The Waiting Game

Patience is a virtue. Or so I’ve been told. For me, it’s a matter of survival. I sent my manuscript to my agent on Tuesday. Now I wait.

I have lots of practice. Yesterday, my mom had her hip replacement surgery. Or hip REVISION surgery to use the correct technical term. It’s a replacement of a replacement. The original replacement took place in 1976, in the dark ages of such procedures. The last four or five weeks have been torture for my mom as the pain seemed to grow exponentially day by day.

We had to be at the hospital by 5AM yesterday morning. That meant leaving here by 3:30AM. Early even by my standards. The rain started at 3:15 and continued to pour the entire dark drive into Pittsburgh. Dark, that is, except for the vivid lightning that nearly burnt out my retinas. But we made it with time to spare. There is very little traffic at that hour. Parking was plenty and the hospital corridors leading into the main lobby were silent and eerie.

We had to wait for the registration desk to open, but we were first in line when it did. Then we went upstairs and had to wait for the receptionist to come in. We were first again, but they don’t call you “first come, first serve.” So we waited.

At 6:30, they called us to go back to a room where Mom traded her street clothes for one of those nasty open-down-the-back hospital gowns. Two nurses checked and re-checked all her information and took a fresh set of vitals. All was in order and at 7:00, we kissed and hugged and parted company, Mom off to the OR and me to the tenth floor waiting room.

I made a detour on the way. I returned to the car to stash Mom’s cane, which she won’t need for a few months. Then I hit the cafeteria for one of AGH’s monster blueberry muffins. When Dad would have to go to Allegheny General for surgery or some other procedure early in the morning, Mom and I would always eat breakfast there and have one of those huge muffins. I was pleasantly surprised that they still carry them. Loaded with my muffin and a bottle of juice, I set up camp in the waiting room. I chose the corner away from the TV in case someone else wanted to watch it. I had books to read. Besides, the phone was there and I realized that it was the same nook that my Dad and brother and I had set up camp in four years ago when Mom had her OTHER hip replaced. Home away from home.

I need not have worried about others wanting to watch the TV. I had the room to myself. I ate my muffin, drank my juice, and started reading book number one, which I was about two-thirds through already. Tired and bored, I put the book down and glanced at my watch.


I knew right then it was going to be a long day.

By 8AM I decided to try a nap, but the room was too chilly and the sofas were all too short. So I did some yoga stretches instead.

I finally settled my brain to focus on my reading and the next thing I knew, I’d finished the book and it was 10:00. If the nurse was accurate when she had told me it would be about six and a half hours from the time they took her down, I was about half way through my wait.

Yeah. Right.

I started into the second book. At 10:30 I decided to take an early lunch break, more from nerves and boredom than hunger. I’m a nervous eater. Fortunately, I also fidget, which tends to burn off the extra calories I consume. I had visions of cheese pizza dancing in my head, but at that hour, the hot foods areas were roped off. I settled for a salad, a white chocolate caramel cappuccino, and a bag of Doritos for later. I was back in my camp at 11:00.

I ate. I read. I took in the view of downtown Pittsburgh. The heliport was right outside my window. Life Flight helicopters came and went.

I struck up a conversation with a maintenance man who was scrubbing the carpet. I called home from my cell phone just to hear my hubby’s voice. And to check on how his morning had gone. He’d had a doctor’s appointment of his own for a routine check-up.

At noon I moved to the TV side of the room and watched the news. This also gave the maintenance guy room to finish scrubbing the carpet. After the news, I tried watching the Young and the Restless, the one soap opera I still follow. But I couldn’t get interested in Jack and Sharon and Phyllis and Nick, so I clicked it off and went back to reading.

I sat and read and got up and paced and sat and read. 1:00. Six hours and counting.

Dr. Ray came out shortly after that, looking weary. Mom made it through surgery well. As expected, it was a difficult procedure, but her vitals were all good and a new hip was in place. He told me to go get some lunch and then check with the nurse’s station, but that Mom would likely be another two hours in recovery.

I didn’t tell him I’d already had lunch. Instead, I went back to the cafeteria, bought some bottled water and Lemon Blennd (blast from the past) and sat and munched my Doritos.

Back upstairs, the nurses told me it would probably be another two hours.

Two hours? I’d been told that forty-five minutes ago. I’ve decided that at doctor’s offices, the standard line is “the doctor will be with you SHORTLY.” In the hospital, it’s “TWO HOURS.”

Two hours stretched into three. At some point, a nurse in recovery called to tell me that they were waiting on a room, but they allowed me to go down and see Mom for a few minutes. She was alert, but a little fuzzy. She looked great, lying there munching on ice cubes and complaining about being thirsty. Just before 5:00, we got the news that a room had opened up and they just had to wait for it to be cleaned. They ran me out and I returned to the tenth floor, but moved my encampment to the small waiting room next to the nurses’ station, where I could keep an eye on the comings and goings.

Mom finally got into her room about 6:30PM. She was in very good spirits (a morphine pump will do that to you). A turkey sandwich, some cole slaw, cookies, and ginger ale put a dent in her hunger and thirst. By 7:00, she was ready for some shut-eye and ordered me out.

So now we begin the long, hard process of rehab. But I am ever so grateful that yesterday’s waiting game ended on a high note. And that it’s OVER.


Joyce said…
You were in my old stomping grounds! I used to be a unit secretary on 10A. I worked there until a week before Andrew was born (1984). I'm glad Dr. Ray is still there--he's a sweetheart, isn't he?

My older sister Amy was a nurse in ICU and the Trauma unit for years. My oldest sister Carole works in Oncology down in the basement. She'll be having knee replacements in a month or so.

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