I went to the hospital this morning thinking I would be bringing Susan home. When I got there she was in her typical pose – a hospital classic – lying on her back sleeping, her mouth hanging open. Generally when I go into her room a light touch on her leg brings her around. This time, nothing. I give it a little shake. Nothing. I hold take hold of her knee and shake it as hard as I dare. Her eyes open a tiny slice, then close again.
By now I’m fairly freaked out. I go to the nurses’ station, and ask to see her doctor. Her doctor is in a meeting, and I’ll have to wait. I ask the nurse about Susan, but she’s just come on shift and doesn’t have any information. I wait and wait some more, conjecture crashing around inside my skull. A sudden downturn? Another blockage? There’s an ice pack on her forehead. Fever? Infection?
None of this is doing anyone any good, so I get on my phone to look up US election news. Of course, there are no results yet, just analysis and speculation and it’s not a lot better than spinning out uncertain mental scenarios regarding why my wife is currently semi-comatose.
I decide to go back to the knee. I shake again. This time her eyelids flicker open, she looks vaguely in my direction, and asks, “Why am I here?” I ask her how she’s feeling and she makes a face and wobbles a palm – so so. Then falls asleep. This is good, though. She’s answering questions. How quickly expectations change. I go there to take her home and now suddenly I’m happy with a hand wobble.
Finally, two of her doctors arrive. It would seem that late last night Susan decided to go for a stroll, a midnight promenade. I don’t know what she was thinking. Maybe she was going to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Maybe she thought she’d hit the local clubs, have a cocktail, the ghost of Eddie Van Halen encourageing her to dance, dance, dance the night away. Who knows why she was up in the middle of the night (she has no recollection of the fall), but the certain thing is she got up, then went down. Hard. She’s got a big, bruisey bump right between her eyes, and a scrape on her knee.
This put me in mind of an incident about a month or so back. The boys and I were downstairs when we heard a crash and a moan. We race upstairs to find Susan on her back, disoriented and clearly in a lot of pain. Long story short, she’d been standing on the arms – the arms – of an office chair (you know, the kind on wheels that also swivels) trying to swat a moth with a flyswatter. A circus acrobat would have had trouble negotiating this act. I checked for concussion, iced the goose egg on the back of her skull, and made her promise not to climb on swiveling, wheeled furniture in the future. Ever.
Anyway, for whatever reason – a late-night pizza run, perhaps – she’d tried to get out of bed, lost her balance, and broken her fall with her forehead. So the reason, apparently, why she was so drowsily befuddled was that they had given her a ton of medication to both kill the pain and let her sleep. At least that was the story they were sticking to. I’m not ruling out brain damage.
When I got home and related the story to her parents, Susan’s mom, who has been advocating repeatedly, (i.e., incessantly) that Susan stay in the hospital where it’s ‘safe,’ said “This is why it’s better if she stays at the hospital.”
I replied, with perhaps more vehemence than was strictly necessary (although I did take a deep calming breath beforehand), that there were a few problems with that. One, if Susan stays at the hospital she’s going to die, alone, in a hospital room. That’s not what she, or anybody else, wants. Two, if she comes home she will be surrounded by the sounds, the smells, the lives of people who love her. Three, there is a palliative care team already in place and ready to deploy who will take care of the things we can’t. I think that’s what sold her mom. She acquiesced.
So. Hopefully I will go to the hospital tomorrow and return with the grand prize of a living, breathing, homeward-bound Susan. As long as in the meantime she doesn’t get wanderlust in the wee hours of the morning, foggily decide to do the Appalacian Trail, and crash land on the floor of room 2417.
Just before I left today she had slipped into a sleep state in which she was obviously dreaming. Her mouth curled into a smile and she chuckled drowsily. Whatever she was dreaming was clearly agreeable, even amusing. She was happy. At this point, for me, that’s a victory.