ER Stands for: Exciting Ride, Right? Riiight?
Sister’s home, 3:00am
My sister wakes me from a delta sleep by touching my toe.
Like that projectile vomiting girl in The Exorcist movie, I sit straight up with a start and gasp. My sister’s expression tells me we’re going to the hospital again, but that the situation isn’t dire.
Mom lives with my sister and has late stage lung cancer, which is totally unfair, because she quit smoking over 30 years ago. Cancer is unfair, like that.
We’ve already lost one family member to cancer earlier this year. Like I said, unfair.
We got the diagnosis for My Little Mom five months ago when she’d noticed a constant tickle in her throat. Since then, her lung has collapsed five times due to effluent buildup, a liquid produced by the tumour.
The last time we were in emerge (three weeks ago), they drained three litres of effluent. I’d suggested to the ER doctor, “We should install a facet.” I was only half-joking.
So last night (/early this morning), we’re in ER waiting waiting waiting for a doctor because the place is full full full.
“Full moon.” I recognize one of the nurses’ voices as she mentions this to someone beyond the mauve curtain.
The voice of an elderly man floats across the hall: “I surrender. I surrender. I *cough* surrender …”
I wonder if he’s reliving the battlefield or if he’s asking to join his fallen comrades.
Emerge patient area, 5:00am
Nurses and doctor (singular) come and go, and we’re still waiting for someone to do blood work or order a chest x-ray or hook her up to a drip line; she hasn’t eaten in days and has only had a few sips of water here and there. She’s dehydrated, nauseous, constipated and in pain―but finally resting.
Me: “I’m hungry. What time does A&W open?”
My sister perks up: “Check.” She means check my iPhone.
While I’m checking, I reminisce: “Bacon and egger on brown. Haven’t had one since I was married. Wow, over 10 years ago.”
I go on a memory reverie of married life and heading out on early morning road trips. “And he’d always get a Timmy’s double double, two stops … Damn, not open until 6.”
My sister: “Tim Hortons? They have breakfast stuff.”
Emerge patient area, 5:30am
My sister and I chowing down Timmy’s breakfast sammiches.
“Mmm, comfort food.”
Mom stirs. She needs to go to the bathroom. We’re not permitted to move her, so we use the nurse call string and then head out to the emerge waiting room so mom can have privacy.
Emerge waiting room, 6:00am
My sister and I sit like zombies on chairs with 1980s upholstery and stare at a silent TV in an upper corner of the room set to CTV News.
I glance toward the Intake Station and notice a familiar face. I think I’m simply overtired, but I squint his way to get a better look.
“Hey, there’s a guy over there that looks like [husband of immediate family member].”
My sister peers around me: “That does look like [husband of immediate family member]. That is [husband of immediate family member]!”
We walk over and say, “Hey!”
Wife (Immediate Family Member) sits hunched over clutching her mid-section.
The Intake Station attendant is visibly confused.
“We’re family!” We tell him.
We go through the preliminaries of why each of our parties is here.
Family Member is in pain. “Could be kidney stones. I’ve been told I have kidney stones.”
My sister and I don’t know if we should feel relieved because Family Member had a serious operation a couple months ago involving the same general area. We don’t reveal our feelings to Family Member to avoid causing her panic. (We later find out that it’s a cyst, then we find out it’s just painful ovulation. Whatever, still sucks.)
Instead, we joke with the Intake Station attendant: “Yeah, we’ve got another one in the Victoria hospital, too.”
Yep, two days ago, Husband of Another Immediate Family Member was in a motorcycle accident and was rushed down island (three hours away) to a better equipped hospital. Crushed his dominant arm, but the brain bucket saved his life. He may need skin grafting and has already undergone four bone-correcting surgeries. Though he doesn’t remember anything, he seems like himself.
We joke: “We should get a frequent flyer plan.” “Family rate?” “Points card!” “Right?!” and so on.
It’s like we’re in some kind of dark comedy. Really. I’m amused because so far everyone is still alive, which kind of feels like triumph, considering.
Emerge patient area, 7:00am
Mom’s hooked up to an IV, and I’m in the hospital bed spooning her. Not so much because I’m such a great kid, but because I’m fricken exhausted.
My sister, the good kid, sits in a chair beside the bed, alert and reading a Patricia Cornwell crime novel.
Eventually, a nurse comes to take mom for an x-ray. “She’ll be here for several more hours, maybe all day.”
We go home. It’s almost 9:00am.
I collapse into a deep nap for three hours and then head back to the hospital. Mom’s much better. They’ve got an IV pumping healthy goodies into her, and that faucet that I suggested is hooked up through her ribs and is steadily evacuating effluent. She’ll likely come home tomorrow and, God willing, stick around for a while longer.
What have we (re)learned?
Love is the answer. People need connection. If you’re not close with or don’t have family, make the effort with good friends so they can become family.
Make up with your family if you can.
Always remember this question: “What will matter in one, three, five years when I look back on this?”
p.s. Sorry, folks, mom’s not accepting new visitors at this time. But we’ll send her your love.