On Your Birthday
Happy birthday, sweets! I can’t begin to tell you how astounding this occasion is, but I’m going to try. There were times in the last few months when I wasn’t sure you’d see another birthday. One especially heart-breaking moment involved your wedding ring.
In early June, the kind, patient ICU nurses explained to me that septic shock means your body is completely malfunctioning. Volume resuscitation is the first line of defense, so they inundated you with fluids. But because of the shock, your blood vessels were severely compromised and all that fluid seeped into your tissues, causing tremendous swelling.
Before you were intubated, the surgeon told us you already needed 2 life systems supported (breathing & blood pressure) and if other systems failed, your chances of surviving dropped dramatically. He specifically mentioned losing kidney function. As the days passed, your creatinine level climbed – the higher the value, the more impaired your kidneys are.
I asked one doctor about the increasing numbers and he mentioned kidney failure. My face twisted with dread as I asked, “So his kidneys are failing??” He said we shouldn’t get into a semantic debate but that the values were alarming and soon we might need to make decisions.
I’m explaining all this so you’ll understand some of the reasons your poor body was swollen. You inflated like a reluctant balloon. As the days passed, your skin looked so taut, I thought if I brushed it, it might burst open. Your toes stood like Vienna sausages lined up in a row. It was shocking. One day as I held your hand, I eyed your wedding ring, which was disappearing under your bulging skin. A nurse told me we needed to remove it or it would end up having to be cut off. She went to work and was narrowly able to coax it off your finger. I will never forget her handing it to me. I’d only just put it on your finger a few months before and now I held it in my hand, this symbol of hope and promise, wondering if I’d ever be able to give it back to you. It loomed so large in my mind, I may as well have been holding a hubcap.
Later at home, I riffled through my jewelry box, grabbed the first chain I could find, slipped your ring on it, and fastened it around my neck. The chain was really too flimsy for your substantial ring and each day as I waited by your bed side, it tugged on my neck. I found myself fidgeting with it more and more as the days passed and we held vigil, praying your condition would improve.
And eventually, it did. One day, weeks later during rehab, you asked me where your ring was. Your question clanged like a celebratory bell in my mind. I was giddy with incredulity. Today on your birthday, a day that not long ago you weren’t certain to reach, I’m celebrating that ring.
You are alive and I cannot think of a better birthday present, is what I’m saying.
All my love,