After surgery, which lasts almost eight hours, I am in recovery alone for another sixty minutes or so before being moved to my room. When I get there, there is no sign of Eric. For some reason, despite organization and technology, no one at the hospital ever told him to come to me.
I ask the nurse to let my husband know how to find me and he returns to tell me that Eric is nowhere to be found. I am surprised but drowsy and I figure that Eric will come in any minute. He does not.
Two hours go by and I call to the nurse again. “He’s not in the waiting room?” It is evening by this time and we have been apart for almost twelve hours. I can’t imagine where he would have gone to since, even under the worst circumstances, he must have assumed that the surgery would be done by then.
Panicked, lonely, and in pain, I start to realize that something else is wrong: for the first time in six surgeries I have awakened unable to move my legs.
I try to remain calm and ask the nurse to call Eric on my cell phone, which he had because of course you are not allowed to take cell phones with you to surgery. So, although I could fix all of this in a heartbeat if I just had that tiny computer in my hand, I am instead lying helpless in bed three hundred miles from home.
The only possible silver lining is that Eric has my phone. Because his phone wouldn’t text in Chicago and he needed to let people know once surgery was over, I know that he has mine on and with him rather than it sitting in the bottom of my purse somewhere. Sadly, I have a vivid flashback of turning the phone to silent and handing it to him that morning and now I realize that unless he is looking right at the phone when it rings, he’ll never see that someone was trying to reach him. Add to that the fact that my own phone number is the only one I know by heart and the panic sets in again.
I ask the nurse to try to call Eric (since I cannot make long distance phone calls from my room) and blurt out a series of numbers that I hope will lead to my husband. The nurse returns and tells me they do not and that maybe ten hours after I last saw him, Eric has gone out for coffee.
I am still druggy post anesthesia and I begin to imagine that he is hurt or dead. He is missing in a strange city and that I am lying in a hospital bed paralyzed and unable to get to him. I cannot recall a single person’s phone number and the few local numbers I can pull from my brain belong to businesses that are closed now. It is after five and I realize that I will have to wait until morning and then call Eric’s office back home to start getting help. It is the absolute worst feeling I have ever had.
On another floor, Eric starts to wonder what is taking so long. He was told hours ago that I was out of surgery and that he could see me soon. Within a half an hour he asks a woman in the waiting room (where he had been without even a bathroom break for more than twelve hours) when he might see me and she sends him in the right direction.
And suddenly, once I hear his voice come into my room, I know the worst was over. Tied in tubes and unable to move I call out to him from the hospital bed, “I’m so glad you’re not dead!”
“Thank you? Why would I be dead?” He asks and I begin rambling about how long the last few hours felt, how I worried that he’s been shot or in a car accident. “Funny you should say that. Someone did crash into our car in the parking ramp, but I’m fine. How are you?” he asks.
“Funny you should ask.” I take a deep breath. “I can’t move my legs.”