Monday, October 5, 2009

health science

mount hood rose white and misty against the white morning sky in the distance, taller than usual as the ohsu tram glided down toward the waterfront. i stood looking out toward the willamette and east portland, holding a bag full of nick's clothes, his shoes, a folder of forms, two backpacks slung across my back, his eyeglasses stowed in my right pocket, his phone in my left. i was shaking slightly.

there is actually no reason to fret. nick is having surgery on his hip today. the procedure began at noon and should take between three and five hours. he'll rest in the hospital overnight and then tomorrow his mom will drive him home. it seems like an invasive procedure, nick will not be able to work for three weeks, and still have to suffer through months of physical therapy, but it's not a dangerous procedure. no vital organs will be touched. they will not have to open his chest cavity, operate near his heart or lungs.

i arrived at the center for health and healing on the south waterfront around 7.58 this morning to meet nick. i planned to sit with him for a while before they took him back to get him prepared for surgery. i did not expect it to be a big deal. the people walking briskly around the lobby seemed calm and determined and cheerful. nick seemed chipper when he arrived, exasperated at having missed two buses and then having to wait for the perpetually snail-like streetcar, but not nervous particularly.

in admissions, nick began filling out a bit of paperwork. i scanned over what he was signing and noticed that all the questions were asking him if he'd like to be resuscitated and what they should do if he's locked in a permanent vegetative state. that's when i started to get nervous. then i had to sign this as a witness. then when i thought they were going to take him back to pre-surgery and i would go home, the nice admissions woman started to tell me about where WE should go, and what WE would find there, and explained where i could wait for him during the surgery, telling me i could come to her for updates and that she could tell me where his room is after surgery.

down in anesthesia, the aid gave nick a robe and left us alone together so that that nick could undress. we sat together, nick naked beside me except the flimsy hospital gown, and waited for the anesthesiologist. i held him and laid my head on his chest and kissed him. we laughed and joked about what was playing on the television, what we'd do while he was recovering.

when the doctor arrived with a nurse, i started to get a little more nervous. the doctor looked young - looked like jonah from yacht, and i kept scanning his face looking for signs of insanity. andres, the doctor, was nice, told jokes, was pleasant to be around. the nurse asked nick for more information, asked me for emergency contact information. i was suddenly an emergency contact? i think i may have started pacing. the doctor turned to me and said, "do you want to sit? sit down here. thanks." i must have looked a little nervous at that point. then right there in front of me, blocking me into the chair, the doctor come over the bed to insert a needle in nick to take blood and connect an i.v. the doctor pierced nick, but couldn't get the tube onto the needle fast enough. blood pumped out of nick's vein all over his hand, dripping onto the bed and floor. luckily blood doesn't freak me out.

after this, the doctor told me i should say my goodbyes because i wouldn't have time to see him before surgery. i lamely looked at nick and told him goodbye, that i'd see him later, and walked out of the room holding all of nick's clothes and belongings. i had wanted to tell him that he'd be fine, that i'd be waiting for him. i wanted him to be okay, to feel safe. i had wanted to kiss him, but felt strange doing so in front of these strange men watching us.

i don't understand how someone can lie there alone in that bed and talk to these doctors who are about to pump something into your veins so that you'll quickly pass out and wake up hours later in a strange room. how can one be calm? i mean, nick's surgery shouldn't be a problem for these doctors, but how can other people lay in bed, alone, thinking there is a possibility i could not wake up from this? how can family members leave their loved ones? how can doctors come out to families and tell them there was nothing they could do?

walking away from nick, that's when i lost it. the thought of being alone, sick in a hospital just started to make me anxious. i just didn't want nick to be alone or afraid suddenly. no one should have to feel like that.

i just needed to get out of the hospital.

i have to go back to the hospital in a bit to drop of nick's clothes in his room so that he can dress tomorrow when he leaves the hospital. i'll be fine now. i'm fine now. and nick will be fine. he'll be asleep when i see him probably, doped up. but it would be good to see him after surgery, just to know he's alright, that the surgery went smoothly.

how can we have friends and family and lovers with lives so frail that we could loose them at any time?

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