My eyes blink open, my brain struggling to catch up. My muddled thoughts wade through the fog.
I take in my husband, who sits next to my bed. I vaguely feel his hand squeezing mine. Why is he back here? Didn’t he go home? His eyes are red. He sniffs. He’s been crying. Why is he crying? I place my hand on his cheek.
“I’m so sorry I left. I shouldn’t have gone back.”
Of course, he feels guilty. But why?
He’s not the only person in the room. My eyes sweep over to my mom, who stands with a placid smile. I know that smile. She’s trying hard to mask the fact that something is wrong. Next to her is my dad, whose eyes don’t even try to hide howpainful it is to look at me. This has to be so hard for him, especially since they lost my brother Bixby. I hate being the source of his pain.
But what is wrong? I try to remember. I can’t. It’s one jumbled mess.
“You had a leak and had to go in emergency surgery. They gave you a temporary ostomy bag so you can heal, but they can reverse it in a few months.”
I don’t understand what they are talking about, but I didn’t want to have a bag. At least it’s temporary. I kind of want to see it, but it takes too much effort.
“Can I see?”
Michael pulls up my gown. I see the clear plastic, but I can’t take in the rest. The drugs cloud everything.
The nurse comes in and tells my family they have to leave. I whimper. I want them to stay. Why can’t they stay?
“I can come back,” says Michael. He gives me a time and instructions, but the drugs prohibit my comprehension. I think he’s coming back at 7:30, not realizing I have to ask the nurse if he can come at 7:30.
I live for the clock, watching the minutes. I try to sleep a little, but I’m too anxious. I feel like death, but drugs keep my consciousness from taking the pain in. He never shows, and I start to cry like an abandoned child. Where is he?
Finally he shows. I tell him I’ve been waiting, and he asks why I didn’t ask for him. I cry all over again, mad at myself for misunderstanding. He calms me, saying he’s here now. It’s ok.
The ICU passes in a blur. I hate that darn NG tube in my nose. I hate how much my stomach burns. And when the catheter is taken out, I hate the glacial trek to the bathroom. Michael learns the names and functions of all my tubes and how to disconnect them, that way when the nurse shows I’m ready to be helped out of bed and to the restroom.
As one of the nurses grips my arm to steady me, my eyes take in her name badge. Comerford. That’s my doctor’s name. I comment, my voice sounding slurred like a drunk chic in a bar who’s finally discovered her best friend.
“He’s my dad,” she says.
That’s what I remember from ICU. Drugs, pain, my helpful husband, and the nurse who is related to my doctor. Nearly a week later, they transfer me to PCU, and from there to a regular hospital room, where my true hell began.