At this point in the narrative, you can probably tell that my faculties at the time, and my memory since, do not bear much relationship to reality, so I’ve asked Helene to tell some of the story from her perspective………..
Post written by Helene Goldberg:
Wednesday, May 19th 2010
I knew in my bones that something was not quite right. It was unsettling for me to have the doctors and nurses come into Moshe’s room, smiling, even cracking the odd little joke here and there, and telling me that everything’s going well, yep, all was just fine. My blood was beginning to boil. SOMEBODY BETTER START TALKING STRAIGHT TO ME !
I spent that day, the Wednesday after Moshe’s second operation, waiting to see the new doctor, Marco. He was going to tell me what the hell was going on, or else. I had a whole little speech ready for him. As the day went by, the speech got edited, and re-edited. It was clear to me that the doctors and nurses didn’t get who I am, I’m not just the little wifey who would settle for some crumbs of their condescending babble, and Marco, damn it, he was going to get who I am. “I’m his wife!”
So, 8pm came and went. As did 9pm, and finally 10pm. I couldn’t wait any more. I had to go home. And in spite of Moshe’s desperate attempts to get me to go talk to the man over on the other side of the 4-bed ward who was obviously (to everyone but Moshe) visiting his sick father, and make sure that he, “the doctor”, would come by Moshe’s bed before he disappeared out the room, it seemed Marco wouldn’t make it that night after all. This also didn’t make me terribly happy, but before I left, I made sure that the night nurse was aligned, clear that her job was to make sure Mr. Doctor called me right after he’d seen Moshe. She was fantastic and promised that she’d do that.
Thursday, May 20th 2010
I woke up, called the hospital, and discovered that the doctor had come after all, AT 4 OR 5 IN THE MORNING! Unbelievable! This was my first experience with the surprising and unusual practices that this doctor employed. The head nurse had kept her promise, and Marco said he’d call me. It wasn’t till about 8pm that night, Thursday, sitting with Moshe, that I got the call. As soon as I heard, “Hello Mrs. Goldberg, this is Marco Bonollo”, I opened my mouth to deliver my speech. However, I didn’t get a chance to say anything. Marco began, in his wonderful, crystal clear, intentional tone to tell me everything. “… creatinine level is over 450 … it is life-threatening … I have the Coronary Unit on alert … I also have a dialysis machine on stand-by, but hopefully we won’t need it.”
I was blown away. First, I took two seconds to deal with myself so I could stay focussed and still have words come out of my mouth. Second, I was relieved to finally talk to someone for whom communication was a wide-open, two-way highway. I thanked him, and told him that he needed to keep talking to me like that. I wanted to know everything he knows. Don’t hold back anything. And if you don’t know, I want you to tell me that too. He said absolutely, and promised to call me every day, a promise he never broke. We were partners in this, and we were going to get Moshe through. Together. “And what can I do?” I asked him. “Look after yourself. Sleep well, eat well, make sure you are well, rested, and strong.” I promised him I would, and I too kept my promise.
I got off the phone, my whole body was shaking. I turned into the first empty room and closed the door. I was sure I’d burst into tears, but nothing much came. I called my friend Anne-Marie. I had to get my head clear before I could talk to anyone. I had to tell our girls. OH MY GOD. One of our daughters was there at the hospital, so I told her what Marco had said. I then called the other two. It was so hard for me to tell them, and harder for them to hear it. I then confronted telling Moshe’s parents, and decided this wasn’t something I could do on the phone. I had to go see them. But first, I had to tell Moshe. He needed to know.
I waited till there was no one else in the room with us – by this point, he was in a private room. I had to turn his head towards me, I kept saying, “Are you listening to me? You need to listen now. Stay with me, this is important.” His eyes kept closing on him, his words came out in halves and thirds, he kept drifting in and out between conciousness and delirium.
“It’s up to you now. The doctors are doing their bit, but they can’t do much more than wait now. You have to deal with your failed kidney. You have to get it to start functioning. You can do it. (I had no idea if that was true, but I had to believe it, and I had to get him to believe it.) We’ve handled the impossible before. You can do it.” I had no idea how much of what I was saying got through, or how much he actually comprehended, but I trusted in our relationship. He’d get it. At some level, he would. And I would keep reminding him. That was my job.
I sat in the chair pulled up close to Moshe’s bedside, and watched him. A nurse came in, took his chart out, checked his vitals, all the while chatting with him. He chatted back too. It was as if the moment someone came in, he kinda pulled himself up by the bootstraps, put on his best smile, and engaged himself in the conversation. All looked normal. He sounded normal. But then he’d say something that, for all intents and purposes, sounded perfectly sound, except that I knew it was absolute nonsense. Little things. Things that no one but me would know were cock and bull lines. The nurse left, and the glazed look washed over his eyes, and he was out. Moments later, he’d awake with a bit of a start, see me and smile, that gorgeous smile. Then he began talking to me.
“Helene, I want you to … osshho..osshh.. sshhh …” His eyes closed.
“Helene, ….” Gone.
Two minutes passed.
“Helene, did you … [more giberish]…”
Another minute passed.
Suddenly, he woke up, sat up a little, asked for his pillows to be rearranged again. Then he actually got the whole sentence out.
“Helene, did you tell the nurse that I’ve had my tablets?… No? Well you have to tell her, she needs to know that.” And then he fussed with the bedsheets, and rearranged the tubes – one was attached to his self-administered morphine button, another to the TV control, and the third was the bed adjustment controls. He had them all strategically positioned, and it upset him no end if they got out of formation. Then, he held his bottom lip down again, and, as if he had something stuck between his lip and his gum, took a tissue, and patted inside his lip, over and over and over. It was so hard watching him like this. I knew the morphine and other pain medication were largely to blame, but the other culprit, as Marco had explained, was the fact that his kidney wasn’t functioning, and the creatinine was so high, and potassium was flowing freely into areas it shouldn’t be, and that all was making him delirious. But I gotta tell you, it was hilarious, and I couldn’t help myself but giggle. He got so mad. Then I said, in my best straight voice, “I’m sorry darling,” but that infuriated him even more. “Don’t do that! Don’t patronize me!” And I felt so bad. He was so frustrated. He suspected he wasn’t making much sense, and it upset and frustrated him no end. He’d been like this since that second operation. But oh god, especially when one of my daughters was there, we couldn’t look at each other for fear we’d burst out laughing.
I knew I had to get to Moshe’s parents. I had to tell them what was going on, and I couldn’t wait too long. It would get too late. I gathered my things, kissed Moshe goodnight, and headed out to my car to see Hania and Gooter. I’d set it up with Freda, Moshe’s sister, that she’d be on stand-by. We were both accutely aware of the impact this kind of news would have on them. As I pulled up outside their house, I sat there a moment, present to the upset I was about to cause. How do I tell them their son’s life is hanging by a thread?
(To be continued……..)