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dancing with Hippocrates

November 2, 2006

i have heard it said that six days was not nearly enough time for god or anyone else to create a fully functioning and viable universe. now, having just spent six days in the hospital with my wife and daughter, i humblly submit that six days is enough time to accomplish anything.

i won’t complain about our stay there. taken as a given that it was uncomfortable and the food was bad, my daughter was given the best of care and the staff of Children’s Hospital in Washington DC went out of their way to see to her needs and to ours.

my wife was great with our daughter throughout, comforting when she could be, tough when she needed to be, and the beacon of encouragement that kept our daughter striving every step of the way. it was never easy, always emotional. my wife and daughter feed off of each other in that respect. when one would cry, the other followed suit. when one would laugh…well, you get the picture (i felt so sorry for my daughter, because laughing with a hole in your belly muscles is apparently painful in the extreme). conversely, being more the stalwart-but-restless sort, i was elected gopher; running and fetching whatever was needed when stuff was needed and just being there when they needed a rock.

on occasion i also stepped in and made my wife bury her face in her cross-stitching when it became apparent that the laugh-fest was going to cause my daughter to burst her sutures.

as i said, it was a loooong six days. but we each had our role and we got through it. my wife is a very deep sleeper. mortar fire won’t pry her from slumber once she snuggles down into it. i, on the other hand, tend to take a sailor’s approach to sleep. i snooze when i can and wake when the wind shifts.

and so between us we held vigil.

the first couple nights i left the hospital to stay with family (because each room has only a single pull out for parents to sleep over) but it killed me to not be there. before it was over i was sleeping on the floor at night and sawing logs in the lounge when my daughter took her afternoon naps. it was an odd little system but with friends and family dropping by daily we made it work. we made her comfortable.

well. until that last day.

our daughter still isn’t getting around on her own. she uses crutches, but has to have someone holding onto her to do so and she cannot get out of bed or into it without help. but we knew up front that it would be a matter of months, not weeks or days, retraining her muscles, teaching herself to walk again, etc.

the criteria for leaving the hospital (other than mastering the basics of using crutches) was that she be able to take her medication orally, that she be eating and keeping down solid foods, and that she be passing solid waste on her own.

though the portion of her pelvis that was removed was in the back they removed it through the front where the muscles aren’t so dense. to get to it, however, they had to hook her intestines out of the way. doing this aparently puts the digestive system to sleep. it just shuts down. the stomach stops producing acids, the muscles of the intestines cease operating, and no gas is produced.

for two days she didn’t eat or drink anything but ice chips, receiving nourishment via intravenous drip. in fact, the signal that she could begin taking ‘clear’ foods (jello, ginger ale, pop-sicles, etc) was that she started passing gas. and when it became plain that she could keep that down she was graduated to solid foods.

six days into it, however, she still hadn’t passed any solid waste. she was just in too much pain and the muscles and structure needed to ‘push’ had been cut into.

as dad, of course, i had to leave the room once i had ‘explained’ the concept of ‘enema’ while her mother and the nurse remained to administer this new trauma. it was one of those moments where you just feel godawful bad about what you are doing but you have no recourse because you know it has to be done.

then, through the curtain, in the midst of my anguished, angst-filled remorse, i heard this piteous wail of childish outrage as my daughter (in the midst of the procedure) cried out in great indignation :: “who in the world would even think to make such a horrible invention!”

given all she was going through in the moment, (and the fact that i judiciously sank my teeth into the meaty part of my hand), i don’t think she heard me howling with laughter.

i have never in my life felt so wrong for being amused.

one day she will read this, look at the number of hits, and come looking for my blood. in the meanwhile i acknowledge being the personification of all that is evil and persist in my amusement.

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