Sunday, October 30, 2005

Getting fixed (accent 1)

So, anyway, the fixing of me.....

February 1967 (or so I think), snowy, cold, gray, and damp. I'm going to the hospital to get my insides fixed. Its the best hospital around, and the doctor with the red crew cut thinks he can generate a normal child with his efforts. If not, it's a colostomy bag for me. My parents know the score, I suppose, and decide that the chance for a normal life for their little girl is one they'll take.

One week for tests and observations and getting used to the hospital. A whole week, I think. A week in which I remember having to lie down in my bed and get used to using a bedpan (my Daddy made me, and it was hard for him to do), because after my operation I'll be forced to lie immobile for 2 weeks to let my insides heal. I'm in a ward with, like, 7 other kids, all of who have different problems. There's the blind teenager in a bed catty-corner from me who calls for orange juice at all hours of the day, and the pale kid who one day just wasn't there anymore, and the little girl who, once the bandages were off her face, made her Daddy cry when she said "I can see you, daddy! I can!" She had big blue eyes that squinted at the light, and she made her Daddy cry. I had never seen a grown-up man cry before. I'm guessing she had been blind too.

I had to get used to using the "call" button on my bed to get anything, even to get an adult to help me pick up a toy I'd dropped over the side of my bed, which had big bars on the sides so I wouldn't fall out and felt like a crib. I remember the Daddy of a really sick kid in the bed next to me helping me get my Colorforms off the floor when they dropped over the side. His kid had to get blood transfusions all the time, the bag draped over the bars of the bed, and his (her?) daddy looked really really tired all the time because of it. I had a little stuffed kewpie doll that smelled like sunshine, and I would look out the window at the bare tree-tops in the gray February air, waiting for my operation.

Which came and went and I don't remember any of it except for waking up in the recovery room with a big yellow plastic box over my head with all kinds of knobs on it that I later understood must have been the oxygen chamber or whatever. I zonked out again and when I woke up my Mom was there staring at me with moist eyes and a shoebox full of new Barbie clothes that she'd made. It was late, and the light was on by my bed as she showed me the little knitted dresses and the tiny stitched jackets she'd made and I forced myself to stay awake because it was my Mom and she loved me and I didn't want to go back to sleep again. It's not like I was all that interested in Barbie, but I knew even then that Mom had worked so hard on them as a way of saying that she loved me.

Recovery stunk. I couldn't get up, I couldn't turn over, I had some kind of weird tubes up my heinie that had to stay there to help me heal (later, I learned that they were some sort of clamps holding the intestinal anastomosis together), and I wasn't really allowed to eat, as far as I recall. I had tubes down through my nose and into my stomach for that, which made it hard to talk or anything. My family made tapes that my Daddy or Mom would bring to me to listen to. My little brother singing Tom Jones's "What's up pussycat - woe, oh, woe, oh!" and my Uncle for some reason burping in to the microphone when asked if he had any words to say. I sure did laugh at that one; my sense of humor apparently hasn't strayed very far from that early high point. Only one person at a time could come visit me, and my brothers weren't allowed at all. My parents would read to me, and play with me for as long as they were allowed to, and then they had to go home and I had to go to sleep, on my back, not turning over, until the nurses came in the morning to change the sheets on my bed in a complicated rolling-over-and-back maneuver that was the only time I was allowed to really move at all.

And all the time it didn't' really bother me. I got the nickname "Miss Sunshine" because I was always smiling, always happy. It didn't bother me that I was to lie on my back, it didn't really bother me that I couldn't see my brothers, I was content just to do what I was told to do because that's what I was supposed to do. And it paid off, I guess, because one day the doctor came to take the tubes out of my heinie to see what happened, and everything worked like it should once I started eating again.

Little by little I got better, until one day I could go home. And the snow and cold and gray of February had turned to a sunny warm-ish day in March, and I was all better. And normal. And would never, ever have to have another enema, and could say good-bye to the Ex-Lax, and, after a period of time, wouldn't have to have my poop inspected by one parent or another, and wouldn't have to be afraid of "going" anymore because it didn't hurt anymore, and life was pretty darned good.

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