The first night in the hospital was the hardest, and the only one of the remaining which I’d spend alone. My Mom stayed with me as much as she could Mondays through Wednesdays while also watching Liv much of the time. Thursdays afternoons through Monday mornings the other aforementioned was with me. Not many visitors were allowed – especially Liv – as my immune system was nil, rendering me defenseless against any germs.
I was given massive doses of meds from the moment I walked into my room; therefore, night one was interesting. Whatever the legal name for “speed” is – it went through my port first. The result you ask? My “normal” moving and speaking cadence times infinite crazy proportions. If I made it out of the transplant ward, surely I’d be checked right back into another one…
Sleep was out of the question. So, I moved. A lot. Laps and laps I’d log around the nurse’s station until I got on my own dizzy nerves. There was one squeaky waiting room-like chair, mid-hallway. I plunked down on its cold vinyl keeping my pole company in the wee hours.
Twenty-five years went flashing through my mind at warp speed, thanks in part to the medications, the rest attributable to the gravity of the situation. There was so much unfinished business, so many people to offer up apologies, give thanks, hug one last time, kiss another first time. Things popped in an out of my mind as I sat there, the medicine pumping through my central port. It was both frustrating and liberating. My brain would not slow down; I had no focus yet I could remember things with laser-like precision. And I was really, really cold.
“Beth, do you want these?” Robin asked.
“How’d you know?”I answered.
Robin was my absolute favorite nurse. She was short, soft and round with mid-length dark hair and a happy speckled face. Her hands were gentle every time she had to perform procedures which were not all that pleasant. The warm smile on her face coupled with her famous line of “Ok, just be tough girlfriend!” more than made up for any discomfort.
The first eighteen of thirty-five days were spent preparing my body for the large quantities of forthcoming chemo which would totally wipe out my entire immune system. Gone would be my red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Once those were taken down to zero, my donor’s marrow would be infused into the exact same central port all of the nasty stuff had been traveling through.
Many nights I would hear my neighbor, Bill, in the room two doors down. It would always start out as a faint achy kind of moan, but would eventually morph into loud shouts of excruciating pain as he begged, “Help me! Help me! Help me!”
Bill was older and his body simply gave out under the toll. We all knew it the moment the silence became eerie. Robin walked by my room with a blanket in her hand, just as she had given me on that night I could not get warm.
Somehow she also knew to bring my journal. After concluding that first night’s trip down memory lane, I began to write. It hasn’t been opened – until now. Here’s what night one’s entry said:
I’m not even tired. I miss my family, my friends, and my life. But this is going to be ok. There are others in here and everywhere else that are going through way worse and for whom it sucks infinitely more. If for some reason though this ends up not going ok, please let everyone that has ever meant something to me and I to them remember only the good times. For there were lots. Whatever it is I’m supposed to learn from this, I hope I do someday. I’m trying to know, trying to understand, and trying my hardest to make it through. Liv needs me. Gotta get home to her. She can’t grow up without me.
P.S. They really ought to make this place homier cause it’s hard enough to be here and these lights for sure are not helping us speed patients. I wonder if I started shouting REDRUM if they’d get it.
Yeah. I don’t know either.
What I do know is this: As I sat there in that chair, and walked those hallways, and lay in that bed, and heard Bill scream for the last time, I had no idea if I’d be here fourteen years later.
But I am. And I am doing all I can do – in this one here and now. How many times have we each had no idea where our lives were taking us…until we finally did.
The time is here. It’s now. And it matters.