Earlier this week I had some minor surgery done. Doctors aren't entirely sure why I have scar tissue in my windpipe (probably some sort of reflux, but tests weren't conclusive), but there it is. Scar tissue can be cut away, but it always grows back and as it grows, my airway narrows and my breathing is affected. I also start to cough a lot to clear away junk that most of us don't think twice about - a healthy windpipe has teensy hair-like structures to help propel phlegm and crud up and out whereas scar tissue is smooth and those structures are absent. Exercise exertion seems to both help and serve as a canary in this coal mine, so we keep an eye on things through an uncomfortable scope procedure that I'm very grateful for, and every few years (it had been three this time; six weeks since the most recent scoping), I have to get my trachea "root-rootered." It's not fun, but it's pretty routine and low-key. Still - general anesthesia is not a joke, although I try to yuk it up as they get me ready. I was first diagnosed at Baptist Hospital (now called Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, but it's still "Baptist" to most North Carolinians) and I continue to go there for treatment. Yeah, it's a little out of the way from where I live now, but it's a top-notch teaching hospital and I make my living talking and teaching other people how to talk, so I'll keep going there thankyouverymuch.
Recovery from this procedure isn't too bad - everything is done with lasers, not scalpels, so there's very little blood or discharge - but I'm tired, sore, and achy for a few days and can't really do too much for myself for the first day and a half. (Interesting facts to support this point - anesthesia can make you super-cold and shivery for the first several hours post-discharge, the compression thingies they put on your legs to prevent clots can make your calves sore to the point of making walking uncomfortable for the first two days and your innards are likely to be strangely out of whack for two to three days.) While you're not covered up in bandages and bruises and stitches, your body's gone through some trauma and you're not exactly Little Miss Marathon.
Enter other people. Oh, let me explain just how much NOT an island I've been that last few days, for there is nothing (emphasize that - nothing) like being sick to make you appreciate other people. I can't list all the kindnesses I've received over the last five days or so, but let me try to capture the flavor of compassion.
- My surgeon cuts on Thursdays, so I had to miss a day or my turbo-speed summer school class. Far from celebrating "woo-hoo, teacher's gone!" my summer class made me a "get well" card on the sly to give me before I left for surgery last week. Totally spontaneous and heartfelt and I made sure it was propped on the dresser top so I could see it from the bed.
- My parents went full-out Florence Nightingale for me. Every food that I even thought might be tasty they had in full supply. I go whole-hog Southern for my comfort food, so I've been consuming pimento cheese by the tubful and sweet tea by the half-gallon.
- My parents live in a century-old farmhouse, obviously built before air conditioning. The rooms are gracious, airy, and peaceful. I loved sitting on the breakfast porch and just watching the antics at the bird feeder. Plus, one night a doe came up out of the woods to graze in the pasture. Best kind of reality TV.
- Ensley tore up the road between our home and my childhood home, tending to our sick kitty (she's on antibiotics and won't come out for just anybody) then coming up to make sure I wasn't pushing things too hard the first few days.
- Having a little in my iTunes account to treat myself to gemstones in "Midnight Castle," a found-object game I spent a lot of time playing over the last couple of days. (Anybody playing that - friend me!)
- My minister - who's brand-new herself in town - kept up with me through social media and made sure to relay support and kind words.
- Friends. Oh, friends. Neighbors who offered to look after the critters, Facebook friends from close by and across borders and oceans - I had dozens and dozens of people checking in on me, wanting to know if I was okay, if there was anything I needed. It feels good to know that I'm connected like this, not just drifting on the air currents like a discarded grocery bag.
- Being well enough to drive home, but still not have to do anything. Yes, there will be work tomorrow and errands and all the things that come with modern First World life and I'll be better suited to face them following three solid days of rest.
It's true - I'm not an island. I'm not even an peninsula or an isthmus. And what a wonderful thing that is. Think of it this way - you know who's truly independent? The poor schmo you see leaving the hospital in a cab. He can't drive himself and there's no one to pick him up, take him home, and get him settled, much less check in on him to make sure he's comfortable post-surgery. That's not independent; that's just sad.
Thanks to all who made sure I knew I wasn't an island.