Saturday, July 21, 2012
I hate the night sometimes. I remember when my Dad was in our local hospital after a botched routine surgery his condition would always take its two steps back at night. It took the hospital three weeks to sentence him to death and then send him to Birmingham to die. Each evening I would stand at the large windows in the ICU waiting room on the east side of the building watching the shadow of the hospital creep up the office buildings across the street until it finally snuffed out the last bit of light reflecting off the windows. In the very early morning hours for several nights toward the end a nurse would come get mom and tell her that this might be it. She would rise off the pool float that we were using for beds in the waiting room floor and go straight away to his bedside. I waited on my float, hardly breathing more than a statue knowing that through the window behind my head the night was watching. Hours later as the reflection twinkled off the windows across the street shooting beams of dusty light across the stale room, mom would walk out with a nurse smiling and talking. I would release the breath I’d been holding and thank the morning for coming one more time. Eli is having a rough night. We are holding steady on the edge as I write, but it has been a rocky afternoon and evening. He started the morning off good, and I was hopeful, but as the afternoon passed and evening came, he took a turn down a familiar path. He spiked a fever which has barley stayed below 102 with the help of Tylenol, cold packs all over his body and a cold room. He also popped a rash and has been swollen in his face again. His urine output has slowed considerably; his blood pressure has been low and his heart rate high. He woke up about 430 hours and would not nap, so he was weary and teary this evening. It was this night during the last round that I heard the words “high-risk for sepsis,” so I am a little anxious tonight, which I guess is why I’m up writing and watching and not sleeping. I do like our nurse tonight, I don’t know that she is any more knowledgeable than the others, maybe she is or isn’t, but she listens when I talk, she talks to me, and is diligent and genuine in her efforts. He is taking an antibiotic, because of the fever, which they have said he is not allergic to, but I’m having my doubts. But, as I told the nurse, I don’t know why I keep expecting him to take this infusion of poison like its candy. That’s naïve and irrational. As, I’ve said before, you can not be in a fight with a dominant foe and come away showing no signs of the beating. The trick is to survive the beating to fight again. If we survive the night in a regular room, I expect him to have his third and final dose of chemo for this round, which is the same as today. Tomorrow will be “Day minus two.” The picture tonight is of Eli from this morning, before his condition took a wrong turn. We take two laps around the floor a couple times a day, and on one of the laps he picks out a movie from the front desk, even though we bring a huge stack with us because in reality there is nothing worth watching up front, I hate to break it to them. Today, we accidentally chose a Spanish DVD of Spongebob. The accident was getting it in Spanish, not getting Spongebob. He did that on purpose. So, I put it in, not knowing, and Plankton in this weird voice begins spewing a rant in Spanish. I say, oops, sorry, bud, and begin to take it out. He says, “no, that’s ok, I don’t care. I won’t know when they say bad words this way.” When the girls, especially, were little they would whine about their rooms being dark when they went to bed. It so irritated me because they were being impatient weenies while their eyes adjusted to the street lights shining in from outside, but I tried to coddle a few times telling them lovingly that God made the night just like he made the day. That God gave it to us as a gift for the sleep that we need. Blah, blah, and if they still persisted, I would finally say, “Ok, well close your eyes so that you don’t see it.” I would close their door and be done. With my limited ability and limited resources, I could not find any real facts or support about the decline of a patient’s condition during the night. Well, that is, beyond the study of lunar affects and mythical mysteries, but the handful of nurses here that I’ve talked to say, yes, there is definitely a change at night. Nothing they could pinpoint, but that they often see downward turns during the night. Poetically, the night and darkness are associated with evil and sadness. According to a national victimization survey taken by the U.S. Department of Justice a few years ago, a higher percentage of violent crimes happen at night. For obvious reasons, evil needs the night to cover or hide what it does. It walks about the earth wearing the night like a cloak as it works. The tragedy today of many lives lost in a shooting at a theater was at a showing of a movie about a comic hero referred to as “the Dark Knight.” Though this is one of the good guys, because he bears sadness in his heart as his motivation, he wears an aura of darkness and is even represented by an animal of the night. My heart aches for the mothers who suffered tragic losses today. It just reminds me of how blessed I am to be able to hold this vigil at the bedside of my son. Though it be at a hospital bed it is not at a casket. I lived with my mother after Daddy died for a couple of months before Vic and I eloped. Night after night, in the darkness of the house I could hear her crying in their bedroom downstairs. I lie still and silent in my childhood bed with a window behind my head knowing again that the night was watching. She would cry quietly steady for hours until I guess she went to sleep. The next morning our paths would cross in the kitchen as we each prepared to go our separate ways for work. She would smile and talk about nonsense. I would respond with the same nonsense all the while painfully thinking, I know about the night.