This spring break I was planning to relax. Relax, and do all the things I don’t seem to have time for while in classes.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, I spent my spring break in a hospital room.
Life in the hospital seems to be all about waiting. And waiting. And waiting. With how slowly everything moves there, I wonder how they would deal with an urgent situation.
No, I’m not sick. For at least the past month, my husband of nearly five years was having troubles eating, drinking and using the bathroom. Mike was diagnosed with multiple ailments from multiple doctors before seeing a specialist who immediately admitted him to the hospital.
I was at home trying to finish my finals, when Mike called to tell me he was in the hospital. Luckily, I was mostly done with my project, because I rushed through finishing. Of course, because I was trying to finish quickly, I had technical issues. I waited and paced while my printer took several hours to print part of a page. Had I been able to concentrate, I’m sure I could have fixed the problem sooner as well as done a better job but my mind really wasn’t on school work.
I finally finished and made it to the hospital room where I learned what had been wrong with my husband for the past month or so: His colon had been narrowing and now was completely blocked.
Perhaps I should backtrack and try to explain his special circumstances. (I should forewarn against any graphic descriptions.) Because of a birth defect, Mike’s bladder was removed and his kidneys were rerouted to his colon. Thus a blockage in his colon blocked everything which caused a complete renal failure. It’s possible that his other organs—not just his kidneys—could have shut down too.
Because nothing was moving through his colon, he ended up puking his waste products, giving new meaning to the phrase “tastes like crap.” The hospital kept him like this for more than a day, vomiting fecal matter, to see if his kidneys would start working on their own. Obviously, they couldn’t because nothing would leave his colon. I’m blissfully ignorant about medical things, but even I knew his kidneys wouldn’t miraculously start working without some kind of procedure.
Finally, mercifully, more than a day later, Mike went through the pain of having tubes inserted through his back into his kidneys allowing them to drain. Almost immediately, one kidney filled bag after bag with liquid. The other still isn’t working very well.
Since his kidney function was now in line, he could undergo the tests to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. Then, he could wait for surgery to remove the colon blockage—the reason he was there in the first place.
Close to five days after being admitted, Mike finally went under the knife.
As seems to be hospital custom, Mike was made to wait before alleviating his suffering. Apparently, paperwork is a higher priority than a patient writhing in pain. If the anesthesiologist didn’t chastise the nurse into giving Mike the medicine when he did, either Mike’s mother or I (we were waiting with him as he was being prepped for surgery) would probably have let the nurse know what she needed to do in words mostly beginning with the letter F.
For several hours that felt like days, we waited in his room to hear how the surgery went. Since patience is a virtue neither of us has, Leslie and I took turns asking the nurses if they had heard anything about Mike. Several hours after the surgery was supposed to be done, we were told that he was in recovery and we could see him in his new room soon.
Now it was time to wait for the doctors to decide that Mike was recovered enough to go home—when he could digest food properly. Unfortunately, his body was not ready for food as quickly as his mind. A few days later, Mike was able to convince the doctors to slowly start him on solid food again.
Finally, the day came when all of the specialists agreed Mike was ready to go home and heal. First though, the specialist who had admitted Mike explained what had caused the blockage: Cancer was found in the middle of the blockage.
So now, even though Mike’s home and recovering, we’re still waiting. Waiting for him to be ready for another surgery to reconstruct his colon as this past surgery was only a temporary fix. Waiting to talk to a cancer specialist. Waiting to hear what other treatment lies ahead.
Originally published in issue 194, April 1, 2005