Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Week 6, Vacation

I called the unit in the morning, during the drive to our camping site. "He went down to the OR at 0800," said the charge nurse. "Victor* is his nurse today. Want me to have him call you when Tiberius gets back?"

"Yeah," I said. My phone had two bars of service, and I knew by the time we reached our campsite, my phone would be an expensive paperweight.

I called again two hours later, as we reached the area of no service. I could barely understand Victor. "He's still in surgery," he said. "They got the full open-heart scrub team. They expect it to run four to six hours."

It was, by the way, totally illegal for him to tell me even this much over the phone. I am grateful that Victor is a bit of a cowboy, because I was so stressed out over Tiberius I was having heartburn.

The lake, when we reached it, was beautiful. It's a deep glacier gouge between old mountains, blue and green with dissolved calcium, clear down to the bottom, with milky mists rolling over it in the morning and evening. Ducklings paddled at our shoreline campsite. Smoke from the campfire drifted through the old-growth trees; I sat in a hammock, holding a book, breathing the scents of peaty moss in the sun and mineral water lapping against the trees, listening to a two-year-old chatter about rocks over the soft unlikely moan of wind in the highest branches of the forest.

"I'm going to drive back to Port Angeles," I said suddenly. "I'm gonna get more firewood, and some ice, and a salmon to roast over the fire."

"I thought we were having chopped vegetables and sausage," said my husband, who was burning his fifth marshmallow already, because he likes his smores carcinogenic and only camps so he can stick food in a fire without getting weird loos.

"I changed my mind," I said, and put on my shoes and hiked back to the car.

In Port Angeles I picked up the aforementioned goods (and a bottle of wine and some extra baby wipes and a bag of chips), but before I even reached the town I was checking my phone every five minutes to see if service had returned. At last I got my two bars back, and called the ICU.

"He's still in OR," said Victor. It had been seven hours. "I'll text you when I get elevator call, okay?"

I ate the chips in the car, parked outside the grocery store, waiting. Thirty-five minutes later I jerked awake to the buzz of my phone.

Four texts in quick succession, apparently sent at different times, just now squeezing through the terrible cell coverage:

He's closed

Elevator call

Landed- BP good + sats 95

Looks like shit but stable + bronch fixed + thorx closed

I responded: Thanks man, keep em alive. Then I drove back to the campsite through the growing dusk and crawled back into my hammock, where I lay ignoring my book and staring at the lake until my brain finally remembered to be somewhere else than work.


It was a good camping trip. I forgot to worry for a while.


On the way home, passing through Port Angeles, I called the unit again. It was Monday morning, eightish, and I was ashamed of myself for not remembering until after I'd had breakfast. "Can I talk to Tiberius's nurse," I asked the secretary, and she made a sound of regret.

"I'm sorry," she replied. "He had another STEMI last night. They withdrew this morning. He died about an hour ago."

"Oh," I said. "Okay. Thank you."

It was a long drive home.


  1. Yeah, I'm really glad I was able to give him as much as I could. I would have felt even worse if I'd cut corners or let any tiny thing slide. And, honestly, I knew going in that he probably wasn't gonna make it... but it still stings. :/