My wife had surgery and I took on the role of being her one and only caregiver. (Hey, a new word for my resume.) In other words, high jinx has ensued.
A mere 24 hours ago I was so naive in the ways of the world. I had never been The Guy before. I look back in time at that previous version of me and think, “You chump.”
A lot has happened since then. Let’s get you up to speed.
I knew the day of my wife’s surgery was coming. After 10 long years of waiting (long story) her pain was finally going to come to an end. Her shoulder was going to be repaired.
What I knew of the event was limited. Because it was inconvenient we had decided my wife would attend all of the pre-op meetings alone. My knowledge of the procedure consisted of information relayed through her. The surgery would entail four small incisions on her shoulder to repair a rip or tear. It all sounded somewhat minor.
The doctor, however, was telling my wife she’d be off work for six weeks and would take months to recover.
Last week I met a guy who had triple bypass heart surgery just five days earlier. I’ll admit he didn’t exactly look on top of the world, he was a bit pale, but the point is he was up and about, with no overt or visible signs of his surgery, running his errands around town.
I thought, “Hmm. My wife’s thing doesn’t sound as dramatic as heart surgery. Perhaps she’ll heal quicker than she thinks.” Even so, I took a whole week off work to be able to care for her and be at her beck and call.
The morning of the surgery I heard her at the receptionist checking in. She said, “Yeah, he’s right over there. He’ll be waiting in the lobby. Tom Taker. Tom B. Taker. T-A-K-E-R.”
What the hell? When she got back she explained that I was The Guy.
We’ve all seen it a million times in movies and television. Someone is in the hospital and someone wants to visit them. “Are you family?” they ask. “Are you on the list? No? Then get the hell out.”
For the first time in my life I was on that list. I realized I was The Guy. It was a weird and peculiar feeling.
As The Guy I was permitted special privileges. I got to go back with my wife to the tiny little room surrounded by curtains. There they asked her 27 times which shoulder it would be. All 27 times the answer remained the same. “The right one.” I admit this made me feel confident they’d probably work on the correct one. Back at home I had joked about drawing a bullseye to minimize the risk of error.
I got to watch as the nurse tried in vain to establish the IV. Then, later, as she went and found an expert to finish the job. It obviously hurt like hell. My wife had tears streaming down her face.
I stayed with my wife until the last possible moment. They finally kicked me out when they were about to administer a “block” which was a shot that went in her neck and had to be placed very close to a certain nerve. I feel confident I was ordered to leave lest I faint and knock over a tray of expensive medical instruments.
They let me see her one last time before she went to the OR. (That’s Operating Room for you neophytes out there.) She was already out of it. My practiced medical eye noted that they had added a sedative to the IV in addition to the lactated ringers. KMG 365. Then I found out that “lactated” didn’t mean what I thought it did. Dammit.
I told her it would all be over soon and that life was about to be unimaginably good for her. It was finally going to be over and things were going to be better. There was going to come a day without the omnipresent pain. As The Guy it was my job to say such things. Or so I figured. I think it was Star Trek: The Next Generation where I learned to say things like, “Everything is going to be alright.”
Then I waited in the lobby for about two hours. When surgery was over they came out to get me. Me? Me! Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I’m The Guy.
The doctor met me in a consultation room. He brought pictures. He began explaining stuff. Very important stuff. And I was like, “Hey. There must be some mistake. Why are you telling all this to me?” Then I realized it had to be because I was The Guy. It was a very sobering moment. “Can’t you get someone else in here? Like an actual adult?”
Still, I did my best. Finally it was time to see my wife. I had been told everything went well. In my mind, I was relieved. She had been put fully under and the negative part of me knows that sort of thing can sometimes be fatal. I was so glad it was over.
Then I saw her. Whoa! This is some serious shit. I was unprepared for the moment. And next thing I knew, the nurse had assigned me duties. I was in charge of a sippy cup and a straw! And, get this, completely on my own I was supposed to remove her breathing mask and let her drink. All by my own self.
I did have a joyful MacGyver moment, though. One of the nurses fiddled with the air mask and the end of the cord broke. I looked at it and said, “I can fix that.” The nurse told me it couldn’t be fixed and left it laying there useless on my wife’s bed. I waited for her to leave, picked it up and did my repair. I forced the stretchy cord through one of the tiny holes, pulled it through, then tied it in a knot. Viola! MacGyver in the house, yo. I guess, in some small way, maybe I really was The Guy.
Long story short, they put it all on me. Medication schedules. Dos and don’ts. How to monitor the fluids that would soon be oozing from my wife’s back. “Remember the food,” the doctor hissed. “The pills must be taken with food!” (Minor Dune reference here.) It was all so overwhelming. I remember thinking, “I’ve never felt so grown up before. Can you call takebacksies on being The Guy?” The other people were still out in the nirvana known as the waiting room with absolutely no responsibilities! And here I was taking everything on all by myself.
The last 24 hours have been quite the eye-opening experience. Never did I know it could be like this. My wife’s every need depends on me. Food. Drink. Pills. Pillows. Entertainment. Trips to the toilet. Standing up. Sitting down. So this is what it feels like to be responsible.
My wife isn’t allowed to sleep on a bed yet, so we set her up in the comfy chair in the living room. To avoid having her all the way on the other side of the house I slept on the sofa so I could be close to her. THE SOFA!!! I’ve never slept on a sofa for anyone in my entire life. I do not sleep on sofas. I can’t sleep on sofas. It is a scientific impossibility.
Suffice it to say it was a long and rough night. In addition to the sofa there were meds every four hours.
Today my wife says her pain level has decreased from 9 to 8 on scale of ten. I’ve been responsible for everything for the last 18 hours. I’m exhausted and I feel like baseball bats have crumpled my body from head to toe. I’m getting too old for this shit. If I have to stand up one more time I may quite literally need one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” bracelets.
Let’s start a fund for one of those, shall we?
I am no longer excited about being The Guy.