Friday, May 25, 2012

When a Rose Bends, Part Five

By Dr. Mel Waldman

My wife Michelle has lost chunks of time and memory –- details of her nursing home stay, trips to the ER, and her 11-day hospitalization.  Her high fevers and infections have apparently obliterated most of the horrific experiences in the Brooklyn Hospital where she was treated for sepsis and loss of blood.
She does not recall getting a blood transfusion in the ER.  The weeks she lay in bed in the Brooklyn nursing home with low-to-high fevers and infections have vanished into a dark ocean of oblivion.
Recently, we called her primary care physician (PCP).  I informed the doctor that Michelle had been treated for sepsis and that she has had fevers and infections since December 19th, 2011. I also pointed out that Michelle’s legs and feet were swollen.  The doctor noted that Michelle might have a blood clot.  She recommended that I take Michelle to the ER if her temperature rose to 101.  Yet despite the urgency of my wife’s medical conditions, Michelle initially could not get an appointment to see her PCP until June 20th.  A week later they moved her appointment up to June 11th.  Michelle must wait three more weeks to see her PCP or see an unknown doctor in urgent care.
The surgeon also recommended that my wife stop using a walker.  He suggested she walk with a cane.
Before we left, my wife talked about the life-threatening sepsis that had invaded her bloodstream.  

Two weeks ago, I took my wife by car service to her Manhattan surgeon.  When I told him how ill my wife has been, he ordered X-rays of her right hip.  The X-rays revealed that my wife’s right hip was fine.  On the other hand, he noted that her legs and feet looked swollen.  He pointed out that she might have suffered kidney damage.  He urged her to see her PCP.  
Which of course we can’t do for three weeks.
Two nights ago, I had a dream about a baby girl.  I believe the dream revealed much about my current psychological landscape and my concerns about my wife. 
In the dream, I’m sitting on our Queen-size bed and holding my baby girl.  I feel much love and tenderness for my daughter.  She is my precious gem.  Soon, she has a bowel movement.  When she is finished, I change her diaper.  I hold her in my arms again.  Suddenly, she slips out of my hands and slides to the floor.  I fear she will slip away and die.  But before she reaches the floor, my hands catch her.  She is safe.  She takes a few steps away from me and stumbles across the room.  She does not fall.  I’m holding her right hand.  I believe she wants to become independent.  That’s a good thing.  With much love in my heart, I wake up.

I don’t have a baby girl.  But for the past five months, I have written articles about my wife’s life-threatening illness after having total right hip replacement surgery.  She developed sepsis, a life-threatening infection in her bloodstream.  She almost died. Left untreated, sepsis can lead to septicemia and a destruction of the major organs of the body, attacking the brain, heart, lungs, and liver. 
During the past five months, my brilliant and independent wife became a helpless child.  She became my baby girl.  Yet like a heroic warrior, she continues to struggle and fight for a total recovery and independence.  

Tonight, Michelle’s temperature was 99.6.  I gave her two Tylenol.  She is asleep now. 
And so the never ending nightmare continues.  Sometimes I imagine we are two actors in a surreal play.  Soon we may be swept away into phantasmagoria.  Or perhaps, we’ll find ourselves on stage in the Theater of the Absurd.
You see, this dark experience is so traumatic that I must describe it as unreal.  It’s not really happening to Michelle and me.  Right?
Unfortunately, it is.  The claustrophobic darkness envelops us.  Yet we refuse to surrender.  Michelle will get better.  We will fight this insidious illness that assaults Michelle’s body and soul.  And in the end, we will drink from the cup of joy.

Writer Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, writer, and artist. His stories have appeared in dozens of magazines, including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, and AUDIENCE. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. He is the author of 11 books. This is the fourth in a series of articles about his wife, Michelle, and her recent illness following hip replacement surgery; the first ran in MyStory on February 28th and all can be found through the Search function at the bottom of the blog.

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