When my husband came home from the hospital last August, it was different sleeping next to him.
In all honesty, I was afraid for him. His urethra was completely torn rendering a regular catheter completely useless. Doctors had to use a superpubic catheter, piercing a hole two inches below his naval and into his stomach directly to his bladder. He was prone to infection in that area and needed to be vigilant with cleaning. Naturally he felt every tug of his tube and urine bag. He had to remember to sleep on his back and when his pelvis healed enough, he had to shift to either side very carefully. I was afraid the kids might accidentally pull out the tube or the cats might swipe at the bag.
Also, I was a little afraid of him. Even before the accident, he was a heavy sleeper. Sometimes he’d roll over and elbow me in the middle of the night and wouldn’t even notice. Only when I was already asleep and furious, I would say, “Hey!” He’d murmur an apology and fall right back asleep. I’d be left simmering next to him.
After the accident, he had vivid nightmares that would keep him from going back to sleep. He had random tics in his sleep, sometimes jerking the entire bed and myself from a peaceful slumber.
My husband’s sleep patterns hardly compared to the month he stayed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He was on so much pain medication, including a morphine drip and an epidural in his left leg, that he repeated himself several times in the same conversation and couldn’t remember who came to visit him in the hospital. He’s always had morbid dreams but the ones he had now had the backdrop of war and suffering. Some of these weren’t even dreams and occurring while he was still awake.
Then the day arrived when they said he was finally going to be released to a rehabilitation hospital. The VA hospital in Palo Alto was only two hours southwest of Sacramento. While it was still quite a commute every weekend, at least we could all go back to California. The kids could sleep in their own beds and go back to some sort of normalcy that moving across the country took away.
That afternoon I asked my husband if he told his doctors about his hallucinations.
“No way,” he said. “I want to get out to California right now.”
I hesitated. “Are you sure? It seems pretty important to mention. You have to tell your doctor.”
“I’ll tell the new doctors as soon as I get there. I have to get out of here. I want to go home as soon as possible. The sooner I get there, the sooner I can continue rehab from our house.”
I looked in his eyes and saw that this man was not my husband but a reasonable facsimile. He was exhausted, dazed, and desperate for normalcy too. He needed me to be there for him. I nodded.
“Oh, alright” I said hastily. “But if you don’t tell anyone in Palo Alto the moment you get there, I’m calling your work.”
Later a group of doctors entered the room to summarize what he’d been through and what his next steps were at the VA in Palo Alto. I couldn’t help but look at him when one of his doctors asked him if he had any concerns.
“Are you having any hallucinations or nightmares?” He shook his head. Satisfied with their interviews, they left and went on to the next wounded warrior.
Then I did what any other spouse would… I told on him. I ran out as quickly as my platforms would take me.
“Doctor!” I yelled, arms flailing, out of breath. Having McDonalds right next to the Navy Lodge will do that to you. “He’s lying,” I continued. “He is having hallucinations but he didn’t want to tell you. He wanted to wait until he got to California but I don’t want him to… I don’t want him to go anywhere until he’s ready.”
Another doctor came out of another room to listen.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m telling on him.” I sighed.
I’m sure the doctors fought hard to suppress their grins, strangely as many people do when they talk to me.
“I appreciate you telling me,” said one of the doctors. He went on to say that all of this is normal and to be expected.
Yes, he trusted me to keep this from his doctors. But I also promised to be there for him no matter what. I will not let him self-destruct, silently suffer, or keep anything from anyone that could potentially harm him or anyone around him. Yes, I am his wife but I am also his advocate, his children’s mother, and his friend.
I know he’d do the same for me. We care enough to snitch on each other.