Susan Speaks: Party On, Wayne!


Monday dawned the way Mondays do: full of promise of the week ahead, if only you’d get yourself out of bed and in gear so you can discover it all.

I got the kids up and moving and together, we waited for our ride to the hospital. The kids had said they’d be too nervous to focus in school all day, so I’d told them that instead of staying home, where they’d still be nervous, to come to the hospital with me and my friend. They’d be able to watch the process and that ought to help. It wouldn’t be a panacea, of course. For years now, I’ve been the rock for these kids. They were understandably scared.

Hell, so was I.

The week before, I had cleared it with the schools that the kids would be out so they could be with me, and we fed the foster kitty and I encouraged the kids to use their nervous energy to straighten stuff up. They, of course, retreated into their phones. Kids.

My friend and her husband picked us up and we piled in and he drove and then we were at the hospital and in the waiting room and man, it was hot in there. And I was dressed to recover at home, in fleece. I keep the house on the cool side, so by the time I finally got to go back to pre-op, I was getting sick from the warmth.

Nothing a flimsy hospital gown can’t cure, though, and once I started feeling better, my nurse showed up. “Get ready,” she warned me. I was going to have three series of a lot of drops — “five or six,” she assured me.

Now, before all this happened, if you asked me to lay my head back so someone — you know, like my eye doctor — could give me drops, I’d have a panic attack. Just the act of leaning back while someone stood at my head… and there are people reading this who know me really well. They can’t believe it. SUSAN, having a PANIC attack?

Well, that’s how it USED to be. Amazing the fears you conquer when you blow a hole in your eyeball.

Once the drops were in, she asked why I was watching Cops: Las Vegas or whatever it was. “You don’t have to,” she said, handing me the paddle to change the channel. That’s when we discovered the privacy curtain was covering the sensor, so I said to her, “I’ll just flip it one channel. Anything’s bound to be better than this.”

I laughed at my bad luck. This is the time for bad luck, and yep, there’s a picture of Jesus on the cross and … well, I didn’t stick around. This ain’t no channel for a good Jewish girl.

But Amy the nurse needed to get to other patients, so I said, “I’m going to flip to … here. And this is what it’ll be.”

It was a commercial. I was rolling the dice again. But I couldn’t keep the nurse standing there, holding the privacy curtain away from a TV I didn’t particularly want to be watching.

Turns out, it’s action month on AMC, and that meant the end of the Karate Kid.

Amy went to bring my friend and my kids back to sit with me. And there might have been a second set of drops in there, too. There were only two chairs and three visitors, so the girl hopped up on my bed near my feet. She kept complaining she couldn’t see the TV; it had glare on it, she said. I offered to move so she could sit somewhere else on the narrow hospital gurney. She said no. She’s a considerate kid. Or maybe she was worried I’d flash her brother, which was a distinct possibility.

Now, I have awesome friends. Like attracts like after all, right? My kids are funny, when they’re not nervous out of their minds. So we chatted through the end of the Karate Kid and we got the boy to laugh a few times. Amy the nurse might have brought more drops. I know the kids were there for one set because we talked about how much better I’ve gotten about the whole thing.

Didn’t stop the boy from turning a new shade of white, though. Each step of the process, I worried, was going to be too much for him. This is the kid, after all, who passed out during School Career Day when the classroom was hot and the doctor describing his job had pictures of maggot-infested flesh on the screen.

Medicine is not in my son’s future.

Karate Kid ended and we’re still in pre-op. Amy the nurse reports that the surgeon is working on the case before us. The surgeon had told me that he does the sickest patients first, and I seemed to be smack in the middle of his day. Not dire, but not a breeze, either. I guess I was okay with that.

And then it happened. The movie ended and the next one came on. Dudes, it was a doozy of a film. A sequel, even.

Tremors 2.

And I had the volume down low. Which of course means it wasn’t long before the four of us were writing our own scripts and talking about MST3K and … well, party on, Wayne! We were loud. We were laughing. And I kept looking at the people across from me and watching that poor woman’s feet wave with her nervousness while her companion slept and I wanted to go to her and tell her it was okay. I wanted to invite her into our stress-free zone so she could relax and have fun and be in a better place, mentally.

But by the time I would have done this, my IV had been placed. Let me tell you, I’ve had bad IVs before, but these recent two have been amazing. This doctor said, “A little pinch” and I waited for it… and waited for it… and then said, “You mean it’s in? Wow, you’re good.”

I appreciate that sort of care. But it also does a really good job of illustrating how awesome everyone I’ve encountered has been.

We kept this crazy talk going up until the teenage boy needed to be refueled. Not only is he a teenage boy, he’s an athlete these days, Mr. Ultimate Frisbee. He doesn’t have a lot of lean body mass or fat to begin with, so keeping that kid topped off can be a challenge. I sent the three to find the cafeteria and put my stuff in a locker.

That’s when the exhaustion hit. Exhaustion from… all of it. I’ve barely been alone since I fell off my bike. People have been around, and while they’ve been helpful beyond all compare, they are still company in MY home. It’s strange and it’s stressful. And I’m hurt and I’m scared and I’m the one who’s the rock around here and the kids need that to continue and… it was a struggle to stay awake. I actually asked if they’d put more in my IV than saline, but they said no. The nurse anesthetist who was there to check on me patted my shoulder and said it was good that I could relax.

I may have appreciated the contact more than the words.

But then the kids and my friend reappeared and Tremors 2 was still on and I had a new nurse and the fun recommenced and the new nurse came to do more drops… and for the first time, she stood on my left to do them. And for the first time, I didn’t tell her I had bad eye anxiety. And guess what? It was all okay.

By the time the dad from Family Ties was out of the bulldozer and the weird creatures had run into the barn and were happily munching away and we’d thoroughly made fun of all that, things started to happen. The final set of eye drops. The heart monitors put in place (Me to the boy: “Did you just see more of your mother than you ever wanted to, or was [the medical person] in the way?” Boy to me, “Huh? What?” Girl to me, “She’s in the way.”).

My surgeon stopped by. We chatted. He put his initials over my right eye. It felt like he drew a smiley face, but nope. Just the letter E.

I remember the sedative to “relax” me. I think I remember the family standing up. I know I remember handing my glasses over to the girl. And I think I remember the team starting to wheel me out.

The party was over. It had lasted hours. It was good, it kept me calm.

But damn if I didn’t ask, on the drive home, how Tremors 2 ended. Just so I don’t ever have to watch it again to see if I do, indeed, remember.

Dudes, that was one bad movie. And it was so deliciously perfect for the moment, I can’t begin to tell you.


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