5 Hours


Posted on June 13th, by James McAllen in Uncategorized. No Comments

5 Hours.
It’s an extra-inning baseball game.
It’s a half a day of work.
It’s the equivalent of the drive to Boston.
But when you’re sitting in the waiting room as your wife is having brain surgery, it’s an eternity.

Eternity has just begun.

It’s been a 6 month process. Valarie was having a few dizzy spells back in November, and when she had one after returning home from Thanksgiving dinner, I forced her to go to the ER, despite her loud protestations. While there, we were informed, quite incidentally, that Valarie had a 4mm aneurysm in her brain. Sounds pretty scary, but it looks pretty innocuous on an MRI; like a 4 year old who doesn’t know how to color inside the lines yet.

Since then, we did our research, met with several neurologists, filled out an endless stream of forms, said a few prayers, and finally yesterday, arrived at Columbia-Presbyterian hospital, for intake, and a pre-op angiogram.

We got here yesterday at 6am, for a 7:30 procedure, only to find out that the time had been moved to 11am. Val wasn’t happy. I was ok with it. For a while. Two hours later I was losing my mind. Sleeping in a hard-backed chair will do that to a person.

They tell me the procedure went well. Apparently, they made an incision in her leg, and snaked a camera through her body so they could take pictures of her brain. They can do that now. They can’t cure the common cold, but they can take pictures of your brain.

She was groggy and hungry when she got to recovery. She didn’t laugh at the jokes. She wanted coffee. I got her coffee.

We spent the rest of the day going from post-op, to recovery, and finally, to the private room in the residency across the street. It was nicer than some of the hotel rooms we’ve stayed in. The nurses told me that I could spend the night if I needed to. I was shocked; but I knew I had to get home to check on the boys and feed the cats.

We made small talk for the rest of the day. We watched Law and Order. I tried not to crack too many jokes. She didn’t crack any at all. She took a few phone calls from friends. From time to time, I’d look over and see a tear forming in the corner of her eye. I knew what she was thinking. She’s a 45-year-old mother of 2 large behemoths, but she’s still a little girl who wanted her mommy. I was a 51-year old male version of the same creature.

I took my leave around 9pm. She tried to remain strong for me. I tried to do the same for her. I left the room broken.
I called her from the elevator.
And then again from the parking lot.
And once more at a red light on 167th street and Broadway.
And then again when I got home.
I texted her one last time before going to bed.

4:30 came fast. Too fast. I slept, but I didn’t rest. Val’s friend Rachael called me at 4:40, to let me know that she was on her way. I called her 10 minutes later to remind her to bring a sweater.
“I’m outside.” she said.
I guess I’m not the only one who’s anxious.

The trip into the city was uneventful. We drove in silence. We arrived at her room before 6am. I took a deep breath before I stepped into the room, fully expecting to see a crestfallen little girl, filled with fear and trepidation.
What was I thinking?
Did I forget who I married?
We were greeted with hugs and kisses. And jokes. The banter began right away. Doctors and nurses came and went. Each one got a full dose of Val.
The surgeon made a mark on her head with a highlighter.
“Is that where you cut with the chainsaw?” She asks.
I ask the doctor how long the surgery would take.
“If all goes well, she should be out by noon.”
5 hours.

She showered, and dressed, and then it was time to go. We accompanied her to the pre-op room for more questions and more jokes. And then it was time to go. More hugs and kisses, and then she was off, her over-sized nightgown hanging off her tiny frame.

And the wait begins.
5 hours.
To be continued.





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