We weren’t scared. We were confidant. We researched and talked about coping strategies for the recovery—which is said to be very painful for adults (which Michele is officially this year). Unfortunately, my husband was scheduled for an out-of-town business trip that he couldn’t change, so a) I was handling any last-minute stress by myself and b) (and most importantly to this story) my husband was far away and feeling increasingly helpless as the day unfolded.
All my “casual” ideas about the “routine”ness of this surgery kinda went out the window the second I saw my child in hospital garb and the doctors and nurses fussing over her. And then there was the waiting. All the waiting. Not the best for jittery nerves. But everything was going smoothly. There was no “need” to worry, even if that didn’t quite stop me from doing so.
Now the other side of this story is that I wasn’t able to keep my husband as posted as he would have liked. He left a bunch of messages for me on my cell phone, checking in anxiously to see how she was doing, if there was any word. I remember thinking his usual stoic reserve was crumbling faster than usual.
Now to skip ahead on the medical side of things: the doctor told me as soon as he was done that the surgery had gone perfectly, with very little bleeding. He said it boded well for her recovery. For her part, Michele came out of the surgery feeling euphoric. The first thing she said to me was that when she woke she felt this overwhelming gratitude; she really really wanted to thank her doctors and nurses. She was so happy, she said, that when they wheeled her back to the recovery bay she was pumping her fists in the air like the female Rocky of the O.R. (if you know Michele at all, this isn’t really her style).
Today, on Day 4 of recovery, she is actually doing much better than any of the info and warnings and online forums had led us to believe. She is in pain, sure, but not such terrible pain that she can’t eat solid foods. Although I am becoming quite the expert at ice-water delivery and smoothie-making (menu so far: real peach freezies; Tofutti “ice cream” bars; honeydew melon popsicles, Glowing Green smoothies; frozen peach, almond milk and silken tofu smoothies; mushy lentil soup, scrambled eggs; mashed potatoes; roasted squash; wilted spinach; and lots and lots of chewing gum!). She is sleeping well and watching lots of movies (she doesn’t quite have the stamina yet for creative projects like drawing or writing). So all good, huh?
|(with her permission) Michele recovering with Chaplin as loving nursemaid.|
But wait: I haven’t gotten to the punchline of the story yet.
Turns out Phil was hanging on to a bit of a doozy. Turns out his nagging fears on surgery day had a bit more history than a father’s simple concern for his child.
When he saw that everything had turned out well for Michele, he could no longer keep this story to himself. His grandfather—Michele’s great-grandfather—had died when Phil’s father was 7. He’d been a medical doctor in Lebanon named … Michel. Yes, Michele’s namesake. This Michel had died on the operating table during a routine … tonsillectomy.
That was my heart exploding.
I was so so grateful that Phil was able to hang onto that little bit of haunting family history until after the operation. But, of course, it had been preying and feeding on his mind the whole time. Michele was grateful he waited to tell us too—but she was strangely philosophical about it. She said that when she’d woken up after the anesthetic had worn off, and when this euphoria had washed over her, she remembered thinking it was strange that she was so overwhelmingly grateful to her medical team. She remembered thinking sarcastically to herself, “Oh, I probably died from a tonsillectomy in another life.” (if you know Michele at all, you’d know sarcastic eye-rolling, even at herself, is totally her style). But no wonder she indulged in a little Rocky-esque fist-pumping when all was said and done.
To put the ancestral death in perspective: Michel Senior died on that operating table in the 1930s. Phil certainly was aware that we’ve come a long way medically since those days. He truly knew he had "nothing to worry about”. But still, huh? Still.
It makes me think of all the times in our lives when we are haunted by our family medical history. When our relatives’ health concerns and issues either become our own or threaten to do so. How many of us live in fear of reliving an ancestor’s awful illness or tragic surgery? Thank God our own story—our routine surgery—had a very happy—and routine—outcome.
Deb: I find it so interesting (ugga bugga, anyone?) that from the first moment I spoke to Barb about Michele the night before and during the first few days of her recovery, that I was focused on Phil. I said to Barb that I was sick about the fact that he was away and that I knew the pain it must be causing him. Now, Phil is a strong guy so it was very unusual that throughout I kept feeling and thinking “poor Phil”. So it was to my grateful amazement (grateful that Michele was okay and amazement at the story) that I discovered the whole truth of it. I am not psychically inclined—Mom is, my brother is, but Dad and I did not get gifted with the prophetic gig.
In fact, any time I have had premonitions, they have turned out to be completely and utterly unfounded. And yet, I could not get Phil and his circumstance out of my mind. And I salute him for keeping this to himself when he knew the extra pain it would cause his wife. It was certainly much tougher on him not being able to share. A fitting tribute to a guy on Mother’s Day.