It’s been a hard couple of days for Certain Man’s Wife. I have been so sick and tired of having things go “wrong” with me that I haven’t made much comment about the challenges currently on my radar screen. Even the thought that I am closer to 60 than I am to 55 doesn’t impress itself on me as being old enough for some of the indignities that I’ve been experiencing. And even though, in my head, I KNOW that this body wasn’t made to last forever, I still need to sometimes call that to remembrance, and decide what I can live with and what I need to get fixed.
So it was that last fall, I had pretty much decided to bite the bullet and get some reconstruction surgery done. But then they found some suspicious lumps in my routine mammogram and I decided to wait until that was resolved to pursue anything else. Two ultrasounds, four months apart, determined that that the lumps were “just the way you are, Mrs. Yutzy. Nothing to worry about in that department” and I was a free woman. At least on that score. So, I returned to Dr. Killeen and we decided to go ahead with the surgical repair that I needed. We scheduled it for Friday, April 27, 2012.
Of course, I needed to get blood work done first. About two weeks ago, I set out on a nice morning to get that done. I got a really early start because I needed to register Rachel for some summer classes at Del Tech. Then I needed to pick up a part for Daniel’s mower somewhere between Georgetown and Millsboro. Then I planned to go into the Beebe express lab and get my fasting blood work done. When I called to find out where they were located in Georgetown, they informed me that they didn’t do EKG’s at that location, and I HAD to have one before surgery. So I trucked my way over to Lewes from Georgetown, and (of course!) couldn’t find a place to park in the parking lot. I proceeded around to the parking garage and finally found a spot there, but neglected to note which floor I was on. It was terribly far to the other side of the hospital where the lab is, but I persevered with great endurance. Eventually all the surgical prerequisites were completed and I got some crackers and water to help me make the journey back. I trudged through the labyrinth of Old Beebe, and finally found my way over to the garage and took the elevator to the third floor where I thought I had left my van.
I stepped out of the elevator and realized that my familiar white mini-van was nowhere to be seen. Wrong floor! The door had swung shut on the elevator, but I dashed back and pushed the button. It promptly opened! I scurried to to get back in, caught my toe on the threshold, lost my balance and crashed down onto the floor of the elevator with a great noise. I was so insulted! I almost never fall since I’ve had my knees replaced and I hate the reputation that I “fall a lot!” (which some people think I do, even though I don’t!) I landed hard on my right hip, smacking my hands pretty hard, too, on that cold, hard floor. Of course, my first thought was “Is anybody watching???” and I poked my head up and looked all about and nary a soul was anywhere. I pulled my feet the rest of the way into the elevator, and allowed the door to close. And then, of course, I assessed the damage, and determined that I was, in fact, unscathed in any noticeable way. I picked myself off the floor — actually, kinda’ hoisted my discombobulated self up, pressed the right button and finally got out on the right level and fled to the comfort of my trusty mini-van.
This was when I really wanted to cry. My hip was aching, and, to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t want to have this surgery. It sounded so — well, — unpleasant. Uncomfortable. And it was the sort of thing that was private. I couldn’t just stand up in church and ask for people to pray for me without having to explain, and even while some people wouldn’t mind, I wasn’t “some people.” My Mama didn’t raise me to share such details with everyone. I sat there in the parking garage, blinking back the tears and giving myself a stern talking to. It was okay to not like it, but I really needed to focus on the positives. Wallowing around in the muck of self pity wasn’t going to help anyone in the least, or me in the most.
And so, I set my resolve on getting this done with the least amount of complaining and I also decided to just not think about it. I prayed for courage, I prayed for peace and I prayed for things to go better than expected and I prayed for my surgeon. And the days just kept flying by. Almost before I knew it, it was Thursday night, and the surgery was for the next day.
I guess this might be the place to fill in some of the background information as to why I needed the surgery.
Actually, I had a hysterectomy when I was 40. When our oldest son, Raphael was born, I went from being dilated three centimeters to delivered in ten minutes in the labor room bed. He weighed in at nine pounds and twelve ounces, and they held up this beautiful, chubby baby and my heart could not really assimilate what I saw. I never knew a baby could be so blue. What I remember most of all was seeing the cord wrapped tightly around his neck twice, and then going down, under both arms, around his chest. It was a triple cord wind. Those were the days when we were all trying our best to be “natural” and they hadn’t even put a monitor on him until right at the very last minute. His precipitous birth saved him from brain damage, and maybe even his life, and so I have NEVER, not even for a second resented the damage it did to me. However, things were really messed up, and didn’t really get any better when Lem (ten pounds, two ounces) and Rachel (Ten pounds, six ounces) were born. Also in between there, I had a ruptured appendix that added to some abdominal disarray, and when they did the hysterectomy, they did a hernia repair from the ruptured appendix, but the doctor was unwilling to take on any other repair. It was so extensive and so likely to be unsuccessful that he didn’t think it would be even worth trying. And so, for the most part, I just figured that this was how it would be until the day I died.
However, when Dr. Killeen said that he could most certainly fix it, and several other people told me how wonderful a repairman Dr. Killeen was, and several people that I love thought I really, ABSOLUTELY, SHOULD, I decided to just get it done and not think too much about it, not involve too many people in it, just quietly go one day and get it done. And when Dr. Killeen told me that it was the least painful/least incapacitating operation that I could have, I was really thinking positive thoughts about breezing on through this without so much as a day that was actually missed because of recovery.
I should have known. Yes, I should have at least read up on things, but I really didn’t want to know anything different than I was thinking.
Last Thursday, they told me that I wasn’t to be at the hospital before 11:15am. I was a little surprised because they had talked like MAYBE I could be the first surgery at 5:30am. And with nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before, the 5:30 business sounded like something that I could really enjoy. But Certain Man wasn’t so sure.
“5:30??? That’s awfully early,” he had gulped when I had told him that I was hoping for that slot. “Why would you want 5:30?”
“Well,” I said, a little uncomfortably because I hadn’t been thinking about how that hour might affect my family, “I just thought it would be good to get the doctor when he was just up and wide awake and ‘fresh!'” (uh. wrong word for this kind of surgery!).
“Wouldn’t it be better,” said my ever practical spouse, “to have him after he has done a surgery or two and isn’t still sleepy and bleary-eyed?”
I hadn’t thought about that. “Well, I guess you have a point,” I admitted as meekly as I could muster while still hoping for the early slot.
So, it wasn’t to be, and it turned out that it was better for my morning that way. We got around and got down to the hospital in good time, and before I knew it, they had me in those lovely duds they give you, and I was waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
I determined that I was not going to get myself in a stew. I was not going to complain. I was going to relax and enjoy my time waiting and try to make the atmosphere in the “holding pen” as pleasant and optimistic as possible. When I had waited about an hour, I inquired as to what was the actual scheduled time.
“Well, he’s running behind today. He had a glitch in one of the surgeries this morning and he’s running behind. Scheduled time was 12:15. but as you can see, we are already past that. Do you want me to find out how far behind he is?”
“Would you please?” I asked. “I’m just curious. No rush.”
Conversations like this went on for some time and it was always that he was “almost ready” or “Opening up a new room so we can get to you more quickly,” or “As soon as he is finished with the current patient, he will be in and then we can start.” Daniel and I had a good time talking and we enjoyed the time together. I did not complain, and I didn’t lose my courage. It was really nice, though, for Dr. Killeen to come in and say that all systems were “go” and we were going to get this over with. Hopefully once and for all. It was almost three o’clock when they wheeled me back, and all I could think was that, finally this little matter was going to be over with. Maybe I would be able to go home the next day.
I found out something. Dr. Killeen, for all his wonderful qualities, lies to his patients about pain. For Crying Out Loud! (No, I did not suffer in silence!) I was totally unprepared for what I was in for. I mean, I had a hysterectomy before, and it was NOTHING like this. I really thought I was going to lose my mind with the pain. The thing is, I have a high pain tolerance, but once I am feeling pain, I REALLY feel it, and I was in serious trouble. I’ve had so many surgeries over the years: ruptured appendix removed under a spinal, an abdominal hernia repair with a screen mesh placement, a hysterectomy, both knees replaced and those big babies, but this pain was such a hopeless, no end in sight kind of thing, and when the doctor came in and told me I would probably have a long night, I was sure I was going to lose my sanity!
“You were a mess!” announced Dr. Killeen cheerfully. “Wow! You had major damage, terrible scar tissue, just like a grenade went off in there!” He said, “About half way through, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to fix it, but I did! It won’t be like you are 21, but it will be greatly improved!” Somehow this did not comfort me. I writhed in agony and thought desperate thoughts. Dr. Killeen appeared to feel a little sorry that things were so difficult, but didn’t act like he was surprised that I was in such pain. He took it upon himself to do an examination to make sure nothing was “out of place” which left me even more frantic, and then he patted my knee and left.
Certain Man was there. He was loving and attentive and tried so hard to help and comfort. But, unfortudiously, I am the kind of woman who doesn’t like people around when things are so bad. Plus, he had a cold. He was coughing and snorting and had a cold sore and a sore throat and was feeling miserable himself. But he was terribly worried. I don’t know if he had ever seen me quite so wild with pain.
There was a fold out cot in the room, and he sat there and viewed the situation and thought. Then he said, “Hon, I think I’m going to spend the night here.”
Please don’t think I’m ungrateful, but that was the last thing I wanted. I was already worried about him getting enough sleep, and I just couldn’t imagine how it would make me feel any better for him to be there, trying to get awake and take care of things every time I was in trouble.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I half whispered through the breathing exercises I was doing to try to keep my sanity. “I’m afraid you won’t get any sleep at all.”
“Doesn’t matter about me,” he said stoutly. “I can be here if you need something. I’ll just stay right here.” He thumped the cot appreciatively. “I’ll be just fine.”
“Daniel, I’m not sure I want you to stay for the night.”
That really bothered him. “Why not?” he asked indignantly.
“Well, if you are here, I’ll worry about you and that will really keep me awake.” I didn’t tell him, but I also wanted to be able to say if I was feeling bad, and that makes him want to fix everything for me and it is not always fixable — which would also upset me because it would upset him.
“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t get much sleep. I’ll just stay right here.”
I didn’t say anything for a little while then, but I pondered greatly how I could encourage him to go home and get the rest he so desperately needed. Finally, I said, “Daniel, I know I am going to have a bum night. There is no sense in both of us losing sleep tonight. The nurses will watch over me, and they will take care of me, and I will be fine. I think I will rest better if you are home in your bed. Please don’t think I don’t want you, but I really think we will both sleep better if you are home.”
He was feeling really ragged by then, so he finally decided to go on home. But before he left, I heard him talking to Oldest Daughter on the phone and I realized that they were discussing whether they should ask the church to pray for me. “She didn’t want people to know,” I heard someone say, “so maybe we shouldn’t say anything. She might not appreciate it.”
That got my attention.
“No, PLEASE!” I said, “Please! I don’t care who knows what, I need people to pray for me! Please ask people to pray!” And that was no sooner asked than it was done. And then Daniel headed home.
The pain would come in waves, and then would grip me in this terrible muscle spasm. I could feel it begin to get more and more intense until it reached a peak and then it would slowly back off, only to begin again. In my brain, it somehow seemed connected to the blood pressure cuff that would periodically tighten on my arm, and those compression stockings that would tighten on my leg. I purposefully relaxed against the onslaught, took deep chest breaths, held them for the count of twelve to fifteen, and then breathed them out slowly. I prayed, desperate whispered prayers, and then, in the darkness, began to sing. I knew it was off key, and it sounded really croaky and, well, terrible to me, but I was pretty sure no one was hearing me, and so I sang songs against the pain and against the darkness. Somewhere along the line, a compassionate nurse came in and said that they were going to make a change in the pain medications, and gave me something for the nausea that was hovering at the helm, and then, along about ten o’clock or so, I was aware that the intensity of the waves of pain was beginning to lose its teeth and I no longer was having the terrible muscle spasms.
And then, all of a sudden, it was eleven o’clock and I had actually slept for a little bit — and the horrible pain was gone! I still had aches and I certainly knew that I had surgery, and I wasn’t willing to let the pain meds run out, but that blinding, debilitating pain was gone, and I felt the edges of hope curling around my tattered soul. I still had the IV’s, still had the catheter, but that hopeless, helplessness was gone, and I began to believe that this was going to turn out okay.
The doctor came in at the crack of dawn, and I was awake and feeling so much better. He said I had to stay another day, but was much encouraged and encouraging. I slept and walked some and slept some more. Got a shower, had wonderful visitors, and just had a good day on Saturday.
And yesterday, Daniel brought me home. He has worked himself silly, and is almost too tired to think straight. Middle Daughter has things in wonderful order, and I am under lots of orders to sit and rest and recover. It isn’t easy for me to see people doing things that I really like to do, but I do understand that it is necessary. Our church family is providing some meals, the “Women in Christian Service” sent me a lovely planter of summer flowers, and I’ve had friends and family visit and call. It has been an incredible blessing to me.
But the thing that just never leaves my mind is the thought of how it was when the prayers went up that things turned around for me. If you were one of those who happened to pray, please accept my heartfelt gratitude. I cannot begin to thank you enough. What a gift! I’ve been so blessed!
Lord Jesus, once again, I offer grateful praise.