Unexpectedly, on March 6, I had emergency surgery. After about 30 hours of pain and two trips to the emergency room, I went under the knife and woke up in the Recovery Room with a big bandage on my lower abdomen. The first thing I thought was "Thank goodness the excruciating pain is gone!" Sure, I had some pain from the incision and from my doctor rooting around amongst my innards, but that was a cakewalk compared to what I'd endured for the previous day and a half.
Friday marked 4 weeks since my surgery, and if I had to summarize the past month in one word it would be: GRATITUDE. Look, don't get me wrong. I'm not normally one of those "look on the sunny side" people. I'm far too anxious and critical to be like that. But I think this whole experience has done me some good. I had no choice but to let go and place my faith and safety in others' hands, which is not something I'm particularly good at. Remember what I said about being anxious and critical?
In this case, though, I had to trust that my doctor and the hospital team knew what they were doing both during surgery and afterward. I had to lean on my husband, both literally as he walked me around the hospital halls the day after my surgery, and figuratively as he handled everything around the house and drove me around for 2 weeks before I could drive myself. And I had to accept the fact that I had no control over this sudden and unanticipated illness that knocked me flat on my back. In the end, it all worked out, and in looking back I find that I'm so grateful for everyone and everything that helped me this past month. It makes me feel good to think about all the things I have to feel grateful for during the past month:
I'm grateful that there was an ER close by that had painkillers when I needed them. I'm grateful that my doctor made time to see me on short notice, and that she quickly recognized that I needed surgery. I'm grateful for all the people who did their jobs in the operating room. I'm grateful that I stayed unconscious during the operation (isn't waking up everyone's nightmare?). I'm grateful for the nurses who took care of me in the hospital, especially the one who bravely took off my big bandage, because God knows I'd never have the guts to do it. I'm grateful for the hospital food – yes, really! I didn't have to cook it, I didn't have to clean up after it, and it tasted pretty darn good after a diet of I.V. fluids for a couple days. I'm grateful for my husband who handled everything – even on no sleep after sitting with me overnight in an emergency room. I'm grateful to my son who took care of himself while my husband and I were at the hospital. He even made dinner for his dad and got himself off to school. I'm grateful that my husband stayed home from work with me when I got home from the hospital, and he cheerfully drove me around for 2 weeks. He even went out and got me a Shamrock Shake when I wanted one. I'm grateful to my friends and family who called and sent cards and offered to drive me around or come clean my house. My mother came down from Wisconsin, and she said she'd only come if I promised to do nothing to prepare for her visit. No problem there. I'm grateful for 3 of my aunts who wanted to call, but didn't want to wake me up or make me get up to answer the phone. They all waited what they felt was an appropriate amount of time before calling – and they all happened to call between 3 and 4 p.m. on the Wednesday after I got out of the hospital! I wasn't at home because my husband was taking me to the doctor to have my staples removed. I came home to 3 answering machine messages, for all of which I'm so grateful. I'm grateful that my body healed well. I'm grateful that my cats cuddled up around me when I was in bed or lounging on the couch. Have I mentioned that I'm sooooo grateful for the excellent painkillers? I'm grateful that I didn't really have that much pain (considering the 5-inch incision in my belly), and I was able to go off the drugs in less than a week. I'm grateful that I have a comfortable home with people I love where I was able to relax and recuperate. I'm grateful I had health insurance to cover most of the expenses. I'm grateful that I was able to write while I healed. I was able to write a lot, in fact, which was really cool. I'm grateful that even though I wrote that stuff while on painkillers, it still makes sense. Heck, I'm grateful that I came down with this illness while I was at home, as opposed to being on vacation. What would I have done if I were gripped by intense pain when I had just started a trans-Atlantic plane trip? No, if I'm going to need emergency surgery, the best possible scenario is for it to happen at home, near Chicago where the best medical care in the world is immediately available. I'm grateful that the weather was decent after I got home, so I was able to take walks in the fresh air (albeit short ones at first).
There are lots of other things I've been grateful for this past month, not the least of which is the fact that I'm filled with gratitude. I could be feeling anger that I had gotten sick. Or frustration that I had missed out on lots of things in the past month. Or regret that I'm going to be spending thousands of dollars on deductibles and co-pays for this surgery instead of spending the money on something fun like a vacation. Sure, I could have those negative feelings, but somehow I've managed to avoid those. And for that, I'm intensely grateful.
On Friday I had my 4-week post-op visit to the doctor. She said I'm doing great and can start getting back to my usual activities. I walked out of the office feeling grateful. If I can keep up these feelings of gratitude for the good things in my life, even when everything doesn't go the way I planned, then that would mean I got a tremendous amount out of this unexpected detour in my life.
Thank you for listening. I'm grateful for your time.