Sunday, January 05, 2014

Alternate Realities

Time works differently in the hospital.

In the morning, I wake up when the night nurses transfer their patients to the day nurses. I fold up my bed into a chair and change from pajamas into clothes. I help Adi to pee. I brush his teeth. The breakfast tray comes, and Adi refuses to eat. Blood is drawn and sent off to the labs. I return the breakfast tray and try to find a few minutes to buy a cup of coffee from the cart downstairs. I sit next to Adi when the doctors come in on rounds. I answer questions.

The lunch tray comes, and I try to convince Adi to eat. I return the lunch tray and remind the nurse that Adi's Vanco needs to run over two hours so he doesn't have an allergic reaction. I sit next to Adi and put the bar on his bed up or down, according to his requests. I listen while the morning nurses hand over the patients to the afternoon shift. I try to find time to get another cup of coffee from the cart. I doze. I wake with a start to tell the nurse that Adi's IVAC is beeping because there is an air occlusion or because he has finished his Vanco after two hours or because the machine is old and finicky. I notice the dinner tray is waiting for us.

I return the dinner tray. I unfold the chair into a bed and put the sheets on it. I change into my pajamas and try to sleep between the beeps.

When I sleep at home, I wake up in the morning and take a shower, lingering a few extra minutes because it's the only time that's truly mine anymore, these few moments before I wake up Yoni and Amit and start the day. I put them in the tub, get them dressed, have coffee, serve breakfast, take Amit to gan, and drive to the hospital.

I park on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance, along with everyone else lucky enough to have a handicapped parking sticker. I show my bag to the security guard -- or he sees that it's me and waves me through with a nod to show he remembers me from all the yesterdays.

I stop by the coffee cart. "I can't remember, do you like foam?" the man asks as he makes my cappuccino, and I'm a little bit grateful that he can't remember, because maybe it means I'm not here as often as I think I am.

In the elevator, I press 7, and I imagine that everyone steals glances at me, silently grateful they can get out on the other floors. In reality, few of them notice me, and most of them probably have no idea that 7 is oncology. I didn't know that before September 13.

I swipe my card -- we oncology parents have cards -- to open the doors to the ward and take my seat next to Adi. By the time I arrive from home, it's just about time to return the breakfast tray. Guy packs up his things and leaves for work. I watch the hours pass if I have visitors and drag if I don't. I listen to Adi snore when he sleeps. I check to make sure he's breathing when he doesn't snore.

When I walk into the hospital, I see familiar faces. The coffee cart staff, the nurses, the other parents, the secretaries. I know where to find a wheelchair when we need one. I know where the nurses hide to smoke. I know where to sit to get the best wifi connection.

In my other life -- the one where my kid doesn't have leukemia -- I was supposed to be returning from a 10-day vacation in China. Instead, we've just spent our third consecutive shabbat in the hospital, where time is a fluid concept.


Marnie said...

You and Guy are amazing parents. You are fierce advocates for Adi and you still manage to keep the household running, Guy still manages to get work done, and you're making time to write which I know is vital for you. Sending love and strength to all of you. I hope the whole family gets to spend next Shabbat at home together. xo

mara said...

China. That was the first thing we talked about in the minivan ride from the airport. My heart breaks every time I think about that ride. Before.

The pacing of this post was perfection, A. Not that literary perfection fixes a darn thing, but I thought I'd let you know that anyway.

I saw Guy post today that you were home. May it be a bit of a break.