She started with four drain tubes, two for each side. During her second post-operative visit to the Reconstruction surgeon they pulled one from each side. Her oldest daughter was there with her.
Less than a week later, I’m coming home on the 23rd, ready for my time off for Christmas. As I walk in the door, Darling looks at me and says “I need your help.”
“What?” I say, a little confused. She rarely needs my help for anything.
“Come with me.” Darling heads for our bathroom.
“What?” I say, a bit concerned now.
“The nurse said if the fluid levels were low enough I could take my own tubes out.” Darling is very matter-of-fact about this.
“What?” my voice rises on the end of that, like the voice of a ten year old girl.
“You need to take the stitches out so I can remove the tubes.” Darling hands me a small pair of scissors and one of those surgical clamps to grab the stitches. I don’t even wonder where these came from; her stash of such items astounds mere mortals like me.
“Are you sure about this?” I’m turning the scissors over and over in my hands. I help Darling arrange bandages on the counter, along with little cotton cloths to wipe away blood and other fluids that aren’t supposed to leave your body.
She takes the scissors gently from my hands. “I’m not sure I can see them well enough, but I’ll do it if you want me to,” she says. Darling watches in the mirror as her left hand aligns the tips of the scissors with the stitches on the right side of her body.
“No, I can do it.” I take the scissors and snip the stitches, then use the clamp to tug them out as gently as I can. I'm feeling a bit woozy at this point, but persevere.
Darling holds the skin around the tube with her left hand and pulls the tube with her right. And pulls. She pulls about fourteen inches of clear tubing from her side and drops it in the waste basket. I put one of the bandages over it. One of us has turned pale. It isn't her.
We repeat the process for the left side of her body. As I’m putting the bandage on the wound she asks “How’s it look?”
I swallow. “It looks like a hole … in your body … where there shouldn’t be a hole.” My voice squeaks a little.
She puts her arms down and looks in the mirror smiling. “There,” she says, “that looks better.”
I carry the discarded tubes and other trash to the big trash can, and take that to the garage. I come back to the bathroom and grab a huge alcohol wipe and wipe every surface I can see.
“Are you okay?” She’s looking closely at me.
“I…I have to sit for a minute.” I sit down on the chair and bring my head closer to my knees. “You know,” I say, taking deep breaths, “you’re very lucky.”
I look at the puzzlement on her face.
I hold up my thumb and forefinger, a small space between them. “You were this close to having to pull out your own tubes AND pick your unconscious husband up off the floor.”