Maybe you've been through this, and so maybe you know. I did not know and I am not happy I learned.
You go to the doctors and you put life in their hands and you look at them and wait. And you want them to say this is what's wrong, and this is how we fix it.
And that is never, ever what they say.
They say maybe. They say we don't know. They say we have to do more tests.
Because it is not a broken bone, with one diagnostic and one course of action and one path to recovery and a time when healing is done.
It is something complex and inside. We can't begin to understand.
* * * * * *
At some point, I believe she was still recovering from the peritonitis but I cannot say for sure, my mother's bowel burst into her insides.
They opened her up and they did all they could do.
The procedure was dire, and her recovery was...
* * * * * *
We went to the hospital in New Hampshire so we could be there when they were done. David and I and Healy and Brian and Samantha and Wes and my father. They let us see her.
It was the scariest sight I have ever seen.
My mom, my beautiful strong loving mother, was tiny and frail and looked about 90 years old and. She was so uncomfortable and on so much medication that she would yank at her tubes and try to pull them out, so they had to strap her arms to the bed. She had a tube coming out of her nose, a tube coming out of her mouth, a tube coming out of her stomach, tubes coming out from her gown. The fluids they were giving her made her bloated, and because of that her hands, while strapped to the bed, were freakishly large and round and without signs of age. She had the appearance of something ghostly and garish and awful.
We walked into the room and tried to take the whole thing in.
She was conscious.
She had no idea what was going on, of course, but she was awake and when we entered she looked at us all, and we looked back and fought with everything we had not to appear visibly shaken.
Not to appear visibly shaken.
God! I wanted to scream! In horror!
To scream and heave sobs at the shocking, horrible sight.
No! No! No! This is not my mother! Where is my mommy?
But no. We stood beside her as bravely as we could and put on calm faces that said everything was going to be okay. We're here, Mom. The worst is over now.
She tried to speak but couldn’t because of the tube down her mouth and she couldn’t understand why. So much morphine.
We could see the confusion and pain in her eyes as she looked to us. She was pleading for us to help her. Pleading with her eyes and her strapped-down hands. And all I could do was stand there and feel sad and guilty and utterly useless. We were standing on the shore and she was in the water right in front of us and she was drowning and she could not understand why we were not rescuing her.
She couldn’t even make a sound. But tears started falling from her eyes.
* * * * * *
The doctor pulled us into some special family room, where I suppose too many families have heard too much bad news. And now it was my family. Somehow, it was happening to us. How could that be?
We sat there stunned and awed and without any idea what to do. We looked to the man in the white coat with all our hope, begging him to be something other than a human being.
Doctor, please be God. Please make it so that it’s all better right now. Do not tell us you don’t know. Have all the wisdom of modern medical science and wave your wand and save our mother. Save us all.
But he was not God.
He spoke plainly about the situation and said that our mother was in grave danger.
First he explained what had happened by drawing a picture on a piece of paper, labeling “bowel” and other body parts. We took in as much as we could. He was making sense and speaking simply and we were grateful to be told anything definitive.
But he went on to say that his hospital is small, and he is the only one experienced enough to tend to our mother if she should need emergency services. Thus, if something happened to her while he was in surgery...
She could not stay. She would have to be moved to a bigger facility. He would not take the risk.
You know, he was not God, but he was a very good man.
* * * * * *
We eventually left the hospital and went and played NTN.
It was Mother’s Day.