How the Past Two Years Have Prepared Me to More Calmly Cope With COVAD-19 (Part I)

(The short version…our life’s been like this for us for over two years – falling headlong from one frightening personal disaster to the next.) 

This is the first installment of several chronicling the most difficult two years of our life. (Read all posts in this series.) The purpose is not to whine about our misfortune but rather to offer some perspective and hope to those to whom life-changing, Earth-shattering events haven’t installed themselves (seemingly permanently) into their everyday existence. We were once rookies to the stress. Now, it’s, sadly, we’re old pros at handling disappointment and uncertainty.

Strike 1

Allow me to turn back the calendar to November 29, 2017, a Thursday night. It was a couple hours after we’d eaten a lovely dinner at home and were about to start some TV time. My husband Scott’s stomach began to hurt. Within a few minutes, he said he was going to go to bed early, hoping that lying down would make him feel better. When I joined him in bed an hour or so later, he was freezing and the pain was still acute. I took his temperature and he did indeed have a fever of over 100 degrees. I continued covering him with blanket after blanket, taking his temperature every hour or so; it continued to rise, spiking to an alarming 102.5 degrees. Soon afterward, the ibuprofen I’d given him started bringing his fever down, the pain subsided a bit and he slept. We were both relieved and thought it – whatever it  was – was over. But we were wrong.

The following morning, Scott got out of bed and immediately doubled over in pain and went down in a heap onto the floor in the hallway. That’s when I called his doctor’s office and spoke with the nurse. She advised me that it was serious and that we needed to get him to the emergency room. I’m convinced that conversation ultimately saved Scott’s life. 

I drove him to the hospital where we waited several hours in the waiting room, and another in the examination room before he was seen by a doctor. CT scans were taken, then more hours passed waiting for the results. At last  a diagnosis: perforated diverticulitis. Well, that’s a big fat medical term. Ready for a mini medical lesson? Here’s what I learned that very day: Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system. Occasionally, one or more of these pouches become inflamed or infected, causing precisely the symptoms he was displaying.

Dubbed “Paul” the IV pole. Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Since there was a possibility that his bowel could actually burst from this (in which there would be an operation) he had to be transferred to another facility because the one we were at only performed cardiac surgeries. In order to ensure he healed rather than burst, they set about shutting down his intestines, meaning no food or water for several days. He was hooked up to an IV which administered antibiotics, Ringer’s lactate (think intravenous Gatorade) and morphine to quell his pain. Not only did his bowel go to sleep, but he did too – a lot! This course of treatment was to give his body the opportunity to heal, and if it did, no surgery would be necessary. That’s exactly what did happen; he healed, tolerated liquids, then soft foods, then finally solid foods. It took four days in the hospital, with me by his side for many hours of them, but we got through this without surgery – and for that we were incredibly grateful.

Not that anyone could ever be prepared for this kind of thing, but we were completely blindsided. We’re a couple who works from home, are accustomed to (and enjoy) plenty of together time and are, at heart, the ultimate homebodies. We were both healthy and feeling in our primes. Prior to this ordeal, Scott had spent only one night of our 25+ year marriage in the hospital, decades earlier. He’d been on only a handful of short business trips away from home. So the not being together was rough in and of itself. Pair that with the unprecedented concern for his health and this was an emotional baptism in fire. 

That day, our life went from routine and predictable to uncertain in the snap of a finger. Does it remind you of what we are  currently experiencing in the world? Our collective sense of normalcy is evaporating before our very eyes as we self-isolate and lockdown to help curb the spread of COVAD-19. I am reminded these days of the deep loss of control we experienced. Poof! Gone! Like a rug pulled out from under any sense of security we had.

If, on November 28th, you’d asked us if we could bear something like this, we’d have insisted that we could not. Too scary. Too stressful. Too far out of our range. But what we ended up learning was that despite this being scary, stressful and out of our range, we rose to the occasion and, despite our anxiety, it did not break us. Not only did we meet the challenges, but I dare say we learned some important things about our mettle. We’re stronger than we thought, more resilient than we thought and we have deeper wells of resourcefulness than we ever could have imagined. We gained a perspective to whom only those who’ve gone through such a trial gain access. It’s a unique type of self-confidence; that we now know more about what we can physically and emotionally withstand. An unexpected silver lining, to be sure. A gift from life itself? We knew not where this set of circumstances would play into the game we’d unknowingly begun to play.

The view out Scott’s hospital room window one day at sunset. It gave me hope that there is beauty even as day changes to night.

As I mentioned in my preface, this is first in a series of pieces about life as we’ve lived it lo these past two years plus change. I hope that, combined, they tell a story of how, first and foremost, adversity sucks. It drags you down into the depths of your being; makes you assess your priorities, question your ability to cope and lays bare your vulnerability. Beyond that, I hope they tell the story that through the adversity – and on the other side of it – you discover a myriad of revelations, truths and perspectives you can only imagine. If we didn’t learn this fully yet, we would certainly have more opportunities coming in the nearer-than-we-could-believe future.

Stay tuned for Parts 2, 3, 4…

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1 Response to How the Past Two Years Have Prepared Me to More Calmly Cope With COVAD-19 (Part I)

  1. kellypea says:

    I completely relate to this and will always remember that I was in the hospital unexpectedly when he was. But it does change us. We are able to do more that we might expect, and yes, that relates very closely to what is happening to us all. As for this: “where we waited several hours in the waiting room…” totally inexcusable. To be in that much pain for that long and not know what is happening. It’s awful.

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