I can think of at least 100 ways to spend New Years Day, none of which involve sitting in a hospital emergency room watching my husband writhe in pain. However, I'm sad to say, I welcomed 2009 in just such a way. Craptastic, no? My honey has been admitted to the hospital this evening with acute pancreatitis, the very same illness that kept him hospitalized for 22 days in August 2004.
There are a events over the course of a lifetime that really define us, you know, the ones that we use to mark time periods, and his 2004 hospitalization was one of them. It changed us both. The timeline of my life goes something like this: grade school, moving to Stratford, going to college, meeting Chris, Mom dying, getting married, Chris in the hospital, Sweet Boy being born. That three-week hospital stint really stands out for both of us because it was horrible. Traumatic. Terrifying. He almost died. I remember one specific instance when I stood at the foot of his bed watching him drift in and out of conscioiusness while a team of nurses tried to figure out what was going on, and I prayed a prayer that went something like "Dear God, you will absolutely not take my husband from me."
The thing about pancreatitis is this: It is agonizingly painful. There is no treatment. You simply have to wait it out. They call it "resting the pancreas." You know what this means? No food or drink -- not even freaking ice chips! -- until the little angry pancreas calms itself down and your body regulates itself. And while that regulation is going on, your body literally starts attacking itself. It could lead to kidney and liver failure, heart problems, lung dysfunction. The last time, Chris's body took almost 3 weeks to regulate itself, and in that time his lungs, kidneys, and heart couldn't figure out what to do with themselves...he had periodic EKGs because his heartrate was sky high, he was on oxygen 24/7, and they started talking dialysis right before his little pancreas finally figured itself out.
We knew this morning driving to the hospital that he had pancreatitis. In fact, he walked into the triage station in his pajamas and slippers and said, "I think I have pancreatitis; you should probably just look up my records from August 2004." Knowing the diagnosis before you even set foot in the hospital is a double-edged sword: You know what to expect...but you know what to expect.
Tonight, after sitting in the hospital for over 12 hours and going through the full range of emotion from anger to fear to sadness to self-pity to manic laughter and back to anger again, I'm feeling a little bit numb. I'm trying to be hopeful -- after all, the docs said today that because we came in early on and because they knew what to test for and treat right away, chances are his pancreas will settle down quicker and the complications (and therefore duration of stay) will be less. So I'll hang on to that hope. I'll cling to it, because I don't know what else to do. There's nothing else I can do.
I really don't know what the next days, weeks, months may hold. I do know, though, that this time it's more complicated here at home. This time I have to muster my courage each day to say goodbye to my husband, who is scared and in pain, then get all my tears out in the 10-minute car ride so I can go home and play Mommy with my bravest face. This time there is a 3-year-old child who will look at me as I tuck him in and ask where his daddy is and when will he be home. And this time I have to figure out who will stay with Sweet Boy while I shuttle back and forth to the hospital, which means I am going to have to ask for help, which is something I'm really not good at. This time I have to face my mother-in-law and my father who have been telling me for two years that I really have to crack down on Chris's weight issues and help him to lose weight (because it's obvious that it's my fault he is overweight, right?), and this time I have to stand up and remind them that it's not Chris's fault, nor is it mine, that this has happened again; it's just bad luck, bad genes, perhaps (and this is directed at you, MIL). This time I need to be a rockier rock than I ever have been, and I'm not entirely sure that I can be.
When I left Chris tonight, I said that prayer one more time, but in truth I was thinking, you absolutely will not take my child's father from him. Right now as I tuck myself into my giant bed alone, I'm simply praying, "Please God, give me strength." Selfish, isn't it, to be praying for myself when my husband is so ill? It would be nice though if I could just be strong enough for both of us -- for all three of us -- until this next life-defining challenge has passed.