Thursday, February 24, 2011

450 Minutes

It took less than 9 months to make me and 450 minutes to take me apart.

I had moved through life, organs and all, for just over 19 years, and yet in about 7.5 hours, I was fundamentally different. When I first understood how long the surgery would take, it seemed like an absurdly long time to snip the five foot colon out, granted surgeons do much more delicate work than simply ‘snipping.’ But, as my Dad sarcastically pointed out, I had the easiest part to play - my family had to wait for hours on end, the surgeons had to work, I would just get to blink and it would be all over.

Though it may seem untrue/unrealistic/inconceivable, I do not think about having an ostomy many times throughout the day, and I certainly do not replay my summer in my mind. I empty the bag daily, and typically that’s it, I do not have long drawn out recollections about using a commode or attempting to walk post-surgery, it seems and feels normal to have an ostomy.

A couple of days ago, I received an overly detailed bill from the hospital where I had my surgery. It was in a thick envelope literally squished against itself in my pint-sized dorm mailbox, and my forehead crinkled in curiosity when I drew it from the box - after all, that was six months ago, why was I getting this in the mail now? My heart seemed to evaporate through my skin when I opened the envelope, as if I was right back on the operating table, it was a terribly surreal and painful moment to endure. Every medication given, every blood draw, every everything was meticulously recorded. It ran for pages, and not the modern-type stabled pages, but the pages that are attached and so it honestly rambled on for nine pages, the length of the pages well over my height. It dropped to the floor, pages crumpled on pages, and I stared listlessly at it, terrified to read the bills and really understand what had happened to me.

I read every line. I saw the date, August 10th, and looked for the OR descriptions, and there it was - a confession of my 450 minutes in the OR. Followed by 4 hours in the recovery room, and then another week in the hospital. 450 minutes. 450 minutes is a long time. It’s a long time, and yet, I cannot remember it. They took 450 minutes from me, and in return, they gave me an ostomy.

Although it’s melodramatic to profess my profound sadness at this documentation of lost time, I think I was more surprised by my reaction to the bill. In a life of continually having to move forward and move on, I often have little time to sit and reflect deeply about what my body has endured. After my surgery, school began, and I more or less hit the ground running with no time to really look back. Being confronted with the information was jarring and unexpected, but perhaps also greatly needed.

There are 450 minutes of my life that I will never remember, but that absolutely changed my life. It took less than 9 months to make me. It took 11 years to get sick. It took 3 months to be diagnosed. It took 7 years of being constantly sick. It took 6 months to fully unravel me. It took 7 weeks to wait for surgery.

But it only took 450 minutes to get my back my life.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent posting. Very well written and very moving. Exactly the same happened to me when the same kind of report turned up, as you say, months later. brought lots of suppressed emotions up to the surface, which is probably a good thing really.
    Well done and good luck
    John Bradley, author of "The Foul Bowel"