Hissing. Blowing. In.Out. Compression. Expansion. Beep. Beep. Whoosh. Dink, dink the vital sign machine carries on – the leader of the orchestra.
In comes the nurse. Out goes the doctor. In comes the lab tech. Out goes the catheter. In goes a tube. Out goes the blood. Depending on the patient’s lab results, diagnosis and pain threshold, medications, specialists, more machines and other noises will be added. Then subtracted. One by one, until the patient, goes home or to heaven. The hierarchy of disease.
Hospital rooms have become almost like hotels to me. I have seen enough of them now to know where the extra stash of linens are and where lukewarm coffee is on tap. I know which one is modern and which one could use an overhaul. I know where the vending machines are;I have a bag of quarters at the ready. I know where I can watch the clock stand still. All through the night, every day. Weeks on end.
My family has turned into “them.” As in; “Wow what a story. How do you think they are holding it together? How does a family cope with the devastating diagnosis of cancer? Can’t even imagine what that is like.” Now we know. We also know that we are pretty darn lucky, all things considered. The hierarchy of life.
Sleep has taken on a new meaning as well. I can only speak for myself, but I stopped getting a good’s night rest the night I received the phone call.
“It’s cancer. When are you coming home?”
Ten hours later, after two hours of sleep and an inconvenient business meeting, I made a quick stop at my doctor’s office.
“What can I do for you today,” Doc said with a smile.
“I have to go home. I don’t know how long I will stay. I do know that I can’t handle this. It’s my family. Cancer has come knocking. They need my help.”
That’s when my waterworks finally broke through the wall of “no emotion” I hide behind.
Doc handed me a tissue. Doc gave me a hug. Doc wrote out two scripts. One for an anti-depressant. One for medication that would hopefully calm my nerves.
Doc also wrote a personal script for my subconscious, otherwise known as my inner child.
“Julie needs compassion, understanding, and a helping hand. Her load is almost as heavy as her heart.
Give her lots of water. She will need that to combat the dehydration that will set in from crying so hard.
Her heart is breaking, be gentle.
She act’s as if she can take it. She is trying to be brave.
The reality though is that she is fragile.
She is scared.
She has to finally grow up.
She is now traveling along the caregiver’s path, a dangerous road with lots of blind spots and hairpin turns.
Please be patient with her.
Handle with care.
Please don’t judge.
Hold her tight.
Please wipe away her tears.”
The hierarchy of needs. Everyone has them. Sometimes it is hard to decipher who needs life support and who will be the first one to give up and head on over to the other side.
Later that night I took the first of what has turned out to be many red-eye flights cross country, due east.
It happened to us. We are just like “them.” I am told that it is called “life.” I guess I was not living before. I was not taking it all in. I was not acknowledging the importance of time or how finite our season on Earth is.
Hope. Tenacity. Belief. Patience. The hierarchy of coping.
I am reminded every day that I spend in the hospital of the power of positive thoughts. I can hear sanguine words with every beep, whoosh, expansion, and dink dink the vital sign machine makes. I see the other families clinging to them for dear life, as the used tissues gather into moist mounds in the trash bin.
Pain. Grief. Emptiness. The hierarchy of emotion.
A veil of ineffable feelings so thick it shrouds you when someone you love is fighting the temptation to give in and give up.
I now know what that sentiment means. It hurts. It is beautiful. It is life itself. The hierarchy of existence.
Photo: ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved