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The bouquet of life

Five weeks. Five weeks! I never planned on a stay in the hospital this long. This wasn’t how my transplant recovery was supposed to go.

These are the workings of the mind and the origin of my tears throughout the night and into the morning. It was a rough one. You see, objectively speaking, I’m doing well. My liver remains functioning better than it has in ten years (!), and my vital stats such as blood pressure, temperature and weight are all in the normal range. The surgeons are ecstatic, the doctors satisfied. Except, I can’t go home and am still in enormous pain from the wound, drain and arm trauma.

But this post isn’t about that. This post is about observing the seesaw of thoughts and fragility and unpredictability of life. This post is about the limitations of the mind, my mind, in circumstances when it isn’t controllable; when emotion takes over the head space either by revolt or resignation. This post is about turning sadness and pain into laughter and joy when the atrocity of a situation turns to comedy,

This morning when I woke up, tears stained my face. During the course of the night I had four different cannulas put into my arms and removed; ending with a pediatric cannula that was too narrow a line to get the anti-viral drip into my vein. As a result, two half-hour drips took the entire night to get into my system. Throughout the day, the pain took over, and as nothing quite went according to plan; I was beginning to lose the plot.

Day turned to night, and I was in a head space that is anything but Positive, Grateful, Loving. Today was about feeling low. Feeling stuck. Feeling unshakable pain. It’s true, they have lowered my pain medicine throughout the week and it is now wearing so thin I can sense the tissues of my body at work as they bind to heal the wound and compete with the hole in my abdomen where the drain is simultaneously working to empty the bile from the ‘collection’ above the wound from the duct leak last week.

My husband, who graciously came at lunch to cheer me up, heard my sadness and resignation through the phone and made his way to the hospital to again turn my frown upside down. And then, wonderfully,. a guest turned up to my bedside before his arrival. It was Professor Malaga, the world renowned transplant surgeon with an infectious smile as large as he is tall. He poked his head through my curtain and saw me curled into a ball with tears in my eyes, and he laughed. He came into my bay and hugged me and kissed my forehead. He told me the amazing news that the CT scan I had earlier in the day was ‘fantastic’; my liver looked great and the bile ducts were no longer leaking. He laughed and said he was thrilled. I felt like an idiot. I told him how I’d stupidly spent the day in pain and he took the time to ask where, and look at my arms and belly. He said I deserved to be low, I had every right to feel sad, but that I should forget about the pain, I should forget about the sadness. He reminded me that I have a new life; he reminded me that in six months I would be able to do things I never thought possible; in six months there would be no cannula, no pain. I took his hand and thanked him, told him what a beautiful smile he had, how lucky I was to have such an amazing doctor. He kissed my cheek and said he would be back the next day. I finally heard what I needed to; my attitude had been adjusted and by the time my husband arrived we could spend our time fantasizing about where we will go on our first trip out of the UK in nearly two years. It was the best ‘date’ I have had in a long, long time.

After he left, the room settled in and the real drama began. First, the woman in the bay next to me lost her shit, literally, all over the floor and all over herself. I was asleep, as were the two other woman in the room, but the stench woke me up and I discovered her traipsing around with her soiled socks and gown spreading the magic all over the floor. Next, the woman across from her, on my diagonal, began to vomit. First on the floor, then outside of the room where she made her way with her arm in a sling held up by a pole. I went to seek the nurses who moved like turtles anticipating the scene that awaited them. The third woman, across from my bay, started to shout for a glass of water, that she was trying to sleep and it smelled like a toilet. She increased the volume as she started complaining about the hospital’s cleanliness and nurse competence. It was truly a scene from a comedy.

I found solace in a green plastic chair outside of the ward and nodded off for a little while. When I came back I saw the endings of a mediocre cleaning job that was in no way sanitary or complete. The entire ward smelled of a fecal mishap, and the woman responsible had since moved to the toilet where she continued to not only spread more of her waste product, but also hum loudly. I then witnessed her return to her chair where she recommenced eating and humming (both of which, non-stop activities since she entered the hospital the night prior). The woman who had been vomiting paced the ward and asked for the professional housecleaning team to be called.

Eventually, the room was cleaned a second time and the smell quieted to soft bouquet that enabled us to re-enter the room. This is when the pooping patient peed on the floor as she continued to hum, and eat. It would be a long night.

I got into bed, put on my sound-proof ear-set and fell asleep until now, 4.30am. The woman is humming loudly and has just done something with a fair amount of stench to it. I return to the green plastic chair outside of the ward after notifying the nurses. Now, however, I’m smiling, recounting the words of Professor Malaga, knowing that there will be an end to this saga soon and some other story will fill it’s place, if I let it.

I sit, recounting the past weeks, and begin to laugh. What a trip it’s been. I signed up for this, and despite the tears, despite the sensory overload and discomfort, I would do it all over again. I am alive. I think of my donor and the miracle that is unfolding in my body. I have someone else’s body supporting mine, all the time. A stranger gave me the most tremendous gift without knowing it, without knowing about all the smaller gifts that would come with it. These come in the form of life lessons that have helped me navigate the sticky and downright silly situations occurring on a floor with 34 other very ill patients with ailments crossing the physical-mental divide.

Returning to the room, I hear the loud humming of my roommate. She has locked herself in the toilet and the nurse is trying to get her to unlock the door. It is 5.30 in the morning. The sun will rise, and all three women from the room will move on to other destinations. The pooper and vomiter will go home, the complainer will go on to have a long awaited surgical procedure. I smile, knowing  that I will have a chance for sleep, knowing that in my own time, I too will move on.

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