This wasn’t exactly what I expected today.
But as I know, and you know, life will hand you an experience whether you want it or not.
I went back to Memorial Hospital today.
All of Adam’s hospitalizations, save the final one at Anschutz in Denver, were there. I knew every inch of that hospital: where the snacks were, what the cafeteria hours were, the restroom locations. I even had a filled punch card from the coffee shop. They knew me. They knew my drink.
I had no plans to return.
But when a friend texted, there was no hesitation. “I am free,” I said. Two of us were free, and we headed to be with her … and for me, it was an unknown experience to be on the other side of the fence, to be with a woman whose husband was tucked into a hospital bed suddenly and with little warning.
My own anxiety started while turning on to Boulder from Wahsatch. So many times I made that turn. Once it was in a panic with Adam at 3 a.m., sure he was going to die right there in my car.
The tears and shortness of breath came in the parking garage, and I kept crying trying to ask directions to a room; directions I couldn’t listen to.
So I got lost in a place I knew so well. I knew exactly where I was, but with nowhere to go.
The doctor was in the room when I found it, so I waited outside. When the nurse asked me if I needed anything, I told him I was waiting to go in. He had already heard my friends talking. I was the one with the deathversary. Here they are, with someone else in the hospital bed, and they were worried about me.
They knew this trip would cause me anxiety, more so on this particular weekend. I am still stunned by their caring: they were worried about ME! “I’ll be OK,” I said. “I know,” my friend texted. “Cuz you’re strong af.”
But there really wasn’t a hesitation. I would be there. These are my friends. These are the people who have been there for me since 1999.
The familiarity of the situation was disconcerting. Every sound is a trigger, every test result, every movement by a staff member. The yellow gown he wore for fall risk. The yellow gown that looked better on him because it didn’t match a jaundiced face.
About 8, I said I was going to the bathroom. I did go, but first I had to do something.
I took the central elevators to the fifth floor. I walked down the endless hallway toward the renal unit. I stopped at the bathroom I cried in many times. I paused by the set of chairs in the lobby, the set of chairs where I cried and asked Kathy, “if he dies, will I be OK?” “Of course you will,” she said “you are you. But I gotta tell you your breath is really bad right now.”
I smiled at that memory. I knew each of “his” rooms as I walked along the quiet corridor. There were three of them in all. I remember where I was when the nurse said his creatinine levels had dropped, and I nearly collapsed in relief. I remember the lounge at the end of the hall I slept in. The microwave I heated up my coffee in. The ice machine where I refilled his cup over and over.
Just one pass. That’s all I needed. It was ghostly. It was haunted.
But I was OK.
I didn’t want to make the visit about me, but for five minutes I did. Back in the room, we shared funny stories about Adam and his hospital stays, and how my friends were so supportive.
I got to hear the pumpkin cookie story again.
I know this situation is going to have a better outcome. My friend’s husband is safe and well-cared for now. She will sleep fitfully on the couch beside him. We will return to visit in the morning.
Because life doesn’t go as planned.
Take it as it comes.