July 10, 1988

The morning began with a discussion of a new bed for Mitchell. The doctors wanted Mitch in a bed that was compartmentalized for his legs and arms and head, covered in nylon like a rain jacket and slowly rotated 45 degrees in each direction. It was an experimental bed and its purpose was to keep fluids from settling anywhere, especially his lungs, and to keep him from getting bed sores. As always, I consulted with the patient, much to the consternation of his doctors. I kept getting the feeling that they thought Mitch’s brain was paralyzed too. They would have known better if they had heard his instructions throughout the day, issued through lips blocked by an intubation tube and in a non-existent whisper because his vocal chords were paralyzed.
“Call Darcy and have her reschedule my court appearance for Tuesday. Tell her to get Joe to handle my closing on Wednesday if he can. Get Donnie to go to court for me in Halfmoon this week. Tell Darcy to call Family Court in Ballston Spa and get adjournments without date for anything going on up there.”
I took notes on any piece of paper I could find, prescription pads, napkins, envelopes. I still had very few supplies or personal property with me, only what my sister’s husband had brought from Malone. My in-laws were bringing me some things from my house where they had spent Saturday night. I finally got a room on the Nursing Home floor in the hospital so I could be available at anytime for Mitchell. I had not seen m y children since Friday, although we spoke every day.
There was tingling in his hands and his feet. I thought his finger twitched. I had hope. The morning was spent organizing, setting up a base at CVPH. I had made my decision that I would stay there with Mitchell until he went home or to another facility. My kids were safe at my parents for the time being. I had enough sick, personal and vacation leave to be out of work for a month. Our health insurance was good insurance through my policy with the State. The experimental bed was covered. Everything would be okay.
Then his parents arrived. The blast of unexpressed anger from his father almost flattened me. The guilt that his mother almost immediately heaped on me is a burden I still bear. I tried to imagine how I would feel if one of my children was lying in a bed, almost completely paralyzed and to feel sympathy for them. I couldn’t. I felt anger and resentment from their actual and implied criticisms of everything from my plan for my kids to the rural and, therefore, inadequate hospital where he was being treated. Obviously, it was all my fault.
And, sadly, it was. If he hadn’t married me, he wouldn’t have been at my family reunion and he would not have jumped in my sister’s pool in the boonies of Northern New York, far from speedy emergency response and cutting edge medical care. That Mitchell had been cannon-balling into pools since at least the age of 12 was ignored by everyone, except Mitchell. He blamed me for nothing after that first morning.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted. I was demoralized. I was terrified.
Around 2:00 a.m., I pulled a sweatshirt over my nightgown and took the elevator down to the second floor Intensive Care Unit. It was quiet when I pushed open the door from the empty waiting room. I walked quietly around the back of the nurses’ station to Mitch’s cubicle. The shift had changed at 11:00 p.m. Some nurses in raspberry scrubs were sitting on high swivel chairs at patient tables, writing reports. But three were gathered around my husband’s bed. My gut clenched. What was wrong now?!
Before I could give voice to my alarm, one nurse turned to the other two and whispered,
“I told you he had the most long curly gorgeous eyelashes you would ever see.”
“I didn’t believe you. They’re amazing.”
“And his eyes are the most beautiful shade of brown and gold.”
“And he belongs to me,” I said as I moved to the foot of the bed. They all smiled at me. The nurse who had spoken first laid her hand on mine and squeezed. Then she said, “Yes, he does. And you are so lucky.”
Yes, I was so lucky to have him, but would I be lucky enough to keep him?

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