The day arrives. We get up, get in the car, and go to the hospital. She hasn’t had anything to eat for the last 12 hours, so I also skip breakfast, vowing to have something after she has gone into surgery.
There is no alien invasion.
The San Andreas fault gives nary a tremble.
She does not have a heart attack on the table and die.
There are no complications resulting in the transformation of the surgery into a radical mastectomy.
The worst – the VERY worst thing that happens is that she forgets her Kaiser card and sends me back home to get it. I can’t find it (turns out to be under some papers on her desk).
D. comes to keep me company. I am mildly resentful until D. gets there because what I want to do is just sit quietly and be frightened. But its the right call, and D.’s presence for the several hours of the operation and the recovery is a great comfort to me, as well as a distraction that prevents me from, well, sitting quietly and being frightened.
The surgical waiting room is a dreary, depressing place. It is in the old wing of the hospital and is close, stuffy, disorganized, and without windows to the outside world. The entire area feels a bit weird and unsettling, I think because being part of the oldest portion of the hospital it isn’t laid out like the parts I have been in. The person who is supposed to be keeping track of the surgeries and alerting people to when they can go in and see their loved ones keeps wandering in and out, sometimes for as long as half an hour. No lie, when the phone rings from surgery to announce that so-and-so is out of surgery, a random waiting person has to answer it. I feel a certain amount of sympathy for the person who keeps wandering in and out: its obviously a boring job just having to sit there and answer the phone a couple of times an hour. Still, I don’t feel that random people should be answering the phone and giving updates to other random people. That just doesn’t seem professional.
Three hours pass while she is prepped and taken into surgery. Surgery lasts 2 hours and 5 minutes. There’s a tv screen that shows the status of each patient. It’s color coded, though as D. points out the color coding does not seem entirely accurate. Every so often it crashes and someone has to jiggle the mouse to get it back in working order. There is also a television that plays insipid game shows.
At some point I get something to eat with D.
(Yes, D. also manages to keep me from starving myself while I wait).
Eventually the surgery is over and she gets moved into Recovery 1. The person who keeps wandering in and out tells me that I can’t see her yet, even though the sign on the wall says that patients can have one visitor in Recovery 1. D. asks if I want to push for it, but I say “no”. I don’t want to make a scene, and I am so wired up and tense that if I start anything any resistance to my request will quickly reduce me to hysteria. I am actually doing well, but I know I’m still on edge.
After an hour’s wait she is moved into Recovery 2. A random person answers the phone and lets me know that I can see her now. And I do.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking, but to me she never looked more beautiful than right this minute.
We talk for awhile and the nurse gives us a rundown of the various things that she is and isn’t supposed to do post-surgery. The nurse mentions that she will need some drugs at the pharmacy, and thinking of D. still waiting I volunteer to go get them and give D. a chance to visit.
Now comes the SECOND worst thing to happen.
D. isn’t in the waiting room.
I wait for a few minutes, thinking she might have gone to the bathroom, but then the person who wanders in and out wanders in and I ask about D. The person who wanders in and out hasn’t seen D. I explain that I need to go to the pharmacy and could the person who wanders in and out please let D. know that it’s possible to go in for a visit now? The person who wanders in and out says “of course”. I go the the pharmacy, get the drugs (along with around $5,000.00 worth of other drugs that the pharmacy does not notice have been cancelled and later won’t take back). Knowing that she is having a nice visit with D. I decide to take a side trip and get something to drink. Then I head back for surgery and I FIND D. IN THE HALLWAY! The person who wanders in and out did not give my message to D. because D. was on the phone.
I do not murder the person who wanders in and out.
So I send D. back for a visit and sit in the waiting room again, fiddling with my phone and watching the person who wanders in and out wander in and out and trying to guess from the expressions and body language of the other people there how serious their loved one’s surgery is and finally the phone rings and a random person answers it and calls my name, telling me that it is okay for me to go back and see her now.
So she and I and D. have a nice visit until the nurse tells us that she can go home now. I get the car and D. gets her out to the pickup point and she gets in. Then D. takes us all out for Japanese food, which again is really nice of D., and she drinks miso soup and has sushi and then we say goodbye to D. and we go home and we live happily ever after, at least for a few days.