Re-entering the hospital yesterday was like being punched in the gut. Repeatedly.
I wish that I had written more about Faramir’s home days while it was still last week. We made lumpia, which he’s been craving in the hospital, with tremendous success. My sister came to visit, and she and I went to Ikea and finally solved our book problem with another huge case (the book problem being, of course, that we have a whole lot of books). Faramir cleaned up his desk so that it looks like something a person uses, instead of a place where a frustrated girlfriend stores seemingly-redundant computer equipment (how many mice does one person need, anyway?). He played computer games. We slept in the same bed. We did minor chores together. We did separate things, quietly, in the same room. Most importantly, he felt at home in this place he’s hardly seen, this apartment that love and friends and hard work built for him.
I thought that going back would be easier. Instead of being ambushed by pain, procedures, and a terrifying diagnosis, we went into battle fully armored. We know the drill now: we know the unit, we know the nurses, and we had some sense of what to expect.
Unfortunately, hospitals suck. I mean that quite literally. Yesterday sucked all the joy, energy, and well-being right out of both of us. It’s easy to point to tangible reasons why this happened. Faramir’s new room is smaller than his former one, and lacks a mini-fridge where he can store the leftovers from the meals I bring him. His bathroom is more institutional. He underwent several procedures yesterday, a couple of which were more complicated and time-consuming than they needed to be (the details are gross. Just imagine what can go wrong when you’re trying to insert a PICC line). I spent most of the day watching said procedures and trying not to vomit or pass out, because that would mean letting go of his hand.
There are other ways in which the hospital sucks us both dry. When he was admitted from the ER at the beginning of July, the hospital quickly became a place of relative comfort. He slept for the first time in days because he finally had the pain medication he needed. For the first couple of weeks, we were both in such a state of shock and confusion that it was difficult to imagine what else we could be doing. This time it’s different. Entering the hospital from a place of strength is less disorienting, but more of a loss, a deprivation. Now he knows how comfortable it is at home. Now we both know what it is to be with each other in a place that we love. Not even an enthusiastic fist-bump from his favorite nurse could mask the knowledge that he was returning to inconsistently edible food, dead walls, and loneliness. By the end of the day, he was exhausted and I was falling apart, and neither of us could support the other.
A frequently-used phrase at the Little Room, which I still repeat to myself when I’m squealing like a preschooler about something that’s not optional, is “This is what we’re doing.” The shock of this transition will ease, and will be replaced by the knowledge that for now, and only for now, this is what we’re doing. And it will get better.