I scramble out of bed after a few short hours of sleep and slip out of my warm bed into the shiver-worthy air. I hurry downstairs to slurp up as much caffeine as I can manage as I finish up the few tasks that remain in preparation for Alex’s surgery. It is 5:20 AM, far earlier than I’d like to be up, considering I finally fell into bed some time between 2:00 and 3:00 AM. Despite the rush of activity, I take the time for my morning prayers. Today is not the kind of day I can venture into without prayer.
I’d already gotten most of the bags out to the car—one bag for Alex’s needs at the hospital, one bag for when we’d spend the afternoon and evening at my mom’s, and one bag full of what portable work I was willing to take with me to alleviate the wait. I also had an insulated lunch bag full of canned caffeine. I hurried upstairs to bid Mark a sleepy good-bye and to get Alex up. I dressed him in loose clothes, and stuffed him in coat and boots. Alex lolled with sleepiness, not having had time to wake himself thoroughly. I left off hat and gloves, because the day was warm for winter (foggy and raining, instead of bitter cold and snowing), and because I didn’t want to have that extra bit to look after.
The drive was slower than I would have liked. According to the weather report I’d read before crashing into bed, the fog was supposed to have lifted by now and the icy roads melted to wetness, but everything was still foggy and slick. We got there five minutes later than we should have. We checked in, in quick and easy fashion, and the receptionist handed a card to an elderly volunteer. With formal courtesy, he said, “Would you follow me, please,” and led us from the front desk of the hospital, through the warren of corridors, to the outpatient surgery desk. I made as if to step up to the desk, but he handed them a card and said, with a slight bow, “If you would follow me please.” We ended up tucked in our little, private cubby with as little fuss and effort on our parts as possible. Nice. Very nice.
We were visited by a nurse’s aide, an admissions lady with a rolling, computerized terminal, and then the nurse. The simple stuff went by with minimal fuss, though we had to coax Alex to let the light clamp thing measure the oxygen in his blood via his finger. Of all the times I’ve seen it and had it used on me or my children, I still have no idea how that works, but, once we got Alex to leave it on, it found that Alex’s blood had plenty of oxygen.
The anesthesiologist came in before we were ready, and was left waiting a bit, but it gave me a chance to mention (thanks to my mom’s memory) that anesthesia makes Alex nauseated, so he’ll need the medicine to help with that. Then, the surgeon popped in, dressed like a civilian, and we went over everything I hadn’t asked yet: I shouldn’t worry overly much about the bouncing, as it can’t be helped; he’ll probably need a few days off from school; and it’s all very much like the last time. The anesthesiologist came back and we talked about the options, and I was able to assure him that, from previous experience, Alex was fairly cooperative with the medical staff, at least as far as going back with them on the rolling bed was concerned. No separation anxiety would cause Alex to freak out as they were taking him back to the surgical room. (Taking his blood pressure and the finger clamp were other matters. Fight the little stuff, but cooperate with the big stuff—that’s my Alex.)
We gave him the dopey medicine, and within a few minutes Alex was ready to go. The anesthesiologist had suggested it would take about ten minutes. Alex waited three, then took my hand and led me out. The bed was waiting for him, but I think Alex’s readiness took them by surprise. With help, he clambered up into the tall bed and lay down. He knew what was expected of him, and I guess he just wanted to get it over with. I kept pace as the doctors wheeled him to the double doors, offering what comfort and reassurance I could. Through the dopey haze, Alex smiled and nodded, then let his eyes droop closed. And they were gone.
For a moment, I stood, feeling a little bereft. Then, I went back for my purse, headed to the car for our hospital bags, and settled into the waiting room. I tried to work on a paid assignment from a print-out. I made a little progress, but my ability to concentrate was hindered by the other people waiting and by the rather enthusiastic, but silly talk show host and guests jabbering away on the television. I cut about half of the material that needed cutting from my draft, but couldn’t work on the transitions, since I couldn’t hear the words in my head over the drone around me. So, I put it away and worked on some of my novel planning, which required less concentration.
Time passed. I was restless. As much as my work is sedentary, it doesn’t require me to just sit and wait. I get up and do things when my body needs it. Here, I had to check the progress of the surgery each time I left the room. Luckily, my timing was good, so when they came for me, I was there and seated, waiting in readiness. I quickly put away my things and went back to the private, little cubby we’d started in. Alex was still drowsing under the effects of the anesthesia, fluttering between sleep and wakefulness, covered in blankets, and beneath the blankets he was naked. A patch of gauze was taped over his incision, and his hand was wrapped with self-sticky bandages to keep him from trying to rip out his IV again.
He threw up once, violently, but then was done, and seemed to feel better. He refused to drink or eat for them, but I’d warned them that might happen. The nurse had gone through the trouble to get Alex cheese sticks, but even these held no appeal for him. After a while, he let me dress him. Then, he let me put water to his lips by placing the droplet on my finger and touching to his lips. He’d rub it into his chapped lips, but wouldn’t let me bring cup or straw near to him.
The nurse called the doctor to ask if Alex could go home without drinking, and that was approved. A little while later, I brought the van to the front while they rolled Alex to me in an oversized wheelchair, so he could curl up in the seat. My new, full-sized van made the trip a bit easier. I opened the double doors wide, and then lifted Alex up and placed him into the nearest seat, reclining it a little, buckled him in, and covered him with my winter coat, which I’d left in the van. The hazy sun had burned away the fog and the slickness, so the drive to my mom’s was quick, and aside from the chill of surgery and the overall comfort of being just on the edge of too warm, the coat/blanket was unnecessary.
Everything went smoothly. Everyone adapted their expectations to Alex’s peculiarities, especially in regards to not assuming that his unwillingness to eat or drink was a sign of distress. I did have a bit of difficulty getting the pain medicine from the pharmacy, though that might have been a product of my fatigue and worry. In the end, the pain medicine turned out to be a liquid form of regular Tylenol in a kid-sized dose; so we’re using the tablets of “melt away” Tylenol that we usually use instead, because I can crush it up in his class of soda, just like I do for the melatonin, and he takes it much better that way.