“You’re a star!”
Joanie had already had a shower and a change of clothes by the time I got there on Monday morning, and it had tired her out. She told me she hadn’t slept that well last night either. For her, showering was not a simple exercise, so we put off walking for later and I let her sleep for a while. I went out to pick up a mocha from the lobby coffee cart and my two daily papers so I could get going on the crosswords for the day. Besides a book or two I carried with me at all times, they helped me pass the time when she was sleeping.
We walked that afternoon, and the rest of the day was made up of her drifting off, me going out for a smoke, and going for a walk again. What wasn’t routine was after our last walk she notice one of the tubes leaking, and it turned out to be one from her kidney. The nurse didn’t seem alarmed, improvised a solution and as far as we knew all was well. It had shaken Joanie just a bit, but the professionalism of the nurse and the way she handled the situation put her at ease.
One of the things I had learned early in this process was to find out where the ice cubes were so I could keep her little styrofoam pitcher on her beside table filled with cold water. Even when she couldn’t drink anything, the little pink sponges would be dipped in the ice water to cool her tongue and lips. If you’ve ever been really thirsty, you know there’s nothing like that icy liquid to cool off the inside of your mouth even if you do nothing but suck on an ice cube. Now that the nose tube was gone, and she could take in liquid it was more important than ever that I keep the pitcher cold at all times. Plus, every time she asked me if I had checked the plants and flowers, I would be ready.
The nurses that showed me where to find the ice and cups and what I needed, were happy to do so. They knew I was there to help them, so when Joanie was ready to try other liquids, one of them showed me something special. She showed me the freezer where they kept the popsicles. She told me I was free to come and get one for Joanie anytime she wanted one.
After the nurse showed me the stash of popsicles, I went back to Joanie’s room, and said, smiling, “Guess what darlin’, I know where the popsicles are.” I asked her if she’d like to try one, and what flavor would she like. She was surprised, liked the idea and opted for orange, so I hurried off to get her one. They were not singles, but the old familiar popsicles with two sticks that you separated by bending the on the edge of a table or just bending them in your hands hoping you didn’t break them into pieces. We shared the popsicle, since I knew she wouldn’t have but just the one, and both enjoyed the icy cold sensation that comes with that frozen treat more than we ever had, and for the rest of her stay, she had a popsicle anytime she wanted one.
Around seven o’clock that night, they brought her the first solid food she had even seen since the Tuesday we had lunch before she was admitted. The menu included turkey, dressing, gravy, pineapple chunks, a roll, chocolate chip cookie, and skim milk.
She ate, not that much, but she ate. She had a bite of the roll, about seven bites of turkey, (and yes, I counted them) and a little of the milk.
About 8:30 that night, Dr. Cosin came by to see her, and told her in all of the exent cases he had been involved in, “No one has ever eaten solid food so soon after surgery as you have.” He then went on to say they would be taking down the IV’s tomorrow, and she should start thinking about going home this weekend. He said, “You’re a star!”
Cosin’s words brought a smile to her face, and when I walked out of the hospital that night after saying good night to her, I was smiling all the way back to St. Paul.