Friday, April 8, 2011

Nan and the Hospital

We left off with me heading out the door to go to the hospital to see Nan after her first re-constructive surgery...

When I got to the hospital, I realized I had committed one of the world's worst faux-pas.  I wore flip-flops to a place with nothing but tile floors.  Hearing the incessant "click, clack, click, clack" of my flip-flops made me want to turn around and go home to change my shoes, but I didn't.  Nan was up in her room and I needed to be there, so I click-clacked my way to her room.

Pushing on the creaky door to her room, I walked in to see Nan asleep in the bed.  If I've not said it before, she's a beautiful woman, even when she sleeps.  As I walked towards the bed, I looked at Nan and before I could say "Hi" to Mom, Dad and Carl, Nan just had to say "hi" first with this HUGE snore.  I mean she let such a snore rip that it startled me!  I looked at my father, who is usually the culprit behind such noises in our family, and made a mental note, he didn't do that, he was standing awake and in front of me.  As I hugged him to say hello, sure enough another HUGE snore sounded in the room.  Not believing that this incredible noise was coming from my gorgeous Nan, I walked over to the bed, looked down at her and sure enough, her mouth opened up and SNORE!  My eyes became large with sister snores!?!?!  When did this happen?

I looked at my mom and said, "But, but, she sounds like Dad!"  Mom gave me a gentle smile and said, "She's really sleeping deep," as we watched her chest slowly rise and fall.  It was at that point that my brain had gone out to lunch, instead of worrying about her safety, I was giggling that my Nana snores.

(Ok, I've got to get you up to speed really quick.  "Nan" is not my sisters real first name.  An infant Sheri trying to pronounce "Linda" came out with "Nana."  There, now you know why I call her "Nan.")

By how she looked in the bed, with just the I.V. leading into her arm and the Ace bandage around her chest covered by her hospital gown, she looked for the most part like nothing really huge had happened.  I guess it was just my way of being relieved that she got through the surgery in one piece because any time Nan is in the hospital it severely freaks me out.

You have to understand, I've seen my sister in and out of hospital beds ever since I was, I'm guessing, around 9 years old.  From the moment a boy dove into the pool and landed on her to cause the blood cot on her spinal column all the way up to her re-constructive surgery on Wednesday, much to my dismay, she's frequented quite the few hospitals as a patient.  I guess I've never really gotten used to the fact that my sister, however strong she is on the inside, has such a fragile exterior.  It always breaks my heart into a thousand pieces to see her in a hospital bed.  As you recall, I couldn't even bear to go to the hospital when she was going through the mastectomy because it hurt me so badly to see her going through it.  However, on Wednesday, I remembered that it was a positive day, Nan was looking forward to getting her re-construction started, so I wanted to be there to cheer her on.

So, there I am, sitting in the chair next to her bed and listening to her snore.  I didn't care if the 1812 Overture was coming out of her face, the fact she was snoring was a sign that she was all right and that she had bravely taken a first step to get to where she wanted to go post-cancer.

About 20 minutes after I got there, a nurse came in with antibiotics for her to take.  Ok, let's just remind you that Mom had told me "She's really sleeping deep."  How on earth was the nurse going to wake her up to take a pill?  The nurse came in, raised the bed so Nan went into a more seated position than the sleeping position and said in a fairly loud voice, "Mrs. B., I've got some antibiotics for you to take."  Nan didn't move, she didn't moan and she most certainly didn't flinch.  In response to the nurse Nan just laid there and gave the her a snore.  I looked at the nurse and said, "She's not going to answer to that, her name is Linda, you've got to call her by her name," to which the nurse hollered in Nan's ear, "LINDA!  Wake up!  You've got to take your antibiotics."  At that point, Nan moaned and her eyes came open for just a moment.  You could tell she was disoriented as all get out.  She smiled at the nurse and then promptly closed her eyes again.  The nurse tried in vain again and Nan just wasn't having it.  It was as if Nan's subconscious was telling the nurse, "I'm sleeping, can't you see that!"  But the nurse persisted long enough to get the pill in Nan's mouth and wake her up long enough to get a few swallows of water down so the pill would go down her throat.   It was a moment everyone was praying that she'd wake up just long enough to make sure she didn't choke on the pill.  After seeing her swallow a few times, the whole room sighed a breath of relief.  Personally, I want to know what genius thought that giving a pill to a sleeping person was better than giving it to them through their I.V.  Yet, she got the pill down.  Thank goodness.

After the pill situation, everyone sat down and relaxed, resuming our duties as sentinels watching over Nan.  Mom stood next to the bed on her left, I was in the chair to her right, Carl was sitting between me and Dad with their backs to the hospital room window.  We listened to her snore and I think every time she did it, we all relaxed even more.  I had taken two of my history books with me so that I could read while she slept, so I sat back and started reading about the beginnings of the American Revolution while Carl played with his iPhone, Dad sat looking at Nan and Mom read my other history book.

We sat there for a while until Mom looked at Nan and saw that her mouth was really dry, so Mom started to wake Nan up so she could drink some water.  I have to give Mom kudos, she really hung in there trying to get Nan to drink.  Nan would wake up, her disorientation apparent, take a few sips and fall back out again.  On and on it went over the next hour.

Then, like a splash of cold water to the face, one of Nan's co-workers came in, a nice nurse from the hospital Nan works at, to check on Nan.  She was really sweet as she took Nan's water pitcher, filled it with ice and water, poured Nan a new drink then promptly woke Nan up to say hello.  At this point, I think Nan's sleeping was all but over for the moment.  Everyone and their dog was waking her up and I sat there thinking to myself, "Geez, hasn't she been through enough?  Can't you just let her sleep!"

Nan became conversational, albeit disoriented, while all of this was going on.  She kept her eyes closed and at one point she let us all know that she wasn't ignoring us, quite the contrary, she was trying to meditate to ease her pain a bit.  It was at that point, I hot-footed it to the nurse's station and let them know she was ready for the pain medication she was supposed to have an hour earlier.

As I got out to the nurse's station, I smiled at them, trying desperately not to do a Shirley MacLaine in "Terms of Endearment" and said, "Hi, I'm Nan's little sister.  She's awake now and in a lot of pain, can you please give her her pain medication?"  It took everything I had not to scream at them, "Nan's in pain!  Move your ass and give her the shot!"  No, instead I did the sugary sweet bit that I'm so famous for, but let me tell you I was doing my best impersonation of a duck swimming on a pond...calm on the surface, paddling like hell underneath thinking there was no earthly way those nurses could move fast enough to ease my sister's pain.

I've never handled Nan being in pain very well.  When she hurts, I hurt.  It tears me up inside that there's nothing I can do to stop it.  However, the one thing I can do is be understanding, supportive and positive while she goes through it.  That's what I can give her, which is a good thing.  Better yet, I can write about it so she can laugh at it later on.

The nurse went into Nan's room and asked her, "On a scale of one to ten, one being no pain, ten being the worst, how bad are you hurting?"  Nan was still disoriented, and with Carl repeating it to her so she could understand, Nan answered, "Definitely a ten."  Then the nurse asked Nan, "What kind of pain medication would you like, you can have either Morphine or Lortab."  Nan answered, "Morphine, please."  I mean look at how fantastic Nan is...she's in the worst pain of her life and she tells the nurse "please," I mean are you getting how extraordinary this woman is?  Anyone else would have barked or screamed or acted horribly.  No, Nan, being who she is, was sweet and gentle even though she was in pain.

Mom, when the nurse had returned and was injecting the morphine into the I.V., asked Nan, "How bad is it, worse than childbirth?"  Nan replied, "Definitely worse than childbirth."  When the nurse had finished the injection, I asked her, "How long will it be before it takes effect," to which the nurse replied, "It'll take about 15 minutes."  At hearing that, I gave an internal sigh of exasperation that it wasn't fast enough for my liking, thinking, "Nan is in pain, she needs relief now, not 15 minutes from now."  But alas, that's the way it goes and there's nothing on God's green earth I could do about it.

By the time 8:20 p.m. came around, it was time for me to go, I have homework and projects that have to get done whether I like it or not, so I went home thinking to myself, that I was right, before the parade of backless shirts and dresses make their way into Nan's closet, she's going to be in a LOT of pain and it breaks my heart that she's having to go through all of this.  But I keep in mind a few things:  She has had a double mastectomy, she has gone through chemo, lost her hair, had her hands be burnt to kingdom come from the treatments, she's had an injection port embedded under the skin at her collarbone because her veins just couldn't withstand the needles from chemo (it was removed when she finished chemotherapy).  Cancer has just beaten her body to kingdom come.  It has and I've seen it all and it has just broken my heart to watch it happen.

However, Nan wanted to do the re-construction.  She found it necessary and she knew what was going to happen, so what I can and what we all can do is just take a moment and think of her, send prayers, positive vibes and do what you have to do to make sure she feels loved.

She just called as I was writing, so I've got to hurry up, do my stuff and get over to Nan's house.  Excuse our dust, Nan's under reconstruction.

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