I was not allowed to sit.
I was sent home a few days post-surgery. We put the passenger seat of the car all the way down so I could lay on my side. I took up residence on the sofa. Rolling on my back was not allowed.
My right buttcheek was stitched up. The scar was in the shape of an arrow, or a triangle maybe. I couldn’t tell — it’s hard to get a good look. Either way, a chunk of skin and fat and whatever else had been taken off and moved in to my wound.
I felt fine. A little hazy. It was fine.
I woke up as I usually do at least once a night. It was somewhere between four and five in the morning. It was dark, I know that much. Short walk to the bathroom. Hover, don’t sit on the toilet seat, like I was going in a gas station rest stop instead of my own home.
God, I was thirsty. And lightheaded. I just need water. There’s some on my bedside table. Just switch off the light and walk back.
I just really need some water.
I remember my hand grasping the doorjamb. I must have let go. Maybe I tried to take a step forward.
Funny thing about fainting. You don’t really remember it. I remember pieces. I know I screamed. Mum says she asked where I was and I said I was in the hallway. I wasn’t in the hallway. She says she tried to stand me up and I fainted again after she turned her back. Note: do not try to stand someone up if they’ve just fainted.
We called an ambulance. I stayed on the floor, in a position that can only be described as spooning the toilet. My pyjama pants had mysteriously disappeared.
My sister came in, after initially deciding to stay in her room when she heard my screaming (in all honesty I would have done the same).
She was looking down at me, lying on my side. My face was in a profile.
“You have really good bone structure,” she said, as if discovering this for the first time.
“Thanks,” I said. “Who do we know that’s a paramedic?”
I don’t really have to say it, but having two paramedics come into your bathroom to find you in your underwear after just fainting in the bathroom is not a proud moment. I apologized the whole time. Sorry I fainted. Sorry I couldn’t get up myself. Sorry if you can’t get an IV in me. Sorry I’m keeping you from doing something more important.
My Mum gave me my phone as I was being wheeled out. Once I was in the emergency department, I texted her:
That was my last hospital stay. I went back to see Dr. W in August. I said my Mum was thinking of going on a trip to Maine — would I be able to go?
Absolutely, he said. It would be good for me.
I had taken the rest of the summer off from work. When I abruptly left in June, I said I might be back. But when it came down to it, Dr. W said I needed time off. He was right.
In the last three years, I kept going in spite of my body. I only stopped when I was forced to. Now in the waning days of summer, I stopped because I could.
Things had changed in the three years since I cried that night in Bangor. While before Donald Trump was never going to win the primary, now I found myself sailing past a “Honk If You Support President Trump” billboard outside of New Hampshire (I didn’t honk).
I thought about my post-election rage and the morning breakdown I had on the bathroom floor in the Dickson Building, and the plane I took the same evening. I thought about the other breakdowns I had in the Victoria Building and the Robie Professional Centre and the third-floor bathroom of the Weldon Law Building before going back to class.
I thought about every hurdle I had faced to get to this point. Being discouraged from getting the surgery I needed because I should want to have children first. Getting the surgery. Not healing from the surgery. Trying to tell my surgeon that something was wrong and not being believed. Finding medical debris was left inside my body. Not getting an apology. Being pushed off to another surgeon two years later.
I remember my last visit with Dr. W. I took the bus to the Halifax Infirmary. I got an iced coffee from the Starbucks up the street. I forgot to ask for it unsweetened, and was half-disappointed, half-proud of myself for finding it too sugary to drink.
I remember the waiting room being crowded, and a woman was angrily confronting one of the nurses because she had been waiting too long. I had my headphones in. I was listening to the new album from HAIM.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember what I was wearing.
I was lying on my side, pants down. My nose was pressed against the wall.
“You’re healed,” he said.
I don’t know what I expected. Confetti to fall from the ceiling? Cake? It was such an anticlimactic way to get the news I had been waiting two years to hear.
When I was sitting back down (clothes on), Dr. W reminded me of his promise to heal me before school started. I didn’t believe him at the time. After Dr. J, I had a low opinion of surgeons. They were all hubris. Smart, of course, but oh so wrongheaded.
It felt good to be proven wrong.
I started writing this series more than a year ago. I started it as a way to rationalize, and maybe come to terms with, everything that had happened in what has wound up being a huge chunk of my life.
Neither of those things happened. I have days where I cry, because what happened does not make sense. It doesn’t make sense that three years of my life were wasted when they didn’t have to be. It doesn’t make sense that a doctor or a nurse or whoever else is not willing to take the blame did not notice a piece of foam inside my body. It doesn’t make sense that my surgeon told me there was nothing I could do, only to turn around and tell me what I was doing wrong.
I can only be happy that three years wasn’t four, or five or six. Or that my diseased rectum didn’t turn into cancer, or the piece of foam into sepsis. I can be grateful, but I will never shake my anger.
Earlier this year, I was back at the GI clinic for a routine checkup. I walked down the hall to the waiting room, confusingly placed at the back. I saw Dr. J out of the corner of my eye.
Go up to him.. Say how well you’re doing, no thanks to him.
I kept walking.