Update from the Heart of Hess:
Oh, my gosh. If everything could just slow down for a minute. A second, even.
Oh, wait. Warning: This post will contain fear, frustration, freaking out, fretting and at least one other “f” word multiple times. If you cannot handle the truth, stop reading right now. Go rent A Few Good Men or something. Seriously. I’m not going to make up shit just to sound positive. Go on, now. Go watch some kitten videos on YouTube. Go onnnnnnn. Gone? Okay.
Hess has been home fewer than two days (yay!), and he’s already had one episode of atrial fibrillation that required a call to the doctor’s emergency service in the middle of the night (not yay). The rehab fellow who came by today—Art, who is an angel—said that Hess’s heart is healing very slowly and that Hess has to slow himself down immediately so that he doesn’t damage his heart muscle, which would be irreversible. He showed us all kinds of things about the devices we’ve been given, which would’ve been good to know before we came home two days ago.
The doctors sent us home with a mound of instructions—some of which are contradictory—and a baker’s dozen of new meds, and I’ve yet even to find time to make sense of it all. There are specific things that must happen on a 24-hour schedule, and there is no rotation of nurses—good or bad—to share the responsibilities.
All of you who’ve been through anything like this will understand: A caregiver has a mountain of sand to move with a pair of tweezers.
(And not the good kind of tweezers that really grab either. The cheap ones that after fifteen minutes of trying to get a grip on that chin hair you can’t see, unless the hand-mirror is angled just right, finally snag the hair enough to make it hurt like a bitch but then only break it off at .0000000000001 mm above skin level.)
And it doesn’t diminish the importance of focusing on Hess’s recovery for me to say that as the primary caregiver, I’m drowning. In fact, the most critical thing in my universe is Hess’s recovery, but, but, but. I’m the most ill-equipped candidate for this job.
First, my darling is a tad resistant to all these “silly” requirements, which forces me to turn up my shrew-mometer even higher than normal. Who else is going to make him shower and clean each wound and then swab it with Betadine every single day?
(“Oh, yeahhh. Betadine? No. You’ll have to go buy that separately,” said the CVS pharmacist at midnight on our first day home.
“The patient must be attended 24/7 for the first 3 weeks,” said the yellow instruction sheet.
“He has to ride in the backseat,” said everyone involved in cardiac healthcare.
“Fuck you getting him in the backseat!” said our Mini-Cooper.
“He’s better off if you leave him at home unattended than if he gets in a car,” said the first home-health care person. “You’re not going to be gone an hour just to get Betadine.”
“You have to get a pill-splitter, a pill organizer, medical supplies, special food, a home blood-pressure monitor, a freaking 3V lithium battery for the bathroom scale because it decided to die today, and so, so many other things, and the lines at Walmart are like registration on the first day of Zombie school,” said my spinning head.)
Who else is going to make him weigh and take his blood pressure every morning before he takes his first round of meds? Who else is going to make the phone calls with her motherfucking deaf, betraying ears for all these mandatory doctors’ appointments (and that, alone, sends me into a tailspin)? Who else is going to fold him into the backseat gently, GENT-ly, Oh, my God, watch your head! so that we can go to the appointments? Who else is going to wash him and the sheets and the sheets and the sheets and the clothes and the clothes and the clothes when the meds make him incontinent, and it is totally NOT his fault, and he’s humiliated and doesn’t want to wear freaking adult diapers? The measure of true love is directly proportional to how willingly we wipe our partner’s ass. I. Fucking. Love. My. Husband.
And before anyone out there blasts me for making this negative or “about me” in any way, consider this: The bottom line is that I’m Hess’s only advocate and caregiver. There is no one else to do the million things that must be done to help him heal properly, and I kind of suck at it. We have a combined total of five classes of students depending upon us, and I can’t keep up with it. And our house is in chaos because I was right smack in the middle of renovating everything—and I do mean everything—when this unexpected health crisis waylaid my co-pilot.
So, there is shit lying around all over, and the stream of home-health people who’ve come by since Monday (to tell us what to do, not to help us do it) have had to navigate the place like a minefield. Plus, we have a new puppy, so you can see how that might impact things, yes?
It isn’t like I thought on a whim, “Hey! I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t we get a house, and I’ll tear it all up and replace everything and run into all kinds of problems and delays so that the renovation bleeds into the time when all of our new classes start; but, right before we get the house, let’s get a puppy who will just shit and piss everywhere because we are sure that we’ll have plenty of time to train him now that we have a house with a yard, and then—I know, I know—this is the best part: Let’s do all of this, Honey, knowing full-well that you’re about to need to have your chest split open and your heart fixed and then require months of recovery and rehab! What do you think???” And then Hess just blithely went along with the plan.
It didn’t happen like that. But, now, here we are.
There are naturally good moments and not-so-good moments. Good: After Art gave Hess the directive to rest, slow down, take it easy, heallllll, a calm settled over the land of excrement.
Not-so-good: The CPAP lady who thinks she is being really efficient but who is really just a shell of humanity with no actual feelings came at 10 this morning and fitted Hess for his CPAP machine because sleep apnea—which was diagnosed shortly before the heart issues—has been robbing him of enough oxygen for years. He had to call her a few minutes after she left for clarification on how to fill the stinking reservoir, and we put the two head strap contraptions on all kinds of ways wrong before we figured it all out.
For just a moment, I was married to Hannibal Lecter, and it was so, so scary.
But, once we got him looking more like a high school wrestler than a serial killer, he was able to drift into a peaceful, healing sleep in which he dreamed he was teaching in the coolest school, where all the teachers walked together to have dinner in what turned out to be a library. As a token to get a tray, each teacher had to choose a book to discuss over the meal. He said, “Ohhhh, I’d love to teach in a place like that.” And, of course. Because my husband craves community more than anyone I’ve ever known. But, now, here we are.
We moved into a retirement community—for the community, get it??—but because we are dumbasses, we got here right when everyone else left for six months. It is Florida. It is summer. Our neighborhood looks like the Apocalypse, unless it is the goddamned Apocalypse, which it probably is and we’ve been left behind because I use the Lord’s name in vain. Jesus Christ! Can I do nothing right?!
Well, okay. I did one thing that helped. I allowed myself a few moments of bleating and snotting this afternoon—I’m an ugly crier—until I felt better. Hess had a quiet, serene evening; good dinner; a little school work; warm shower; fresh Betadine; nighttime meds; CPAP on correctly; and he’s sleeping so well and beautifully as I type. The puppy is off somewhere humping his stuffed bear, which I know because I can feel a slight thumping in the floor. I’m filled with hope that Hess’s heart is healing, oxygen is rejuvenating his cells, slumber is restoring his precious body and soul. Thank you all for being there. For listening. Or reading. Good night, Darling Friends! More tomorrow.