“You know what my usual breakfast is?” asked Lilian. “Coffee and a cigarette.” Yes, Lilian said the same thing to us every morning, but she also had someone new to talk to these days. My friend Allanya started coming in at breakfast to bring me real coffee. It took me a few days to come to terms with the fact that someone would voluntarily leave their house early to come to the hospital at 7:30, particularly Allanya, who I had never been that close to even though we had known each other for several years.
In fact, I had been warned that Allanya was a nefarious character plotting the demise of our mommy group. She was not to be trusted and was, in fact, to be shunned. I am ashamed to say that, for a while, I believed our more gregarious mutual (ex) friend and, while I was never overtly cruel to Allanya, I never went out of my way to include her or to build a friendship with her, either. I apologize for that. Here and now on this public blog, I apologize for getting caught up in Mean Girls politics and not reaching out to her at a time, about a year before all of this happened to me, when she likely could have used a friend. Thankfully, Allanya was a better friend to me during a terrible time in my life than I was to her. She brought me coffee every morning that she could. Real coffee. In a giant disposable cup with a lid. If that (and the Urecholine) couldn’t kick my bladder back into gear, I would have to start taking down the home catheter kit information from CNN.
It didn’t work right away, but after about a week in Rehab, I would have an occasional “success” in the late afternoons or early evenings, as if my bladder would “turn on” suddenly late in the day, but it was unpredictable. Many, many, many other times I would wait and wait and wait and nothing would happen and would end up being scanned and cathed. Occasionally, that meant being cathed by a male nurse, usually Opare (there should be an accent on that “e”, but I can’t figure out how to type it, you pronounce it “Oparay”). Opare was a big guy. I can’t remember if he was Sudanese or Ethiopian, but I remember the first night he was assigned to me they had to come “have a talk” with me and ask if I was comfortable having a male nurse cath me.Whatever. Cath away. My dignity left weeks ago. Anyway, I have a male OB/GYN and have had three babies with any number of male personnel in the room. I had no problem with Opare.
Well, except for that evening when he came in to tell me they were coming to get me for an MRI. Gulp. “Um, ok,” I said. And I was okay. I really was. For about 5 minutes. And then I wasn’t. Then I was hysterical. Completely. Totally. Hysterical. I went from zero to train wreck in the five minutes he left me alone. He came back to the room and was shocked. He asked what was wrong. I couldn’t even answer. I’m not sure I even knew. I think I finally choked out something along the lines of “what if it came back?” I meant the tumor.
“Wouldn’t you rather know that, then?” Opare asked. No. Not really. I don’t want to know anything anymore.
It didn’t look like I had much choice, so I tried to pull myself together as best I could. Opare left and I called Matt. He was upset that he couldn’t be there. Then Opare came back with Angela, one of the techs. So young, this one, too. They really have to stop hiring kids straight out of junior high. “I’m sending Angela with you,” Opare said, “I’d come with you myself, but there’s only two of us on the floor tonight.” God bless Opare. He really did not have enough staff on to spare Angela for what could have been a long event. As soon as you leave one ward for another, you are subject to their schedule and can get delayed.
I had learned this the hard way a couple of days previously. Ever since I had come to Rehab, I had felt like I couldn’t see properly. It wasn’t double vision, but things felt “off.” I knew I was WAAAAY overdue for eye exam, but the brain surgery opened up frightening new possibilities for why this was, so they scheduled me an appointment with the neuro-ophthamolagist at the hospital. They sent yet another impossibly young tech with me. This one, Laurabeth, really was impossibly young. We got to talking and she told me she was from a big Catholic family and had a little sister starting second grade in the fall like my eldest was. She pushed my wheelchair across the hospital and then sat with me in the waiting room at the neuro-ophthamology office. We sat. And sat. And sat. I told her she could go back and I would have them buzz her, but then she gestured to my Swedish belt. “I have to unlock you for the exam.” D’Oh. Perhaps the earth could just open up and swallow me now?
Anyway, as this appointment dragged on, I realized I was going to miss the visit I had planned with my realtor-friend Liza (you forgot about that house-on-the-market thing, didn’t you?) and her best friend, another mom from the church/school, Beth Ann. I had to call them and cancel. The appointment took almost 3 hours, mainly of waiting. All of that waiting revealed that there was nothing wrong with my eyes from surgery, but that my prescription was terribly outdated.
Jumping back to Opare and the MRI meltdown, I felt terribly guilty that he was going to send Angela with me after having basically dominated poor Laurabeth only a day or two before, but I also was a complete mess, so I agreed. Angela said she’d be right back to get me. Five minutes passed, then ten. Then someone with a clipboard came in and said “You’re not [enter man’s name here], are you?” I shook my head. He left in a hurry. I heard them in the room next door (my door was wide open). “We’re taking you down for your MRI now.” Wait, what? Two of us? I know there are lots of brain injury people, but two of us at the same time?
Opare reappeared. “The MRI was for the patient next door. They had the room numbers wrong.” You mean I had that whole meltdown for nothing? Yep. Pretty much.