Thinking back on the first 24 hours post op is a bit like thinking back on a big night out. Some scenes you remember really clearly, others are altogether missing and yet more are recalled only when you’re reminded. Plus like all good big nights out, it’s all out of sequence.
I’ve spent the next few days piecing it together, Miss Marple-style.
I have no recollection of him not being here but apparently as soon as I got in my room I phoned Ted to say “Where are you?” Next up (possibly?) I sent out this blustery Facebook update:
I remember being very gratified by my friends’ reactions, although in reality the dopamine hit you allegedly get from ‘likes’ would have had no chance against the ridiculous amount of morphine that was coursing through me. I also now know that the ‘cheek’ would subside as the effects wore off and I got to grips with the extent of my helplessness.
But whilst on the high I had a very lovely conversation with Ted (or more accurately, delivered a lecture to him) on the myriad kindnesses I had been shown, focusing in on the wives of my business partners who had sent gifts he delivered that night. I noticed he was looking at me askance, but undeterred, I segued into another lengthy tribute about how lucky I am to have Ted in my life and I couldn’t wait to go home so we could get back to playing with our babies and bickering about the veggie patches.
And then I came down.
Here’s how I recall the following hours, interspersed with numerous missing scenes. Ted’s gone, and it’s dark. A chilly injection through the cannula that’s bound to my wrist with a ridiculous amount of tape (That’s going to hurt when it has to come off, I thought, and I was bloody right as well). Tablets, too, so many tablets. An injection in my stomach. Needing to pee, swinging my legs to the side of the bed, forgetting there are blood drains attached to either side of me, then struggling to pee into a bedpan delivered by a told-you-so nurse. Laughing, laughing, laughing with a friend on Facebook chat, so hard it hurt and I had to click on my drip. Sleeping briefly then waking, heaving and shaking. Nurse? No, it’s a 5.5 now…I feel.. Yes, it’s normal. Take this. Watching the cricket through misty, dormant eyes and listening through muffled ears. Bravado crumbling like the Aussie’s middle order. Feeling flat. Glancing down. Feeling flat.
The next morning, although the pain had stabilised, I was feeling very sorry for myself. Ted, though, was relieved. “You look so much better! That towel around your head was freaking me out.” He kisses me then presses my face. “Is it still like Edam? … What? That was your description!”
“Was it?” It does sound like the sort of thing I’d say.
“So the plastic tube’s gone. You can’t do Hector from Breaking Bad anymore.”
I remember my impersonation and this coaxes a smile. “Yes! I had to yank that out, it made my nostrils dry as hell, but when you use the drip you have to keep the oxygen in. Every time the nurses came in I’d be fumbling around, trying to get it back on.”
I sit up, feeling more chipper. “Ted! In the night I had a long Facebook chat with Hollis about creating a Michael Holding alarm clock app. Best business idea ever?”
I show him the feed and he laughs aloud. He reads on to the bit where I admit to having Snow Patrol on my iTunes, which leads to discussion of a suitably middle class punishment (jumping out of a plane, strapped to Chris Martin singing a mournful dirge, further weighed down by recyclable Waitrose bags OR listening to Snow Patrol til I expire from boredom). More laughing.
So it was monologues up, helplessness down, laughing up, heaving down, cricket down, waking up flat, seeing Ted and laughing again… back up.
And then a spectacular down when later that day, Ted helped me to the shower, and we both saw me naked for the first time.
Oh my. My chest was all wrong, like a rag doll’s, albeit with tiny and tidy stitches.
“It’s a work in progress.” Ted said gently. I don’t know how he did it but he managed to strike the right balance between strong but kind, sad but not revolted.
This did not make me cry less. On the contrary. I’ve tried to explain to my kids, when you cry it’s not always just because you’re sad. My tears were of confrontation, adjustment, loss, gratitude and relief. And yes, a healthy dose of entirely understandable sadness.
No doubt I’ll be pressed up against the glass some more before this shitfight finishes. But you know what they say.