Sunday, December 03, 2006
He Said...
(My boyfriend) Jeff's version of the events that took place the day before Thanksgiving:

You’ve probably already read about the myriad surgical procedures that Sherri had done to improve the symptoms of her obstructive sleep apnea. If I ever harbored doubts about Sherri's grit, I discovered through this ordeal that she ranks as One Tough Cookie. Even if she did keep a stuffed toy penguin with her.

None of the doctors downplayed the difficult surgery or painful recovery period. It can take weeks or even months to even find out if it actually benefits your sleep. You’re on a liquid/soft foods diet for weeks afterwards, etc. And usually between Day 7 and Day 10, the scars are well on their way to being healed and the major obstacles have been mostly overcome.

But, not always. Not in this case, when more than 3 weeks after the surgery, another obstacle presented itself. A tougher test. And not just for Sherri.

As of Wednesday, we had locked in our plans to have Thanksgiving dinner at her newly-wed sister’s new home the next day. We were really looking forward to it - although not necessarily the four-hour drive it would take to get there. This was Recovery Day 22, and while Sherri still had some swelling on her chin and mild discomfort when swallowing, we saw progress virtually every day.

Around 4:30am, her alarm sounded off the time for her usual concoction of pain meds - still taken at set intervals so she doesn’t wake up in full-bore ACHE-mode. I groggily eyed her spitting a small amount of blood into her water cup. Then, a few more times. We checked her Post-Op instructions. Possible slight bleeding. Hmmm. A pager alert returned by the doctor-on-duty validated our concern, but since the mild (certainly not ‘slight’) bleeding had stopped, we were advised to call back if it occurred again.

I left for work with Sherri still dozing, aided by Percocet, which quite understandably had become a most trusted friend since the surgery. At 8:30am I was just a couple miles away when her distinctive ring tone interrupted my otherwise quiet commute. Between what sounded like crying mixed with gulps for air, I heard her say that her cup was now half-full of blood.

Some kind of symphonic neurological misfire took place somewhere in my brain when she added, “…And it won’t stop!”

I think(?) I attempted to sound fairly calm when I told her I was close by, I was turning around RIGHT NOW, and to please sit down if she was standing up. I no longer needed my usual morning java to become fully awake. Honking my sorry Ford horn like a madman, I bellowed out my lowered driver’s side window something to the effect of “Medical Emergency, I Need To Get By!” as I zipped through at least four red lights on the way back home. I found her (standing - dammit!) in the bathroom, hovering over a cup filled with a deep red mixture that looked oddly carbonated. Sixteen ounces. And it won’t stop.

Engine left running, with Sherri now holding a tupperware pitcher below her chin, I again navigated both red- and green-lighted intersections. She held a classic airline-crash stance that whole trip - head lowered, leaning forward - except for that pitcher of what started resembling cherry Kool-Aid I might have made as a kid - an inch of water and far too much sugar added that gave it kind of a sludgey look.

Men do not like to feel helpless. Probably, especially, when it comes to protecting a female. It was not easy responding calmly to her occasional frightened, gasping cries that she was going to be alright, that the hospital was only a couple minutes away (the deciding factor in not initially calling for an ambulance), and to try and focus on taking a breath between spitting half-coagulated foamy red gunk. I remember lightly rubbing her back in the hopes that it would calm her and somehow magically make it less likely that she would pass out on me, leaving me to figure out how to stop the stubborn bloodflow from choking her to death.

I also remember the grateful relief of pulling up to the emergency room door, feeling both confident that she would be under the protection of modern medical science within moments, and amazement that losing - sorry, spewing - at least 32 ounces of blood had not yet rendered her unconscious. I vividly recall holding her arm on the way past the triage nurse who ushered us in, knowing by her movements that she would have made it in whether I held onto her or not.

It is a good feeling watching people who know how to take charge in the ER. If there’s ever a place where the mere presence of confident, decisive people can make a difference, it’s right here. Even if one of them finally had to sternly relegate me outside the door because I was “getting in the way”. Hearing Sherri’s gurgled objection that she did NOT want a hypodermic needle jabbed in her throat gave me no doubt she was going to be Just Fine. Apparently she didn’t really need her stuffed penguin after all.

It was later explained that Sherri had a blood vessel in her throat that didn’t heal properly from her tonsillectomy, which unexpectedly opened. After applying a local anesthetic, they cauterized the small area in the back of her throat, and after a half-day of observation, thankfully allowed me to bring her home. Back to liquids and soft foods for a while. And more Percocet.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us, enjoying Turkey soup and nice, creamy mashed potatoes. We gave a lot of thanks that day.

I have never seen the hit show ER. I don't feel any need to start watching it now. My mother was a nurse in an ER for a time, so I have a good idea about what they do, I just don't understand how they manage to do it, day after day. I am going to write a note of gratitude to those people at the Good Samaritan ER for helping to save Sherri’s life.

I still don't know exactly how to describe the moment while we were quietly reflecting on the ordeal, when I realized that, Sherri and I both helped save her life, too. We kept our heads on straight when it mattered. Once in a while, you look back and realize Life was grading you on another test. I don't know if we scored 100%. Maybe a few points off for running some red lights....

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