Saturday, January 19, 2013

how is James? a day in the hospital

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I wish there were a simple answer. The days in the hospital are monotonous and mind-numbingly slow. We always seem to be waiting; for a doctor, a test, or another hour to pass. James and I create our own structure and routine. We mark the small improvements and accomplishments of the passing days. We acknowledge the gains of each additional hour spent out of bed, or a few independent steps in the hallways (sans oxygen). Every sip of a Resource supplement warrants a celebration. These gains may seem meaningless, but each step represents movement towards the direction of discharge. Lung disease may be progressive, but James refuses to allow himself to deteriorate within the areas of his control. I know that every bite of food takes effort, and every minute out of bed is banked in hours of sleep, but James continues to endure. We may fall apart on a regular basis, but I'm insanely proud of his heroic push to maintain (and even improve) his health status.

Every morning, I wake to an internal alarm and start my day slowly with cat cuddles and a protein-rich breakfast. The warmth of my bed is a lure in the morning, and a reward at the end of the day. No amount of sleep seems to resolve my fatigue (and it is never easy to leave a cat curled by your side). I stumble through my routine, clear the dishes from the sink and drying rack, and boil the kettle for Jamie's tea. James' tea is a morning staple loaded with enough sugar and cream to make any morning delightful. My caffeine cravings begin with his brew. A month in hospital would create a coffee addict out of the best of us. I depend on the cold morning air and a brisk walk to the hospital to get me through the first part of the day, but by early afternoon, I'll be walking in my near sleep to the Starbucks for a daily dose of caffeine.

I arrive at the hospital either to find James bent over a basin, or ready to indulge his own caffeine addiction. The difference will determine the rest of the day. The rare appearance of another episode of nausea and vomiting is always fraught with fears of more days on end in hospital hugging a basin. James has had enough basin bonding to last a lifetime. (It has been an enduring relationship. That is some serious commitment). Fortunately, James has been having fewer episodes.
I take a few minutes aside to clean and organize the room, and scavenge James' breakfast tray for edibles. The room is often littered with empty packages of no longer sterile bandages and wipes from midnight glucose readings and early morning blood draws. The activities of the day are concentrated between the early hour of five and seven in the morning. It is a fury of nurses in and out of the room for vital signs, weights, and several rounds of medications. James has been in a light sleep for hours. He braces himself for the bright overhead lights. We share anecdotes of the night, fragments of dreams, and assurances that there were a decent quantity of cat cuddles for both of us. 

The waiting is soon to begin. Did I not mention that the hospital is one perpetual wait?

James will move to sit in a chair for the morning, and I often stretch out on the bed. We snack on fresh fruit, and at James request, I seek out a Tim Horton's for muffins or soup. James will disappear into his laptop, and resurface to share music, news and videos. I knit and knit (and knit) with music in the background. I eventually become restless and determine an appropriate time to disappear for a coffee (always weighing the possibilities that I will miss the appearance of a doctor or specialist). We move through the day at a snail's pace (and that is an understatement).
We are both ready to return to bed by the time lunch arrives (or rather, a foul-smelling tray that resembles something edible in colour and texture, but is more often than not, a test of stomach strength). We salvage the fresh fruit and vegetables, apple juice, and condiments for our stash. This is definitely not the Cystic Fibrosis ward at St. Michael's hospital. The chips and chocolate bars will have to come from our own budget. 

James has physiotherapy in the Transplant Gym three times a week in the early afternoon. This is a delightful exercise (pun-intended) of co-ordination between a wheelchair, oxygen tank, and IV pole. We laugh a lot, and manage through the bumps and bruises. James' determination at the Transplant Gym really is a testament to his determination and strength. He has become very weak and short of breath from the last month in hospital, but James always completes his routine. He pushes through the discomfort, with breaks to rest and listen to his body, and with that, is re-building strength and endurance. 
He earns a long nap in the afternoon, and I often return home for a few hours. This is my opportunity to do house chores, grocery shopping, laundry, and so forth. I am also trying to follow through on my commitment to get back into exercise on a regular basis. We touch base in the late afternoon, and I often make dinner to bring back to the hospital. We watch shows in the evening, and play various games. (My Scrabble skills are improving each and every day).

We procrastinate to say good night and wish each other the sweetest of sweet dreams. Some nights I fall asleep on a cot beside his bed, but I eventually find my way back across the street to a very demanding feline. (My long absences in the day have become a source of distress. Ophelia has become very vocal in expressing her discontent).

That is a novel of a blog post. I'll end it here (for now):


  1. Stick to it girlfriend. We are ALL going to come out of this stronger, more patient and accepting, and healthier! Love you both tons! Sarah

  2. Much love, super squeezie hugs and a promise of a visit...tomorrow afternoon, sometime after 1pm
    Maybe a coffee date?

  3. Sounds lovely! I am around until 3:00pm. <3

  4. Afriend is someone who strengthens you with prayer, blesses you with love and encourages you with hope.Although I don't know you I hope you know there are plenty of us out there praying for the both of you.Yuo both look beaautiful together. Love and best wishes. xoxox Donna

  5. Hi you guys
    Thank you for posting updates. Love these pictures you post. Sending lots of love and prayers to you. Good luck on the scrabble game Adena. I think those Saltspring folks are Scrabble gurus! :-)
    Love your Cousin Patty C in Ladysmith