she’s a girl with glasses


safe in the sound
November 3, 2010, 9:33 pm
Filed under: blog | Tags: , , ,

You don’t sleep in a hospital. This is a given: you don’t sleep and, in my case, you apparently don’t eat, resulting in two pounds lost on what we began calling the “Stress and Starvation Diet.” Something about your kid being a patient for a week just does that to you.

It was just appendicitis, I’ll say that up front. Appendicitis that resulted in a rupture. I’d never actually known anyone who had their appendix removed and my experience had been totally and completely defined by a remembered episode of Step By Step when I was about twelve years old. The signs were clear, according to that piece of TGIF viewing: sudden stabbing pain, a hardened belly, unsympathetic parents.

We had none of those, not really. Three-quarters of the family down with the flu, when my daughter didn’t recover the same day we did, we thought she just got it worse. We set her up in bed with whatever she wanted to eat and episodes of Fraggle Rock (see how sympathetic we were?!). It was the next day when she was walking oddly and my husband, the nurse, suggested we take her to the ER.

From there, things went predictably haywire. There was a standoffish nurse and delayed medications, a CAT scan with a tube up my little daughter’s bum, which she took in a fashion more befitting Tudor royalty, giving me just wide eyes and a mouth rounded in a perfect “O” of surprise. A transfer from one hospital to another was ordered, and took three times longer than it should have. She was taken in for surgery, we pried her brother off the walls in his boredom.

I was unaware of the aftermath such a thing entails. Step By Step, I recall, showed the family clustered around the ill girl’s bed after her surgery, the music swelled, and the episode was over. As this is, honestly, the only episode I remember of the show, I don’t know if they continued any line of this story later. Perhaps they did and my education wouldn’t have been so woefully incomplete if I’d just remembered to tune in. As it was, I was under the impression that we’d leave the next day, maybe the day after. It was laproscopic surgery, after all: why would they need her there when all three cuts added up to less than an inch wide?

It as the pus, of course. Funny how many things come down to pus.

She was put on rounds of antibiotics. Another dose every six hours. A machine that gave a loud, mournful beep at the end of each course. Another machine that threw a tantrum even more often, for reasons that were never quite clear to me. The medications and saline bags hung from something like a coat tree, and when she visited the playroom of the hospital with a couple cancer patients, it was a forest of the things.

The space given to the parents was a version of a fold-out couch that was something like sleeping at an airport and just as restful. I woke when the nurse came in during the night as K slept like a rock. I woke every hour and checked on her, checked her IV and her hair and where her feet were creeping.

I lost it on the third day. It was something tiny, something I can’t even remember a week later, but I burst into tears and couldn’t breathe, clutching at my husband and sobbing just off the main lobby; I was a miserable advertisement.

It’s one thing to suffer yourself. It’s something else completely to stand aside and watch your child suffer.

Even now, having walked out of the hospital nearly five days ago, I check on her incessantly. She was sent home with a PICC line and further antibiotics. A home health nurse arrived to show us how to administer them, as A was not familiar with their equipment. I was overwhelmed and refused to participate in a practice session and left the room to cry. The next morning, having managed more than an hour of sleep, I followed my husband’s directions. Today, I could probably do it in my sleep.

I never stayed overnight in the hospital before I was pregnant with my daughter at twenty-four. My first surgery was her birth. She was absolutely dwarfed in her bed, and hated the hospital food. I informed her that she was consistently taking years off my life and, if she wanted me to live to see fifty, she needed to knock this shit off.

I watch her sleep, every night, as I have every day since the day she was born.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Sweet Jesus, I remember that Step By Step episode, too … I don’t think I remember any others, either.

I wondered where you were blogging these days, btw. I never use this blog, but maybe I ought to start again.

These little shits do have a way of making us old before our time, right? At this rate, I doubt any of us will live to see 60.

Comment by moonriddengirl

Aw. Hope everyone’s coping okay–I’ve never been in this situation, not having kids, but it must be so scary to see your children sick/hurt and not be able to just fix it. Even if you know they’re going to be okay logically. You sound like a wonderful mum, for what it’s worth, though. 🙂

Comment by Sadako




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