Just Visiting, Thanks

Returned my husband to the hospital today as he begins the next phase in his recovery, the beginning of outpatient therapies.

How is it possible that he lived here for seventeen days, and doesn’t know his way around? Being here is so familiar to me, and though I didn’t live here myself, I did sleep here for a week of his stay. Just writing that feels like an archaeological dig, so long ago it seems from today’s vantage point.

I’m a tour guide for him here though. He has no memory whatsoever of his days in the surgical ICU, and almost none of the acute floor. He doesn’t know where his room on the neurorehab floor was, and he spent ten days there. If you’ve ever wondered whether IV drugs and hospital stays are disorienting, wonder no more.

I was petrified on day one the first few times I called requesting entry into the ICU, but that quickly became routine. I felt whatever is more than petrified when he was transferred to the acute floor. “Stranger in a strange land” captures it decently, but then there too became familiar much too quickly. While I felt he needed 1:1 nursing, that ratio was not how things worked on the floor. Eventually, and by eventually I mean within a half day, I was roaming that unit pretty reliably.

Being transferred to the rehab unit was the worst first day of school ever. We knew the expectations were that he’d work his ass off or be asked to leave. I did not think I’d ever feel comfortable with him there either, but before long, I was granted access to the staff-only supply room to get those styrofoam cups you only find in the hospital for water as he requested them. He was a model patient and I was a model wife. Well, the part about him is true anyway.

So today, staying for just a few hours is a spree, a holiday! I did still check in to the cafeteria to score my hospital beverage, a Kombucha, because apparently this is what I drink when I’m here and some habits die hard. My life was put on hold last month, and I have no sense of time, other than everything “before” seems like a long, long time ago, another lifetime.

But as I travel the halls to set up myself and my Chromebook in the courtyard here while he works, I recognize some distant, frightened, clueless expressions on the faces of people I pass. They are me not at all long ago. People pacing, people fighting back tears, people talking too loudly or whispering into their cell phones expressing, I imagine, their disbelief to their loved ones, and I realize it’s been just over a month, which is no time at all.

8 thoughts on “Just Visiting, Thanks

  1. I don’t know what happened to your husband but I wish him well. it was really tough on me two years ago when I was in the hospital and not sure why I was there much less who was with me. that was a tough couple days until my head came around. and then I fell out of my garage rafters last November and landed squarely on my left side. it’s been a tough past two years with one more surgery to go.

    I hope he does well quickly

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  2. Mike was in 3 weeks. I kept my own stash of soda and eventually used staff kitchenette and staff bathroom- at night. I actually brought Mike in some real food. He wanted KFC and some of my lasagna. Being too familiar with the hospital is not good.

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  3. I got to know the staff at St. Joe’s really well. To the point that the cafeteria staff and I recognized each other, I knew which nurse we were having and the best way to work with each one, etc. My dad remembers nothing of the ICU and very little of his first hospital stay. I’m so glad he doesn’t. He doesn’t remember having to learn to swallow again after the ventilator, etc. I’ll never forget it, though.

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  4. My mom was an ICU nurse for over 40 years. I’ve seen what you’re going through many times but only experienced it once myself, and that was enough.

    Sending all the good thoughts your way

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even once is too many, but those incredible nurses doing the job deserve a medal. I still refer to one of his ICU nurses as my therapist. I was a mess every time I saw her, but she always talked me through and down off the ledge.

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  5. I know you’ve had a tough run lately, Jim. I wouldn’t ever have guessed any sort of head injury had been in your past. It’s the scariest thing to watch someone you love not “be quite there,” even if it’s temporary. As long as you keep me smiling with your blog, I’ll always send good luck your way! My husband was run over by a truck just over a month ago. I’m going to unlock the original post I wrote post-injury, if you’re interested in reading, it’s titled We Interrupt This Story (or something close to it).

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