The next morning I watched the sun rise. I hadn’t slept the night before. Between my dad’s snoring, my headache, the itching, and the fact that someone was coming into the room every hour to check vitals, make sure I wasn’t having any double vision or taking blood it was hard to sneak in a quick REM cycle. When I saw the first rays of the day creeping in through the mini blinds of my room I started to get antsy. I had not seen any of my surgeons since coming up to my room the day before. I knew that I would need their approval to leave. And I was ready to leave yesterday.
I asked my nurse when Dr. M would be coming around and was told that he was wrapped up at the Mayo Clinic this morning. Dr. J would be making rounds and then I would see Dr. M later that day. At the mention of Dr. J’s name I froze. Images of blood, lidocaine, me laughing and placing my hand on his arm, the motorboat noise, and oh god the NOSE BOOP, came flooding back into my brain. Maybe he wouldn’t remember. No Stephanie! This wasn’t a drunken frat party, this was a hospital. Of course he would remember!!! Oh God, he would be here any minute. I was suddenly aware that I had not showered in 24 hours. I paged the nurse and she helped me get to the restroom in order to survey the damage in the mirror over the sink. I had been so preoccupied with everything else I had not looked at myself the night before.
And there I was, looking like something that had crawled out of the Pet Cemetery.
I had dried blood caked around my nose and mouth, my Katniss braid was disheveled from sleep and also crunchy from the dried blood in the plait. My right eye was no longer black from the biopsy surgery, it was that yellow color that bruises turn when they are finally beginning to heal. I had a bloody string hanging out of one nostril that was attached to the packing we had inserted yesterday in the PACU. Someone had been nice enough to take surgical tape and tape it up to my cheek so it didn’t hang down in my mouth. That someone had then also placed rolled-up gauze under both nostrils to catch any excess blood and run tape across the entire thing giving me a Groucho Marx mustache made of red and white. I looked down at my arms. One looked like “the claw” wrapped up in tubing and tape while the other had a piece of fingernail missing from where the pulse ox had betrayed me the night before. I was also covered in little red speckles from my reaction to contrast dye. My hospital gown was hanging off one shoulder from where I had been itching so vehemently back and forth I had pulled some of the snaps open. I had grimy circular outlines on my chest from where the adhesive on the leads had left a residue (that takes forever to wash off by the way. What is in that stuff?). When I saw this disaster I burst out laughing. The nurse looked at me like I may have lost my mind but I continued to giggle. There was no way to soften this look. I could have put on a red leather jacket and walked onto the set of Thriller without turning any heads.
Sometimes in life you just have to say “screw it.” This was one of those times. Even if I had had spackle and a paintbrush there was no way I could have made myself presentable. I rationalized by telling myself that I had just had a tumor the size of an egg pulled away from my brain, out through my nose, and then bled all over the place in recovery. My body had just undergone two surgeries less than two weeks apart from one another. I had held it together for my parents knowing that this was just as hard for them if not more so to endure. I had not slept a wink the night before. I was so deeply and deliriously tired I no longer cared. And you know what? I told myself, I didn’t have to. I wanted to shower, I wanted to sleep in my own bed, I wanted to rip the IV’s out of my arm, I wanted to give the annoying cord hanging from my nose a yank and pull that packing out of my face, I wanted to scratch those itchy little red bumps until they bled, I wanted to put on underwear and sweatpants and a hoodie, and I wanted to go home.
I wanted a lot of things, but I would have to endure.
This was like the last mile of a long distance race, there was beauty in the struggle but on the surface folks it wasn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing. I didn’t even bother to wash the blood off my face. In an odd way I wanted to look on the outside how I felt on the inside. I shuffled back to bed, hooked back in to my machines, and hunkered down to wait for my Dynamic Duo.
Bring in the gorgeous doctor, I’m ready for my close up.