Getting ready to go home.
Saturday morning, 23 days after the worst surgery you can imagine, and we are getting ready to get Joanie out of the hospital.
Since it was Saturday, and the lobby coffee cart wasn’t open, I stopped at one of the coffee shops across from the Radisson to pick up a decent cup and walk the short couple of blocks to the hospital.
When I got there that morning, Joanie was awake. She had showered, and was waiting for me. She was ready to go. There was one more X-ray of her abdomen to be done, and then we could get out of here.
We went for one last walk around the corridors of 7C, and when we got back to the room, they came to take her down for the X-ray. I left to go back to the Radisson to move the car over to the parking ramp, because my next job was to begin to load up the plants and gifts that filled her room.
I had suggested leaving the plants on 7C, but she wasn’t having any of that. We did leave the cut flowers that were still okay since they might not survive the trip home anyway. However, she wanted the plants home with her. Since it was clear by now that I wasn’t going to deny her anything, I agreed. What that meant for me was about a half a dozen trips from her room to the parking ramp about three quarters of a block away. I didn’t have a cart so I could make just one trip, so I got a box and made several trips.
The other logistical problem was the weather. It was March, and still quite cold at night. That meant I had to bring all of the plants up to our room when we got her to the hotel. I had been driving the Volkswagen Cabriolet we had, and it is a small car, not one for handling a lot of stuff, and when Joe came in the morning to drive our car back to Bismarck, it would be packed to capacity.
As her caregiver, I was beginning to feel the onset of the responsibility that now fell to me alone. Up to this point, I had been a helper, confident in the fact that she was in a place that could handle any circumstance that might arise. Leaving this safe haven, as much as we wanted to, brought with it mixed feelings, of promise and uncertainty.
Before we got ready to go, I was given the list of prescriptions that she needed to have. I went down to the hospital pharmacy, and got a shock. Not the last one I would get, but it was a good one. They had prescribed drugs for nausea, anxiety, pain, a bacterial infection and a fungal infection. When I went to the pharmacy, the pharmacist looked at the slips, and then at me, and said, “We’ll bill you for these.” I thought that was strange, but when I looked at the tab, and it was almost $900.00, with the one drug costing almost $750.00, with pills for just one week’s treatment. At that time, I had no idea of how much our insurance would pay for those drugs, but I knew they weren’t going to pay the whole bill.
When I got back up to the room, Joanie was dressed. She was wearing the same clothes she had worn when we checked her in 25 days ago. She looked tired. Her complexion was pale, her hair was long, and didn’t have the wave, curl or the luster I was used to seeing. I began to feel uneasy about leaving, but we were going, and she wasn’t having it any other way. Some years later, Dr. Carson would tell her she looked like she was in the terminal stages of cancer when she left that day. It was then I saw, once again, the strength of her determination and will. She was getting out, and my concerns weren’t going to stop that.
The discharge nurse came in with her clip board, and she went over everything with us, and asking Joanie if she understood it all. What she didn’t ask Joanie if she understood that her life had changed forever, but I know that wasn’t her job, nor was it a question on the papers. She said she did, and signed a couple of the discharge papers, and we were ready to go.
The brought a wheelchair up to bring her down to the front of the hospital. As we left, we said good bye to Marcia, the nurse who had been so good to Joanie during her stay, and Joanie had in her hands the Irish poster that Marcia had given her so long ago, and had hug on the wall in her room. It was the last thing we took out of her room.
I hurried over to the parking ramp while a nurse and Joanie waited for me in the lobby, and when I pulled up in front, the nurse wheeled her out, and I helped her get in her car, and we were gone.
Now it was my turn to take care of her full time, not just helping. This is the time that any caregiver faces, and how you handle it makes a difference, even though you aren’t a doctor, or a nurse, or a nurses aide. All you have to do is remember what you have learned over the time your patient was in the hospital, how they dealt with her, and what you have learned about her particular situation.
I was apprehensive, nervous, and not so sure Joanie wasn’t either, but her desire to get out and get home was stronger than any nervousness she might have felt. The only thing that made me feel a little more secure was we were still near the hospital. It made me feel a little more secure, but not much.
I got her to our room in the Radisson, and she immediately laid down on bed for the first time in 23 days without a bunch of tubes in her body, and went to sleep.
I went to move the car to the hotel parking lot, grab a quick smoke and get ready for our first night out of the hospital.
By this time on Sunday afternoon, we’d be back home, and she would be on the couch with Muffin on her lap.