Posted by: zhak39 | June 20, 2008


For minors, even ‘man sized boys’ as a recovery room technician put it, the staff want a parent to be the first person a child sees. This is deeply reassuring for the patient at a disconcerting and confusing time. But as the child looks blearily at the parent, the parent has a chance to take a good look at the child. Putting myself firmly in his field of vision, making sure that Chris would have to see my smile every time his eyes fluttered open I studied him. I watched his dry lips shiver and spasm. I saw how closely his pallor matched the color of the sheet drawn up over his shoulder. The unnatural whiteness emphasized every chicken pox scar and angry welt on his face. I looked at the uneven whiskers he has recently started to shave. I put myself as close as I could catching the reek of gas with each exhalation. I allowed my heart to fill with love then leaned over him, letting my love pour over this poor child, more creature than boy.

As he came out of the anesthesia he began to be able to focus. His head rolled, his eyelids snapped open. The dense pupils constricted to huddled points making his irises appear alien. He stared at me and I saw how his eyes are actually made up of areas of green and brown and russet, all overlaid with reflected light. His eyes look exactly like shining pebbles and autumn leaves on the bottom of a sun streaked mountain stream.

He was at turns frightened and confused. And yet for the first twenty minutes every time he swam toward us and consciousness he looked closely at Beth, his recovery room nurse and said, “my name is Chris. How are you?” and offered his trembling hand for her to shake. She quietly introduced and re-introduced herself, studied signs by some unspoken rubric, twiddled with tubes and levers, and gentled him toward his awakening. She was competently reassuring and soon he let loose his grip on fearfulness.

Fear had stalked us all day. My friend Laurie who lent us shelter and access to a phone early in the afternoon later told me that she saw fright in him and tightly controlled panic in me. An emergency room nurse brought his to the surface. When checking his vital signs she noted that his heart was pounding hard enough that she almost didn’t need to use her stethoscope. She asked the obvious, are you scared? which gave him an opening to talk about it and get some reassurance.

Post-op, fear is no longer on the surface. It has receded chuckling into its dark damp crack, a days work well done. Soon enough it will send out its twin spawn, ‘legitimate concern’ and ‘baseless worry’ to anoint the ground before its next visit.

The pause in recovery, limbo, is different than the waiting for the doctor’s diagnosis or the surgeon’s prognosis. It is different than waiting rooms in general. It’s the pause on the rock wall after choosing the route but before committing through action to the course. It’s the pause between breaths; it’s the moment after a sigh while deciding whether or not to inhale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: