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Emails to my Therapist

The Emotional Jolt of Sudden Change

Dear Nicholas, Compared to a death or winning the lottery, this wasn’t a huge emotional jolt. But still, it felt like the jarring of the spine that happens when you expect there to be one more step down and there isn’t. Instead, foot hits floor sooner and faster than expected.

What Happened

Husband Bob was scheduled to have a bit of surgery Monday, a shoring-up of a wobbly spot in his aorta. Not the monster emergency chest-cracking kind of heart surgery he had three years ago, emotional joltbut not an outpatient experience either.  It was to be several days in the hospital and then staying home from work for two weeks.

He checked in to start surgical prep mid-afternoon Sunday. The necessary testing and checking went on well into the evening and then started up again at 4 a.m. Monday morning.  I was keeping him company on the visiting-loved-one recliner in the corner of his room. Neither of us got much sleep.

Bob and me

At 6:30, he was prepped and ready for the 7 a.m. procedure and I was let in to sit with him in the curtained bay outside the operating room. Then the surgeon arrived. And discovered that an infection in Bob’s left heel hadn’t fully healed. And called off the operation because he didn’t want the added risk of those microbes. We were stunned. The arduous prep, the anticipation were for nothing?

That’s right.

So call and stop my brothers who were en route, despite my protestations, to sit in the waiting room with me, my nearby brother Harry and Franc from three hours away.

It was over. Done for now. Everybody go home.

Bob and I, shocked as we were, could hardly argue against the delay. Safer is better. And this was the same aorta surgeon who saved Bob’s life  against daunting odds December three years ago.emotional jolt

But Bob had already cancelled his psychotherapy patients for the days ahead. I had kept space clear in my schedule to be with him and to work at home. Christmas shopping was done, as if this past Monday was the 25th.

By late afternoon, the hospital paperwork, etc., was put in reverse and he was released. We made a stop at the grocery store and went home for a normal evening.


A Normal Evening?

It wasn’t.

My whole system felt dislocated by the shock.

Bob and I were both exhausted, rattled, and drained.

There seemed to be no remedy but to tolerate the jarred feeling and then get some sleep.

Is a sudden change like this something to expect and always be ready for? I do recall the Girl Scout motto: Be prepared. I’ve always viewed that as making sure to have some cash, some gas, a working flashlight, and a couple of granola bars–not that I have made a habit of that. How is one to prepare for sudden involuntary emotional u-turns, large or small?

I’ve since heard about a woman who had organ transplant surgery called off at the last minute–twice!!–once when she was already in the operating room. The third time the transplant did take place and was a lasting success. Puts our jolt of sudden change in some perspective.

Of course, when it’s a life-changing shock–the sudden death of a loved one, for example–the lingering vibrations can go on forever.

An Uncomfortable Reminder

Anyway, our experience surely is a reminder that things change direction quickly. Maybe the only preparation is to appreciate how things are while they are. And to know that a bad situation may not be permanent, may suddenly change for the better.

Still pondering this.





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  • Kenju
    December 18, 2019 at 8:20 pm Reply

    Oh, I can certainly sympathize, but I know it’s better to be safe than sorry. I hope the foot heals quickly and that the surgery can happen within your time frame.

    Merry Christmas! And a very happy new year to both of you.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 18, 2019 at 8:22 pm Reply

      And to both of you, Kenju!!

  • December 18, 2019 at 11:26 pm Reply

    Psychological whiplash !
    Oh, and I particularly like the 2 protagonists in this piece – they’re so life-like I thought they were real.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 18, 2019 at 11:33 pm Reply

      Yes, psychological whiplash! Well-said.

  • Lee Grohse
    December 20, 2019 at 11:41 am Reply

    Yes, most definitely good that Bob’s surgeon is careful with infection issues! My take on preparing for the unexpected is this: keep your life reasonably in order, know that you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and don’t expend time or energy preparing for unlikely, possilble upsets of well made plans. If you routinely engage in a lot of back up thinking,, the usual outcome is that you will have wasted time and energy on distracting, anxiety producing plans for things that don’t happen. So instead just trust that you have the skills, strength, and resilience to make a plan to handle whatever unexpected happens at the time it happens. I doubt that you would have avoided feeling unsettled by having had a specific plan for Monday’s cancellation. And after a good night’s sleep and some reshuffling of schedules, all in the next few weeks is likely to go just fine. Time to bake Christmas cookies, doze in front of the fire, walk Carlo, braid each other’s hair, or whatever it is folks do the week before Christmas! If you are a meaining-assigning type, you can take it to mean that the universe is saying you need some serious koselig time ( Have a Merry Christmas!

    • Peggy Payne
      December 20, 2019 at 4:25 pm Reply

      Excellent insight and encouragement, Lee, as always. Koselig is a great idea. I like windswept rocky outcrops and winter travel on the ocean because they offer such good places to read. Stone-cottage-on-the-coast is such an appealing fantasy.

    • December 21, 2019 at 12:28 am Reply

      Right-On wisdom, Lee – my mobility’s quite linited by this foot thing. which I hope finally gets fixed in time to enjoy my free time ibefore back to work briefly Jan 2, ‘cz I’m rerscheduled for operation – not convenient for seeing clients, but I’m glad not to be dead or suffering post op infection.

  • Jim Maney
    December 25, 2019 at 1:18 pm Reply

    All that adrenaline with no place to go.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 26, 2019 at 2:51 am Reply

      Exactly, Jim, and it felt so weird and anticlimactic. Maybe that’s what anticlimactic means: a lot of adrenaline with no place to go.

  • […] — Okay, I’m a little depressed over Husband Bob’s ongoing health misadventures. Even though I know he’s not in mortal danger, any more than we all are, I still find myself […]

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