystal said...

I, too, wish there was something I could do to help. Please know that I'm thinking of you all. And your husband continues to rock. But you knew that.

livinglifeafter65 said...

It is amazing how the Blogsphere has connected so many people. I feel that way about you - a connection somehow, and I can't personally say I know how you feel. I just know you are in my thoughts as you wade through all the "stuff" you are bearing.
Hugs and prayers.

Carla said...

Thinking of you, M and the kids. Hugs.

Cindy said...

Oh girl. I am relieved to hear he is over the surgery. I am really at a loss of words. My thoughts are with you and Michael. You both have had quite an ordeal. All the recovery thoughts his way - and relaxation vibes to you.