I do believe that in my first marriage, somewhere in the old-fashioned vows, we spoke the words “in sickness and in health”. Unfortunately, that marriage did not last; it is not the subject of this writing – I’ll write about that some other time… maybe… but I doubt it.
In my current and final marriage, not the first for either of us, we chose to forego the traditional ‘norm’ and instead were married by a Justice of the Peace who during the ceremony, blessed us with an Apache Wedding Blessing:
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.
The wedding ceremony, complete with the Apache Blessing, took place in the living room of the Justice of the Peace who was not Native American but had a love for the culture, as do I. Although there is no direct reference to “in sickness and in health” in the Apache wedding blessing, unbeknownst to me, my husband was very ill at the time of our wedding. In fact, he was hospitalized and underwent surgery only a few days later. I cared for him during his recovery at home but do not remember anything specific about that time other than thinking, “..I hope this is not an omen of a sickly life together…”
Thankfully, other than that first hospitalization, our lives have been fairly healthy. Well… maybe not, now that I seriously give this some thought.
Three months before our wedding, I was in a devastating car wreck while on my way home from work. A hospital stay was not warranted, other than eight hours in the ER where I was drugged with some wild medications and posed for x-rays. The diagnosis stated that I had three herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. Thankful to be alive, I vowed to live with unending gratitude for life and for having full use of all my limbs regardless of whether they hurt or not.
That accident is now eighteen years in the past this coming August 13th, the exact same date as my bi-lateral mastectomy. I suppose I truly have been majorly healthy except for digestive issues like IBS, which have bothered me since childhood but never to the point of hospitalization. My illness statistics would then be something like this fraction, 2/18ths or 1/9th or 0.111 as to major illness over our eighteen years together.
My husband’s statistics are a little higher. First there was the hospitalization after our wedding, that would equal 1/18th, then there was the Femoral Endarterectomy five years ago, bringing hubby’s stats up to 2/18ths. There really was no after-care for that surgery since the hospital made him stay overnight despite his arguments to allow him to leave. I was very grateful the hospital made him stay for fear his artery might start bleeding in the middle of the night and I would have to try to transport this disagreeable 250 lb. man to the nearest hospital.
Finally, just last week, Harry had eleven surgical sinus procedures performed in two and a half hours. After regaining consciousness in the recovery room, he was released to me for home care. The nurse informed me that they had given him a pain pill for the drive home. I thanked them both deeply since I hate my husband’s back-seat driving. The drive home was heavenly, despite the crazy lunch hour traffic near the Capital buildings, my husband was sufficiently drugged and his eyes were closed, as was his mouth!
Now, most of my female friends proclaim that “men are such big babies” then compare examples of how a woman could be on her death bed but still make school lunches and give to her children whatever their needs might be, but a man will squeeze being babied as long as possible. I was prepared.
The house was super-clean, I had made several meals ahead of time and printed out spreadsheets for keeping track of his medications. I also placed a comfy “PIERZYNA” (Polish for goose down comforter) on his recliner before we left for the hospital; we knew beforehand that he would be instructed to sleep semi-reclined. I was accustomed to sleeping in a recliner since that is where I laid for weeks after the bi-lateral mastectomy so I knew what items he may need for added comfort.
I also outfitted the matching recliner for my own place to sleep since I needed to awaken every four hours to check the amount of bleeding and change the pad beneath his nostrils as well as administer his pain pills. The first couple of days would be tiring, but, I was prepared for it.
By day three post-op, Harry was a bit more mobile, enough so that he went to the back patio and smoked his first cigarette since the day before surgery. I was disheartened by this as I had hoped he would make an earnest effort to quit. The next few days passed with more improvement each day. Harry admitted that the pain was still intense but his nasal passages were becoming clogged with dried blood. We followed post-op instructions and dripped 4-6 droplets of hydrogen peroxide in each nostril. Still discontent with the clogged passages, he asked that I phone his doctor for help. The doctor said that Harry could begin rinsing with the saline solution – and that is when Harry’s ingenuity kicked back into gear.
He moved the water pick from the bathroom to the kitchen sink where he filled the reservoir with his saline solution and proceeded to rinse each nostril on the lowest pressure setting. I watched, holding my breath that he was not going to start screaming in agony.
Yesterday was eight days post-op for my husband and we went to the doctor’s office to have the nasal splints removed. The doctor’s instructions specified that the patient should take a pain pill 45 minutes prior to the in-office procedure. To be on the safe side, Harry took 1.5 Percocets. I was thankful for that so he would keep his mouth shut about my driving, although he did make a negative comment as we were only three miles away from the house, “You’re pretty close to the white line and shoulder.”
“I’m fine,” I said, “you need to close your eyes and your mouth!” Within a few minutes, the narcotics kicked in and Harry was quiet for the remainder of the drive.
By the time we arrived at the office, I had a horrendous headache from stress and anxiety. Harry somehow finds ways to rush at the last minute; the anxiety literally hangs in the air and could be cut with a butcher’s knife! Fortunately, however, and thanks to my expert driving, we were not late for the appointment but, as it turned out, the doctor was running behind schedule by his typical 45 minutes.
While my husband sat in the waiting room, stoned, I felt my stomach spasm with anxious fears while wondering if I really wanted to be in the room while the doctor pulled out the splints but before I could convince myself to not accompany Harry, his name was called and we both went to a room.
After a very brief conversation when the doctor asked Harry how his recovery has been, the doctor proceeded to remove the nasal stents by cutting the stitches and carefully pulling each splint out with a tweezer-like device. I anxiously watched, waiting for my husband to jump out of the seat and scream, but before I knew it, it was over!
So, Harry’s illness statistics are now up to 3/18ths or 1/6th or 0.16666667, which is a smidgen (I’m sure that’s a true mathematical measurement) more than my own illness statistic.
In conclusion, despite our marriage vows being devoid of a promise to “love each other in sickness and in health…” we have done just that, even though I am certain that he required much more care after his sinus surgery than I did after my mastectomies. I’m sure of it!!
After all, I am woman and a Mom!