In Sickness

What a week it has been. I am exhausted.

Last Monday, my husband Steve had major surgery on his shoulder. It is a particularly painful operation with a very long recovery. It’s also a particularly significant surgery because Steve makes his living as a drummer. I am very relieved to report that the operation was a complete success.

He was in the hospital overnight so he could have morphine for the first 24 hours, and then sent home with very strong narcotics, a pump that delivered a Novocain type medicine directly into the shoulder and me. His nurse.

Before I go on, let me provide some history:

I have had 2 surgeries in the past 4 years – both on my back. The 2nd operation was to fuse two discs, so it was a big deal. I was in the hospital for 4 days, and was pretty miserable even with the strong pain meds they gave me when I went home. Steve stayed in the hospital with me day and night, and was a very attentive nurse when we went home.

So this past week was kind of pay back time. I probably shouldn’t think about it that way, but….well, I do. It was my turn to play nurse. (Unfortunately, not the kind in the sexy get-up) It was my turn to hold up the “in sickness” part of my vows.

First off, I couldn’t spend the night with Steve in the hospital because he didn’t have a private room like I did for my surgery. I felt awful leaving him. Who would be there to advocate for him through the night pain? Who would put a cool compress on his forehead? Who would console him? He needed me.

When I arrived back at the hospital very early the next morning, after a night of tossing and turning, he told me he did just fine during the night. He had plenty of attention, and had fond nurse stories to relate, “Get this, honey, Tracy (nurse) asked if I was a rock star!” He chuckled.

When questioned about his pain management during the night, he said, “They really stayed on top of the pain and were in here often to check on me.” I bet. I should have known, and shouldn’t have worried. Steve is a class A charmer – even doped up and post-surgery.

Anyway, Steve was released from the hospital early in the afternoon. We arrived home, I am happy to say, with very little swearing. Whew.

Very soon, the charming patient disappeared. And I don’t blame him. The pump in his arm started leaking so we had to remove it. This meant he was only left with the oral pain meds, and they just didn’t work well enough. So we spoke with the Doc and increased the meds which worked for a day or two until he get a head-ache and nauseous from them. He decided he would rather deal with the pain of the shoulder than the side effect of the meds, so he stopped taking most of them. Poor Steve. Right?

I am here to tell you: Poor me, too! I hate to be a whiner, but man, this is a really difficult, exhausting job! I took the week off and thought I would be able to get work done from home, maybe knit a couple of scarves, and read a book, but no way. I had no time to even blog!

Honestly, it is more work than having an infant. And just as frustrating. You know that inconsolable baby cry, the one that you can’t calm no matter what you do (the colic thing)? That’s how it feels when your spouse is huffing and groaning because of pain. You feel powerless, stressed out.

Which leads me to my confession: I’m not a real pleasant nurse sometimes. For instance, last night after I had run downstairs to the kitchen for a few of Steve’s last minute bedtime needs I had begun to finally crawl into bed when Steve asked for another little something from the kitchen. I rolled my eyes and said through clenched teeth, on my way down the stairs, “Couldn’t you have asked for this during my last trip? Is there anything else? Are you sure?”

Later, lying in bed, I tried to remember if Steve had gotten huffy as my nurse. For the life of me, I can’t recall. What I do recall, however, is that I was a really good patient. I remember thanking him profusely and asking for things in a really nice way, and I remember starting to get things on my own as soon as I could because Steve was run ragged, and I remember trying to be really quiet when I got up in the middle of the night as I went to the kitchen for my own water to take my medicine. I remember this very clearly and in much detail. In fact, I have remembered it quite often over the last week. And really, I recall all of this only to put myself in Steve’s shoes as the patient, not as any kind of comparison (enough said?).

Steve’s days continue to get better, and last night we both slept for a solid five hours. This week I will be going into work for half days, as my nursing job goes to part-time.

Maybe I can make up for being an occasional nurse Cratchitt. Perhaps later this week, I will come home from work dressed up as a “nurse”. We’ll just have to see how he’s feeling.

This concludes another view from my married life.