To maintain that we fell back to sleep after talking to the oncologist, would overstate the minutes until the next phone call. Our rest was uneasy, more trance-like accompanied by surreal images. Soon the strained quiet shattered, when the anticipated second call arrived. This time my sleep had been thin, and finding the phone a simple matter. It lay where I had placed it no more than forty-five minutes earlier. Again, for a second time that night, my girl and I lurched straight up in bed. And for this call my voice flowed clearly, warmed up from the previous conversation.
“Mrs. Chumbley?” I am Dr. blah blah.” (Sorry) “Your husband requires emergency surgery on his colon as a life saving procedure. I can’t perform the operation without your permission.”
“Yes, of course. You have my permission. Thank you doctor. Should I come down to the hospital?”
“This surgery can take hours. The morning should be soon enough.”
“Thank you again, doctor.”
“You’re welcome. Someone will call if there are any problems.” My silent translation, “if he dies.”
I hung up the phone, and lay back down. We both silently thought our thoughts, worried our worries, until lightly drifting off.
A thin sleep resumed. Mine was filled the strangest dreams of the classroom, childhood friends, my parents.
Promptly, at six o’clock, I opened my eyes, just to roll over and see Catherine’s pretty blues looking straight back at me. “We should get down there,” she whispered.
Quickly dressing, she drove me back to the hospital. And though still very early, the day promised to be another scorcher. She asked, “Do you want me to come up with you?”
I thought for a moment and then I told her no. Not yet. I needed to see how he looked and what the surgeon had to say about his condition. “You go back to bed, honey,” I encouraged. ” I will call when I know something.”
That decision proved to be a good one. When I found the ICU, his nurse explained to me that though he had survived colon surgery, Chad was still dangerously septic, in critical condition. When I pulled back the turquoise curtain to his room, the body in the bed bore little resemblance to the guy I married.
This ravaged body bore testimony to his own hellish night of scalpels, staples, and anesthesia. Now under an induced coma, his bloated and distorted figure would have better suited my earlier, anxious dreams, than the cold reality of morning.