Five Minutes

Our days crawled by slowly, his recovery measured in increments.  After one day in his new room a new face, a physical therapist breezed through the door.  He rapidly introduced himself, shook my hand and turned toward Chad.  He completed his efficient entrance in one smooth motion. 

Medical people no longer inspired reverence for Chad.  He had become weary of the abysmally slow institutional routine, the new faces everyday.  Still despite his disillusion he was never rude to any of the medical staff, but I received a good run down when we were alone.   

This particular therapist seemed to have arrived with a plan to rebuild my husband’s ravaged, broken body and depleted endurance.  The regimen, the PT announced would start by having Chad sit up in a chair for five minutes.  And though that sounded harmless enough it quickly became one of the trials of Hercules.  With the help of the nurse, they diverted or unhooked the multitude of attachments to Chad’s body, including now, pressure socks to prevent blood clots.  The two then hoisted his body to a chair by the bed.  Though bobbled around, he said nothing while the two stuffed and padded blankets around him like a newborn.  Once he seemed balanced, the PT and nurse left.  They left.

Five minutes can be a very long time in certain situations.  The last five minutes in class.  The last five minutes in a dryer cycle.  In this instance my husband almost immediately began to sweat, and fretted that he was going to faint if he didn’t lay back down.  I watched him with the vigilance of a gymnastic spotter, ready to catch him if he toppled over.  Soon he started to pant, exhausted by the exertion of remaining upright after nearly two weeks on his back.

His legs were mere sticks under those stockings, the muscle wasted away, his head bowed in agonizing surrender, he begged me to help him back into bed.  Where was the therapist?  Why didn’t he stay?

I waited, growing increasingly anxious, while Chad waited physically anguished.  Still no therapist.  “I can’t sit like this any longer,” he wailed.  Panicking, I decided that if the PT didn’t come back in one minute, I would press the button for the nurse.  I slowly rose and leaned over to the bed.  The call button was pinned to his sheet.  And that was when the therapist again breezed officiously into the hospital room followed by the nurse.

“How did that go?” he inquired conventionally.  We didn’t answer, as he swiftly bent over Chad,to assess his condition.  

“That was five minutes?” Chad gasped.  “Seemed longer.”

“He didn’t do so well,” I added, feeling it my duty to tell the truth.  The therapist and nurse said little as they conveyed him back to bed. 

He then spoke up again.  “Well, the doctor wants him up to fifteen minutes before the hospital can release him.”

With that, the therapist, followed by the nurse, blew out of the room, on to other matters, other patients.  

Neither of us spoke, And after a few moments Chad drifted back to sleep, lightly snoring.  I stared ahead, forlorn.    

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