Monday, July 1, 2013

I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

     I always know what to do when something happens with my husband's health. Always. The time he had a mini-stroke while I was at work one day? I did not freak out, I did not rush out of the building and haul ass down the highway towards home. I stayed on the phone with him, asked him what kinds of symptoms he was experiencing, and when it started to look like exactly what it was, I calmly called 911 from my car and ask if they could please send an ambulance over to my house, because my husband was alone and I  suspected he was having a stroke or stroke-like episode. Not one time did I lose my cool, not when I pulled up in front of the house to see an ambulance and my husband being loaded into it on a stretcher, not when we were in the trauma section of the ER, not when the 78th specialist came by to check, yet again, for permanent neurological damage. You know why? Because that's what I do, dammit; I keep it together.

     Not this past Wednesday, I didn't. No part of me was okay and for the first time since my husband and I have been together, my brain locked up and ceased its usual functioning and I didn't know what to do. The levels of embarrassment I feel right now are almost overwhelming and I haven't the first clue how to try and get past that. I mean, time heals everything and that saying's a cliche for a reason, because it pretty much does. Well, if not "heals", then "dulls the edge until it doesn't cut anymore." We'll go with that one, as I think it's a good deal more accurate.

     The whole clusterfuck started on Wednesday night, after I'd gotten home from work. I hadn't actually been home that long when I looked at my cell phone and saw a string of texts from my husband which crescendoed with, "Going to CMC University. Called ambulance. Can't drive," which was, for me, several levels above unsettling. You have to understand - my husband has never even called me to come pick him up from work when he's feeling bad, let alone an ambulance. So that handful of words immediately told me one of two things was happening - A) he was feeling really, really terrible, to the point that he was scared and wanted to be at a hospital twenty minutes ago, or B) things had already gone seriously wrong and someone had called 911 because he wasn't able to do it for himself.

     I keep running that night over and over in my head, looking for anything I can use to justify to myself what I feel was a failure on my part. The most logical thing I can come up with, the one that feels the truest, is that it wasn't so much what was happening that shut me down, but my lack of knowledge of the situation and, by extension, control thereof. I'm aware that makes me sound like a control freak, and to tell you the truth, that's a fair assessment - you have to be a bit of one to survive in the world of unwellness.

     This life is not something for the faint of heart, for people who have romantic ideas of stoically standing by their spouse, nursing them and reading to them in hospital rooms that have been oh-so-considerately set up to accommodate the partner as well as the actual patient. That pastel picture that I just hinted at is nothing even close to resembling the unpleasant truth, but that's a topic for another day. Right now, what's important is that I make you understand just how much I have to be in the know at virtually all times. It's not because I have some insane, driving need to know every detail of my husband's condition at any given time - it's because I can't make the calls I have to be ready to make if I don't know what in the hell is going on.

     So in retrospect, I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that the lack of available information was what caused my head to grind to a halt. To show you how ill-prepared we were for something like this, (despite knowing better) I confess that I didn't even know what number to call to get ahold of someone at my husband's office. Not the first clue. I ended up digging through his email until I found an old one that he'd sent to a co-worker and I pulled the phone number off of that. Thank God he keeps his Gmail up and running on his browser at all times, eh?

     They must have been waiting for my call at his office, because his supervisor knew who I was immediately, even though we've never spoken before. She informed me that "he was conscious when they were loading him into the ambulance, but he was deteriorating." What.the.fuck, lady?!?! What does that even mean, "deteriorating"? Was he, as my sister later wondered aloud, coming apart at the molecular seams and disappearing? Was he losing his mind, a theory supported by the news that he didn't know anyone around him by the time the paramedics finally got the stretcher in the back of the ambulance? Or did she mean that his physical condition was rapidly going downhill? Do me a favor - NEVER use the phrase "deteriorating" when describing someone's condition to a loved one trying to figure out what the hell is happening. I don't care if they're heading towards comatose - lie, and let the doctors sort it out when everyone's arrived at the hospital.

     It was then that I just stopped. I stood in the living room, looking out the front window and not having coherent thoughts. I knew that I didn't really know how to get to the hospital that he'd been taken to and I knew I needed someone to take me, as my GPS wasn't working. (The weirdest damn things make their way through the mental debris in a crisis, as it turns out.) The first really clear thought I found was, "Call Carrie, she'll know." I knew it was the right thing, that yes, she really would know what to do, though I still don't know how or why I was so sure of that. Her phone went to voicemail, so I left a message, trying to be nonchalant, which I now realize was ridiculous. Pretty good odds say my voice sounded like that of a tweaked-out field mouse, which isn't normal. At all. Still, I didn't tell her what was happening, just asked if she would call me when she got my message.

     I sat down then, and looked out the window some more, because I couldn't figure out what the next step should be. God, that pisses me off just to write that. I want to go back and shake the hell out of myself and scream, "Get UP and get MOVING! You're better than this, you KNOW how to do this!" I didn't, though. I just sat and waited some more. I guess I decided that wasn't very productive, because then the keys were in my hand and I was in the car. I had a vague idea that the hospital was near where my husband worked, though I wasn't completely sure how to get there, either. I hadn't made it 50 feet from the house when Carrie called me back.

     Like so many other things that night, I don't know exactly what I said to her, but either I got enough out that she figured out what was happening, or she just responded to the sheer panic I'm sure she heard. I remember her reassuring me that Adam was in Charlotte and that she was "going to call him and he'll come to you. Just hold on, it's going to be okay, just hold on." So I did exactly as she told me, and waited for Adam to come to me at my house.

     I followed him to the hospital, pretty unaware of anything except the silver car in front of me that was my link to my husband at that point. We pulled in and parked, and I went straight for the ER entrance; I just assumed that Adam would be there with me. I heard my voice tremble when I stopped at the front desk to give my name and tell them who I was there to see and knew then that I was close to coming as unglued as I've ever been, but damned if I wasn't going to try and keep something together, just for a little longer. I felt like if I could just see my husband, see that he was still here with me, then everything would settle back into the closets where I keep it and I could work it all out later.

     Straight through the double doors with Adam behind me, I rounded the nurses' desk to the room that I'd been told contained my husband - except that it didn't. I can't tell you what it felt like to walk into that room and find it nothing but empty, even though the part of my brain that was still (barely) functioning was screaming at me to stop acting like I've never done this before, that he was probably just off being x-rayed or CT'd or MRI'd somewhere. Didn't matter, couldn't help it - I sat down, heavily, in one of the two chairs in the room and I'm sure Adam could see me shaking from his place on the other side of the room.

     I hated that, hated that I couldn't lock my emotions down and THINK for two goddamn minutes. The discomfort actually had nothing to do with the fact that there was a witness to my semi-panicked display, though. My ability to disconnect and think logically (some say coldly, but trade places with me the next time this happens, then we'll talk) whenever a medical crisis comes up is something I pride myself on, something I cultivate. It's not for egotistical reasons, either. By law, if my husband is ever incapacitated and a medical decision has to be made, up to and including whether to take him off life support, I have to be able to think clearly, to do what's best for him, not for me or anyone else, because his life matters more than anything at that point, no one else's. You simply cannot be led by emotions at times like these, because that helps exactly no one.

     Do you understand now why allowing my gears to lock up when this kind of thing happens is just not an option? I have to take care of him, I have to be ready to do whatever needs doing, whether it's making phone calls to the family or reeling off his list of daily meds to the nurse, and being suddenly afflicted with not knowing how to do anything hardly helps facilitate that. I could've failed him. I mean, Jesus Christ, I was so shaken up that when the doctor came in to talk about what could possibly have caused all this, I didn't even remember to tell him the most likely culprit - a pretty significant medication change in my husband's daily routine. How in the holy hell could I be so stupid as to forget a medication change? God, I'm just at a loss right now.

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