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Never Alone

2008-09-23 11:09

    I never liked being alone.It was too quiet, disconcerting. Ever since I was a little girl, I felt uncomfortable on my own. Even as an adult I found it distressing.

    One day my son was off at a friend's house, my daughter was away at her first year of college, and worst of all, my husband, Mike, was in the hospital. I was worried, and alone.

    It was a minor surgical procedure. Laparoscopic. Nothing serious. He seemed to come through it fine and would be home the next day. One more day, I thought while getting ready for bed.

    I wished my mother could be with me, but she lived hundreds of miles away, and Mike's folks were away at their summer place. It was vacation time, and all my friends were out of town. I stared at the shadowy wall all night, unable to sleep, feeling the emptiness beside me.

    First thing in the morning I took a taxi to the hospital.“How's . . . everything . . . at . . . home?” Mike asked, his voice weak and labored. I took his hand; his skin was cold and clammy. His eyes were wide. Something was wrong.

    A nurse with a cheery smile popped into the room. As she bent over Mike to take his vital signs, her smile disappeared. Before I knew it, the room was full of worried doctors and nurses. I was pushed back away from his bedside, against the cold cement block wall.

    “Pulse is rapid.”“Blood pressure elevated,”I heard the nurses say. What was going on?

    Suddenly Mike was whisked out of the room. One of the nurses noticed me standing alone by the wall, my knees shaking. “Your husband is having trouble breathing. We‘re taking him for an MRI. We think he has blood clots in his lungs.” She looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry.”

    I'm sorry! That’s not what I wanted to hear. What about “Everything's going to be fine?” or “It's nothing serious!” Blood clots in the lungs? That was serious!

    I stepped into the hall and stared. What did I do? Where was the waiting room? I didn't even know which way to go.

    “You should go to the ICU waiting room,”a nurse said, noticing my confusion. “Second floor.”

    I went there and sat with other quiet, anxious strangers. I spotted a phone on the wall, and I fished for quarters in my pocketbook. The first call was to Mike‘s parents. They’d come home right away, but it would take a while. I called my mother, wishing she wasn‘t so far away. Then I called my daughter, Kate. I didn’t want to worry her. But she‘d always been a rock for me. It helped a little just to hear her voice. When I hung up, however, I choked back the tears.

    I started to put away my pocketbook, but I had one last call to make. I dialed the number of my church. An answering machine picked up my call. Should I leave a message? What should I say? We hadn‘t been attending long so I didn’t know many people. Finally I just said that Mike was in the hospital and had taken a turn for the worse. Maybe they could say some prayers.

    It seemed like forever sitting and wondering. I put my head in my hands and tried to hide my tears. Suddenly, a woman walked in and approached me.

    “Peggy?”she asked, kneeling beside me.“I'm Lisa. I'm a social worker here at the hospital, and I also go to your church. I got a call from the pastor that you were here, so I ducked over to see if you were okay.”

    I looked up, surprised. She seemed so calm and gentle. Seemingly out of the blue, someone had found me and offered help. I wiped the tears from my cheek.

    “If you need anything, ask someone to page me. Okay?”She put her hand on my shoulder and smiled comfortingly.

    “Yes, thank you so much,”I sniffed. Before long, I was allowed in to see Mike. He was hooked up to monitors, IVs, and was wearing an oxygen mask, but I was so happy to be with him again. “You‘re going to be fine,” I said, stroking his arm. I hoped. I looked to the doctor at his bedside.

    “There are multiple clots in both lungs,” he said. “He's on heparin and coumadin;blood thinners. The next few days are very important.”

    I understood. Hopefully the blood clots would break up and dissolve. But if they didn't, or if they traveled to the brain, the results could be fatal. Blood clots were serious business. The doctor left, and Mike dozed off. I sat by his side, aching for something I could do to help him. I put my head against his hand and cried. Then it was time to leave for the evening. I returned home alone.

    But as I sat there in my quiet house, eating my dinner, the phone started ringing. First, a woman from our church called; she identified herself as Sue and offered to give me rides back and forth to the hospital. She even insisted on driving three hours each way to pick up Kate at college and bring her home for the weekend. Then someone else called and said she‘d stop by with a meal. I didn’t even know these people! Finally, just before I went to bed, the phone rang again. It was my mom.

    “I was trying to arrange to take a bus tomorrow,” she said.“But my friend said,‘No way!’She's going to drive me there right now. We’ll get in about 2 am.”

    “She'll drive all that way in the middle of the night?”I asked, unbelieving.

    “Yup. I'll see you soon. Just hang in there.”

    I did, thanks to the support of Lisa, Sue, and others I barely knew. Mike recovered, came home, and gradually grew stronger. And I was stronger, too. With good, caring people everywhere, ready to lend a hand, I am never really alone.

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