Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Realization of the Day: The World Isn't Made for Single People

I just got home from my surgery, and as you can probably tell, I've lived to tell the tale. Seriously, it went very well and I'm hoping that the ERCP procedure will ease some of the pain. I did get a little goofy when they started talking about "starting the Propofol" and had to bite back Michael Jackson references, but other than the multiple IV attempts, it wasn't bad.

But the whole situation made me realize the disadvantages faced by single people, a thought that, believe it or not, had never really occurred to me before.

When I went to the gastroenterologist on Friday for an office visit following the agonizing and unspeakable physical pain of Wednesday, I knew I would be having an ERCP (I have chronic pancreatitis that has occasional hellish flare-ups). I assumed that it would be scheduled for next week, which would have been great because it's my school's winter break.

Nope. He wanted to get it done sooner than that, so the procedure was scheduled for Tuesday. Which was fine, although I wasn't thrilled about having to miss work. No, the really stressful part came when the check-out receptionist reminded me that I needed to have someone with me after the surgery to drive me home since I'd be loopy from the anesthesia.

This is the first time something like this has come up since I've been divorced, and it was crazy how shocked I was to realize that, when you're married to someone (or even in a serious relationship), you can say, "Hey, I'm scheduled for surgery on Tuesday, need to have someone with me since I can't drive myself home".

I have a very supportive family, but my mother had a very important meeting scheduled at work on Tuesday that she couldn't miss, and my father and his family are on vacation in Florida this week. My brother has a limited amount of sick time that he needs to save for his own family (although, to be honest, I suspect that he would have brought me if I'd called and asked him directly), and my sister lives in Maryland. Addie and Belle are on vacation this week, so Addie could have taken me ... but how fair is it to make her sit in a hospital waiting room for several hours, never mind trying to keep Belle occupied?

I am also blessed with wonderful, amazing, supportive friends. However, the friends that I would be comfortable asking a favor of this magnitude--and having to put up with me both before the procedure (I could not have coffee this morning ... it was not pretty) and afterwards (when I might well be loopy, to say the least)--all work. Most of them, in fact, work in my school. So, yeah, that wasn't really a viable option.

I spent the weekend really stressed out about this. The thing is, it had to be done; it's not like I had the option of pushing it back. I also hate--HATE--to ask for help. Finally, I put up a Facebook post asking if anyone would be near the hospital on Tuesday and be able to bring me home after the surgery.

And I learned that I also have wonderful, amazing, supportive friends (and family--my aunt was willing to drive down from northern Maine to take me if necessary) on Facebook. A number of people offered to help me out, although what came up as a challenge was that I didn't have specific times. Because the surgery was set up after hours on Friday afternoon and the office was closed on Monday, I did not have a start time to work with. This was further complicated by the fact that my gastro wanted an abdominal ultrasound done before the procedure itself, which I also didn't have a time for when I put up my desperate Facebook post.

As it turned out, the abdominal ultrasound was scheduled for 8:15 and the ERCP for 10:30, so there was a lot of sitting around time in between and I would have felt terrible making someone wait for that long at the hospital (I brought a book, so I was happy as a lark).

What ended up happening was that Addie (and Belle) dropped me off at the hospital early this morning then went back home (Addie had never driven home from the city that the hospital is in, so this was a big success for her), and then my mom left work after her important morning meeting to pick me up and bring me home. She also bought me coffee at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home, which was pretty wonderful :-)

It's funny, though ... my mom had to sign off on all the paperwork because I "can't make any major decisions" until the anesthesia has worn off. I felt like I was twelve or something. I'm not the most crazy-private person in the world, but I would have felt really awkward if one of my friends (or even Addie) had to sign off on my medical papers and assume responsibility for me post-surgery. It was bad enough to have my poor mother have to do it.

And then I got thinking about the people who are not as fortunate as I am, who might not have people willing to help them out in a situation like this. Okay, I don't have a husband (or even a boyfriend) to have the assumption of responsibility for this sort of thing, but I have family and friends that were willing to juggle.

A lot of people don't. So what about these people? Do they just say, "Sorry, guess I can't have the surgery because I don't have anyone to drive me home from"? I think that would be horribly humiliating ... trying to explain that my mommy was coming to pick me up was awkward enough.

There were a couple of other interesting observations from today, most notably the pregnancy test debacle. (TMI Warning) I am currently menstruating, ergo I am not pregnant, and yet they still insisted on doing a pregnancy test. Not to be gross, but the freaking urine sample was, like, tinged with menstrual blood (no tampons during surgery ... haha, maybe that's what that crazy label that Addie and I laughed so hard about meant), and they still felt it necessary to test it.

Me: Um, I, like, HAVE my period. Do you really need to do this?
Nurse: Is there any possibility you're pregnant?
Me: I literally have my period. As we speak.
Nurse: Have you had sex in the past month?
Me: (blushing) Um ...
Nurse: If there is any possibility you're pregnant, no matter how small, we have to do the test.
Me: That's fine, I understand, but ...
Nurse: (laughing) I hear you, but it's one of those lawsuit paranoia things.

So I did the test, but I still thought it was awkward and kind of unnecessary.

But discovering the strange and unexpected challenges that impact single people is what really struck me about today ... and made me grateful for the wonderful support system I have in place even as I'm suddenly feeling very sorry for single peeps that are not so lucky.