Steve’s recovery is going well. When I first went to see him in the Intensive Care Unit immediately after surgery, he was more tube than man. I counted no fewer than 5 IV bags going into him, plus morphine and oxygen, and an assortment of tubes coming out. He had so many tubes at that time that there were special connectors hooking multiple tubes together to a single port of entry. I have a brother with a major heart-lung issue, so I’m no stranger to the hospitals and the tubes, but this was the first time I’d seen the nifty tube connector device. I was kind of sorry Steve wasn’t in a condition to fully appreciate the engineering that went into keeping him alive after someone had opened up his chest and manhandled his heart.
Yesterday, the first day post-surgery, some of the tubes came out, and the physiotherapist came along to shuffle-walk him 30 m across the ICU. Then he was moved out of ICU and into a semi-private room in the main part of the hospital. I spent most of the day with him yesterday, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very cheerful company. With the long-anticipated surgery over, I was free to focus on how very, very much I was missing my children. At one point I couldn’t even text the word “kids” without getting weepy. It didn’t help that Steve’s big accomplishment of the day – walking 30 m and transferring out of ICU – happened before noon, and the rest of the day was not much of anything.
Time slows to a reptilian crawl when you’re in the hospital for long periods of time, have you ever noticed? You sit, you make idle chitchat about the most trivial of topics, you flick through a magazine or play a game on your phone, the patient dozes…nothing much happens. Nothing changes. It’s big news if the patient burps or farts. Hours go by in this way, and you start to feel that until the end of time you’ll be sitting in this same little room with this same person doing the same things, and nothing will ever change. When you leave the hospital after spending the day there, you marvel at the feel of fresh air on your face. You’d forgotten what fresh air felt like. You’d forgotten fresh air even exists. You turn on the car stereo and you are amazed that there is news. Events in the outside world carried on as usual. Other people’s lives did not stop because your partner had heart surgery. People went to work and came home, they had dinner with their families and went to the movies, they signed treaties and contracts and read their children stories and walked their dogs, all while you were sitting in a little room doing nothing and nothing and nothing. It seems impossible and somehow magical.
Today has been a better day. When I went to the hospital this morning, Steve was sitting in a chair and eating solid food – both post-surgical firsts for him. He had had some tubes removed, and more came out this afternoon. He walked again, this time reaching 90 m, making him a superstar athlete on the cardiac-surgery ward. If you ever want to feel young and strong, no matter how out of shape you are, go to the cardiac-surgery ward, let me tell you. Steve is getting a swelled head from all the nurses’ comments. They are more used to hauling around diabetic, confused octogenarians than assisting 40-somethings who still have all their marbles and a little bit of muscle tone. The kids came home, Steve’s brother and sister-in-law went to visit him, and all is good in my world. Not perfect, not until Steve is home and recuperated enough to be an equal partner in parenting and driving again…but good. Better than it was. Hopefully the upward trend continues.