Three Days Later

All quiet in the Adult Acute Surgery Ward. I pad down the shiny, eggshell-colored halls, nodding Dame Petunia Archibald III (my IV pole) ahead of me. It’s well before dawn, three days out. I hear the nurses whispering as they make their early morning rounds, swishing in and out of dark, beeping rooms.

It was all over so fast. A full week of waiting — waiting for the scan results, waiting for the diagnosis, waiting for the Dr.’s to visit, waiting to be transferred hospitals, waiting for surgery day, waiting for the gurney, waiting for the OR room, waiting for the anesthesiologist, and then…flash, flash, flash! I’m rolled in under those football stadium lights and game on — time hits the accelerator. Flash! My gown is peeled away and I’m pitched forward on the OR table, panting in fear as they insert the epidural into my spine. Flash! I watch the bright lights disappear as the mask reaches my face. Flash! I’m awake and can’t understand why my eyes won’t open. Why won’t they open?! I tell the post-op nurse whom I cannot see that I am the Lorax and I’m here to save the trees. I hear his tinkling laugh and I smile, despite the paralysis that seems to be sitting rudely on my face. They are telling me some medically medical talk about the dangerously diseased state of the 7 inches of bowel they removed (I can tell it’s serious by the grave Dr. Quinn tone they are using) and I am nodding but drifting somewhere over the Swiss Alps at the moment and can’t be bothered to come back down. They settle me in my room and one of them says, “You know you’re lucky. Getting appendicitis last week just may have saved your life.” And so it went. And so they left. And so I slept.

A wet, agonizing cough erupts from a dark room I’m passing in the hallway. The sound of it makes me wince for the person who created it. They must feel as though they are drowning alone in these early morning hours while the rest of the world is out singing karaoke. Another tiny tragedy floating down an airless hospital corridor. I round the corner and park Dame Petunia Archibald III in front of my favorite big window.

Standing here in my hospital gown, I can see San Francisco and the bay bridge lit up like a theatre on opening night. Forget the four tubes coming out of me, I feel like the first lady in a ball gown standing in the window of the Plaza hotel. Healthy, young, privileged, insured and recovering in one of the best hospitals in the country, I might as well be. Because out there somewhere in those lights are people who care about me, systems that support me, a family that loves me despite knowing me well, a company that did so much more than just employ me, and a life that *I* got to choose. In a world full of people who look out their windows and don’t see those things, right now…in..this..moment…I have it all. In a few seconds I can go back to wanting, to worrying, to feeling inadequate and scared and all the human debt we can never seem to pay down. But for *right now*, standing here as the first raindrops hit the glass, my mind vibrates with all the things I love about being alive. Tomorrow is going to be one of the hardest days of my life, although I don’t know it yet. I’m glad that surgeon thought that this was a life worth saving. Quick, take a breath before this moment’s gone.

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