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.