Friday, December 08, 2006

Flashback Friday: In Sickness and In Health

Each week the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments.

Just over a year ago, in late September when I was 5ish months pregnant (I could never really translate weeks into months), Sugar Daddy got hit by a car while riding his bike to work. Luckily, despite his lack of a helmet (never again!), he emerged from the crash unscathed. Until he kicked the car in a rage.

I can understand this rage. I once got hit by a car while I was walking. He was turning right on a red, looking down the street at the traffic coming up to the light, and I was crossing with the walk signal. He was inching forward but I kept walking, figuring he was gonna stop. I remember being confused that he wasn't stopping, and next thing I know I was on top of his hood. He finally stopped, and I got off the hood and started screaming obscenities at him. It felt like he had deliberately tried to hurt me, like it was personal.

"You fucking asshole!!!" I screamed.

"I'm so sorry... I didn't see you," he apologized.

"I should hope fucking not you didn't see me!!!" I kept screaming.

"Can I drive you to the hospital or something?" he asked.

"No! You fucking well can't!"

And I walked away. As I walked I started to sob and sob and only just stopped when I got to my destination. But I broke down again as soon as I saw another person and sobbed for another 15 minutes before I could calm down enough to get on with my day. And I was fine. My knee was a bit bruised but I was fine.

So I can understand Sugar Daddy's rage that day. And apparently he kicked the car very hard.

I didn't find out about the accident until the end of the day (I don't know why he didn't phone me), when I called him to see how his day was going and when he'd be home. He mention casually that he'd been hit by a car that morning, but he was fine. His toe hurt a bit though. I told him he wasn't riding home, so I picked him up in the car.

His toe got more and more sore that night so the next day we went to the doctor. He got x-rays and his big toe was broken in three places. But they can't do anything for broken big toes so they just gave him some tylenol-1s. Over the next day or so his toe just kept getting more and more swollen and more and more painful. Eventually Sugar Daddy couldn't sleep, couldn't sit in a chair or on the couch, couldn't crawl, couldn't walk, couldn't stand... couldn't really do anything but lie on the floor and moan like a wild animal.

We made several trips to emerge and our family doctor and every doctor had a different answer. It's gout. It's not gout. It's an infection, here are some antibiotics (that's when he developed a rash and started puking) and some Tylenol-4s (I didn't even know those existed!). But the Tylenol-4s didn't do anything except make him forget how many he'd taken so I had to confiscate the bottle and count the pills left.

I'd gone to work after that last trip to the doctor, thinking he'd be ok once he got the stronger pain meds. But he phoned me to say he'd thrown up and felt awful and the Tylenol-4s weren't working. I'd had Tylenol-3s before, which were awesome as far as I was concerned and couldn't understand how they weren't working. He mentioned that he'd taken a bunch and they still weren't working.

I panicked at this, worried about an overdose, and came home right away. But when I got home and saw him lying on the living room floor, moaning and sweating, and slightly fuzzy-headed from the pain meds, I freaked out. I ran upstairs to our bedroom, shut the door, and phoned my mom.

I felt trapped and panicky. I didn't know that wild animal in the living room and I wanted to run away. I felt like that horse in International Velvet that freaks out on the plane and has to get shot, except there was no one to put me out of my misery. I thought about our marriage vows and how it'd only been a year and here I was already wanting out. But surely there must be some kind of clause if your spouse becomes a wild animal who can't even keep track of how many pills he'd taken. I thought about the evening and night stretching endlessly ahead and wondered how I would get through it, sharing our too-small house with this feral creature. I didn't think there was any way I could get through it by myself.

Somehow, my mom calmed me down, and started making phone calls to telehealth and pharmacies to find out if Sugar Daddy was at risk of dying from that many pills. Somehow we got through the night, I went to bed and left him with strict instructions and a budget of pills, hiding the bottle in the bedside table. I don't think SD slept. I don't think he slept really at all for several days, which didn't do anything for the wild animal effect.

The next day, my mom came down and the three of us went to the family doctor. (Warning: Graphic photo coming up). This is what his foot and toe looked like by then. The swelling went all the way up to his ankle.

Finally the family doctor decided she didn't like the look of his foot (no shit Sherlock!) and referred him to an orthopedic surgeon. When he saw the surgeon, he just said, "Oh, we'll just take the toenail off and that should relieve the swelling. So he did, which SD said was an excruciating procedure but the relief was almost immediate.

And then SD turned back into his regular self, the man I married. Wounded, on crutches, and in need of help, but the man I'd known and loved for six years. Now he could stand upright with the help of his crutches, and sit in a chair, and sleep, even in our bed. I feel bad about the panic I felt, because as awful as it was for me to watch him morph into a wild animal I was afraid to go near, it was much much worse for him. Sometimes we joked afterwards that maybe that's what labour would be like, but with the shoe on the other foot (no pun intended).

And I think maybe I was also a bit like a wild animal when I was in labour. I remember moaning a lot, and it helped somehow. And I remember not really paying attention to much going on around me, except to be annoyed if people started talking during a contraction. And then being more annoyed when I told them I was having a contraction, to have them say, "What? What are you saying?" My mom said I was mumbling. Before the birth, I decided that I would just need to remind myself that every contraction brought my closer to the baby. But in the moment, I'm ashamed to say I stopped really caring about the baby. It could have been a defensive measure because he was in distress from the very beginning and I didn't know if we'd ever get to actually meet him, so maybe I was just trying to distance myself. Or maybe not.

Both those experiences taught me a lot about myself, and how I'm really not particularly self-sufficient. I need people around me, and even at nearly 30, I still call my mom when I'm scared, or in pain.


Mad Hatter said...

First off, "Ewwwwww." My husband runs marathons and loses a toe nail with each one but nothing so grim as this.

As for the heart of your post, I am planning to write a post about my Mom before too long (once I get over the heartbreak of writing this week's posts). For the longest time after she died, I would spontaneously cry in any otherwise-manageable situation b/c I knew that I could no longer run to her for help or for a hug. And it had been years since I had needed to do either. Thanks for the heart of this piece.

Oh and thanks for all the other stuff re activism.

Beck said...

Gross! Your poor husband!
When I was sick last March, I NEEDED my mom to get back - I was surrounded by people who loved me, but my mom had to rush home from a trip to be with me. Once she was there, I knew I was going to be okay. Because I'm goofy.
And I rely upon my husband to be well and healthy. When he's not, I feel personally betrayed. The poor, poor man.

penelopeto said...

seriously gross, but good story.

i often wondered, even after much discussion about it, how chris really felt watching me in labour (no drugs, so he got the full effect), seeing me in pain. i guess it's a bit like what you went through with your hub. but, without the drugs.

sunshine scribe said...

Gross gross gross.

But I still loved this story.

I love all your feminist flashbacks!

cinnamon gurl said...

"And I rely upon my husband to be well and healthy. When he's not, I feel personally betrayed. The poor, poor man."

Beck, that is exactly it. When the huz is sick I get a horrible knot in my gut. This was just way worse, because we didn't know when/if it would end.

I think the one major difference between the toe thing and labour is that someone knows labour will end eventually, and you will likely have a baby. And for me, there were so many other people around: two midwives, doula, my mom, SD, doctors and nurses. We didn't know what was happening with the toe, when it would end, and we were all alone. Doctors just kept sending us home. And there was really no point to all the pain.

Also, I forgot to mention in the post that for the first few days I thought SD was just being a big baby. I was like, it's your toe, buck up! But when he stopped sleeping or sitting, I got very concerned.

When I mentioned I'd blogged about him he said, "did you show pictures?" I said yes, thinking he'd be embarrassed but he said, good so they won't think I was being a wimp.

Mimi said...

Well, the pictures sure were gross ;-)

Like you, I call my mom when things go hideously awry--I feel sometimes like I'm still not old enough to do it on my own. Ridiculous. I'm 33. And, too, when The Husband is sick or out of commission, I take it personally. Some nurturer I am.

Great story--but I hope the car was just as damaged as the toe :-)

Em said...

I did something similar to a finger once. The pain was incredible - I couldn't go to school I was in so much pain. I wanted to have my finger cut off. It is amazing that so much pain can come from one digit. My doctor stuck a pin through the nail to relieve the pressure... and gradually things improved.