No matter how you phrase it, heart surgery sounds big. Especially heart surgery, where they replace two valves and part of your aorta. Well, that sounds really big, and in reality, it is. There is no sugarcoating an operation of this magnitude.
I find it difficult to confront what I feel.
My dad went in for heart surgery Tuesday morning, and I visited him at the hospital for the first time yesterday. The surgery went well. He looks good, but I can tell my dad is nervous about being in the hospital, and he can probably tell I am too. Hospitals universally freak me out. My hospital experience has, for the most part, been both ok to terrible.
When my 3-year-old Daughter D’s ongoing school cough turns out to be RSV, she is hospitalized with a blood oxygen level of 87%. A two-day stay and a $7,000 bill with insurance later, she is fine—but the worst three days of my life.
My Mother has multiple UTIs that land her in the hospital. During COVID is the worst of these as she is unable to advocate for herself, and we cannot visit her. But she pulls through mainly because my sister persists in asking essential questions.
Those experiences all come flooding back when I go into a hospital. The feeling of helplessness. The confusion. The endless beeps and clanging alarms of machines. I want to scream at whoever will listen, “Is this normal?! Why is it making that sound? Surely, something is wrong?!”
Like I am the only one who can see the one thing every doctor/nurse/specialist has missed. Like I’m House in an episode of House. But it isn’t like an episode of House. It’s a hospital with trained staff who most likely aren’t concerned with whatever it is.
It’s (probably) not important.
But it is difficult to stop the compulsion to ensure everything is working correctly. To fight off the nagging fear of every other time I’ve been in the hospital that something is or will go wrong. To have some control.
It is the same reason Julia and I decided not to give birth in a hospital. We both felt that pregnancy should not be treated like an illness or operation. We wanted our birth experience to be away from that clinical world and return it to our home and family, away from the machines, doctors, and scalpels. Luckily we had a situation where that was possible, and there were no complications.
The result is that my positive feelings about hospitals are limited. This is pretty universal. Hospitals generally suck. No one wants to go to the hospital. We typically find any reason not to be in one. But occasionally, we do find ourselves there, dreading the passing minutes.
For my Dad I will go and will update you once he is back home. Thanks for hearing me out.
Update 21 March 2023: Dad is doing well. Not sure what I expected, but at four weeks out, he seems to be mostly recovered. I will update you on my youngest daughter V, who decided to follow her grandfather to the hospital with a broken collar bone. Yeah, not as fun, but she, too, is doing fine and, three weeks out, is almost completely recovered.