As our parents crested toward their seventies, we weren’t surprised when they began experiencing health issues requiring our attention. It was the natural order of things. That’s what happens when people grow old. While we might have been overwhelmed by the demands of young children, we were hardly surprised by this dependency. Somehow, I don’t think we have paused to consider the same fate for ourselves and our partners. At least I did not until my seventy-two-year-old fit as a fiddle husband had a cancer scare.
The dreaded C word you never want to hear. “Our scan shows a mass in your abdomen,” announced an emergency room physician. Have you tried accessing medical care for a non-COVID issue since the onset of the pandemic? It’s virtually impossible. Jim was unable to score an appointment with his primary care physician or with an urgent care center due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. He had been experiencing abdominal pain for several weeks. We waited in the ER for hours hoping for a bed to become available. Meanwhile, abject fear became a constant companion. My dog does this thing where she comes up and leans into me for stroking and attention. I felt the same need, wanting to lean into my husband for comfort and assurance.
Note to self: Don’t check into a hospital on the weekend, especially when a pandemic is raging. We hoped for a biopsy or pet scan to determine whether the tumor was malignant. That never happened. Instead, we hung out for two days. An ER nurse told us she had visited Russia in high school and was taken aback by the lack of supplies and the queuing required. “Now the same thing is happening here. We keep running out of medical supplies and people can’t get the medical treatment they need we are so overwhelmed.” And it was true. There were hours between nursing/doctor visits. One afternoon I asked if my husband could go downstairs to enjoy the beautiful weather. “Sure, I’ll let the charge nurse know,” promptly replied the Hospitalist, happy to mitigate his guilt for ordering the fourteen hour food fast in anticipation of the biopsy he was now aborting. “Let’s blow this joint!” I whispered. “I’m taking you home.” When I mentioned to a friend that I had kidnapped my husband from the hospital she was horrified. “He had an IV in his forearm! What if you had gotten into an accident?!”
While BBLB advocates breaking a few pesky rules, it does not encourage reckless disregard for policies and procedures. Our home is less than ten minutes from the hospital. I am a safe driver. I carefully situated Jim in our Subaru and brought him to the comfort of his recliner. We felt giddy with freedom. I prepared a healthy meal to break his fast and returned him two hours later to his hospital room. Apparently, no one noticed his absence. His room was in the same state as when we left. But that little act of rebellion gave us a sense or power and control that had been missing for days. I wanted to keep him away from other hospital patients and visitors who might be contagious. Those two hours in his own home nuzzling with his labradoodle helped soothe his fears and lift his spirit. It was totally worth it!
This blog post grew so many extra words I’ve decided to make it a two-parter. Stay tuned for part two of our medical saga in the next BBLB post.