We exert control over ourselves and others in many ways. Talk about a time when you lost that control. This can go beyond the obvious emotional control into things like willpower, tidiness, self-discipline, physical prowess – any time you felt your autonomy slipping away.
I have always been the sort of person who keeps her cards close to her chest. It wasn’t until I started a blog that I shared much more of my emotional life with anyone. It was easy for me to be the go-to girl in a crisis; but, I never let anyone in far enough to ask them for help or even acknowledge that I was in trouble.
Three years ago, during a time when I was making a drastic career change, I needed to undergo some abdominal surgery. It was routine, but it meant that I would be out of work for six weeks and would need to take it very easy.
The surgery was scheduled for a Monday afternoon. I had been sick during the week leading up to my surgery date, fighting a cough. In hindsight, we probably should have postponed; but, I’d already had to bump the date once, due to COBRA approvals and authorizations for the surgery. I wanted it behind me.
I came through the surgery, and everything looked good. I had staples holding the incision closed, and there was quite a bit of pain that first night. We quickly discovered that morphine is NOT my friend. It wasn’t touching the pain at all, and I felt that I was coming out of my skin. The next day, after they switched my pain medications, I was able to rest a bit, get out of bed and have some visitors. My cough was getting worse, and I was given a little pillow to hold over my belly when I coughed.
By Wednesday, I was told that I could go home. I just needed to have my staples out.
A nurse came in with the staple remover. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t something that you could buy at Office Max. In no time, the staples were out, and my discharge papers were signed.
As Dave gathered up my things, I got dressed. In the bathroom, I had another coughing fit, and I could feel a pulling sensation in my abdomen. It gave me pause, but I wanted to go home.
After the mandatory wheelchair ride down to the car, I was bundled in with my pillow in my lap. We’d only gone about two miles down the road when I had another prolonged coughing fit. This time, when I pulled the pillow away, it was covered in blood.
Dave yelled, “Holy shit!” and made an illegal u-turn in the middle of the road. He drove straight back to the hospital and right to the emergency room.
Because we’d just left, I hadn’t even been cleared from the system. The ER doctor examined me and determined that I’d need to go back into surgery and be closed up again.
In addition, he wanted chest x-rays done. He suspected, correctly, that my cough had blossomed into pneumonia.
Back into surgery I went. Once he knew that I was okay, Dave went home to get the kids settled. I was back in a room by midnight, wide awake and panicked every time I had to cough. I had IVs and blood pressure cuffs, leg compression socks, oxygen, heart monitors…the gamut. Every time I’d cough, my blood pressure would go through the roof, causing concern with the doctors.
Because of the pneumonia, I was supposed to blow into an apparatus & keep little ping-pong balls afloat for as long as possible. I was supposed to do this every thirty minutes. It made me cough, which hurt and which also scared me again. I was a mess.
My room was at the end of a hallway, right at the entrance to the ward. A big, heavy door would rattle every time someone came in or went out through the door. Between that, the pain, coughing, fear and techs coming in to take blood and vitals constantly, I wasn’t sleeping, either.
On Friday afternoon, the vein in my hand, where the ER nurse had placed my IV, collapsed. Suddenly, my hand swelled up like a balloon. I called for a nurse and she pulled the IV out. They didn’t replace it, and I took that as a good sign. I’d been told that once my IVs were out, I could plan to go home. I figured that they’d let me go the next day.
Up to this point, all of my nurses and all of the techs had been female. I’m not sure that I’d even thought about that until 4:30 Saturday morning. A male tech came in to take some blood. After getting over being startled awake by a man, I asked why he was drawing blood if I was going home that morning. Without even blinking, he told me that I couldn’t go home, and that he’d be back in just a bit to start a new IV for antibiotics.
I. Lost. It.
I’d had enough. I had been poked, prodded, cut open and stitched up twice, and had not slept for a week.
For the first time in my life, I went absolutely hysterical.
The tech beat a hasty retreat and put a call in to the doctor.
As I sat there in a backwards hospital gown, sobbing, my cell phone rang. It was my cousin, Lisa. To this day, I don’t know how she understood a word I was blubbering. She offered to come over to the hospital, to call Dave, to speak to the doctors…anything. I think that what I really needed, at that moment, was just someone to listen to my incoherent crying. She was as surprised as I to hear me lose my mind like that. She later thanked me for allowing her to be there for me.
When I’d wound down to hiccupping sobs, she hung up and called my mother. My mom had helped me wash my hair and shower the night before, but had planned to take me home, since Dave had to work and deal with the kids. Mom headed to the hospital right away. She and Lisa knew that I needed someone there.
In the meantime, the on-call doctor came into my room and found me still crying.
“What’s all this?” he asked?
I begged him not to put in another IV. I promised to take as many pills as I needed, if only he’d let me go home. I’m sure that it was clear to him that keeping me there would only agitate me and possibly do more harm than good.
He agreed to speak to my doctor first, and if she agreed with his assessment, he’d discharge me.
My mother arrived, and I was given permission to go home. I was handed a stack of prescriptions, that awful breathing apparatus, a new little pillow and a date some tend days later to have the second round of staples removed.
Today, all is well, and I think that losing control like I did helped me to be a bit more open with people who I care about. It can still be galling to have to ask for help, but it let me see that others are more than willing to be there for me, just as I am for them.
I’m participating in this year’s The Scintilla Project. It’s a two-week opportunity to share stories and build our community. Come join us!