Thursday, December 06, 2007

TEN THOUGHTS FROM THE HOSPITAL


The Garden of Shimmering Peace, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

1. THE RELEASE FORM

As I went through a series of tests after my diagnosis, I promised myself I would not fear surgery. Surgery meant bright yellow, high flying hope. "No surgery" on the other hand (at least, in my case) meant "no point." And truthfully, I didn't fear the operation. Though I was given valium and told that no one sleeps the night before surgery, this lifelong insomniac slept deeply and well. I rode to the hospital in a state of calm anticipation

In pre-op, I was prayed over by the chaplain; and when Ted came in to say goodbye to me, there was something I can't describe-- a depth in his eyes--that I'd never seen before in twenty-six years. Something had changed between us because of this crisis; something had grown.

But it wasn't until my bed had been parked outside the OR and someone realized I hadn't signed a release form that I really contemplated what was about to happen to me--and my own vulnerability before it. As the anesthesiologist read the lists of risks--beginning with a dislodged cap in a tooth when the breathing tube was inserted and culminating in death, I hesitated, pen in hand.

"Well, are you going to sign?" the anesthesiologist asked.

"I'm thinking about it," I said. Then we both laughed. As if I had an option...

But the truth was I really did think about the possibility that when I went under, I would never wake up. It may have been remote: I was relatively fit, the hospital was world class, and I had full confidence in my surgeon. Still, it was there.

And in that moment of hesitation, I decided that if it happened, I was ready. I don't mean that in a negative, defeatist way. No, I desperately wished for more days and minutes and years--and what's more, I believed I would have them. But if I were to die that day, I was prepared. What that meant for me was quite simple: I was at peace with everyone in my life (not always possible, I know, and not always true for me.) In the previous week I had given my "I love you" to everyone in my world freely and often. I'd also spent a lot of time in contemplation.

The moment of hesitation passed. I signed my name. Then the door to the operating room swung open and I encountered the huge probing lights, the sterile atmosphere, the masked surgical team. It might have been the last thing I remembered, but it wasn't...

And yet, my moment spent contemplating the risks of surgery remained with me. I wonder: if each of us had to sign a release form every day before we left the house, enumerating the dangers we might encounter, beginning with missed opportuntunities to love, extend kindness, smile at a stranger, or pursue our goals, and ending with death--all very real possibilities we face every day, would we be ready? Would we change the way we lived?

47 comments:

robin andrea said...

I have been thinking of you everyday. I wish I could reach across the country and hug you three thousand miles. Sending love and healing thoughts you way, Patry.

Anonymous said...

Patry, I'm so glad you've come home. You're constantly in my thoughts - I hope you're feeling well.

xox
Tish

Olivia said...

Blessings and good energies sent your way, Thoughts of peace, Olivia

Marja-Leena said...

Thinking of you, hope you are healing and feeling better.

elsie said...

Thinking good thoughts for you - hope you're doing well.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Patry, I'm sending you lots of love and warm light and music and sweet scents.

Lisa said...

Every day since your last post, I've been thinking of you. Yes, I think if we all had that release form to face every day, all of our lives would be different, richer, simpler. There was a time when my father was terminally ill and the world shrank to a small circle of people and a short list of things that mattered. Ever since that day three years ago, I try to force myself to return to that place and remember that the only things that really mattered then are still the only things that really matter. Your ability to turn all things into a gift and a lesson fills me with hope. Love from Denver.

Patry Francis said...

All hugs are reciprocated, every good thought returned with a double shot of bliss. Thanks for checking in on me.

Maryanne Stahl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maryanne Stahl said...

I have been checking here for news of you. (thanks for ted for the report)

Your words are so beautiful. When we should be giving comfort to you--offering strength, hope, blessings--instead you give so much to us, your readers.

yes, it would make a difference if we mentally "signed a release" each day. it should. we should.

I too face surgery in the near future. Not for cancer, just a routine gallbladder operation, but reading your words about the risks of anesthesia, etc., felt as though they were meant for me. thank you. white light to you.

leslee said...

So good to see you here, Patry! Well enough to blog, yippee! And a thoughtful post, too. As I would expect. Wishing you continued healing and blessings.

zhoen said...

I am ready. Yes. But only because I faced a similar moment.

Therese said...

Beautifully said.

I've not had to face my own mortality quite so directly, but I did watch my mother and my father-in-law as they approached their own.

So few people live with consciousness and intent; your experience is a sobering but inspiring reminder to do so.

Dale said...

The most valuable meditation I ever did, maybe, was a daily visualization, a walk-through of my death. It had the curious side-effect of cheering me up.

Hugs, Patry. I've been thinking of you.

Kerstin said...

Patry, you really are an amazing woman. I, too, have been thinking about you and wondering how the surgery last week went. So I was glad to see another post today :)

Apart from the beautiful wisdom and strength of your words I was touched by something else; somehow you have put into words the reason why I fear dying so much: I don't feel ready and I am scared that I never will be. I have never known this so clearly until I read your words today. I am not sure what it would take for me to feel prepared, but you have just given me the gift of courage to explore this direction, rather than keep on ignoring it.

I am really glad that the surgery went well and wish you all the best from my heart for the road ahead.

Warmly,
Kerstin

steve said...

Patry,

Like everyone else who's posted here, I've been thinking about you a lot. And Ted, we all really appreciate your updates. We know something about you from Patry's blog, but your goodness and your love for your wife has come through shiningly.

I wonder, though, about having to sign a release form every day. Some of us might opt to stay in bed. And for the rest of us, the signature would eventually become routine. So I'm glad we don't have to sign a release form every day.

But I'm very happy you're home and on the mend.

Marilyn said...

Patry, leave it to you to emerge from what you've just been through to cut right to the heart of the matter with such grace and beauty. So happy to 'hear your voice' here. Thinking about you and wishing you the best in the coming days. Love to you.

deirdre said...

I'm so glad to hear all went well.

Again your words make me sit back and think about what's really important.

Mardougrrl said...

I have been thinking about you, Patry, and praying for your recovery. As far as your question...no, I won't be at peace until I write a novel. Then I will be free.

Take care and I am sending prayers and good thoughts your way, Monica xoxo

rdl said...

You are a marvel!!! love you more than words can say!!

Sky said...

so glad to see you here! yes, if we had to sign that darn release form every day, i am sure we would all live differently! i hate that release form and especially detest it when my doc mentions "life event" in the same sentence with anesthesia.

if you need my hubs to talk to ted about the computer issue, holler. he might not be able to help, but he will be glad to try. :-)

we think of you each day and package up those positively powerful wishes and send them into the universe with your name on them! bet you can already feel them. x0x0

Tinker said...

Patry, I always love how you make me think more with your words, but most of all right now - I love that you're back here sharing them with us. Wishing you heaping armloads of bliss. Love and ((hugs)). Welcome back, my friend.

Stacie said...

Beautiful, and very insightful.

Perfect Virgo said...

Welcome home Patry. I admire immensely your dignity and courage. These and the positive support of all around you will work wonders. Love and warm wishes - Paul.

rbarenblat said...

What a beautiful and powerful post, inspiring and moving. Thinking of you and wishing you health and healing.

Robin said...

Wonderful point, Patry, and so true. I'm relieved and thrilled to see you well enough to post.
xoxo,
Robin

robin andrea said...

When I first commented here yesterday, there were no words, just the photo of trees. I'm so glad I came back to find this post. It is an interesting thing, this word "release." Not only do you release the hospital and the surgical team, but you convey the deepest sense of releasing yourself to what comes next. You made me think of Dylan's lyrics:
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

Anonymous said...

patry, a beautiful post and something all of us need to be reminded of daily. thank for your gifts of wisdom; i am hoping and praying that your recovery is a speedy one...
lots of love, ruby.

Laura said...

Luminous, Patry. I'm so glad you're up to writing. (Even, especially because you've got me all teary now thinking about blessings and choices. Thank you for that.) Hugs--Laura

Fred Garber said...

Glad to see you back posting. Interesting question about the release form. After signing it a few mornings and then going out I would tire of the process. I think that I would put some pillows under my blankets to fake my continued presence in bed. I would then sneak out the back door and have some espresso with the guys.

Jessica said...

Beautifully written! Thank you for making me think.

The Curmudgeon said...

I couldn't think of a thing to say on the last post, probably because I came on it so long after it went up and so many had said anything I could say, only better.

But it's funny, when I went under the knife in February, there wasn't a moment's hesitation. In my case, as you said in yours, there really was no choice: Do it or get my affairs in order struck me as a poor choice.

What I remember thinking is 'why are we waiting so long'? Why does everyone feel the need to ask me about it? (And they kept asking me my name, too, which began to aggravate me: You'd think they'd know... and, besides, the time I might have problems with that question would be after the surgery....)

I didn't know half -- I didn't know a quarter -- of what I'd go through after. And I was lucky! No chemo, no radiation. But it wouldn't have made any difference.

I never fretted that I might not wake up; while something terrible can happen during the most routine operation, the chances were so remote, I figured, that it never weighed on me. I just wanted to get this over with already....

The other thing I remember so clearly is how many people said they'd be in there -- including a medical student who asked if it'd be OK for her to watch -- and I remember hoping the room would be big enough for all this....

Glad you're on the mend.

chris W. said...

Hi Patry-
missed you the past couple weeks on Gather, so I visited here. I am sorry about your health challenge and wishing you all the best for a speedy recovery. You seem such a wise and observant person in "ten thoughts", but we knew that already.
By the way your post on the likelihood of a recession keeps looking better. You can write a novel and be an economics maven too, wow!

Annie Coe said...

Hi,Patry, Annie Coe here again.
As ever your words are positive
and full of strength. They always
make me think and feel. I KNOW
you are on your way to perfect
health. Sending much love and many
hugs. Blessings, Annie Coe

floots said...

so good to hear from you
and read your words
i identify exactly with what you say
i remember watching the lights as i was wheeled along endless corridors - but i'm still here :)
best wishes

pohanginapete said...

I hope I don't have to face what you've had to, Patry, but if I do, I hope I can face it with the grace you've shown.

I was lucky to spend most of last week looking for (and finding) whio (blue ducks) in the New Zealand mountains. I thought of you and understood even more how each moment is precious to me; how I wished I could share with you some of the magic of where I was.

(No, I wouldn't change the way I live. I'm already as lucky as anyone could reasonably hope for. I wish the same for you and Ted.)

Patry Francis said...

I really wish I could engage in a dialogue with each of you, but my after posting, my energy is pretty much shot.

However, a couple of these comments really seem to need a response.

dale:Interesting that you compared it to a meditation on your own death, which I suppose it was.

Kerstin: NO ONE has feared death more than I have. Because of my fear, I've often avoided doctors and put off lots of important tests and screenings. But what I've learned from this experience is that we're stronger than we think we are, that when the time comes, we can face whatever we have to face.

Steve: I'm afraid you're probably right. IF we had to sign a release form every day, it would become just another mindless routine. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to remain permanently and fully AWAKE while the drone of every day life goes on around us.

mardougrrl: I would have given the same answer two or three years ago!

curmudgeon: Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your own surgery here. I remember reading your posts and admiring the pragmatic "let's do it" attitude you always seemed to convey. You were a great role model!

Larramie said...

How good does it feel to sleep in your own bed again, Patry? ;) Rest, grow strong and think bliss.

KG said...

Patry -- Thank you for these updates. I see that you are writing your way through this journey. Keep writing, keep healing. And I'm still sending you constant positive vibes!

bella said...

Oh how it would change the way we lived.
You have inspired me to make my own "release form" to sign in the morning, every day.
I'm so relieved to hear the surgery went well and you are here, writing and offering us such wisdom.
May you heal quickly and be well.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

What an amazing perspective--and what a gift to have felt you were at peace with all in your life.

Thank you for sharing this journey so honestly with all of us.

colleen said...

I first started glancing and thought someone in your family was ill, and then as I pieced together more I was hoping you were writing fiction because it all sounds so unbelievable to me. Then I started from the bottom and am working my way up.

Release form. Even the name says something deeper than what is thought on the surface.

Beryl Singleton said...

You have reminded us Patry of the gift of life we take for granted every day . . . when we are all just a footstep away from death. Remembering puts gratitude for small moments to the fore and presses the molehills back where they belong.

Lickety Split said...

they say that everything happens for a reason (or from your previous blog -- adversity is your ally). I wish the best for your recovery. And also that you turn this experience, all of the feelings and revelations, into some wonderful writing. Death really is near us at all times, and for those who realize it, not in a morbid way, but use it as something to keep our appreciation sharp, it makes life all the more sweet.

KATE EVANS said...

I love the idea of the "release" in release form. Release, breathe, be in the moment. Total control is an illusion.

Thank you for reaching out to share your thoughts in the midst of a difficult time.

LitPark said...

Patry, what can I say? You are just a lovely human being.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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