"I told Shah that procedure is too risky for a seventy-two obese guy, but he wants to do it anyway," my husband explains. He's finishing shaving, and I'm in the kitchen. I haven't heard a word he's said in the last half-hour, but that doesn't deter him. Why does he talk so much?
My husband, Rick, is a morning person, and I'm not. We have busy lives. He’s a surgeon and I’m a high-powered executive. I'm up at dawn to get ready for event filled days and fall exhausted in bed early. Rick goes to sleep much later. He can't fall asleep until after watching TV to relax from doing open heart surgeries all day.
Every day, he tells me a blow-by-blow description of every operation. And they're always the same. He opens someone up, does what he has to do in there, closes the chest, and the patient is moved to the recovery room. Sometimes the patient dies or has to be brought back to the operating table because of bleeding or other complications. But in the end, it is all the same, they survive, or they die. Why do I need to know all the gory details?
That morning he'd been exceptionally wound up because they had a big case, and he wanted to get to the hospital early to review it with some colleagues. I thought, great, I get to hear it twice, before and after the surgery. It had been raining all night. I sat by the fireplace rehearsing for a board presentation later that day.
"Did you hear what I said?" Rick asked when he walked into the room.
"Yes, I heard you," I replied. I hadn't, but it didn't matter. He was used to talking to himself.
"We are going to do a yada yada ...."
"I want to review the charts one more time," he drones on.
"I'm sure it's going to be ok," I interrupted him. Can't he see I'm busy?
He talked through his cereal and milk and while he finished getting ready. Finally, he kissed me and walked out. Peace and quiet at last. Then I heard him fiddling with the front door, and he poked his head in.
"Be careful when you walk out. The walkway is icy. Love you," Rick yelled.
"Ok," I replied, not sure what he was talking about.
I heard the car pull out of the driveway and sighed in relief. I reread the presentation one last time and got ready to leave. I had a busy day ahead, a board presentation, two committee meetings, and one hiring interview. I made a mental note to call my boss on my way to the office. We had a new project to discuss. How am I going to get it all done?
I grabbed my briefcase, purse, two binders, keys, and phone and walked out the door. The cold air surprised me. It had been warm inside. I juggled the binders, purse, and phone on my left hand while closing the door with the right. Door locked, I picked up my briefcase and stepped into the walkway.
Suddenly, I slipped and landed with a thump. I instinctively grabbed my left knee and knew something was wrong. I reached for my phone and called 911. As I sat in the frozen cement, my dogs Charley and Lucy sniffing around me, a slow-motion reel ran through my head. I replayed the moment I stepped on the icy walkway, my high heel shoes slipping from under me, my legs and arms flailing out of control. My purse, binders, briefcase airborne. The whack of the knee striking the hard cement. It didn't really hurt until later.
While I waited, I called my daughter and my assistant to tell them what had happened. "I'm sure I’ll be ok. I just need help getting up," I told my daughter. "This is such a hassle. I have an important board presentation today."
"Lady, you need to go to the hospital," the paramedic announced. By then, the initial shock had worn off, and the pain was unbearable. They rushed me to the hospital where my husband worked. He was standing outside the emergency room waiting for me.
"What' happened?" he asked and tried to comfort me, his face reflecting my pain.
"I slipped," I explained between screams of pain. I had never been happier to see Rick's face. He would take care of everything.
"I’m sorry. I should have cleared the ice. I told you it was icy." That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
"I didn't hear you," I defended myself and slipped away. The heavy sedatives finally working.
They rushed me into surgery. My patella was broken in five. The surgeon stitched it together with wire and said to hope for the best. It wasn't pretty, but it would work. I had at least three months of physical therapy to look forward to. How was I going to do it? I had so much work, so many people depended on me.
When I got home, there were flowers from friends, my team, and coworkers. My voicemail was full of messages from everyone concerned about my well-being. My assistant had created a folder for well wishes and it was filled with emails, three hundred eighty-two. I felt so loved.
Rick helped me get to the couch. I couldn't walk, and he had to do everything for me.
"Leave the phone alone," Rick told me more than once. "You need to take care of yourself and don't worry about work. Everything will be fine." He didn't understand how essential I was.
Rick took a week off so he could take care of me. He cooked and fed me. He bathed and dressed me. He sat next to me and held my hand when I felt overwhelmed. He embraced me while I cried.
Eventually, he had to go back to work. He arranged my pills, water, books, phone, everything he thought I’d need on a table beside me.
"Amelia will be here in an hour. Don't try to get up by yourself," Rick told me, fussing over me.
"I'll be fine."
Cards, flowers and food kept coming. People called to inquire how I was doing. My team came to visit and report on their projects. Everybody wanted me back at work as soon as possible. They needed me.
Amelia took care of me while Rick was at work, but he'd come home early every day to be with me. He'd check my dressing, massaged my back and shoulders, combed my hair, comforted me, and told me funny stories.
After a few weeks, the flowers had wilted. The food and cards stopped coming. My inbox was down to a trickle, and I had no voicemails to clear. But Rick was there. Makes you realize what's important in life.