Happy Monday! Can we start with a picture? This is my parents living room. Please note the proximity of the chair to the 42″ TV.
But before I explain it, let’s talk about my Mom’s current status. As I write I am sitting in Mom’s hospital room, which will tell you it is Sunday night and:
a) Mom is still in the hospital
b) I am still in Cincinnati.
The really good news is that she had a sudden turn around today. I knew she was feeling better because she started to take a nap and then lifted up her sleep mask, peering at me from underneath and watching me read. I asked her if she was okay, thinking she maybe needed my help as she dashed to the bathroom. She said, “I’m restless. I want to do something.”
That’s my mother in a nutshell–always wanting to do something–and it was an excellent flicker of life after a long 9 days. We talked about taking a walk and she settled on a shower. She also requested and ate a small amount of mashed potatoes. These baby steps are thrilling. Maybe she’ll be home in a few days.
Because, to be honest, we’re way off schedule.
The original plan was to get the surgery on Friday March 16, to be in ICU one night, and then to stay in the hospital until the following Thursday or Friday. I was supposed to return to New York on Friday March 23rd, just in time for an audition and Charlotte’s 14th birthday. Which (clearly) didn’t happen.
The first moral of this story is to toss any schedules in the trash and just plan on the patient getting better when the patient gets better. Be patient. Don’t be impatient. Don’t rush the patient. Patience is a virtue.
Speaking of patience, Hint #2: The chair placement has nothing to do with the window (pictured). My Brother-in-Law Tony guessed that he put the chair there so Dad could watch for my sister to pull up, who was coming over to drive him to the hospital. This would be wrong. The chair is there to watch the TV.
Now for some good news, Mary Jo is feeling even better tonight. We’re starting to talk about when she’s going to get out, which is a huge improvement from last night when we were all hunkered down in her hospital room talking about how terrible she seemed and requesting the nurse call the doctor. What a difference a day makes.
But again, I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s go back to the night we found out the surgery was canceled and let me tell you what happened as best I can. Again, I will use all medical jargon learned from my Google Medical Degree. They did some kind of a pre-op lung scan (um. maybe a chest x-ray?) and they saw “something.” Trust me when you are in this kind of a situation and you already know you are going into surgery for cancer of the bowel, the last thing you want to hear is that surgery is halted because they see “something.” “Something” is not a word we like. “Nothing” or “all clear” or “negative” are all great words. The good thing about the “something” is that Mom immediately said to the doc that she felt confident that whatever it was had to be left over from a wicked case of pneumonia which resulted in a collapsed lung. The doctor said it was probably because she lives in Cincinnati and that it was normal to see “something” in the lungs of Cincinnati dwellers because of the gunk in the air here. I can confirm that whatever the spring gunk is in the Cincinnati air, I felt in my lungs the second I landed at the airport. Fun fact: The Cincinnati airport is actually in the state of Kentucky. But I digress.
I am now going to cover an entire week in one paragraph or it will be June and we will still be reading this story. Ready?
My Mom was freaked out and had to undergo many more intense scans and exams, (all of which she could walk to from her desk in her office). I cancelled my flight. My sister moved forward with the plan to come to New York over a long weekend to see her daughter (in Baltimore) and to attend Charlotte’s confirmation. In a phone call with my depressed and scared mother we hatched a plan that she hitch a ride to New York to see Charlotte’s confirmation and also get away from all of the crap that was going on at home. It was kind of like bonus days at Macy’s. She was already off work, she’s really holy and she could hitch a ride for free. She came, we had a blast, she outwalked both Charlotte and I all over the upper west side (and bought two pairs of shoes). She even got a text message from her surgeon that said, “Have fun and DON’T WORRY!”
By the time she left on Monday, we knew her surgery was rescheduled for Friday.
I booked a flight to go home, and she drove home to get ready. And by “get ready” I mean she got a manicure and a pedicure and a wax. And no, I’m not kidding, and before you say that she isn’t allowed to wear nail polish in surgery she will tell you she is and she had it pre-approved. This is my mother’s version of “getting her affairs in order”. It’s a lovely light pink on her fingernails and a purple on her toes.
Okay. Let’s pause for a minute and talk about anxiety levels and by anxiety levels, I mean mine and I don’t mean about my mother’s probable cancer, I mean about flying. I seriously hate it. Note to self: You have a problem with flying when your anxiety about it overrides the anxiety about your Mom’s gigantic surgery and recovery. So, I did what any self-respecting New Yorker would do, I went to therapy, had a session with a fancy thing called EMDR and I got better. I’m telling you, if you have a phobia about anything, try EMDR, it works. (End EMDR commercial).
Hint #3 about the chair: It was placed in front of the TV from 2-6pm on Sunday. Yes, he sat in this chair for 4 hours, and not in his cozy recliner a few feet away. If you know my father, you know he does not sit in wooden chairs. Ever.
After 2 days of casting my AVENUE ZOO show, I flew out Friday morning, boarding the plane just before my Mom was wheeled into surgery. After a calm and uneventful flight, I was picked up at the airport by mt PTBF Mark Motz, who brought me a Weight Watchers friendly snack (An orange! No points! So thoughtful!) and he drove me straight to the hospital. I arrived with my suitcase (which I dumped in my Mom’s car) to a crowd of people waiting for the surgery to end. Here is the crowd I found.
Because my Mom’s surgery was over 6 hours long, the crowd changed as the day went along. Many of her co-workers came up, although two of the surgeons she works for were scrubbed into the surgery. As a resident later told us, “I’ve never seem two chiefs scrubbed into one surgery. There was a moment where they asked each other which side of the table they preferred to stand on and politely figured out other protocol.” It is a real testament to my mother that she has such special treatment, and I know I speak for my whole family when I say how grateful I am to the doctors at University Hospital.
Hint #4 about the chair: My father has been waiting for this moment for 2 1/2 years.
Hint #5 about the chair: It is a sporting event.
We did get a couple of surgery updates as the day went along. We heard that they’d frozen the spots from the lung and they were initially negative for cancer. The lung doc seemed pretty certain that her lungs were okay. We waited and waited, and my Dad started to get restless. Finally, I decided to entertain him with the gift of Netflix on my iPad. He could not believe he could watch a movie–and the number of movies he had to choose from–all right there in the waiting room. He chose the film, “Shane”, I put noise reduction headphones on him, and he sat still as a mouse watching it. I can’t say he was quiet as a mouse, because he would frequently talk in that hugely loud voice people talk in when they can’t hear through there head phones, screaming things like, “This in one hell of a movie!” or “Honey, this is fantastic!”
We finally banished him to a separate seating area and pretended we didn’t know him.
Finally, finally, finally, the surgery was over, we got the report from the doctors (it all had gone well) and we moved the the Surgical ICU waiting room where we were told we could go in and see her in pairs. My Dad and I went first, and I have to tell you, it was pretty shocking and she was about to have a very rough night.
Have you guessed? My Dad was watching Tiger Woods win his first tournament in 2 1/2 years and he moved the chair closer so he “could see every blade of grass.” In a very cute turn of events, my mother, who always complains about hm watching golf, turned it on in her hospital room, a true sign that she misses him. My sister was also watching it at her house because she had to pick up Dad when it was over. I would get text messages that said things like “Double bogey on 12.” Or “Up by 6”. Very cute, all of it.
(Brown Eyed Girl, blogisode four appears tomorrow. Same time, same place. Don’t forget to watch SMASH tonight.)