The surgeon is talking, but I can’t hear anything because my other four senses have shut down. I can’t feel myself sitting in the chair or holding a piece of blank printer paper I grabbed this morning so I could take notes on or the black Bic medium point ink pen I always have in my purse that was lodged in my right hand. I can’t smell the cheap and bad waiting room coffee anymore that is sitting on the table next to me. I can no longer taste the Three Musketeers candy bar from the vending machine that I just finished eating before we went back to the surgery family conference room.
I gaze up and I can see the surgeon’s lips moving, but I can’t hear any words. All I can see is the blood that covers almost every square inch of both of the surgeon’s surreal, too large, turned up at the toe, clownish looking, black rubber shoes that are splattered with my son’s blood. I try to not look at it… I try to get my other senses to engage. I tell myself that I need to hear what he is saying. But again, all I can do is see the blood, watch it both cling and slide down over the edges.
I see that he is wearing scrubs and his scrub hat, but he has no scrub booties on his feet. Why not? What happened to them? All of the other surgeons and nurses in this area talking with families are in full scrubs and they still have their booties on their feet. Where are his? The surgery room is reverent and sterile ground. Did he forget to wear them? Or were they so covered in blood that he had to remove them and the blood was so great that when removing them, it spilled and stuck to his shoes? Either way, why is there so much blood? What happened?
At this point, I make out part of his speech to my husband, “He lost a lot of blood. He bled out, losing 50% of his blood during surgery. His heart began to fail. His blood pressure dropped. We transfused him in surgery, but he will probably need more blood.”
I stopped hearing again. Why didn’t he wipe his shoes off? Why didn’t he think to cover them in fresh booties? Why didn’t he change his shoes? It’s bad enough that Will has suffered through now 34 surgeries and procedures in 11 short years. It’s bad enough that my husband and I are the ones who have to decide how and if Will lives or dies. It’s bad enough I had to endure you talking about how you use what looks like a common drywall saw to cut through my son’s bones and use a chisel to cut out sections of bone to create bone grafts. It’s bad enough I had to listen to how you hammer in steel rods and pins to put him back together again. He’s not the body in the Operation game box waiting for you to play and successfully remove and put his parts back in without being zapped.
I don’t want to see his blood.
I don’t want to see his blood.
I DON’T WANT TO SEE THE GOD DAMN BLOOD!
Enough of Will’s blood has been spilled. This marks his fourth transfusion. Will is made up of parts: A hockey puck sized pump in his left abdomen, a half dollar size 2 inch thick in diameter Gtube that protrudes from his right abdomen, a 12 inch catheter that winds under his ribcage and spirals up his back spine, steel rods and pins in both femurs, and now—now— someone else’s blood. When Will is X rayed, his parts light up and look like a pinball machine. Like if you dropped a small metal ball in there, you could push on parts of him to activate levers to move the ball around.
Will is disembodied by the surgeons who operate on him. They aren’t working on a boy, but a body. While I don’t like this, I can understand it. I too have to disembody Will, to see him separately from the physical bones, skin, and flesh that hold him together. Because if I think to much about his body, I wonder how much of his original body that was born 11 years ago remains. Unlike the surgeons though, I disembody him because I only want to know and think about Will’s spirit. That beautiful spirit that nurtures me, that spirit that loves to love anyone who will sing and play with him, that spirit that gives my life purpose. I don’t want to think about his broken and hurting body and how my husband and I are the ones who orchestrate those surgery theaters, who organize the pain necessary to keep his body together so his spirit can continue to love and be loved.
I force myself to make direct eye contact with the surgeon, which turns my ears back on. I squeeze the pen and feel my own blood coming back to the ends of my fingertips, and I start writing down everything he says. I tell myself to stop looking at the God dam blood, and remember that He lived. Now, what I need to do is concentrate on keeping him living.