November 11, 2007

Ben in my life

His surgery went perfectly, took 2 hrs less time than anticipated and the recovery so far has been impressive. The relief that this knowledge gives the rest of us is immense. Here's what they did; it was really three surgeries in one:
1) replace the aortic valve with a state-of-the-art carbon mechanical valve;
2) repair the stressed and extended mitral valve with a constricting band;
3) repair the aneurysm of his ascending aorta with a Dacron graft.

I have been so amazed that he looked as good as he did the day after the surgery. As opposed to his first heart surgery when he looked like death for a month and was incredibly weak, this time he's just very very tired. He's able to carry on a coherent conversation, was standing and sitting up on day 2, and walking by day 3. He's on very little morphine compared to most cardiac patients, and I'm so so glad. This is him in the ICU the day after his surgery managing a smile, straining to keep his sleepy eyes awake while Phillip, Dad and I grin for the camera.

I was so so glad to be home for him in the few days before the surgery to comfort him and just to spend some quality time with him. The anxiety he was feeling and that I was not allowing myself to feel was strong. Getting to the other side of the surgery is no small deal.

However, I have had to return to the striking world of vet school where my time is not my own, and everyone around me speaks in exam-mode constantly. It was pretty amazing to me how culture-shocking it was to me to come back to my life here and realize that THIS is my life. How is possible to forget in the space of just a few days like that?! I write about it in concrete terms--how many hours I spent studying (21+) vs how many hours I spent sleeping (<3) in a day, how many pages I read in a week and have to memorize, etc....and while these things kind of express part of the extent of insanity, they don't really express the FEELING of what it's like to live in this world. Not just to experience it once or twice, but to LIVE IT DAY IN AND DAY OUT. For YEARS. (there I go expressing it again in concretes...). It becomes an overwhelming drive to continue on, ahead of the present moment. You never get to sit where you are and say "this is where I am". You constantly are comparing what little you've accomplished (quite a lot, actually) with the amount you haven't accomplished yet (unfortunately, quite a bit a 'shit ton' more.) Instead of enjoying your friends' phone calls, you kind of absently start a count-down timer in your head when you pick up the phone and get very nervous and agitated as their voice (the same voice that used to be so calming and enjoyable) drones on longer than 45 seconds. You furtively anticipate the next moment you can escape the conversation and get back to whatever it is that you "SHOULD" be doing. Then you realize you're doing this and feel guilty so you allow the conversation to continue for another minute, but you start multitasking to feel productive, and then all of a sudden you're paying more attention to filing papers than to the conversation at hand. And again you feel guilty--or worse, the other person calls you out. Sometimes you tell yourself to go easy on yourself, but it seems you are always in the position of choosing between sleep, a clean house, hygiene or eating well. You can rarely accomplish more than one of those at a time, and never all four.
With school the way it is, you can imagine how I might carry on a long-distance relationship. You would be correct if you picture me stealing every trip in the car to call Ben and chat for a few moments as I drive to the grocery, to and from school, as I walk between class and other buildings. I call him as I'm falling asleep, lights out, under the covers. I make dates with him over videochat that last 5-30 mins some evenings (the happiest ones). With him in recovery now, I feel lonelier than usual. I've talked to him once in the past 4 days. He was so tired he just let me tell him about my day since he couldn't muster enough energy to carry on his side of the conversation. I was very happy to hear his voice on the other line, and touched that he was content to just let me yammer on for several minutes, but I wish that I could hear his thoughts and share our feelings back and forth. I just miss him. I miss being able to call him during the five-minutes-here-and-there that make up our connection.

Anyways, when you read this Ben, I love you. You're a tremendously important reminder of the life that I get to participate in again after school. I can't wait to spend it with you.

Oh, and friends of Ben: his mom's address where he will be in recovery for the next month or so is 1336 New Ridge Ct, Lexington, KY, 40514 if you feel like sending him some recovery wishes.


Anonymous said...


You are so amazing. Thank you for writing your blog--I appreciate it so much.

Thank you for Ben's mom's address--you were reading my mind, I was planning to text you later today, asking for it. I'm in the midst of hectic travels, and want to send him some postcards.

I've managed to visit Ben twice (I've only been in town three days!), but almost as much as I've seen him, I've wanted to check in with you. I know you're super busy, and didn't want to bother you.

I hope to see you over Thanksgiving, but if not, I hope you enjoy all the family togetherness.


Anonymous said...

Good Luck Ben, and good luck Alyssum. It sounds like Ben knows he has a good thing with you. Good taste in my opinion. On another note, Vet school is a commitment. It's a good vibe, and I hope that you are passionate about it. It is a lofty burden without passion, without belief. There is no doubt that you are committed to the core. Good Luck.
Travis Snyder