Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I've Been Downhearted Baby

listen to the song here

Mr. Curry and I in the car, he's driving, I'm coughing, coughing and then a hard pop to the left on my back upper side and I'm in pain. My hands fly out involuntarily, I cry out, grab stupidly at my side. Something's wrong, I've done something!

In the emergency room the woman asking the questions is tall, ungainly, thick makeup, happy to be brisk and busy and in charge, happy to be taking my information. She has a list of questions and those questions she takes very seriously, they are part of her job and her responsibility and she will ask them. I try to tell her something and she interrupts- Were you in a car accident? No, Mr. Curry says, I told you, we were driving in the car and- she interrupts again, Well did you fall? Mr. Curry looks at me. No, I say, holding my side, measuring my breaths, desperately trying not to cough, I did not fall. I was In. The. Car.

We sit next to an overweight woman in her late fifties who holds a cane next to her swollen feet and moans in short bursts. She is in pain, something with her hips, or spine. She is telling the woman next to her- a short Hispanic woman whose husband just died months ago of dementia and cancer- that even the morphine isn't working. The widow murmurs comfort and pats the fat knee. She leans over to the other woman's husband- You should tell them her pain is a nine. He goes to do so and the Hispanic woman sighs loudly. I miss my husband, she says, her face tight. He took care of me. We did everything together. He was my best friend. I miss him so much. Now the cane woman is patting her knee. She says Yes, that is how my husband and I are, what we have. We are always together. Her husband returns. I told them, he says dubiously.

Across the way from me an elderly woman in a wheel chair turns her incredibly sharp featured face toward Mr. Curry and I at the sound of my hacking cough. Somehow her skin has fallen away from her face in large soft white folds, but the sharp bones of nose and eye cavity and chin are in severe relief. She glares at us. Mr. Curry is angry. Look somewhere else, lady, he says under his tongue. My wife is sick, have some manners.

I rock in my chair, holding my side, occasionally coughing and letting the fistful of dagger wedged in my rib cage poke me. I try not to make noise but it is difficult.

This ER is crowded and old. The paint is peeling, the people by and large look exhausted by life, not just whatever current injuries they own or are trying to give away. A man comes in on Life Flight and I glimpse his bloody body strapped down on the gourney, head belted in place, hands at his side. I wince. I feel rude for having looked at him in one of the most important and difficult moments in his life. I wonder if he lived.

A mother brings in her teenage daughter, who rocks and holds her stomach. The mother pulls her daughter's hair down in a gentle, smooth motion over and over, cupping the fullness in her hand before returning again to the crown. The daughter leans toward the mother.

After two hours the pain in my side is slightly less. I sit up straighter, can breathe a bit easier. I think we should go, I tell Mr. Curry. It's not broken, I can tell. I just pulled a muscle, hurt a tendon, something. Mr. Curry calls my Mom. She concurs. They wanted me to have an XRay. It's perfectly safe, the orderly assured me, why, we give Cat Scans to pregnant ladies! I look at him and nod and pretend. I would like to say no that is not true, it is not perfectly safe, and the latest research shows Cat Scans are causing cancer at a much more concerning rate than doctors originally thought; I am too tired, in too much pain, it's too hard to talk without coughing. You should do it, he encourages me, his thin black mustache glistening with perspiration. Maybe you should, says Mr. Curry. He does not want anything to happen to me. He does not want me to be in pain. No, I shake my head, I don't think so.

We go home.

I don't sleep, all night, again, for the third night in a row. I am starting to hallucinate out of the corner of my eyes. I feel starkly bizarre, as if everyone can see the interior of my mind, turned inside out like a prolapsed uterus. Mr. Curry nurses me. He pulls out Lola's mattress and sleeps on it, pulled up next to the couch where I am, his hand reaching up and holding mine. Last night, everything worked, finally. I took at drug I had refused to take, and I finally slept. I woke at midnight coughing and in pain. After I changed my urine soaked underwear, controlled my cough, made warm water with honey and laid back down, I controlled my fear by looking at his face. After hours of sleep, His hand was still up on the couch, where mine had been. I controlled my fear by looking at his face, his hand. Finally I slept again.

In the ER my own pain scared me, because pain always scares me, because it is a dark harbinger of what life can bring, with much worse pain, much longer lasting, more nightmarish. For instance- our children. You see? I take this ten percent solution and apply drops and magnify and I can see clearly how unbearable my own existence could be, if I had to suffer like that, day and night. Chronic pain of the body is god awful. Chronic pain of the soul, god awful. I can abide almost anything, because I believe I will find a way through. It is the things there is no getting through, only living with, that terrify me. The man in the ER on the gourney, perhaps on his last trip anywhere, this simple day in August before the kids start school, when the Targets are stuffed with shoppers, when I hurt a rib and hold Mr. Curry's hand for hours, that day could have been the last day, hour, moment, consciousness for him. It was for someone.

Somewhere a tragedy occurs. In the ER you can hear the crying out of the world. The tiny premature Hispanic baby in the row ahead of me wailed the entire time. His Grandma held him closed, rocked him, saying shhh. I saw his tiny dark oval eyes open and close to this room, noise, light. He cried and cried and we all shuffled our feet and coughed and rocked and tried not to let the pain take over so that we might cry out, too, and the whole world could see how much it hurts.
Anonymous said...

Pain is a miserable bedfellow because it always steals the blankets and thrashes around while you're sleeping. And yet in public, we're not meant to address our pain because it's considered somewhat impolite.

I've often wondered about that, precisely because it's how I was brought up. Things are hidden from view, not spoken of. We make the best of our lot because that's how it's done.

But no. Why should we? Why should you? And yet, everyone is hurting in some form or another. One of the undercurrents of this life is how much we display or hide our weaknesses. And sometimes we get mixed up about that.

And hence, long lines of people in emergency rooms and none of us are experienced enough to figure out if it's gonna be okay or not, because we don't get training in dealing with pain. Only avoiding or ignoring it or being utterly inconsolable about it.

Pain needs more of a voice, more visibility in our life. Then perhaps we would know for sure.

Anyway, I do hope you're feeling better now. Take care of you xo

Ms. Moon said...

You make art out of everything.
Please get better soon. Please.

Irish Gumbo said...

Sometimes I sit at the foot of this huge black wall that is the chronic pain of the soul, and I cry and scream, but rarely does it go public, because who would really understand? Who would want to understand?

Then I get up, start looking for handholds, footholds, kicking and clawing my way up the face...again.

Pain is sometimes our "barbaric yawp" to the world, and it may not care...but some souls do. Hold on to Mr. Curry, Maggie, and climb again. I'll set up some prayer flags for you, on the Everest of my mind.

That one girl said...

Oh man, the Emergency Room is just a terrible place to be but I guess if you can see the good in it, that is awesome. I was an EMT. I saw some nasty things. Life can be cut short at ANY time, it's crazy.

Amber said...

You poor thing...you must be miserable. I hope you feel better soon!

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is beautiful. You are a truly beautiful writer.

I hope you are feeling better, dear.



Marion said...

Your love for your husband is so pure, so strong! I hope he knows how lucky he is to have you...

I'm so sorry for your pain (that bitch, pain, is a back-stabbbing friend of mine), but I'm grateful that it lead you to share this amazing piece of your heart. Love & Blessings! xo

deb said...

gentle ones of course :)

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

I am so glad you are feeling better. I hate the ER, even though I know that they are doing their best to see everyone and just always overloaded. Witnessing suffering is always such a hard thing.
You are such a good writer, Maggie. You always have a way to draw out something amazing, even in the most uncomfortable situations.

Marylinn Kelly said...

From your lucid writing, I interpret that you are in such a depleted state, nothing feels soft or easy. Too little sleep will make me crazy faster than anything...add pain, fear, time spent in the ER. I hope there is more sleep, healing, watching fear grow smaller in the rear view mirror. I add my prayer flags. I really appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment for me. :)

Mel said...

I wish I may, I wish I might, I wish Maggie May good sleep tonight. I also wish you well. Your body and mind are strong, but you are very tired right now. Rest, and try to keep the scary thoughts at bay.
Life is fraught with risk, I tell myself that every day. It's crazy making to constantly think of all that can go awry. I find the more tired I get, the darker the thoughts, it's a crazy spiral.
So, I wish you rest. And you are so blessed to have Mr. Curry's hand there, reaching for you, no matter what.

BethanySusan said...

I really needed to hear that song today, and really needed a reminder that my life is not as bad as my depression tells me it is. You rock. I'm so sorry you're in so much pain and discomfort. This too shall pass. Quickly, I hope! I'm so happy for you that you have such a wonderful man in your life. Thank you for sharing your observations and your embarrassing little details with us.

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

Somebody once said that there is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Miss M said...

When I was pregnant last time, I got a wicked chest cold at about 6 months and THE SAME THING happened to me! It was on the front right side though. It was really rough. Every. single. time. I coughed for 6 weeks, I wanted to die. And the growing belly made my ribs expand which made the pain that much worse! I totally feel you on this one.

Annie said...

Dear Maggie,

I hope the pain is subsiding, and I'm glad Mr. Curry is there.

Paula said...

Powerful post. I wish you well and wish your pain away so you can enjoy your pregnancy.

Petit fleur said...

I"m so sorry you're having a hard time Maggie. That you are hurting so much. I also know the feeling of being scared to take anything out of fear of disrupting your baby's healthy development.

I had Pleurisy once, and something that helped me was to wear a back brace around the part of my ribs which hurt when my cough vibrated them. It even hurt when I stepped, making it hard to walk. It may be hard to find one to fit you being pregnant, but they must make them for pregnant women and larger people... I'm serious, try it.
Wishing you rest and healing.
xo pf

Elizabeth said...

Oh, Maggie, you will be better soon. I just know it. You are strong and good and loved and loving.

All of us have these moments in pain, some more than others -- and even those of us who take care of others in pain, day in and day out, are all right. Really.

Love and blessings and rest to you today, tomorrow and onward.

Allison the Meep said...

Even in the middle of your pain you still manage to spin words into something beautiful.

I hope you get well soon and have better days during this pregnancy.


Anonymous said...

i feel your pain,
i feel your art!

love to you!!!!!

been low these days, so i can understand the misery of that ER room....

you are so beautiful in the pics. everything you touch is art, is true love!!

Jean said...

Lovely words and insight. So sorry you are not well. Feel better soon.

Lovely World said...

I've had a couple experiences like this - sick, pain, but wonder if I'm crazy. I had pneumonia during my first pregnancy - I totally get the peeing your pants thing! And the sleep - please do what you need to do to sleep. One of the most frightening times of my life was when I became extremely sleep-deprived because I was nursing my second child day and night, as well as taking midwifery call.

Lovely World said...

I've had a couple experiences like this - sick, pain, but wonder if I'm crazy. I had pneumonia during my first pregnancy - I totally get the peeing your pants thing! And the sleep - please do what you need to do to sleep. One of the most frightening times of my life was when I became extremely sleep-deprived because I was nursing my second child day and night, as well as taking midwifery call.

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

Oh Lovely, I'm so sorry this is happening. So, very sorry.

When I was 8 months pregnant, my gigantic baby kicked me hard enough to break a rib on my left side. Ow. Then I got bronchitis, so every time I coughed, which was all the time, pow. Because I was pregnant, doc didn't want to x-ray or give anything for the cough. Since binding my rib wasn't an option because of baby and real pain or other meds weren't either, I waited. It got better and worse and better and worse. Once Bob was born and no one was kicking me from the inside anymore, it healed in about 3 weeks. It ended.

Our pain and seeing the pain of others is unbearable and yet you write about it so beautifully. Wishing you swift and graceful healing.

Middle Child said...

Pain is awful...and yet in the modst of pain come the very best of humanity, pattng the hari, patting a knee, having compassion. My husband suffered shocking pain after becomming a Quadriplegic when he was32 - some days his face would be almost grey with it and his lips had no colour - and yet he wanted to kive so much we woke each day grateful for the day - you have told a beautiful story with great power and understanding

Drax said...

This post kicks ass.

Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

This was so incredibly moving. I don't get over here as often as I'd like, but when I do, I am always so glad I came.

Your writing, the way you see things, is beautiful, Maggie.

24 Corners said...

Oh dear Maggie...I step away for a few days and look what's happened...last I saw were the happy pics of you and Lola in the previous post. I'm so sorry you've had to go through this and I hope you're feeling better now. Ribs (is that what it is?) are so tricky...may you heal and be completely well soon and blessings to Mr.Curry for taking such good care of you! xoxo J~

btw - ER's need such an overhaul, they kind of make my blood boil!

88highburycorner said...

Oh man, nothing like a trip to the ER to realise your own mortality. Sorry that you had to go through all this being sick while pregnant would be particularly awful. Sounds like you are in very good hands with Mr. C though. Hope you are feeling better now. Your 24 wk belly picture is adorable.

Anonymous said...

Hugs- gentle ones to you and yours.

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