I just realized that I’m like an oyster with a grain of sand. Someone could shuck me open and find a big sparkly pearl inside me. Only, the thought of a kidney stone is gross. How is that any different, really, than a pearl? Can I tell you that I secretly hope my kidney stone is pretty, one of those white crystals? But really, the easiest ones to pass are smooth. I know I should opt for easy rather than pretty, but...
So last night, just as I got settled onto the couch with a bag of ice and a blanket, Mike said, “Hon, I really hate to say this, but something’s wrong with my eyes. I'm seeing flashy things.” Men in Black flashy things? I think I said this out loud, but I'm not sure.
I stared at him blankly. He stood at the top of the stairs, still in his gym clothes. I did not want to get up. I’d rummaged through my closet and found my old blue and white mumu, loved for all its looseness. I’d layered it with a black LLBean T-shirt and my big brown jacket for warmth. I’d even bent over and put on ragwool socks to complete the ensemble. I was a picture. And I was comfortable.
I knew I deserved my couch time. I fucking wanted my couch time. I bobbled my head a little, trying to convince him I understood what he was getting at. I couldn't quite wrangle the idea that I might have to get up. I didn't want to get up except to get into bed.
“I think I need to go to the ER.”
NO! Not the ER again. Two times in five days is enough, more than enough for one small family.
But love and common sense won out. If a retina detaches, it changes your vision and can become permanent if you don’t get it treated quickly. I didn’t want Mike to go blind this week.
I didn’t want to miss signs of stroke or anything either. I saw a woman having a stroke once at church. Because she waited to get help, because none of us called 9-1-1, she had a harder time recovering. I didn’t want Mike to have a stroke either.
I slowly got up from the couch. My stent, you know, that extra-long bendy straw the urologist placed inside me just two days before… it hurt at the effort. I’d done too much earlier. I was tired and sore.
I began to gather gear, mostly my book and a notebook. Water, my new meds, an ice pack, and a charging brick.
And then we were off.
You know, I’m too beat right now to tell you the whole story in long form. Here are the highlights:
· I dropped Mike off at the ER door.
· I parked then shuffled down a long hallway to the ER. A nurse, possibly suspecting that I’d escaped from the psych ward, wandered in from tent city, or was about to collapse on the floor in need of an ER myself, decided to walk with me. After I told her my story, she walked the whole distance with me. She was kind. She worked the right job, in a hospital helping people.
· Mike had been escorted right into a room.
· When I arrived, they moved us into ‘the eye room.’
· We waited. Nurses and doctors came and went, asking the same questions. Is it one eye or both, meaning did Mike have a problem with an eye or his brain. Do you have a headache? Did you notice changes in speech, slurring? These indicate a stroke. Did you get hit, fall, or exert too hard doing exercise? This referred to a detached retina. I pictured an old sign with a rusty bolt that finally gave out.
· The doctor came in and listed a bunch of possible explanations. She added a brain tumor. Fuck, a brain tumor?
· Then she left to look some stuff up. She even admitted it. I loved that, a doctor willing to admit that she didn’t know absolutely everything. Those are the best doctors.
· CT scan.
· And we waited.
You know how it is. You rush to the ER, they rush you inside according to triage. Then, when they’re pretty sure you aren’t going to keel over on the spot, you wait. And wait.
It’s hard, but it’s the right thing to do. Triage saves lives.
We talked. We sat quietly. I read. Mike read on his phone. We stared at each other. Mike laid down in the gurney. I sat up in an ophthamologist’s rig. I wanted to try it out, but I didn’t. I told Mike about the personal escort I was given to his room.
“She probably thought you looked like you were going to pass out.”
“Do I look sick?” I asked.
“You’ve looked better.”
“I know. The mumu doesn’t help.”
“But the mumu is comfortable. Don’t worry about the mumu.”
“And the wool socks.”
“Don't worry about them either.”
“Thanks honey,” I said. My eyes filled with tears. It felt good knowing someone loved me even with pasty skin, even with bags under my eyes, even with bad hair, even wearing wool socks, and even in a great big mumu.
Thank you for listening, jules