“There was a red button on the wall labelled EMERGENCY,
but no button labelled BEWILDERMENT.”
― Michel Faber,
My husband does not like going to the hospital, and yet here he was, waiting for the emergency room doctor to appear. It was early Saturday morning. My husband’s leg was blood red, hot, with his foot swollen like a fat pug dog. “Mr. Gates, we can see you now,” said the ER nurse. He gave me the look. The one that means I have no idea what will happen, but know I love ya.
It’s amazing how quickly one’s world can spiral off course.
Just days earlier I had been thinking about fading snow drifts, robins reappearing in trees, and springtime possibilities. I envisioned my husband and I dusting off our crusty old (vintage?) bikes and riding to the Dairy Queen to split a Heath Bar Blizzard, or perhaps over to the Ole Store for a glass of wine. (Not shared!) I know
spring will too-quickly turn to summer, where our full calendar stretches into September. Already.
But as the doctor ordered tests…x-rays, an ultra-sound, blood work, I realized that our tomorrows are not guaranteed. I mean, of course, I know that in general, but there’s nothing like the reality of an emergency room to bring the future into question. How serious was this?
Eventually, the doctor returned and said he wanted to keep my husband in the hospital. “You have cellulitis, which is a bacterial infection. It’s quite severe and quite serious. The best way of getting on top of this is antibiotics delivered via IV.”
“How long will he have to stay?” I asked.
The doctor frowned. “I can’t answer that. It will depend on how the infection responds.”
My husband said, “No. Nope. Not happening. Just give me an Rx for the antibiotics, and I’ll take them at home.”
As the doctor explained that oral antibiotics don’t work well on this type of bacteria, and that time was of the essence, I texted my step-son who is an orthopedic surgeon in North Carolina. What should we do?
His text response was quick. Hospitalization is the right course. I looked at my husband. “Please talk to your son.”
“Give me the phone.”
Moments later my husband, with tears in his eyes, consented to hospitalization. They whisked him away in a wheelchair.
For the next three days, he was pumped full of antibiotics, blood thinners, blood pressure meds, pain pills, and hospital food. During that time I spent as much time as I could in his room being a cheerleader sans the pom poms. (I figured his blood pressure was high enough.)
The nights at home were lonely, though. I couldn’t shut my head off. The “what if’s” mulitplied as the days stretched on.
Slowly, slowly, his leg lost the angry visage, but his foot stubbornly refused to deflate. Nonetheless, for some reason, they said, “You can go home now.”
And here we are. Home. I’ve rented a walker for him to get around, and nag him with a velvety sharp tongue to keep his foot elevated. Oh, and take those pills! Drink more water! Love you! Love you! Love you!
Because while we may not be taking those leisurely bike rides soon, we have been given a priceless gift.
Another day together.