It is difficult to imagine a life any quieter than we were leading before the Great Gallbladder Debacle, but since my return home on November 2 - a joyous occasion for me - I have hardly left my immediate neighbourhood. And I am as happy as can be.
One reason for this greatly circumscribed life is self-imposed. No doctor advised me on an appropriate diet for my now extremely sensitive organ, but given how little was consumed to trigger the first very violent attack, I returned home eyeing every morsel of food with suspicion. I restricted myself to foods with zero fat in the first few days, then slowly and nervously introduced exotic foods like oatmeal and soy and flax seed but only in very small amounts. Homemade gelatine and fruit juice desserts became a staple as did soups made with fat-free broth and oodles of vegetables. These very nutritious but calorie-light meals meant I was having to eat every hour in the first week, my body desperately trying to regain the rapidly lost seven pounds. One cannot go very far afield when one must eat so frequently. Nor can one leave home for long when food preparation becomes so labour-intensive. No quick, processed foods for this digestive system.
I ventured out with my friend last Monday morning, resuming our weekly tradition of breakfast out. I threw caution to the wind and indulged in a cup of decaffeinated coffee with partly skimmed milk and a single waffle with no butter, only artificial syrup. I didn't realize how serious my mistake until an hour later when the pain hit with the same force as the day that had sent me to hospital. I spent the rest of the day in excruciating pain, calling around to find someone to sit with Michael so I could once again hitch a ride in an ambulance to the hospital. After calling just about everyone on my help-list (most people aren't home on weekdays - surprise, surprise), I finally nabbed a neighbour in the afternoon, the pain now having reduced me once again to a writhing mess on the kitchen floor. As soon as he saw me in this state he asked if his morphine pills, prescribed for recent surgery, might help? YES. PLEASE. As my surgeon had failed to provide me with a prescription for the only medication that seems to touch this awful pain, I gratefully accepted a pill. Within an hour and a half the pain had disappeared and didn't return. Needless to say, I am now highly motivated to adhere to this strict diet until this offensive little organ can be removed and thrown very far away. I might even ask to be able to stomp on it fiercely first and pulverize the offending stones.
Another reason for my hermit life was the extreme fatigue I felt for the first three weeks home. I sent my daughter home on my fourth day, realizing that surgery was not imminent and I didn't want to squander my very precious help, preferring to call upon my children only when things might get bad again. This meant stepping right back into full Michael-care. Though he fared well through my absence and has done quite well since my return, there have been some significant set-backs. Constipation was a severe problem for two weeks, requiring interventions I haven't had to rely upon for two years since I started the flax seed solution. With the constipation always come heightened anxiety and confusion, therefore many nightly attacks requiring a soothing word and heavy medication. One night he was unable to understand how to feed himself his usual bedtime snack of yogurt so I had to spoon-feed the poor man. These are not extraordinary reactions to stress for him but there were many nights when it felt like more than I could handle in my own fragile state. Consequently during much of my precious respite time with my precious caregiver, I simply climbed the stairs to my bedroom for a much needed and lengthy nap.
A relative enthusiastically commented that at least now I know I can leave Michael and he will be okay. Nothing to worry about. True, and certainly when I have to submit to the knife (January, I'm told) I will not hesitate or worry that the many people required to care for him in my absence will not be able to cope. But the fallout remains a huge problem. While witnessing my most recent brutal attack, he seemed unperturbed, but it was afterward that his psychosis and paranoia kicked in, turning a thirty-six hour recovery for me into a much longer ordeal for him as his demons overwhelmed him as soon as I was better.
On some level I think he understands that I am ill; I don't abandon him intentionally. So while I was gone he was able to hold it together for his substitute caregivers. He even wrapped me in a warm and protective hug on my return home. I choked up and melted into his embrace, momentarily pretending my old husband was back to take care of me. But it didn't last long. The child within returned before nightfall and, like the dogs who took up residence on my bed that evening, Michael didn't want me out of his sight.
I was back on the job. Hey, I'm not complaining.
*Small Island in Saranac Lake, October 2007, Wikipedia user Mwanner