Feeble Knees

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Love in Sickness

So around Wednesday I started getting this pain in my belly that I noticed when I was bending or coughing. Didn't think too much of it until it started to get worse Friday. By Friday evening it was starting to be a little worrisome so I called my doctor's office. The doctor on call told me I should probably be seen, so we spent about three and a half hours in the Emergency Department on a Friday night (not my idea of a romantic evening for two).

As the doctors and nurses drew blood, pressed my tummy, checked my temperature, etc. My husband was an absolute trooper. I guessed it was kind of unsettling for him to see me in a hospital gurney with an IV needle sticking out of my hand. Both of us are no strangers to hospitals and illness, but it's always been someone else who was sick - my Mom, his Mom, etc. Two years ago before our wedding my Mom was in for major surgery and had a long recuperation. His Mom had a major stroke. She held on for as long as she could. To us it seemed she was determined to see us married. It was not to be. She died in our arms September 30, just twelve days before our wedding day.

So we've seen a lot, and we've been through a few things together. But we hadn't yet had to deal with one of us being sick. In the two years we've been married, we've never spent a night apart, a streak we'd kind of like to keep going. So there he sat by my bedside, talking to just keep up the normalcy, and to ease both our nerves. We talked about work, about friends, about silly things. He held my hand and stroked my cheek from time to time with a look in his eye that betrayed a little worry under the brave face.

Funny thing in a situation like that, my mind kind of goes on hyperdrive. I found myself praying my favorite Anne Lamott prayer: "help me, help me, help me!" It was like a drum track underlying all the rest of my scattered and zooming thoughts. I wish I could say I was all peaceful and composed and saintly looking, with a beatific glow on my face. I wasn't. I was edgy, tired, chatty, and silly. I have an unstoppable urge to crack jokes during emergencies. When the nurse handed me the red call button (the one that alerts the nurses you need something) I looked at her dolefully and said, "now are you sure you want to give me that much power?" Later she came to bring me to "the pelvic room" for an examination. "How long did you work here before you could say 'pelvic room' and not giggle?" I asked. In crisis mode, I become a total ham.

My husband plays along, to the dismay of some medical staff and to the great amusement of others. We've discovered this is how you find the good ones, the ones with sense of humor. Over the course of many personal tragedies we've discovered the huge importance of humor, and people who can share it with you even at the worst moments. "A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine." So we dished out the merry, the silly and the wacky moments to each other in the trauma room, making it a little easier to breathe. I don't remember the last time we had a romantic stroll down a beach lit by a fading sunset, but I will always remember this evening of brave faces, inane banter, and silly jokes.

Long story short, all my tests came out negative and much to my annoyance, they sent me home. The pain was the same, and still getting somewhat unbearable, but they couldn't discern what it was. At least I was in no apparent imminent danger of rupturing, as I had feared. It's Sunday now and I'm still watching my belly and eating with caution, but so far so good. Whatever it is, it seems to be giving up the fight. I'll take it.

Back home again we sat by the fire in our two favorite chairs, the two cats snuggled contentedly in each of our laps. We talked over the eventful night at the ER and laughed over some of it. Then we fell quiet and stared at the flames, lost in thought. In my mind I recounted every little thing my husband did that night - telling work stories to dispel the worry, cracking jokes about my urine sample, bravely escorting me into the dreaded pelvic room, holding my hand as the IV nurse poked and prodded for a vein, and praying the same manic "help her, help her, help her" prayer. "Love is doing," I thought. This is the stuff.

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