About a week ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pains in my abdomen. It felt like bands of steel were tightening across my entire midsection. While my husband slept, I walked around the house, cursing whatever I had eaten to cause such upset.
But, as the hours ticked by, and the pain increased, I realized this was not some “slight disorder of the stomach… an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato,” as Ebeneezer Scrooge once said. This was something beyond my control.
I woke my husband at sunrise, and we went to the emergency room. Luckily, I was the only person there, and was whisked into a cubicle. With one gentle prod of my painful abdomen, the nurse was able to predict, “Sounds like gall stones.” What?
I was given pain relief, and, after being up for twenty-four hours, was at last able to doze. I went through x-rays and ultrasounds, and the nurse’s verdict was proved: it was pancreatitis, caused by roving gall stones. The gall bladder had to go. But, first: the pancreas had to be flushed out in order to operate.
If this all sounds yucky, you’re right. Remember, I’ve had no sleep, been in excruciating pain, and my fear of the hospital rivals my fear of tiny, enclosed places. Flushing out my pancreas sounded ominous, but what choice did I have? I accepted the verdict, and began a thirty-six hour fast, while my body was overloaded with IV fluids in order to “flush” my pancreas.
You have to remember, I like to eat. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t gamble. My fatal vice is eating. I enjoy cooking, and eating what I cook. So, to fast for a day-and-a-half is like Luke being shocked by the Emperor’s Force lightning: cruel and unusual punishment. At least the pain was gone.
I tried, really, I did. I stretched out on that toothpick they call a “bed,” wore the headphones, and let them move me into that cave. I lasted a minute before I began squeezing the panic balloon and muttering, “I can’t do this.” They pulled me out, tried to reason with me, but I was adamant: I couldn’t do it without my husband.
If I was being buried alive, that’s how I imagine it would feel. Unable to move my arms, unable to sit up…ugh! I get the trembles just thinking about it now! I was sent back to my room, and waited for my husband to return from running errands. When he did, he told how he always stretches his arms over his head in the tube, instead of at his sides, and falls asleep to Oldies music. I’m not surprised, though I know I couldn’t be so relaxed.
I let him convince me that I should make another attempt. I agreed, but only if he’d hold my hands throughout the procedure. Yes, I’m a wimp, a wuss, a scaredy cat. But, he agreed. We went back to that medieval torture room, I chose Native American pipe music (the “spa” soundtrack, the technicians called it), and clutched my husband’s hands through the entire, S.O.S.-beeping, twenty-minute ordeal.
The doctor said I could fully function without the use of my gall bladder, and I believe him. I have a friend who had the same procedure done a few years ago. The one thing I know I can’t function without is my husband, my knight-in-shining-armor. He came through for me when I couldn’t stand (or lay down) on my own. He might have dislocated his hip by hanging over the MRI tube to grasp my hands, and I’ll gladly hold his when he needs them.
Love doesn’t always appear in the form of sonnets and roses, serenades or strolls along the beach. It’s not always said with the three, well-known words that have made Hallmark millions. Sometimes love shows up in the firm grip of a well-known hand, and a whispered, “I’ve got you,” when you’re not sure you can carry on. It’s always present, humming just below the surface of your everyday life. Pay attention; you’ll find it, just like I did.
Have you had an experience similar to mine? Were you braver? I'd love to know!