Donna had her heart valve replaced on January 21, 2015. As expected (95%), she survived and the operation was successful. She spent four nights in the ICU. Now she is in the step down unit. The next phase is a residential rehab facility, and then home.
The medical staff monitor, poke, stick, and medicate Donna. She is tired and doesn’t believe that this is what a good outcome feels like. Everyone says that she looks great and is doing great. I believe them; she looks good to me.
What do you think about when your partner is in the ICU?
My thoughts were not as deep as I expected. When I look at Donna I feel how much I love her, but I didn’t think about how much I love her while I was there.
I realized I made a mistake waiting by myself while she was in surgery. I’m a quiet person, and I didn’t want to have to chat while I waited. I should have had someone with me just in case something terrible happened. I can’t imagine being alone and getting bad news and then going home by myself. I had offers of company that I rejected. I must learn to accept help.
Some people in the ICU have no family, no friends, no visitors. I am afraid I will end up like that. I know that I am a one man dog, a one femme butch, a one Donna Jamie.
Donna has ten times more friends (real live friends not Facebook friends) than I have.
I hope my presence doesn’t negatively affect Donna’s care. I’m afraid that my butchness and transness might put off some of the staff. She looks normal on her own; I change how people see her. I want them to see what I see.
No matter what the outcome, the perspectives of the patient, the partner, and the doctors are never aligned.
Where are the single stall toilets on this floor? Should I just wander around looking for them or use the women’s and hope no one calls me out? Answer – her floor doesn’t have them, but the cafeteria level does. I find excuses to go there.
Should I tell Donna about the guy who tapped me on the shoulder and said “Buddy, that’s the ladies’ room” or should I just suck it up?
We now have their and her scars on our chests. Mine are horizontal (top surgery) and hers is vertical (open heart surgery). Her scar is going to show when she wears a swimsuit; mine won’t.
What is the right mix of listening, sitting quietly, and reassuring? Who is going to reassure me?
Do the staff think I’m here too much or not enough?
What would I want if Donna and I traded places? We are so different that it doesn’t matter and I can’t use it as a guide. I try to imagine what I would want if I were Donna, but I have never been good at this.
There is a parallel between ABD (all but the dissertation) and being a long-term unmarried couple (ABMC – all but the marriage certificate). A lot of work and very little recognition. I feel that I have to prove my worthiness since I am neither husband nor wife. Except when I introduce myself and explain who I am, the staff ignore me. I think we should get married. Elope. Right now.
I am thankful that Donna is getting good care and is improving daily. I watch the nurses work at keeping Donna alive, and try to keep out of their way. I wish I could crawl into her bed with her. I’m looking forward to her coming home.