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Archive for June 25th, 2008

I’m writing this as our oldest daughter recuperates from yesterday’s emergency eye surgery for a detaching retina. She had been experiencing some flashing in her right eye, had seen our regular optometrist last Thursday, and was referred to a specialist, who initially found her retina intact. The flashing was believed at the time to most likely be opthalmic migraine aura, but it worsened over the weekend. On Monday, even though a retinal tear still couldn’t be found, she had developed blurred peripheral vision. Upon a closer look, fluid was detected to indicate the presence of a minute tear and the specialist determined that scleral buckling surgery was needed the following day.

So, yesterday after a family Skype conversation with Zoe, Joel and Blake — the rest of us went to the hospital. After about five hours in hospital waiting rooms, we talked to the doctor who was quite upbeat following her approximately two-hour-long surgery, and then joined Jenna in her recovery room expecting her to be discharged by 11:00 pm. Her vitals were good, she was groggy, but very thirsty and hungry. We gave her a cookie and filled her full of over 40 oz. of juice and water, but after a day of fasting she still wasn’t hydrated enough by midnight to prove she was well enough to leave. When she finally provided a specimen, they put her in a wheelchair that induced motion sickness by the time we got to the elevator. It was then back to the room until the feeling subsided, at which time, she opted to walk instead of ride. By the time we finally arrived home, it was about 1:40 am.

It was a crazy day. For about the first hour and a half while Jenna was waiting to be checked in and was still with us, we had some strange experiences with random people approaching us to comment about how unusual (in a good way) and refreshing it was to see how we acted together and how apparently close we were as a family.

Within thirty minutes of our arrival, a woman approached and directed her first interruption to Ali…

“Excuse me. I know this seems odd, but how old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

Looking at Jenna, she asked the same question.

“Twenty.”

“You see, I’m asking because my daughter is nineteen and here today having surgery. I’ve noticed how supportive and close you all are… ” She rambled for a while about how it was also nice that Jenna allowed me to snuggle close with her and finally said she just wanted to tell us to never lose that. “You’re so lucky. Hold onto it. My daughter didn’t want me with her. She wanted to do it all alone and I’m rather sad today.”

We thanked her, wished her daughter a speedy recovery, etc., but didn’t really know what else to say. I suppose what she really needed was a hug, but I remained hugging Jenna instead. She returned several times to ask how to use her daughter’s cell phone and made further comments. Meanwhile, a woman wheeled in her mumbling, elderly husband who had just been released and was apparently still somewhat under the influence of anesthesia. She parked his wheelchair facing away from her and positioned him about a foot directly in front of Ali, to whom he continued to speak incoherently.

We were called to the check-in desk to fill out paperwork and so instead of returning to our previous seats, we found a new corner of the waiting room. There sat a woman, probably in her early thirties, who just beamed at Jenna as we approached, and with childlike enthusiasm exclaimed, “I know you! I’ve seen you here before!”

We all smiled in return and Jenna politely told her it was her first visit there and that she probably had her confused her with someone else. She too went on to comment about how great it was we were there together as a family… we looked like such a nice family, etc. Shortly after that, they took Jenna back to change into a surgical gown and to start prepping her.

We were left in the waiting room with the sweetly smiling woman whom we soon recognized as delusional — but harmless — when she again brightened with a childlike grin and said, “I’m an inventor. I’m waiting on the government to pay me a million dollars for a new solar energy invention. I have lots of inventions. Have you heard of steam engine trains? You know they used to help provide rain and as soon as they stopped using them, we had a drought. I have an alternative for fuel that will also help prevent all this flooding. One government agency I contacted said they weren’t interested because it was too cost prohibitive, so I’m going to contact the President about it,” then chuckling added, “but I have to hurry before he goes out of office!” We listened politely, nodded confirmation (“Oh, really? Good luck, keep at it,” etc.) and acknowledged her stories until she finally said that she had to catch a bus.

The whole conversation was probably no more than fifteen minutes, but during that time she said she was at the hospital a lot, really liked it there (it was so clean and friendly), and that she’d just moved back after staying with her mother in Balch Springs while the wiring in her own apartment was being fixed. We asked where Balch Springs was and she told us how to get there. She talked about missing her church while she was gone and asked if we knew where it was. She was obviously somewhat knowledgeable about some current issues even though her invention claims seemed a bit bizarre — and yet she clearly sought positive attention and approval with the innocence of a child. We wished her luck with her inventions as she departed.

The three of us exchanged glances, then noted how weird it seemed that no one else was being approached by anyone there like we were. It was just so odd. We were all a bit puzzled as to why it was so unusual to others for a family to be there in support of one another because it’s very usual for us. Ali said, “Don’t other families do this?” Jenna had even commented earlier that when asked who would be waiting for her during surgery, she had replied, “My parents,” to which they asked, “which one?”

“My Parents. Both of them… and maybe my sister.”

“ALL of them?”

“Yes.”

After they prepped Jenna for surgery and finally let us in to see her, she was back there cracking jokes with staff and laughing as she pointed out to us the word “yes” that had been written in marker above her right eye. I had been expecting her to be freaking out in some panic attack by that point… they hadn’t even given her the drugs yet! 😛 I was so proud of her. It was a scary situation, but she handled it incredibly well. I think we all did. After some initial pain this morning, she’s been handling it well and in fairly good humor today, too.

The random approaches and comments from strangers, the unexpected moments of humor during stress, the way the anesthesiologist had even twice commented about how she felt a special connection to Jenna, the demeanor of the doctor and the staff, a few frustrations… all of it… just left me feeling like we’d all been cast in an episode of Scrubs.

Oh, and also worth noting, I’m posting this from my husband’s computer. Although my computer was still working properly following yesterday’s Skype conversation, when I opened it to email Jens about Jenna’s condition at about 2 am, it seemed to have hibernated with no way to stop it other than rebooting. Familiar sounds indicated it was rebooting successfully, but the screen remained completely black.

Crap.

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