There’s no place like home.
After twelve days in the hospital I got a breath of fresh air for the first time as a chipper volunteer wheeled me to the car. My mother toddled alongside with an impossible load of gear, like a faithful sherpa. James, my beloved, waited curbside with the engine at idle. He positioned a pillow to protect my delicate parts from the evil seatbelt. Instead of Dorothy’s ruby slippers I had red sock monkey pajamas.
Thrilled and nervous, exhausted and giddy with delight all at the same time, I was eager to see my cats, eat home-cooked food and sleep without constant interruption. Not in a bed. Sleeping flat is not possible with the type of abdominal surgery I’d just had. My bed would be what had come to be known as the Surgery Chair. A baby-poop brown motorized recliner.
“Outstanding organizational skills with excellent attention to detail.” That is the kind of thing that would routinely appear in my performance reviews when I worked in the corporate world. No amount of research or planning could have prepared me for the adjustment from hospital to home. I had not expected to be so debilitated that I’d need a walker. My body had gone from age 50 to age 85 overnight, and was weak, clumsy and vulnerable.
Nestled in the Surgery Chair with Mom the RN to attend to the icky medical details, dispense meds and suffer my endless criticism of how she scrambled eggs, my crabbiness and anxiety level had somehow gone off the charts. Instead of basking in the joys of home I was frightened and easily confused. Annoyed at even the tiniest inconvenience, I have no idea how my husband put up with the creature I’d become. I guess it helps that he has a large, well-stocked wine cellar.
The first time I took a shower at home I burst into tears as the wand fell on my back. Bruises covered my entire chest and belly, as if I’d been kicked by a mule. Five JP drains dangled on a lanyard around my neck. I could not wash my own hair, hold a towel or get dressed. No amount of soap and warm water seemed to remove the stink of the hospital.
Without copious amounts of narcotics, I don’t know how any of us would have survived the transition. I slept. Day and night. Each day, some improvement occurred. After a week at home I retired the walker. The swelling that was so bad in the hospital that my doctor nicknamed me “Michelin Man” continued to subside. Food started to seem better. Mom extended her stay, and I was grateful.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole mess of folks to help a woman who goes through the BRCA surgeries. So, I give thanks. For my family and friends, for caring medical professionals, for colleagues, for the FORCE web site, for dark chocolate, Amazon’s Kindle, fat cats and the power of sock monkeys.