Medical Cage

It started at home but morphed into a ride on an ambulance gurney rushing an almost comatose me into the hospital.

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An antiseptic scent wafted all around me and a dozen hands grabbed at the sheets under the gurney that had brought me to this place and in one swift tug pulled me from the gurney to the waiting white plastic bed replete with pictures of two supine bodies with little arrows over them, one up, one down and a round red picture of a nurse. Then it happened.  One, two, three, and before I knew it I was entangled in a

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hospital cage.  The cage bars were all flexible, colored, and connected to several monitors that each had its own distinctive beep, buzz, or hum. Each monitor displaying colorful numbers one on top of the other and others that all flashed around on the monitors. 75/45, 37, 93, 15. Stretchy cloth tubes hugged around my calves and ankles then inflated and deflated with regimental regularity.  My current condition on display in orange, pink,and  blue, neon. A slender white stick was inserted under my tongue and a cheerful young girl called out 97.4. 

A tall handsome man with a manicured mustache held up a bag of clear liquid that he put on a stainless steel rod which contained several hooks, Then taking my left arm slowly, painlessly inserted a needle into a vein and said to the nurse next to him, “the I.V. is in,” Then the clear liquid bag began to dribble its saline contents into my body. Without missing a beat, a short, stocky nurse with a ring in her nose, started slapping nippled discs all over my body and then attaching leads to them to another machine next to my bed.  This machine produced a ribbon of tiny squares scratched with lines spiking up and down is a crazed, jagged pattern trying to find its way home. 

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This was my home for the next four days while doctors, nurses, my worried Ralph, and super worried Kristen all tried to determine why I tanked with low blood sugar, very low blood pulse, and too low blood pressure.  After almost every test known to man the mystery was slowly untangled, the machines disappeared, the bars of the cages curled up and put on hooks, the lights dimmed, the people left, and I was discharged. Diagnosis: Too much metoprolol for my heart. Don’t’ know how, don’t know why, but I got sprung from my medical cage and was sent home clutching a $15,000 bill.

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Preparing for Widowhood

It occurred to me last year that at any time I could become a widow.   What triggered this thought was the fact that my spouse had broken his hip and was confined to walking with a walker. Overnight I found myself in the position of having to do everything in and out of the house.  My spouse used to run a lot of errands, do most of the driving, and help me with many of those everyday mundane things we do. He’d make my coffee in the morning, get the paper in the driveway, and help with the laundry. He’d hop in the car and run to the store for a quart of milk or pick up the cleaning. He’d be sure my gas tank was full and drive to anywhere I wanted to go.

I now had to do all those things and drive him everywhere which really cut into my schedule. As the weeks dragged on, I got angrier and angrier at the inconvenience this life hoisted on me but I knew I had to find a way to cope. The first thing I did was realize that some of the things I had to do were just for me and I was already doing some of them albeit with help. Things like washing and folding my own laundry, driving to my writing classes, doctor’s appointments, making my side of the bed, etc. You get the idea.  None of them had to involve my spouse.   Once I took those items off my “gripe” list, things eased up a bit.

Then it occurred to me that I had started preparing myself for widowhood.  I began to preface every task with, “If Ralph wasn’t here…”  And then making my coffee and breakfast every morning was added to the list as well as getting the dog clean water and his breakfast. As time wore on I added clearing the table, going outside to pick up the paper, loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, making out my weekly grocery list, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, pumping my own gas, oh my the list kept growing.  I never realized how many things we shared together.

This morning I was up before my spouse and adult child who lives with us. The house was quiet. I scrambled two eggs, added a bit of shredded cheese, made my coffee, fed the dog and sat down to read the paper. It was quiet. Widowhood I thought is going to be like this.  Later, as I made the bed after my spouse got up, I realized I no longer felt bothered by the additional work of doing the things he could no longer do. If he predeceases me I will be forever doing everything myself but I’ll be ready for it because I am practicing being a widow.  It helps. And, thanks be to God, while he isn’t driving any longer, he now makes coffee in the morning, feeds the dog, clears the table, and helps whenever he can. I am grateful for those things he does.  They help too.