Under The Knife

what wound did ever heal but by degrees?

On Tuesday I had a small surgery scheduled suddenly – to take a camera into my kidneys, destroy stones via laser surgery, and install and a ureteral stent. I was very brave about the whole business. I am getting better at being brave.

I had this plan. I decided not to worry about the procedure, about anesthesia, about pain, about nausea, and about a stint installation. I decided not to worry until right before it happened. The anesthesiologist started wheeling me down the hallway and giving me the medicine – pain medicine and Versed, the magic cocktail of amnesia. I remember the anesthesiologist running my cart into the doorway, and in consternation apologizing. This was very funny indeed. My life is in your hands, buddy!

Then the operating room. So many more people in there, than it would seem necessary. Everyone friendly. I am on my way out. Goodbye!

When I awake from surgery, I am very very ill. I had an anesthesia not that long ago, for lithotripsy, without complication or illness. So this time they either gave me a different series of medications while I was under – or simply more medication. I throw up – over and over – all day long. So: no pain medicine. By the evening I am in so much pain am voiding from bladder and from belly uncontrollably. Cue a visit from paramedics – my first. I am on the couch sweating through my clothes. My pajamas are urine-soaked. I am chanting and moving rhythmically through the pain. Sometimes the swell ebbs and I experience the bliss of less pain. When this happens I can hear what the paramedics, what my husband, is saying.

My poor husband. He holds up well enough, but this is the kind of thing to make him very worried indeed. He cooks for me, buys me flowers, heats up a rice pack for heat. He takes the dog to the vet and helps the kids do their housework. He washes out my vomit bag and makes the bed when I’m not in the bed.

I am set back far more than I’d realized. I keep thinking I’ll be able to get up and go somewhere, but it’s not forthcoming. More rest. More fluids. Lots of blood.


My children are old enough to run the household. But not without direction. I am in and out of sleep much. The pain keeps me from wanting to be held. But the kids come in and ask respectfully. Last night, Phoenix held me close while I watched some Bob Ross. She giggled at his lovely, gentle mannerisms. I knew she’d like him. She liked his painting techniques, too.

She is off to bed and my son comes in. By now I am ready to sleep in earnest. I ask him if we can fall asleep together. He says Yes, of course. And so we do.

Middle of the night, pain awakens me. More ibuprofen. Back to sleep.

It sounds a bit rough, but almost anything is better than Tuesday was.

Under The Knife

“i want to become big and healthy like you, mom. where i don’t ever have to brush my teeth.”*

Very Ill

Phee falls very ill, and quite suddenly. I notice she isn’t dropping off to sleep at her normal hour. At two AM she becomes quite distressed and begins to quietly but sharply sob. Within fifteen minutes, she is vomitting violently and doesn’t stop for a while. She staggers from the toilet to resting on the floor. Then: bouts of explosive diarrhea (her words). Her body becomes limp as she travels from bath to toilet and back.

Quite shocking, really. An hour into it, I’m thinking I might take her to the hospital. I clean up and help her at each stage of the fugue. She falls asleep in the bath and I prepare clean clothes and lay soft warm towels in her bed. I gently get her up and rinse her off, then dry her; she is incoherent, and her very measured manners (“I’m sorry for the mess, mama”) turn into a helpless peevishness. She collapses across the bed. Even in the low light I can see her skin take on a greenish-white translucence I am familiar with; though rarely ill, it is an unmistakable pallor.

I take her temperature and through the night while I sleep beside her I put my hand on her. Her breathing is regular and she is cool to the touch. In the morning she tells me she is “feeling much better” and that she “needs to replenish fluids”.

Feeling Better

The rest of today she was much herself, if only a tiny bit more physically demonstrative, moving a little slower.

Nels is back on a fitness kick. Just now he announces: “After drinking all that milk, and getting all that bone energy from eight** glasses I drank fifteen minutes ago, look at how fast I can run!” He races across the living room. A little more of this kind of thing and then he fatigues, probably because there are many ounces of milk sloshing in his little puppy-belly. He prostrates himself on the couch and tangles his legs around mine. After a bit he runs upstairs to play with his Legos or his little handheld video game machine.

Earlier today: we borrow my mother’s truck to take our Christmas tree for disposal. We run across a rainy parking lot to the grocery store; we buy supplies for the next few days, funded by a side client of Ralph’s, pile the bags of food across our laps. Home, I ask my son to run upstairs and bring me down his new pants so I can have them cleaned. “You mean the new wool ones you made me?” he asks. He pronounces it, woooool. I tell him yes and he says, “When I’m stressed out I go upstairs and put them on to relax.”

My kids are perfect.

Up Late Playing Mad Libs

* I brush my teeth every morning and evening.

** three

oh you know, the typical cuts and scrapes of childhood

Today I did, after all, get my opportunity to spend some rather kid-focused time: my oldest child had a horrific crash on their bike while hurtling downhill on Endresen in HQX.

I handle emergencies well. It’s a gift. I maintained a calm voice and did not doubt what it was I had to do. Blood was pouring out of their nose and they were crying. I gently staunched the flow with my extra t-shirt. The sun beat down on us, very bright and hot. I walked us a few feet to the shade at the riverbank, tracking both children and both bikes, and at this point I re-checked the nosebleed; it had slowed. I felt their limbs and examined the many, many scratches and bruises. I looked at their pupils and gently checked their head, ascertained neither nose nor teeth were broken. We sat there for a while, my child’s head in my lap, their brother’s eyes huge, he was worried they would lose too much blood. Blood and tears had flowed liberally and I was stained by both. It was only my calm that kept things from being so much worse than they could have been.

After a time they are ready to go home. I hide their bike in the bushes. I could pack their bike on my own, but I am in too much of a hurry, fuck it if it gets stolen. I need to get us home, to warm water and cold water and Tylenol. I put my coat around them; they are already calming. Their lip has swollen to an alarming degree and this, plus the potential of a dental injury, concerns me; besides water from my water bottle and a t-shirt, I had not yet been able to put a true cold compress on their mouth.

I am on the bike and I’m a determined machine, not at all inconvenienced by the extra weight and the heat. The kids grow still and comforted by the very familiar experience of the bike. Phoenix says, “The wind is starting to soothe me,” and it is this point I am further satisfied: they are going to be okay. We pass through the cluttered backstreets of N. Hoquiam, a pitbull, mamas in halter tops smoking and listening to hip hop. A golden, shirtless young man says, “Hey, that’s cool!” about my bike. I say, “Thanks!” as I hurtle by and he follows up with, “It’s a lovely day out!”

It is a lovely day out; but I must get the children home. I am a steady, alert mother with two children on my bike and the sun is fire on my skin. I am a train engine getting us home surely, and calmly, but now. We pull up to the house and Nels brings blankets; I slip Phoenix’s blood-splattered dress off of them and put them on the couch. Water. Tylenol. Ice compress. I am literally pouring sweat, which physically feels good, later I will wash up. I am calm but focused entirely on the children.

It’s only later – after I’ve given them a bath in warm water with epsom salts, a few drops of tea tree, geranium, and organic lavender; it’s only later after I’ve called the pediatric dentist and we’ve made tomorrow morning’s appointment; it’s only later after their doctor has allowed us to bring them in and performed a very thorough examination, finding, thank goodness, nothing at all worse than my original assessments. It’s only later.

It’s only later that I start to fall apart. I relieve the incident and have my own reactions. I can hear the sounds behind me the wind did not obscure when they started to lose control of the bike and call out for my help. I can feel the fear and experience the terror of such a profound crash, a crash worse than any I remember from childhood. I re-feel, vividly, my concern that they’d busted a bone, if their arm was held out at an angle from a break (it wasn’t). I can feel the hot blood on my face and somehow worst of all, I can taste the grit in my teeth.

They are safe at home, my mother picked up the hidden bike and then swung by for my youngest, Ralph is coming home. And my head begins to throb – I so rarely get headaches – my body slows down. I am weighted down with the precise knowledge this was my fault. This isn’t a decision, this is not a series of facts that bring me to this. My child was hurt rather badly and no matter what anyone says I am responsible. Funny how just the other day I’d told my own mother she worried and over-managed my emotional pains too much as a child. Funny because I am crushed with misery for an event that my child is already moving past.

My child is fine. After I called the doctor, secured an immediate appointment, and told them we’d be heading out they said, “We have to ride up the hill? Can we drive instead?” politely. They fervently wished for swimming tonight (the doctor said no – their many skin abrasions might contract an infection from the public pool). They gardened with their papa, bringing in pints of strawberries for jam. Being home and they are laughing, smiling, and friendly to the doctor, a deformed lip making them all the sweeter and odder.

They are fine. This is a “nothing”. This is a, “kids play rough” kind of injury. They are fine, but I am less so, and it will take a bit more time, and maybe a restful sleep, to feel differently.

nearly a barf-o-rama

I feel absolutely crippled – physically and a bit mentally – by how busy it’s been around here these last few days. All very, very enjoyable stuff: waitressing, teaching, birthday presents, desktop publishing jobs, having company, sewing, having more company, more sewing, garden work, and two trips to Oly.

I Want You Out, Bro
Harris Vs. Ralph. Every day.

Next week is this quarter’s last class. I have enjoyed teaching so much. But I look forward to not having to help anyone for a while, and being able to focus on my own things.

Last night’s trip to Olympia yielded, among other things, the twin pleasures of fabric buying – 13 wonderful, fabulous yards of it – and dinner at Quality Burrito (recommended it by locals who obviously didn’t have children; however, it was a great meal despite hipsters and b.o. of waitperson). This evening in the bath Sophie told me she had named the plastic dragons Ralph purchased her at the craft store: Four-Winged Glory, Drake, Godzilla, Wyvern, and Cling-To-All-Surface. I admire her brain for the imagination it holds. I’m like the orange peel in our worm bin, all scraped bare and used up.

And I just want to remind the general public who reads that when you are parents to children your every peaceful, fun outing can be immediately transformed into a type of nightmare – just like that. We were about thirty feet from the entrance of the fabric store when my daughter – despite our repeated suggestions she stop reading her comic books in the car – complained of being ill, then leaned back in her seat, called out to me, and began sputtering out puke (don’t ever watch someone vomit when you have a direct view of their mouth, just a friendly tip). Our son had fallen asleep in the car so Ralph had to drop me and the sleeping boy – who weighs four hundred pounds while unconscious – off at the store and go in search of wipes etc. to manage the mess.

Sophie’s first words upon completion of the hurlage: “Oh dad – you were trying so hard to sell this van!”