“Breaking My Left Wing”, Part 4: “Reporting for Rehab–Day 1”


January 30, 2017

TMI Sports Medicine

10:00 am

“Drop and give me fifty, grunt” snarled my physical therapist, spittle dripping from his chin. “On the double!”

I quivered. I cowered. I rolled into a ball.

“P-p-please. D-d-d-on’t h-h-h-urt m-m-e,” I whimpered.

“You helpless puddle of poo. You disgust me,” he said, upper lips curled, as he kicked me in the side with his steel-toed combat boot.

I was afraid I would surely die until, lo and behold, a miracle  happened:  I woke up.

Yes, the big day had arrived, at last. As I brushed my teeth, my every nerve pinged with excitement.From here on out, I would eventually get to sling my sling after  completing  the prescribed number of  sessions . Meanwhile, Facebook friends who had undergone physical therapy for on various body parts regaled me with “war” stories. Despite  tales from the trenches  from other PT “vets”, I resolved, then and there, that my experience would be different. 16266230_10210422592714845_5765612115168230575_n

Jeff and I arrived fifteen minutes before my ten o’clock appointment. Again, my nerves began tuning  like an orchestra before a concert. My eyes trained on the entrance to the therapy room; any  minute, someone would call my name.

Unlike the part of the office reserved for people waited fifteen minutes — and then thirty, forty, and so on –for someone to call them back, I waited, maybe,  twenty minutes at the most. As specified by my paperwork, Daniel would be my therapist. So when I heard a feminine voice say “Kim?”, I was surprised to see a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties.

“You don’t look like Daniel,” I told her as Jeff and I entered the therapy room, set up like a fitness gym. She laughed.

“No, I’m *Sara, one of the students. I’m just going to lead you through some exercises to see what you are able to do, right now.”

Now, it’s  important for you to know that I was so excited about the  procedure that I really didn’t catch her name, thus the asterisk beside the name “Sara”. It is also crucial to remember that I really don’t remember her exact words, only their essence.

My husband and I followed her into the gym where she directed me to sit up on one of the padded tables, asked me some questions about my pain tolerance and when I took my last pain pill. Then she led me through seven range-of-motion exercises:

  1. Wrist Active Range of Motion
  2. Elbow Passive Pronation/Supination
  3. Active Hand/Finger Gripping
  4. Passive/Active Assisted Elbow Flexion
  5. Upper Trapezius Stretch (Stretching the neck muscles)
  6. Cervical Retractions (Chin Tucks)
  7. Scapular “Clock” Active Motion (on the shoulders)

She also measured the distance I was able to move my left arm away from my body.

Well, as she directed me through the various routines and told me that these exercises, performed in ten reps each, twice a day, would also be my homework, I felt elated that I could easily do them, particularly the hand and finger movements and tried not to sound boastful when I reported that I already used all ten fingers to type three out of four blog posts since the date of my surgery. I was feeling pretty darned good — for awhile, that is, until the warm room started spinning, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Raising the head of the table, Sara eased me back against it and ran to get an ice pack which she applied to my shoulder.

“Does this happen to other people?” I asked. “I’m not the only weenie, am I?”

“Oh, no,” she assured me. “Since you’ve just taken your pain meds and are obviously excited about your first session, it is perfectly normal. I’ll tell you what — we’ll let this be it for today,” she said, handing me two sheets of paper with photos and instructions for completing my homework and walked Jeff and me up to the front to set my next appointment time.

All in all, even though today was only the beginning of Physical Therapy “boot camp”, I came out of there feeling not only thankful to have completed my first session but, also,  pretty proud of myself. Within the three weeks since surgery and even the hellish second week of 2017 when I hollered a lot from the pain, I knew I had come a long way within a relatively short time period.

Last Wednesday, not only did I get the staples removed from my shoulder incision, I also got to ditch the stabilizer  that weighed down my sling for two weeks. Jeff and I had even been able to take little outings where we walked around. What’s more, I have already been able to  slack off on my meds since last Wednesday after the PA said I no longer needed to take them around the clock, but could take them on a PRN — Latin for pro re nata or “as needed” — basis. While I still need my Tylenol with codeine “fix”, I have just about cut out the need for Tramadol which I had taken regularly, four hours apart, since I got out of the ER on New Year’s Day.

My next session is this Friday, February 3. I expect Daniel will be back to put me through the paces and to see how well I have done on my homework. I, for one, intend to be one of his biggest success stories. Tune in for “Breaking My Left Wing: Reporting for Rehab — Day 2” coming to a computer, tablet, or Smart Phone near you.

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“Breaking My Left Wing”, Part 3: Ramping Up for Rehab”


January 25, 2017

TMI Sports Medicine

I’ve known, for two weeks, that I would have this to go through. On Wednesday, January 11, the  day after my surgery, Dr. Seroyer told me he needed to see me in two weeks to do a dressing change. He said something about therapy. What I did not hear him mention was snipping out nineteen staples he had used to sew up my shoulder.

This morning, after another set of x-rays and a long wait afterwards that sent my Lifetime Movie Network imagination down a rabbit hole, the doctor strolled in and pulled up the x-rays.

“Your  x-rays looked excellent. Ready to get your stitches out?”

“Am I ever!” I said. “The sooner, the better.”

Up to two weeks ago, I’d had only one other surgery in my life and a set of stitches on the top of my head. Although I had dreaded their removal, they only tickled a little when an aide removed them with bandage scissors. But those were merely stitches sewn with surgical thread. These rascals, on the other hand, were industrial-strength staples. Like inHome Depot staple gun.

“Okay, I want to see you back in a month. And you’ll be starting therapy here on Monday,” said the doctor, flapping an appointment card into my hand.

When Lisa, the PA, started removing them, I sucked in my breath. Cringed. Winced, even. In fact, I was such a weenie that I reminded myself of the little “piggie” who went “wee-wee-wee all the way home”. Only, in my case, it was more like “owee-owee-owee!” as I endured the nineteen hard pinches and as many sharp nips.

Deep breaths, Kim, I told self, until I heard the last staple go ker-plunk into a cup.

After swabbing my incision with iodine and applying steri-strips on it, Lisa removed the wearisome stabilizer that had held Dr. Seroyer’s handiwork intact and slipped back on the sturdy sling.

“What do you want me to do with the stabilizer?”

Burn it,” I spat.

“It’s yours, you know. You can do whatever you want with it.”

On the way out, we stopped at the Physical Therapy window to set the first appointment for ten o’clock on Monday morning. As I walked out to the car with my husband, I felt as if I had been handed a whole new start. For the first time since eleven o’clock p.m on New Year’s Eve, I would once again be able to take showers, again, instead of settling for sponge baths. Shampoo my hair. Apply eye make-up. Wear “human” clothing. And sleep in our bed, again, instead of the recliner.

Most important  of all, I’ll finally be able to wrap both arms around Jeff who has been selfless in his caregiving.

To come in Part 4, the final and most rigorous step in my journey: therapy. The “given” is that I’ll go twice a week for one hour per session. The number of weeks I will have to go is up for discussion between my physical therapist and me. The number of weeks I go remains to be seen.

Bottom line: pain sucks. Although I have managed to adapt to the situation, and  learn shortcuts and “workarounds” during my recovery, I am all packed and ready to return to the land of the “functional “.

 

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Breaking My Left Wing, Part 2: “Under The Knife”


January 23, 2017

As I continue the saga of “Breaking My Left Wing”,  I’m typing with only the fingers of my right hand. Not the usual rhythm nor energy I prefer, but I have stories to tell. This is only Part 2, “Under The Knife”.

Rewind to almost three weeks ago: Monday, January 9, 2016.

There we sat in an examining room at TMI Sports Medicine, waiting to see the orthopedist, as per the discharge instructions from the ER attending. The rub was that the doctor named in the orders was not in the hospital’s network. So the phone rep lined us up with another one: Dr. Shane Seroyer.

Up to that point, I’d managed to do more and more, even using all ten fingers on the computer keyboard, only for my bum shoulder to growl, “Give me codeine. NOW!”

Other than a lightweight sling with little to no support and pain  in my shoulder and upper arm that still made me holler at the slightest touch, I guess I expected to hear that my arm was healing and that nothing further would be required.

Wrong-0 de-dong-0.

First, the PA bustled in and pulled up the x-rays, pointing at the area in question.

“Yep, here you go. Multiple breaks in both the upper arm and the shoulder. You’re gonna need surgery.”

BONG. I gasped as my stomach did somersaults before plummeting to my toes.

“S-s-surgery? W-w-when?”

“Tomorrow.  Probably around nine or ten. Keep in mind that several days have already gone by.  The longer you wait, the worse off you’re gonna get.”

After Justin ducked out, the doctor slipped in, introduced himself, and outlined the plan of action: I was to have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but I could take my Synthroid, as usual, in the morning. A team would prep me for the outpatient procedure, give me “happy drops” to make me drowsy, and then wheel me into the operating room, fit a mask over my face, and he would implant a metal plate and some screws after making a single incision in my shoulder before closing up, delivering me to Recovery where I would sleep off the surgery for about four hours before being returned to my room and my husband.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

“Will you actually be the one doing the surgery?” I asked, calmed down by his competent but caring manner.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Schwarz.”

That afternoon, I texted family and friends to ask for prayers, as I dealt with the shock that I — a woman who turned into a weenie at the thought of going  “under” and being sliced open –would go into surgery in less than twenty-four hours.

That night, I petitioned God to watch over me during the procedure and admitted to being slightly scared. He stroked my forehead.

“Got you covered. Now go to sleep.”

“But the doc’s gonna put me under!”

“Have you forgotten that major surgery I brought you through twenty-one years ago? You know, the one where your family hung out in the waiting room for four hours?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That brain-tumor surgery that had everyone wondering whether I’d come out with my head on straight.”

He nodded. “That would be the one. This procedure you’re so worried about is outpatient surgery that requires only one incision and only about an hour and a half — on your time zone, not mine, that is. Soon after, you can go home with that husband I gave you, three years ago.”

“But, Lord, what if –?”

“What if what, my child?”

“Jeff and I watch Code Black and Chicago Med. Stuff happens. People die!”

“Trust me. Go to sleep.”

Soon after, I yawned and closed eyelids grown heavy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2016

Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off to the time I had set: 6:30 a.m. I had managed to sleep quite soundly. After dressing in something comfortable, Jeff helped me ease into the front seat of the car and fastened my seat belt before he slid behind the wheel and headed down the street to Medical City Arlington — the same hospital where he bid adieu to a diseased gallbladder — and Lisa, in Admissions where we filled out all that really fun paperwork before she issued me a bracelet.

Minutes later, a nurse  escorted me to the Surgical Suite. This time, as she opened the door and took me to the room where I would await my turn in the surgical queue, I felt uplifted. Energized. I was ready to quit hurting — the sooner, the better.

Under her direction, I donned what I called my “Jiffy Pop Ensemble” — a blue gown and cap appearing to be decorated with aluminum foil. Garbed in the strange, new get-up,  I crawled onto the bed and let Nurse Lisa put some non-skid slipper socks on my feet before injecting a numbing medicine in my arm and asking me a battery of questions.

“You’ll find yourself answering the same questions by about four people, before it’s all over,” she added.

True to her word, each member of the surgical team– the OR nurse, anesthesiologist, and the surgeon — did indeed ask me the same questions and inspired my confidence in them until the big moment came. The anesthesiologist inserted a needle into my inner arm like liquid silk.  After Jeff bent down to kiss me, I slipped “under”.

It seemed  like only a few minutes when I awoke to someone shutting cabinets and looked around. I was numb  from shoulders to waist. A mound underneath my  gown resembled a the pregnant belly of someone carrying sextuplets and, although I knew it was still there, I couldn’t feel my left hand. Must be that nerve block the nurse told me about.

“Oh, hey, there. You’re awake!” said a young man wearing a cap and scrubs.

“Um…yeah. Where am I?”

“You’re in recovery. We’re gonna take you back to your room in a bit.”

As someone wheeled me back to the room where Jeff greeted me with another kiss, I marveled that I had no memories of the dreaded operating room. No cold, hard, table. No  mask over my nose and mouth.

No memory a’tall, I thought, with a grin. How cool is  that?

After Lisa got me settled, I received a snack of Sprite and crackers which I  managed to hold down. I peed. I belched.  An hour later, I got to go home wearing some big-honkin’ sling/stabilizer contraption intended to protect the surgeon’s handiwork, enough painkillers to fell a Clydesdale, and a metal plate and nine screws (which removed all  doubt that I am officially screwed-up).

Back at home, that evening,  I napped on and off on the couch with my feet in Jeff’s lap and our trusty dog perched somewhere in between.When it came time for bed, Jeff situated me in the recliner, as the nurse recommended. He stretched out on the couch so he’d hear me when I needed anything.

“Thank you, Lord. Y’know, for guiding my team and me through the surgery.”

I imagined loving eyes twinkling.

“Didn’t I tell you I had this covered?”

“You did, indeed. But I’m still glad it’s over.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s my job. Besides, I  love you, kiddo.”

In a few weeks, I’ll be writing Part 3 of “Breaking My Left Wing: Lessons Learned”,  about the next step: rehabilitation, but first, I have to ditch this sling. Meanwhile, here I sit, trying to be patient as I type with only one hand.

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Breaking My “Left Wing”


01-03-17

Four nights ago, my husband and I were watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on television and waiting for the 2017 ball to drop when he said, “Hey, go over there and point to the screen. I’ll take your picture as if you are really there.”

So, over to the t.v. I hustled and pointed to the screen as if I were actually among the New Years’ throng.

A click and a flash later, Jeff hollered, “Got it.”

I was coming back to the couch before I — well — didn’t. Finding myself splayed out on the floor, I wailed. I writhed. I clutched my left arm. Our dog, Russet, who had been curled up on the rug,  gave me a sympathetic lick. In spite of the pain, we were about ninety-percent sure I had just pulled a muscle and that I’d feel better in the morning.

Remembering how friendly Aleve had been, a few years ago, when I fell on the dance floor, we dosed me with the magic blue caplets for the rest of the night, promising each other that if I felt worse, the next morning, we’d head down the street to our friendly neighborhood hospital. Since I had just changed insurance carriers, I knew that my old fall-back, Care Now,  would not accept Care ‘n Care.

Surprisingly, I slept well, that night, dosed to the gills with Aleve. Getting out of bed and, generally, moving at all was another matter. So off to Medical Center of Arlington, we went.

The MCA team did not disappoint. After a triage nurse asked me to rank my pain level from 2 to 10 and I rated it at least an 8, she placed me in a room where a witty nurse and a compassionate x-ray technician who x-rayed me there on the bed, snapped into action. Within minutes, a doctor came in to tell me that I had a fracture of the humerus — a broken upper-arm bone — just below the shoulder. He estimated it would take a good six to eight weeks to heal, referred me to an orthopedist, handed us a prescription for Tramadol, a pain reliever, and sent us home to our black-eyed peas.

Now, here I sit, thankful. Thankful that I already feel like typing this blog. Thankful that I don’t have to hurry and get syllabi and lesson plans slammed out before the Spring 2017 semester. Thankful for my loving and solicitous husband.

It could have been worse. A whole lot worse. Where I landed, I could have hit the corner of the piano bench. Or banged my head on the coffee table. But, as badly as my arm was hurt, and as ragged as I still feel, I’m thankful, most of all, that God spared me, again, from the worst.

Holidays can sometimes be the worst for accidents. Do you have any to share?o

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Adios,”Thirteenth Grade”!


12-18-16

Thursday, December 15, 2016 was my last day of school. Shortly after nine a.m., when the last student in the room turned in her exam packet and Scantron sheet, I wished her a merry Christmas and told her I had enjoyed having her in class. Once she left, I erased the whiteboard, gathered my belongings, locked the room, and returned to the Adjunct Office to run the Scantrons through the machine.

Oh, happy, happy, I thought. It’s all over but the shouting.

On Monday, December 12, I had closed out my first two classes and had already done everything I intended to do for this last class. I had only to record their exam grades into the electronic grade book and then post the grades on Web Advisor. After one last once-over to make sure the correct grades were posted for the correct students, I printed two hard copies of the grades and attendance for myself and my Department Chair and then — ZIP, BAM, BOOM — hit “Submit”.

Point, click , done.

After closing out the grades, I reached into my messenger bag and pulled out one final order of business of my own: a folder from the Teacher Retirement System. Not only had I planned to turn in my grades and unload my textbooks in the English Department office, at the end of this semester, I would also take the first step in the retirement process. At the time, both my husband and I thought  the form for “Notification of Final Deposit” form was what I needed to start the ball rolling. To my surprise, a Human Resources representative from the downtown campus told me that I needed only to inform my Chair that I was retiring and ask him  to input an “EX TRM.” Once he did that, she explained, the actual retirement process would begin, even though I would still have some paperwork to fill out. I had already broken the ice with him, earlier that day, by telling  him that I would be retiring, as of the end of the Fall 2016 semester and explaining that, after twenty-seven years with the district, I wanted to retire while my husband and I were able to travel while we were young enough and healthy enough.

Less than one hour later, once I returned home, my Chair called to let me know that one of his assistants had completed the “input”. For all practical purposes, I could call myself “retired”.

To celebrate the occasion, that night, Jeff and I dined at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Campo Verde, a festive place with Christmas tree lights strung inside.

Although I’ve been planning to retire for the past year or two, I had put it off, promising to teach “one more semester”.

That “one more semester”, my last day of the Fall 2016, is here. Right now, we’re still in a daze. And, with more paperwork for TRS and the Social Security Administration looming ahead, we know that today was just the “kickoff” and that the process will take some adjustment as well as self-control. But it won’t really seem real until January 17, when I would normally return for Adjunct Orientation.

“So, what’s your next adventure” asked a Facebook friend, that night.

“Writing, writing, and more writing,” I wrote back. “From either our ‘tiny house‘ in Rockport, Texas or our Airstream or other comfortable, used recreational vehicle as we tool around the country and see all those sites — Grand Ole Opry New England, and other sights on our combined bucket list.

So that’s it, for now. As my husband told me, it’s all about deciding it’s going to happen and making a plan. I finally did it. For those of you who are thinking of retirement or have have already retired, what does your new adventure in life include?

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OUR RUSSET: No More Does She Roam


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Today, Jeff forwarded an email to me from a friend  we met during a trip to Canton’s  monthly “First Monday” event. He told us he was compiling stories about people and what their dogs meant to them and was gathering  pictures to use in an upcoming book.

“You might want to do this,” Jeff wrote when he forwarded the email to me.

Don’t mind if I do, I thought, as I opened up a Word file and fired up my brain. The picture above is of a cozy moment with all three of us resting on our bed. The one on the left, below, is Russet on the day I adopted her on March 30, 2011. On the right, Russet as the happiest baby girl in the neighborhood when Jeff returned from the hospital.

To follow in “OUR RUSSET: No More Does She Roam” is the story that goes with the pictures.

 

After I lost “Boaz”, my senior Welsh Corgi, in January 2010, I allowed my empty,  broken heart to remain, dog-less, before I even felt like welcoming another dog.

In March 2011, fifteen months later, the pics of a friend’s new fur-baby on Facebook made me hanker for a pair of moo-cow eyes, slurpy kisses, and reassuring scent. So, I headed for the nearest bar before I remembered a prior incident that ended badly.

No, on second thought, make that a pet shelter.

Okay, I’m kidding about the bar fiasco, but not the pet shelter.

When I asked an Arlington Animal Shelter volunteer about the Shepherd mix  in the window, she said that someone had surrendered her only the previous day  because she “was getting too expensive.” And, as far as she knew, this dog had no name.

Well, she does, now, I thought, as I tapped on the window and wiggled my fingers at the long-haired, perky-eared beauty with the expressive eyebrows and fur the color of a baked potato. From that moment, I decided that she and I would become a team.

I’m gonna name her “Russet”, take her home, and love her forever.

Now, since I was seven, I’ve had a lot of dogs, all with soulful, liquid-brown eyes, but the yearning in Russet’s eyes tore my heart from its moorings. Knowing someone had dumped  her at the shelter, like a shabby couch out on a curb made me want her even more.

“And her adoption fee includes spaying and shots,” said the volunteer.

“Say no more, then. Hold onto her for me. I’ll be back in a couple of days when I get paid.”

In the meantime, I visited Russet at the shelter after school to bond with and play with her and get her used to her new name.

From  March 2011 until September 2012, the little spit-fire reminded me of a two-year-old, sometimes, and a teenager, others, as she seized opportunities to flee until a car hit her, one afternoon. Her little set-to with a Saturn sedan cost us emergency surgery on her right hind leg followed by six weeks of weekly treatments. But, as I had hoped, it made her think twice about dashing into the street.

Soon, she settled down, especially when her “Daddy” – my husband, Jeff — blessed her life and mine by marrying us on March  2, 2014.

Now, when one of us opens either the front or back door without her dashing out, I believe it’s safe to say that Russet’s roaming days are over.

That said, what does your dog mean to you? I’d love to see your pictures and read your “love stories” about you and your own fur-babies.

 

MARRIAGE 101: “In Sickness and In Health”


05-05-16

Medical Center of Arlington

12:05 a.m.

As I continue  “Marriage 101: ‘In Sickness'” in our hospital room, the clock on the wall shows the little hand on the one and the big one on the twelve. One o’clock: the exact time Jeff was wheeled into the emergency room of Medical Center of Arlington, three weeks ago.

Yes, you heard me right. Three whole fun-filled weeks in which his doctors juggled his heart with his gallbladder.

That night, as Jeff  clutched his chest in the icy-cold emergency room of Medical Center of Arlington — or, the “MCA ‘Hilton'”, as we started calling it — we were so sure that he was in the middle of a heart attack. Were we ever shocked to learn that those pains that started in his chest before traveling elsewhere were caused by gallstones! Only a couple of days later, while he was undergoing an M.R.I — Magnetic Resonance Imaging — those pains returned.When the test came back, the cardiologist told us that this attack in the MRI was an honest-to-goodness heart attack.

Since it was crucial to his life to stabilize his heart first, his cardiologist scheduled a heart catheterization where he discovered two good arteries and blockage in the other three, yet, he told us that he thought best not to perform any other procedures or even another stent, as it might have actually blocked the arteries even worse.

Then came Week Two which crept by like an army of snails on Lithium. The wait was brutal and we wondered why Jeff’s doctors didn’t just haul off and hold a big pow-wow to decide what to do, and when and where they would do it. In the meantime, his heart man and two GI men (one of them a surgeon), and a general practitioner kept an eye on him.  At one point, one offered him the option of going home for a week or staying put where he would already be safe, should he suffer another episode. Well, as much as we both wanted him home, we also knew the only safe solution was  to stay put where he could safely wait it out.

During that same week, our room was a hub of activity with  doctors, nurses, PCA’s (a new term for nurses’ aides), respiratory therapists, and a phlebotomist or two milling into and out of our room at all times of the day and night until I expected they would be able to find it blindfolded.

So far,  Jeff has had endured at least one X-ray,  blood work, two MRIs, one  heart catheterization, two echocardiograms.

In the works for Week Three, would be an ERCP  (“alphabet soup” for  Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) to prepare for what we had all hoped would be the grand finale: a cholecystectomy (or, gallbladder removal). It would take place probably Monday or Tuesday.  (That was the maddening part of this whole thing. No one gave us a definite date or time so that we could make plans. They explained that it depended on when they could get a room for it and the doctor performing the procedure could work it into his schedule.)

Week Three started off with a bang when I heard Jeff whispering to me. Doped up on Benadryl, when I couldn’t get my eyes to quit itching, the night before, I had finally sunk into bottomless  slumber.

“Psssst. Wake up, babe.”

“Mghgbt,” I mumbled, lifting my leaden head off the pillow. “Huh?”

“We gotta move.”

“Umghg. Where?”

“Down the hall. The nurses tried to move us at six, but I held them off.”

“Why do they need that?”

“Because of a leak on the second floor that dripped down to our floor. Get up. They’ll help us move.”

As my brain started waking up, I remembered someone laying out tarps of some kind, the night before. When I had started down to the Nutrition Kitchen to get Jeff some strawberry ice cream, a nurse had routed me through the support-staff office and cautioned me to ‘be careful’.

Sure enough, just before breakfast, here came nurse rolling in a wheelchair for our ‘schtuff’. As I had been gathering stuff up and taking it home, as we realized we hadn’t needed it, and as I had kept our belongings fairly easy to grab up, our exodus to the room at the end of the hall went  smoothly, but it screwed our breakfast up. Still, all things considered, the rest of our day went smoothly and our new “digs” were even a bit bigger. Week Three, the week we had been waiting for, was just about at our door, so we were in pretty good spirits. On Monday, May 2 — which also happened to be our twenty-seven-month anniversary — he would go down for an ERCP to pluck out the stones. On Tuesday, he would get his gallbladder out.

At last, the  GI Lab transport arrived and wheeled Jeff out on his bed. I followed along behind him until we got to the place where he would go in.

“Break a leg, baby,” I whispered in his good ear before entering the hospital lobby to wait out the forty-five-minute procedure.

On that day, there had been a fatality shooting in the Walgreens on New York Avenue, the street I take to get to school. Another family whom I had seen in the GI area gathered around the t.v. After making a couple of remarks to them, I opened my laptop and set to work on grading more essays. I just started grading one when the doctor came out.

Wow, is it that time already?

“Mrs. Schwarz, we’re through in there,” he said.

“So, you did pick out the stones?”

He handed me some pictures. One frankly turned my stomach inside out.

“See this? It’s pus. Lots of it. I washed it out, but his gallbladder will definitely need to come out, tomorrow.”

At this point, I need to explain that this all happened during final examination review week. In fact, as I prepared the review, it was with the possibility that a sub might have to present it.

As I, myself, have appreciated clean-cut and easy-to-follow lesson plans from colleagues for whom I have subbed, I made mine super easy to follow, as well. So you can imagine my relief when I learned that Jeff’s surgery would come to pass on a day when I could be off. According to the plan, he would have the surgery on Tuesday and, maybe go home on Wednesday. Thursday at the latest. We were almost home.

Please note that I said “almost”.

On Tuesday, May 3, the surgeon removed the gallbladder. As it was the most serious procedure to date, I had asked one of my besties if she would be available to come and sit it out with  me. As we were waiting, someone from our congregation joined us, and we started talking.  Soon, I looked up to find the surgeon approaching me.

“Mrs. Schwarz?”

“Yes. I’m Kim Schwarz.”

“Well, we’re through and it went well. I figure your husband will sleep a lot today and then, depending on how he does, he might get to go home, tomorrow. He’s still asleep, but you can go back in just a bit.”

Jeff woke up just as I approached his bed. The nurses had handed him a kidney basin, as sometimes the anesthesia can be nauseating, but soon he was ready to return to the room where my friend Jodi, Rusty from church, and I waited.

Although Jodi had wanted us to go to lunch somewhere, I had asked her if we could wait until after the surgery. Suddenly, though, with it all behind us, I was starving.

“Y’all go on ahead,” Jeff urged. “I’m just gonna go back to sleep.”

So we drove across the street to Cafe Pulido, on Mayfield Road and had enchilada dinners and caught up on girlfriend gab, even splurging on two orders of flan, before starting back.

When we got back, I was floored to see Jeff barely making it as a nurse ambulated him after his surgery, to keep him from getting pneumonia in his lungs. We all knew there had to be something wrong. Sure enough, the same doctor who performed the ERCP said he had found a large stone with no place to escape but Jeff’s bile duct.

He would need another ERCP. This time, though, getting the stone out would be simple. The next day, a Wednesday, he had prepared for elevenish; however, with a crowded schedule, Jeff was told the doctor would squeeze him in around five-ish that afternoon.

“But I’ll have to teach,” I wailed.

“Look, babe,” said Jeff. “I want you to go on in, as usual. I’m gonna be all right. The doctor is just going to take out the stone and send me back up here and all I’m gonna do after that is sleep.”

So I did just that. After letting my seven o’clock class out a little early, I drove home to feed our dog before swinging through Whataburger’s drive-through to redeem a coupon for a Chop House Cheddar and Bacon burger. With my car smelling like grilled onions, I pulled onto the access road to turn right onto Matlock where the hospital was located. As it was after nine o’clock p.m., I knew I’d have to get into the hospital through the emergency doors, as MCA locks the main entrance at that time.

When I arrived at Jeff’s room and swung open the curtain, my usually happy-go-lucky hubby stared at me as though I were an alien. Instantly, I knew that he had been gobsmacked by anesthesia.

There was no way Jeff felt like going home on Thursday; thankfully, his heart doctor listened and supported our decision to hang in until Friday.

On Friday, around one p.m. or so, after we had finished our sweet-and-sour chicken and rice, a nurse brought his discharge instructions and left us to pack our belongings. After gathering up the plant that friends had brought us during the first week, I pulled the car out of the parking lot and swung around under the porte-cochere  where two navy-vested volunteers  waited with Jeff in a wheelchair.

Now that we’re home, the real recovery and change of lifestyle begins with sleep. Lots of sleep, changing our diets to low-fat cardiac, and working in some exercise, every day. On Saturday, we accomplished two of those goals: getting his prescriptions and stocking up on food he could eat.

All in all, our time at MCA was as pleasant, down-home even, as a hospital can possibly be. As a wife,  I loved its family-friendliness. The nurses actually seemed to like my sleeping in his room on a fold-out couch. The staff, from diverse cultures, were professional, courteous, and many times, downright fun. The meals, for the most part, were tasty for hospital fare. Best of all was its proximity to our house: only  five minutes west from our house. In short, on that tense Friday morning around 1:00 a.m. when every second counted, Medical Center of Arlington was a Godsend.

Coming up, I’ll be returning to my lighter-hearted posts. Until then, take care of yourselves. You have only one body. Be good to it.