The surgery was finished. We arrived in her hospital room around 2am on Tuesday. For the rest of the day, she was made comfortable with various forms of narcotics. The surgeon had said her belly was a mess. He had operated laparoscopically, using three small instruments through tiny incisions. He admitted he did the best he could but was not able to guarantee she was out of the woods. There was simply too much infection for him to be sure he took care of it all.
We were told we could be there up to a week to keep her on an antibiotic drip. This would be the only way to ensure her recovery. Even with those words, I don’t think it had really resonated with me just how sick this little girl really was.
On Wednesday morning, she was allowed to come off the clear liquids and have a bite to eat. The nurses were required to get her up and moving so we faced our first walk together. She got to the door of her room and said okay that’s it, then promptly turned around and headed back to bed. She was as drugged up as anyone could be, enjoying a veritable cocktail of heavy pain killers; yet, the agony of those first few walks were clearly registering on her face.
She didn’t want any of it. She didn’t want to walk, she didn’t want an IV needle sticking out of her arm, she didn’t want to get poked every day to draw her blood nor did she want to be told she had to use the restroom or face having a catheter reinserted. It hurt to go, it burned like hell. The walk didn’t hurt as much as the simple act of going pee-pee did. She didn't want to do anything but in her own words, "run from this awful place screaming". Yet she always managed to find a way to do everything asked of her. Making up and letting me know her rules as we went along.
She would delicately get out of bed, using my hand to pull herself up while insisting I not pull with my arm. As difficult as it was, as much as I wanted to not only pull her but to give her every bit of strength I had, I perfected the ability to extend my arm to her without pulling. Once up, she would slowly walk to the restroom, sit down, then immediately clench up so tight, it was impossible for her to go. The urge was there, her bladder was full but her natural defenses and instincts were not letting her go through that much pain. We would sit there together, me squatting on the side of the shower, facing her. Our eyes locked on each other as if we were having a staring contest. Sometimes she would let me encourage her but mostly she shushed me when I tried to speak. She was drawing from her inner strength; my words were nothing but useless distractions.
After 15 to 20 minutes, she would ask to go back to bed. The moment she laid down, the urge would come and up we would go again. This went on for a few hours. Up, sit, stare, down. Up, sit, stare, down. As the night drew to a close, the nurses brought in a machine which was able to give us an accurate measurement of the contents of her bladder and they issued the ultimatum. She goes or we go in and get it.
With courage true to her Warrior Princess spirit, she was able to override her protective instincts and endure the painful burning, emptying her bladder with a little moan and a tight squeeze of my hand but not a single tear. She maintained her stoic little frowny-face, cleaned herself up and walked back to the bed as if nothing big had really happened.
Meanwhile I am internally dancing, twirling, jumping up and down and shouting for joy all inside my head. It was our victory. We did it! Nothing was going to stop us now. This little girl is amazingly strong. This child of mine was revealing her character to me and I knew she was going to be okay.
With that, I was relieved enough to think of other things, such as the fact that I hadn't showered or brushed my teeth since Monday morning. I was comfortable sneaking away for a quick shower while Mr. Sunshine sat with her. I returned in an hour and found her standing just inside the door of her room, throwing up in one of those plastic buckets…..something that looked very much like blood.