Monday, May 20, 2013

an unexpected bend in the road

Last week I was going along, mentally noting the scattered items on my to do list. Give Ben a hospital packing list. Check on the airline reservations. Double check the car rental. Make sure to NOT give Ben any Advil. 

Last week I was noting that familiar disorientation that comes the week before a surgery. The headaches. The sleeplessness. The fuzzy brain days. One day I went to meet with my friend Barbara and I looked so unfocused she made me pull out my guitar and sing a song or two to get grounded. 

Last week I was feeling the knot in the pit of my stomach when I thought of Ben in surgery. The leap and lurch of my stomach when I thought of saying goodbye to him Tuesday night and the feeling of waiting through the surgery on the far side of reality, as opposed to the hospital waiting room, where Mark would be. 

But today I had to call the hospital and tell them that Ben had a cold, was hacking up greenish stuff, was running a low-grade fever, and would not be visiting their OR this week. 

Yesterday, as he was getting ready to leave for a birthday party he mentioned that he'd had a sore throat since the night before. He asked for some Throat Coat tea and I, about to immerse myself in an art project, materials laid out on the work surface, paint brushes at the ready, said, Sure I'll make you a cup and promptly forgot. Literally, in one ear, out the other.  

Um, Mom? My tea? He then made it himself, resourceful boy that he is. I called down from my office, Major Mom fail! Sorry! He laughed and he and Mark left for the party.

About 7 1/2 minutes later it hit me. Ben. Has. A. Cold. Shit. 

The first rule you learn when going into surgery is: No respiratory ailments within the two weeks prior to surgery. The second is: No Advil within the two weeks prior to surgery.

In the past, we've managed to make it through the difficult days before a surgery being mildly cautious about contact with other folk. I remember that right before his first big scoliosis surgery we visited a friend with little kids and I noticed then how runny their noses were. Runny! Goopy! Ack! I suddenly felt ridiculously neurotic and wanted to run out in a panic. Ben emerged unscathed, thank the Lord. On the flight out to Philly a few days later, though, he and Mark wore masks. Cautious? Yes. Cavalier? No.

So the only excuse I have for allowing him, last Friday, to go to his volunteer job at Toby's old preschool (where both boys work one to two days a week now) was mild amnesia, and a desire to not be overprotective, not quarantine him, not be overly dramatic. Besides, he's practically a celebrity there, adored by those little guys, and I didn't want him to miss out on a tea party!

Today he scolded me, You shouldn't have let me go there!

Oh yes.

At 8 minutes past when he and Mark had left for the party the panic set in. Cold. Cold. What to give him. What should I have done? How could I have been so self-involved? I called Mark. Can you please get Ben some Airborne to take when he gets to the party?

Pointless. Closing the barn door after the horse is gone and all that. But what could I do?

Helpless. Scattered. Frantic. Panicked. I felt all those things.

He came home from the party still sniffly, a little warm to the touch. I gave him more Airborne and sent him to bed. To which he went...eventually.

I did not sleep well. I lay down in bed and felt my heart racing and knew that I would be up worrying about what we were to do, the decision we had to make, to go or not to go, the next day.

When I got him up this morning he said he felt pretty good, but quickly it became apparent that the cold had taken hold. In my mind we could still head it off at the pass. I'd been recommended to give him some anti-microbial essential oils, also called Thieves' Oil, and so found a friend to lend some to me. We went off to Santa Rosa to pick it up and he and I talked about the situation.

What it came down to was this: If the cold would just go away, he'd be fine for surgery on Thursday. But, if it didn't we just couldn't risk his well-being even though rescheduling the surgery was going to mean screwing up his summer schedule and possible issues with our plane tickets and where he and Mark would stay pre/post-op while in LA. We talked about his plans. We talked about the worst case scenario being that we skip this surgery (removing the rod) and just go straight to fusion in August. 

And as we talked I realized that I had not been able to see the forest for the trees.

What was at stake here was not maintaining the schedule. It was not saving money. It was not saving ourselves the grief of changing plans and making a lot of phone calls. And it certainly was not somehow kicking his cold in the butt overnight so he could appear to be 100% healthy on Thursday. No, all of these thoughts were ludicrous, once I examined them from a step back.

What was at stake, obviously, was Ben's health and welfare and getting through his 14th surgery in the best possible shape he could be. Everything else was fluff. Pointless. Irrelevant.

As soon as we got to Santa Rosa and stopped, I called his surgeon's scheduling nurse and left a message. I hate to tell you this, I said, but Ben has a cold and we won't be able to do the surgery this week. Please call me back as soon as possible. 

The reality of our life is that it's hard enough to head into surgery after surgery after surgery. We hang onto the little control we have of our lives. I was so caught up in What the Plan Was that I couldn't let go of it. Stick to the Plan. Stick to the Plan.

When I finally released my expectations of what would be, when I finally took a long, deep breath and became present in Right Now, This Minute, I relaxed. A bit. 

We still have not heard back from the nurse. But we will. And for now, I'm sure we did the right thing.