So, we got to the hospital, and I jumped out of the ultrasound technician's (Laura) car, and ran up to the emergency room entrance. There was a policeman there, I'm not sure why, but I said they had just brought my husband in, and he got the door open for me. The emergency room part is all kind of a blur to me now, but I remember the most important thing. Bob was conscious for a brief time, and as they were hurrying him from the emergency room to the operating room, he looked at me and said, "If I die, I love you, and I had a good life. I have no regrets." I told him that I loved him, too, and he wasn't going to die, and then he was wheeled away.
We -- John, Mike and I -- headed into the hospital proper to find a waiting room, and I started calling people. In retrospect, I was holding it together remarkably well. I found out things later that I'm glad I didn't know, i.e., that 50% of the people this happens to don't make it to the hospital, and 50% of the ones who do, don't make it through surgery. At the time, I just knew that he was in good hands.
I called my sister, and she came to the hospital, and John's wife did, too. After a couple of hours we went to the cafeteria and got something to eat, then made our way back up to the surgical waiting room, and there was someone from Bob's work waiting there. In short order, several more of his friends came up to sit with me. It was five or six hours before the surgeon came looking for me. He said that Bob came through surgery fine, but said that he could be in ICU as long as a month, and probably in the hospital for an additional month, followed by physical therapy. He just wanted to be sure I understood that it was going to be a long recovery. He said, "Just don't give up on him," and I assured him that wasn't going to happen. He said that some people feel that the hospitalization can be so long that families feel the patient will never recover.
Once we knew Bob had gotten through surgery, everyone else left, and my sister stayed with me. I wanted to stay until they got him into a room, whenever that would be, and she didn't want me to stay by myself. It was after 9:00 before someone came to tell us that he was in Recovery, and we made our way down there. We went down and found him, and he was hooked up to so many things that I was afraid to touch him, but I held his hand, and we sat there for quite awhile before someone came to take him up to ICU.
We followed them up there, and I was able to see him settled into his room in the ICU, where he would spend the next two and a half weeks. My sister took me out to the clinic to pick up my car, and I drove home, fell into bed, slept a few hours, then got up the next morning to head back to the hospital. Of course, it was nowhere near home -- it was exactly 30 miles away. Kind of a long round trip to make every day, but of course, I did.
I had taken my DayTimer out to the clinic, and I was so glad that I had. It became my journal / diary / record of everything that happened in the hospital. It was my record of nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors, surgeons, specialists -- I wrote down the name of everyone I met, every test result that they told me or that I overheard, everyone who visited, everyone who called.
I learned a lot of things. I learned that "acute rental failure," as bad as it sounds, means temporary, rather than permanent, which is what "chronic renal failure" means. His kidneys didn't bounce back as quickly as they had hoped, so he had dialysis every other day for a couple of weeks. I learned that a kidney specialist is called a "nephrologist," and I met a couple of them.
My day would go like this: my alarm would go off at 7:30. I would get up, get a shower, feed Dinah, and get in the car and head to Independence. There was a Starbucks in a strip mall right before you got to the hospital, so I would stop there for a mocha. Sometime in the second week, the barista started greeting me by name when I came in the door, which I felt sort of weird about, but also nice that she recognized me. She said she liked my name.
So I would get to the hospital, head up to the ICU, and check in with the nurses, asking them how Bob did overnight and if anything had happened that I needed to know about. Most of them were great; there were a couple that weren't very friendly or helpful, and I didn't handle that very well. I remember coming in one morning and asking the nurse (it was a different one every few days) how Bob did overnight, and she shrugged and said, "Okay," like, "he's alive, what more do you want?" And then she told me that Bob's brother and sister had both called, and she didn't appreciate having to talk to our relatives. She asked me, didn't anyone tell me that I was supposed to coordinate all that? I just looked at her, and walked out, because I didn't want her to see me cry.