Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This post is not for the squeamish

Yesterday was the first day of my blog contest.  Yay!  For the rules, prizes, and whatnot, here's a link to that post.  The contest ends tomorrow at midnight, so enter soon!

Anyway, today I promised that I would share the nicest thing someone has done for me, but before I get to that, I wanted to explain why I'm even having this contest.  It's not about getting followers or twitter peeps, although that is nice.  I love to meet great new people.  I'm doing this for one reason and that's because while writing can be a lonely task, it's also one where you need a little help some times. 

Let's face it, sometimes that help is hard to find.  Sure, your mom could read your work but is she really going to tell you that your main character is so boring she can't stand reading another page?  Probably not. 

Most writers know that a good critique is a gift.  It's also incredibly hard to find.  I'm lucky enough to have fabulous writer friends and a great agent and editor who will tell me when something's not working.  That is a great kindness to a writer. 

One I'd like to pass along to you. 

Now it's my turn to share the nicest thing someone has ever done for me. 

Mine is in keeping with the husband theme started yesterday.  As a lot of you know, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease after my son was born.  To say it was a difficult delivery is the understatement of the year.  I was in the ICU so many times I earned frequent flier points.  At least three times my husband was told that I probably wouldn't make it through the night.

To make a very long story short, when they delivered my son via c-section, the doctors discovered that my small bowel had perforated and I had peritonitis, a frequently fatal infection.  To get rid of the infection, the doctors made a long vertical incision that went from my c-section incision all the way up my stomach ending just below that spot mid-sternum where your ribs join. 

Basically, I had an upside down T on my stomach.  Both incisions were left open to drain the infection.  That's right.  OPEN.  As in not stitched or stapled shut.  As in, "Oh look, I always wanted to be able to look down and see what I looked like on the inside." 

The incision was packed with gauze that had to be pulled out and re-stuffed twice a day.  It hurt.  A lot.  This process went on for almost 5 months.

Through it all, my husband was beyond wonderful, but there's one incident that I will never forget.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I came home with the incision still wide open.  Each day, a home health care nurse would show up at my house and redress the wound. 

Every single one of them did the same thing the first time they saw me.  First, there was the quick indraw of breath.  Followed by, "Oh.  Oh."  Then they always ended with, "Don't worry, plastic surgery can fix that right up." 

Gee.  Thanks.  Just what I wanted to hear. 

At this point, I had not looked at the incision yet.  Every time they changed the dressing in the hospital, I looked away.  I did the same thing the first week I was home. 

But eventually, curiosity got the better of me.  I'm not a squeamish person.  When  co-worker stapled through her fingernail and out the other side of her finger, I was the one who pulled the staple out while everyone else turned away. 

I could handle a little cut. 

After a week of comments from the home health care nurses, I started asking Steve if I should look at it.  He would frown and bite his lower lip.  "Wait a little," he said each time. 

I asked him this every night.  And every night he said the same thing.

A note: my husband is even less squeamish than I am.  No lie.  He helped pack my incision every morning. 

One morning, as he was getting ready for work, I said, "I'm going to look at it." 

He paused and said, "At least wait until I'm home with you."  You need to know that he had missed a lot of work.  A Lot.  Our son was still in the NICU and I had only been home a little over a week.  He was waaaaay out of vacation days.  

He left for work and I promised not to look at the incision until later. 

You know where this is going.

A few hours later, I got out of bed and decided to take a shower.  As I undressed, I thought, I'm going to look.  It can't be that bad.  I'm standing aren't I?  If it was that bad, I wouldn't be able to stand. 

I pealed off my clothes and the layers of bandages without looking down.  I stepped in front of the mirror.  Counted to three.  And looked at myself for the first time in two months. 

Oh.  My.  God.

My stomach was ripped open.  I could see at least three inches inside.  I looked like hamburger meat.  Not only that, but I had been so sick I only weighed 87 pounds.  That's right.  I came out of pregnancy at 87 pounds.  That's 30 pounds lighter than I am now.  30 pounds.

I looked like a concentration camp survivor.  My hip bones were sharp ugly things that pointed to the red gash running down my middle. 

Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I finally realized how sick I had been (and still was).  I sobbed.  I wrapped a towel around myself, shower forgotten, and called Steve.  (I took the phone in with me in case I fell.)

"I looked," I sobbed into the phone as soon as he picked up.  I didn't even give him a chance to say hello.  "Oh my God.  It's awful.  Why didn't anyone tell me?  How am I even standing?"  I sank down onto the toilet and cried. 

I think I repeated Oh my God several more times. 

Finally he calmed me down.  And this is where the beautiful part comes in.  Without telling me as soon as we hung up, he got in his car and started driving.  He worked about an hour away from where we lived.  He didn't have any vacation days.  On his way home, he got stuck in traffic and couldn't make it.  He had to turn around. 

He called me when he turned around.  I was still sitting on the toilet when the phone rang.  I picked it up and he said, "I tried to come home to you, but I couldn't make it."  He was crying softly.  "I'm so sorry.  I tried to be there.  Traffic is too bad.  I had to turn around and go back to work.  But you don't look bad.  I promise you, it's not bad.  You're beautiful."   

He tried to come home to me.  Even though he worked an hour away.  Even though he didn't have any more days off. 

Dear ones, he had already spent almost every day at the hospital with me.  He argued with doctors to make sure I received the best care.  He made them bring my son to me when I was still in ICU.  Yet this is the incident I cling to.  The day I realized exactly how sick I was.  The day I looked at myself in the mirror and saw this ugly carved up thing, and he told me I was beautiful. 

He didn't make it home that day, but that didn't matter.  He tried.  And I will never forget that. 

9 comments:

  1. okay. crying a little now. that's really beautiful. I'm so sorry you had such an awful experience (and thank God you made it through.) But the fact that you pulled through (and so beautifully) proves that you have amazing strength as well as support.

    People (especially women who have the moniker STATE House Wives) like to talk smack about husbands. About how they don't listen, are clueless, don't care, don't help, philander, whatever. It's all you hear about. So it's easy to think that you have the very LAST good man at your side. It's wonderful to know there are so many good husbands in partnership with good wives.
    Bless you and your husband. Again, so glad you're here and well now.

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    1. Aw, thank you. I don't know if it took strength so much as there really wasn't Anything Else To Do. You either get through it, or you die.

      Anyway, I agree completely with you. My husband and I disagree all the time (we're complete opposites, which makes things interesting!) but he is a Very Good Man. And I'm lucky to have him.

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  2. So wow, you are an incredible trooper. With parents like yours, I think we might want to start tracking your kids, because they come from incredbile DNA!!!

    I think in so many ways, journeys are the best gift. I don't remember where I heard it, but there is a story about a boy who loved his teacher, but was very poor. He wanted to give her a gift to explain his love. Since he couldn't afford one that said what he wanted to say, he took a long long walk (I think it took days) to a red sand beach far away from where he lived. There, he scooped up the sand and put it into a small bottle. When he bestowed this gift to his teacher, she was amazed by it. She said it was beautiful. The boy agreed, but said that the sand represented the journey he took for her, and that was the real gift.

    Your story reminds me of that =)

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    1. Thank you. I love the story you shared. You're so right, the journey is what's important. Not the destination.

      I think if I've learned anything in life, that's it!

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  3. This made me tear up. Thank you for sharing. There is nothing more valuable that a life partner who really sticks with you through everything. Your husband sounds wonderful. For the record, mine is too. :)

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    1. You're welcome! And I'm glad that you've got a Good Husband also. It's been great hearing about how many of us have one!

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  4. Beautiful and intriguing story. But that Chrohn's disease...wow...that sounds bad. I'm so happy we live in an age of scientific advancement so that modern medicine with the aid of skilled surgeons could help you.

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    1. Yep. Crohn's disease isn't fun. At all. Still, I'm in remission right now so it's all good!

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  5. Just wanted to say how glad I am that you survived to tell the story of that ordeal! And how nice you are to offer this contest. I'm not entering, but you're doing a good deed and I hope you enjoy good karma during the next phase of your publishing journey.

    Oh, and I happen to be a writer married to a Very Good Man too. We should start a club!

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