Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just another relaxing evening at the hospital

Published April 13, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

When I was in the 7th grade, I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen (no relation to the awful movies). It became an instant favorite, and I've read it many times since. One passage, in which the mother of these many children experiences a hospital birth for the first time (a product of the shift from home to hospital at the time), is particularly funny. Having never thought a hospital was necessary for such a thing, then being kept there a week, she immediately falls in love. Never in her life has she been allowed such repose, kept away from the incessant requests of her large brood and waited on hand and foot by caring professionals.

Though I thought it was funny, I never got that part of the book until this week. I have never been a lover of hospitals. I've always felt inpatient recovery is an oxymoron. I could never, ever imagine finding a hospital stay relaxing. I mean, they put you in the most uncomfortable beds known to man. They feed you food that's so bad it's very name has become the standard of bad food in conversation. They wake you up at regular intervals to give you pills, inquire about your "pain number," and poke you with things to make sure you're still alive. Who can relax in that kind of setting?

A single mom of five, that's who!

When I met with my doctor about the surgery I had this past Wednesday, he mentioned the procedures I was having were usually done on an outpatient basis. The deeply imbedded hospital hater in me nodded her understanding head and thought, that's good. Outpatient surgery makes sense...gets people home where they can really feel comfortable and get rest in their own environments. The single mom in me was near tears and thought, how in the world will I be able to recover at home with five kids to care for?

Fortunately for me, the doctor's next words were, "But you've got this blood disorder, and I'm just not sure how it will affect things. I'd like to keep you overnight to monitor you, if that's all right with you." I don't really know what my response was, because I was too busy saying a silent prayer that went something like, "Dear God, thank you so much for giving me Thalassemia which keeps me safe from malaria and keeps this doctor nervous. I will never complain about it again. Runty red blood cells and chronic anemia are fine by me! Please let my Italian ancestors in Heaven know how grateful I am for these genes."

I went away from that appointment nearly giddy, putting on a mask of appropriate annoyance or defeat whenever anyone expressed their sympathy over my plight. I'd hear things like, "You have to stay overnight? Tough break," or, "Oh, that's too bad," and I'd nod in a slightly sad way and say, "Yeah, but what can you do, right?" Inside, I'd be doing a little happy dance the likes of which would never do in polite company.

Truth be told, I didn't lose much more blood than the average person. I wasn't in a great deal of pain (my most oft reported pain number was, " there a number for just sore?"). I could have gone home the same day. The doctor even asked whether I thought I might want to. I replied, "Five kids." He responded, "Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. You should stay." I would have kissed him had this conversation not taken place over the phone.

My hospital stay was as I knew it would be. I adjusted my bed often, trying find comfort where none is possible. The food wasn't the worst I've ever had, but it was hospital food nonetheless. I was awakened every couple of hours and presented with pills and blood pressure cuffs. But...there was no six year old nudging her way into my bed at three in the morning. I did not have to lift a finger to prepare, serve, or clean up the meals, and the nurses were friendly and kind, and all the quiet hours in between were completely my own to rest as I saw fit. I might as well have been at the spa.

A day later, I can say I'm happy to be home. Being a typical mom, I'm wondering if I'll end up with some guilt over admitting how wonderful it was to be away from the kids for a night. At this point, I don't think it's likely. Everyone needs a break now and then, and as the sole provider, financially, physically, and emotionally, for my five, I think I've earned it.

Now, if I could just get my dentist to keep me overnight when he takes my wisdom teeth out...