Day 8 After the Fall
The day of the surgery finally arrived. Jay seemed increasingly confused and disconnected from reality. He’d been playing piano with Elton John in the night, but he drifted off to sleep while telling me about it. I sought out a nurse, and was greatly relieved to find Lorraine on the ward.
Lorraine was my favourite nurse because she spoke French. My French is rusty and I have the vocabulary of an eight-year-old, but in comparison to Italian, French felt like my native language.
“Lorraine, I am worried about my husband, ” I said in no-doubt broken French. “He is not right in the head. He has the hallucinations and does not seem very much here. I wonder if perhaps he has some damage to the head.” I hated to voice this concern, which had been niggling at the back of my mind, but now it was out. I hoped she would say it was just the medication. I really did not know what kind of medication he was on. Sometimes they gave him pills for the pain, which might have been Tylenol, sometimes an IV bag – possibly morphine? (Jay would call for “Antidolorific”. Who knew how they determined which medication to give him?)
“Ah, c’est normal, Madame,” said Lorraine. It did not seem normal to me at all. She went on to tell me that everyone went bonkers on this ward after a while. This was not deeply reassuring, but I did gather she was not concerned about brain damage.
They had cut Jay off food and drink. He didn’t care about the food but was, as ever, thirsty. I gave him a sponge bath, using a tea towel I’d nicked from Scarlett’s house, a hotel-sized bar of soap, and a plastic container (for water) that originally held cafeteria salad. Roughing it in the Ospedale.
Jay kept muttering about having forgotten to turn something off on the lighting board, then he dozed. I waited. At 3:00 they wheeled him away. The surgery, barring emergencies, would take place at 4:00. He should be back in the room by about 7:00. Lorraine invited me to wait and told me I could sleep in the room overnight if I wanted.
Having spent far too many hours in that godawful room already, I could not see the point of spending an additional 4 hours there while Jay was elsewhere – nor did the notion of sleeping that night in a chair appeal to me. On the other hand, if something went wrong … well there wouldn’t be much I could do. I gave the nurses my telephone number and explained that I could be back in five minutes and that they should call me if anything happened.
“Where you stay?” they asked.
“La Collina,” I replied. “Just nearby.”
“Ah, La Collina!” They all smiled and nodded as though this made perfect sense. Why, I wondered, had they claimed not to know of any hotels nearby when I’d asked a few days ago? Honestly.
I grabbed a slice of pizza from the cafeteria and ate it in my lovely cool room. I read emails. Then I decided, rather unwisely, to Google pelvic fractures.
I learned there were various degrees of fractures, the most serious being…the one Jay had. I even saw a diagram pointing to precisely the place where Jay’s pelvis was fractured. This kind of injury generally resulted from a high impact collision – most often a car accident or fall from considerable height.
The potential repercussions were serious. Surgery was essential (why had anyone ever suggested he might just go home and lie still to recover?) and then…post-surgery, more immobilization was required and monitoring: serious blood clots could ensue. And because of the concern re. blood clots, air travel was regarded as very dangerous (something about altitude post-surgery) and should not be undertaken for at least 10-14 days, and possibly as long as 40, after surgery.
My blood ran icy and I found myself struggling to draw breath.
The phone rang; it was Neil.
“So how are things?” he asked.
“Okay,” I said shakily. “Jay’s in surgery now.”
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Gasp. “Not really. I just read about his injury on Google and I’m scared shitless . Dumb dumb thing to do.” Sob. “I thought it was better for him to have the surgery here because he’d be in pain flying home but now I think maybe we have to stay here for weeks because if he flies he might get a blood clot and die. And I don’t know how we are going to manage. I don’t know if the GD insurance company is even going to pay for my hotel bill and I don’t know where I can take Jay to recover –“
“It’s okay, Meg.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to fall apart like this. I didn’t realize how worried I was about the surgery and really I just don’t think I can stand being here another minute by myself and this waiting it just awful and what if something goes wrong in the operation?” Wracking sobs. “I mean I can’t talk to anyone and it’s so hard being so far from home and in such a different time zone. I just think my strength is running out and I can’t cope anymore. How can I possibly manage if we have to stay here 40 more days?” Hysterical wailing…
Neil made comforting noises. I imagine he was horrified at my breakdown but he continued to be solicitous and reminded me not to take things I read on the internet too seriously. Eventually I calmed down and we ended the call. I felt like I had been run over by a bus.
I tried to read, nothing sank in. The more I dwelt on it, the more convinced I became that I needed someone by my side, someone with a clearer head and better balance than I had. I felt on the brink of disintegrating. I called Mike and poured this all out. He was, as ever, supportive and empathetic – in many ways I’m sure it must have been nightmarish to be so far away and so relatively helpless. I asked if he and Hannah might fly over for a week to keep me company, help me cope. At this point I did not care how much it cost.
Mike’s response was muted. He would like to come, but Hannah could not leave Canada or she might not be readmitted on her visitor’s visa – and he didn’t feel right leaving her alone in Canada. I understood, though my heart sank.
At 7:00, I dragged myself back to the hospital. Jay’s bed was still empty. The nurses indicated all was well, but whether they actually knew this or not, I couldn’t tell. Jay’s current room-mate was a little old man, very short, who had a full arm cast but was perfectly mobile. He wandered around the ward. Practically no one came to visit him. I got the sense he was not quite right in the head. Now he perched on his bed, watching me. I sat on the hardest chair in the world, waiting.
I heard the stretcher-trolley coming down the hallway and steeled myself for the sight of Jay looking grey and ill.
Instead he looked enraged. His colour was fine, but his eyes were wild.
“How are you?” I asked, attempting to sound cheerful.
“Lousy,” he snapped. “I don’t know what they think they’re doing. I woke up in a garage, lay there for hours, with all these punks standing around making fun of me. What the hell’s going on?” He looked royally pissed.
“It’s okay, hon, you’ve just had surgery.”
“Why?” He glared at me.
“Ah…You fell out a window and broke your pelvis?”
His frown slowly disappeared, replaced by a disgruntled and slightly embarrassed expression. “Oh.”
“How are you feeling?”
I stroked his arm, vastly relieved that he showed no sign of vomiting; in fact he looked pretty good. The nurses connected him to a monitor (heart? I couldn’t read it, looked like a Fisher Price toy), reconnected his IV, fussed with thermometers. In short order, he drifted off to sleep.
A medical person told me the surgery had gone well. No problems.
I returned to La Collina, ate a delicious dinner in the restaurant, chatted with Danieli and actually fielded a call from the insurance company, who wanted to know how the surgery had gone! For a moment I felt touched and reassured, but when I asked what would happen next, I met the same wall of uncertainty. She mentioned the police report again. I ended the call.