Progress is measured in steps.
Sunday morning, the third day after her surgery, I found Joanie still very much in pain, but it was under control. She had the morphine pump close at hand, but wasn’t pressing it as often as she had yesterday. The pain by itself was not surprising since her body was trying to retain equilibrium after the assault of Thursday. I began to see the process more clearly now, and what my role was going to be for the immediate future.
One of the first things I learned was, besides being Joanie’s support in the hospital, I was going to be the nurse’s friend. It didn’t take long to realize the nurses on the floor were not dealing with just one patient, but each of them had several, at any given time, under their care. While I had just one to worry about, they each had four or five. That meant it was my job to keep an eye on Joanie when they weren’t around, and to call things to their attention that I thought they needed to know. I was to find out that once they realized I was going to be around all of the time, and wasn’t being overly demanding, but was interested in helping them help Joanie, I got along fine with all of them. I was struck at the time by the professionalism and compassion every one of the nurses on the floor exhibited in their dealing with patients who were in the worst possible place in their lives. My respect for them remains to this day.
When I got to the hospital that morning, Joanie was not as groggy as she had been the day before, and her energy level was better. After some small talk, the nurse who was Joanie’s for this shift, came in and told her it was time for walk. Again it took some arranging to get her ready, and once she was standing, and the bags were hooked on to the IV pole, she took my arm and we headed out of her room. It was quite a sight, Joanie in her hospital gown, bags hanging from the pole which was on wheels, lines going into her neck and holding on to my arm and trying to smile. She was more relaxed today than she had been for her initial walk yesterday, and with my encouragement she walked further. On Saturday, she had walked a total distance of 120 feet in the afternoon. This morning, she made it for a total distance of 320 feet. Later that afternoon, the scene was repeated and she walked with her brother Dick for a total of 400 feet. Progress, I was to find, was measured in steps. She was proud, but not as proud as I was.
Dr. Carson stopped by in the afternoon to check on Joanie while her brother Dick and I were there, and then I heard something I wasn’t prepared for when Carson said something about there being a 60 per cent chance of long term survivability, i.e., the magic five year number, from this procedure. I don’t think Joanie heard it, and if she did, I don’t think it registered. I waited till she was done with Joanie and followed her out into the hall, and asked her about the number, since that surgery was supposed to be “curative.” She said it was the statistical number based on the number of patients who had undergone the procedure and had been followed. The number didn’t, or couldn’t, include the number of patients who for one reason or another weren’t followed, or who had died from some other cause. At the time, it caused me some dismay due to the uncertainty factor being introduced, but when I checked out the literature later on the computer, I found her to be correct. Joanie and I wouldn’t talk about that number until a couple of years down the road. But, for me, the statistical five year clock had begun ticking again.
Since her brother was still here, I took the opportunity to meet friends of ours John Milne and his wife Deb for dinner at Monte Carlo, one of our favorite restaurants in Minneapolis. Joanie told me it was okay, and instructed me to greet them for her. I did as I was told.
It was good to get out of the hospital knowing that Dick was there, and meeting some friends for dinner. Monday was going to be a stressful day, since radiation would once again come into the picture and Dick would be leaving town.