and straightens the crooked path
love keeps the stars in the firmament
and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides
each of us is created of it
and i suspect
each of us was created for it
~~ Maya Angelou ~~
My husband underwent an emergency appendectomy. He is still in the hospital, but doing much better. He continues to receive antibiotics via i.v., but is not running a fever. I don’t know how much longer he will remain hospitalized. He will definitely be recuperating for a number of weeks. Today he finally ate some solid food, but just a tiny amount. I had something akin to an out of body experience as I found myself trying to convince him to eat. I told him, “Boy, I never thought I’d see this day!” He also needs to get up and walk more . . . today he didn’t get very far because he became dizzy.
An appendectomy is a pretty routine occurrence, as medical situations go. However, it becomes more complicated when the appendix bursts before it can be removed, as Bob’s did. But in his case, there were a couple of extra “added attractions.”
For one, the thing had not only burst, it had developed gangrene which means that either he wasn’t having symptoms that alerted him to just how serious things had become — or he didn’t tell me. I suspect the latter, because although he had been complaining that his stomach was “bothering” him for a couple of days, he never said anything about pain in his side until that morning. And he sure didn’t tell me how bad the pain was becoming until the very last second. When he finally told me, I grabbed the phone and started to call our family doctor. That was the point at which the man who never goes willingly to the doctor even for a routine check-up said quite emphatically, “F— Annie! Take me to the hospital!”
That’s the moment at which the world tilted for me.
Because, as noted above, the guy won’t even schedule physicals for himself. For 22 years, I have scheduled appointments for him and demanded that he keep them. And listened to him gripe about it, before and after.
That is going to change.
Immediately after the surgery, the surgeon told me, “he’s a tough guy” when I assured him that I did not delay in getting him to the hospital — once I knew what was going on.
To Bob he said, “Mr. Siess, you were a mess.”
Indeed. In addition to the appendicitis, the doctors also discovered that he is diabetic. So learning to deal with that will be the next order of business.
When something like this happens, emotions come like ocean waves — for the patient and his/her loved ones. The initial fear of the unknown eventually gives way to relief when the diagnosis is made and intervention is successful. Then comes the realization that life as you once knew it has ended and the process of becoming acclimated to your new reality begins.
To say that this experience is rocking BigBob’s world is a major understatement. Aside from a childhood accident that he remembers little about, he has never before had any major health crisis, never been hospitalized or undergone surgery. He is a guy in the truest sense: He gets a cold or flu and keeps going. He doesn’t know any other way to live. But this week he has missed more days from work than in the preceding 22 years combined. In fact, my mouth fell open when he told me to call his boss and get the details about his sick leave benefit. Get this: I never even knew that sick leave is among his employment benefits — because, as his boss put it, “he’s never used it. But after all the years he’s worked here, he’s sure entitled to it.” I’ll say.
The guy who never went to the doctor until his wife forced him is going to have to learn to monitor his blood sugar, modify his diet, exercise, and submit to ongoing medical supervision and treatment. He is going to have to be more in tune with his bodily systems and alert to minor changes. I have been begging him to join the gym to which I belong and come to water aerobics with me — he wasn’t having it because he doesn’t think water aerobics are manly. But now he has agreed to schedule a meeting with the manager who has offered numerous times to design a work-out program for him.
One of the nurses already broke the worst news of all to him: The days of popping a couple of Budweisers while watching Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are over. Beer and diabetes don’t mix.
BigBob is having to face the fact that he is neither invincible nor immune to the frailties that befall the human body, especially as we get older. He is coming to grips with the fact that he’s not 25 years old any longer and he’s never going to be again, so he can’t continue living as though he is.
Some aspects of life as he knew it are gone as surely as is the sand castle you built with your kids on the ocean shore prior to yesterday’s high tide.
I think such realizations come easier to women because of the physical changes we face as we leave our child-bearing years and pass through menopause.
So on this Sunday I’m looking at the changes in BigBob’s life — and, of course, mine and the boys’ — as blessings. Had he not said something when he did so that I could get him to the emergency room, the outcome could have been much more grim. More importantly, it is a blessing that the diabetes has been diagnosed so that it can be dealt with. We are fortunate to have an excellent family physician who will oversee his care.
I’m thankful that BigBob acknowledges this as a “life-changing event” (his words) and appears to accept that he is going to have to modify his lifestyle in order to remain healthy.
I think I’m most grateful for the fact that he has not lost his off-the-wall sense of humor. BigBob is the king of the off-kilter one-liner. Everybody knows someone like him: He sees the world a little differently than most folks and when you least expect it, will come up with a bizarre observation or wisecrack that lays you out on the floor. For instance, the morning after surgery, I picked up the phone at 7:00 a.m. to hear, “I have seen the mountaintop” and found myself laughing hysterically.
Yesterday, faced with the prospect of watching Nascar races sans beer, he decided to write a country-western song, certain that George Jones would want to record it: “They took my appendix, they took my beer . . .” At that point, I finished the verse for him: “And if you don’t quit singing, your wife is gonna be out of here . . .”
It could be so much worse. It’s just a bump in the road. He’ll be home in no time and then Buddy can quit lying by the door waiting for him. Sophie can stop standing on his side of the bed looking at me as if to say, “Well?” Before we know it, he’ll be back to work, mowing the lawn, making his Saturday morning 0’dark-thirty Wal-Mart runs, buying more Earnhardt
treasures crap on EBay, spoiling the boys by making waffles for them every morning even though they are capable of doing it themselves, and generally driving his wife nuts.
In short, life will be mostly back to normal.
Today I think that’s the best blessing of all.