September 9, 2016
Sickness and Health
My surgery was scheduled on a Friday. Steve took that day off work so he could be with me -- starting quite early, since we had to check into the hospital at 6:00 am.
He had a long and somewhat anxious wait, as my surgery went well past the expected time, stretching to nearly four hours instead of just two. Finally the doctor came out and explained the complications that had required all the extra work. Everything turned out all right, and Steve was able to see me as I woke up in the recovery area. Once I was settled in my room and napping a bit, he was able to take a short break to get a very late lunch, returning to sit with me until bed time.
Steve spent many hours with me Saturday and Sunday. For most of that time, I wasn't moving or saying much. I wasn't permitted to take any food or drink. There was a tube running down my throat, pumping out whatever blood or other fluids collected in my stomach. A tube connected to my arm provided me with fluid and medication.
I felt miserable, weak, and helpless, but having my husband with me, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes just sitting nearby, was very comforting. He brought me a bouquet of roses so I would have something friendly to look at when he wasn't there.
After two days, my stomach was tested for leaks. Everything looked good, so the throat tube was removed, and I was allowed to consume clear liquids. I didn't have much appetite, but it was nice to be able to sip a little juice or broth. Steve kept an eye on my tray table, making sure that I had everything I needed and that it was all within reach.
I was released Tuesday afternoon, just four days after the surgery. Steve had arranged to work at home all week so that he could take care of me. However, on Tuesday evening he had to teach a class that could not be substituted, cancelled, or postponed. So he got a good friend to come and sit with me for a few hours while he was out.
The hospital requires that patients being released have a responsible adult with them. (Uber drivers don't count!) There are good reasons for this. I was still very weak those first couple of days at home, and would not have been able to take care of myself properly. I was told not to drive, climb stairs, or engage in vigorous exercise of any kind. (And really, I didn't feel like doing any of those things. Mostly I felt like lying down.) Steve made sure I had my medications (an unexpectedly complicated errand that involved two pharmacies), and that I didn't have to do anything that might harm my recovery.
For the first week at home, I was on a very restricted diet; Steve had purchased the items that I was allowed to consume, and he was always ready to bring me whatever I needed. I was supposed to exercise by walking, but at first I was a bit shaky, so he walked around with me to make sure I was safe.
Gradually, I got stronger. In general, I felt a little better every day. But once in a while there were problems. One very difficult day, I called Steve at work and asked if he was able to come home. He immediately cancelled his lunch meeting and drove home to help me.
A month later, there are still some restrictions on what I can eat, and my appetite is not what it once was. We like to eat out now and then, but restaurant dining is difficult because so many tasty things are not allowed, and the portions are much too large for me now. Of course, I can order a regular meal (assuming the ingredients are acceptable) and just take the leftovers home. Even better, we order one meal to share. I take as much as I want of whatever is on my list of acceptable foods. Steve has the rest. Most of the time, this is plenty for both of us.
The Promises We Made
Traditional wedding vows usually include some version of "in sickness and in health." Health is easy. Sickness requires time, patience, energy, and dedication.
There is a reason why married people tend to be healthier than singles. Having a trusted partner to look out for you and to help you with whatever you may not able to do alone makes a huge difference in life.
My husband takes good care of me because he wants to, because he worries about me, because it's the right thing to do, because seeing me feel better makes him feel better, because he knows I would do the same for him, and because he loves me.
We promised we would always take care of each other, and we meant it.