October 7, 2016, Lovelace Women’s Hospital
Lea, fasting since last night’s supper, watches me eat my bagel at the Donut Mart at 6:30 – half an hour early for her surgical appointment, because we built in back roads driving time after the interstate was closed down on our last trip to Albuquerque.
In the curtained cubicle, a hose blows warm air under Lea’s cotton blankets. Nurses, the anesthesiologist, and the surgeon, all explain their roles and the sequence of events: the doctor will come out to report right after the surgery; I can’t go into the recovery room because of the other patients there; and I can track Lea’s progress on the electronic monitor. For privacy, her multi-digit patient number, not her name, will appear on the monitor. If I have questions, I can call the charge nurse’s cell phone.
The only glitch comes when, as Lea lies on the gurney in her hospital gown, a nurse says she should not be left alone for 24 hours after the surgery. Quick calls to friends produce the company Lea needs, but earlier notice would have been better.
Lea’s elderly father comes to the hospital. He is there when the surgeon emerges to report that all has gone well. Lea will say how wonderful it was to see him when they wheeled her out of recovery. Knowing she wanted me there to help, I failed to realize how important family is at a time like this.
Lea’s father treats us to a meal before I drive us home to Santa Fe.
At Lea’s house, I am finally a bit helpful, making fresh ice, figuring out how she can elevate her arm while she naps, and going to the store to fill her prescription and buy the prune juice the nurse advised.
Over a week later, Lea is still waiting to hear whether the surgeon got every last bit of the pre-melanoma so she won’t have to go back for more surgery. My fingers are crossed.
October 20, 13 days after the surgery, Lea goes to Lovelace for a post-operative checkup. She texts me: They got it all!!
Hallelujah!, I text back.
Elise Rosenhaupt, author of the memoir Climbing Back, writes about her work as a patient's advocate and other experiences that cross her plate.
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