One of my fears about falling was realized this afternoon.  We live in a very narrow margin of functionality.  We slipped outside the margin for a time today.  The result is an apparent need to change a pattern that has been allowing both Mary Ann and me moments of freedom from being tethered to each other. 

Yesterday morning was the procedure to remove another in a series of Basal Cell Cancers that have been appearing on Mary Ann’s back and upper chest.  The procedure was done in the Dermatologist’s office.  We like him.  He seems to be very committed to the field and always upgrading his knowledge and skills. 

His office, however, is right from the 1950’s.  It is very small, a narrow hallway leading to tiny rooms with pocket doors, bathrooms barely able to hold one person standing up, let alone somone in a wheel chair.  There is a nice flat screen television in the waiting room, among the old furniture.  The equipment doesn’t always work, but it is adequate, and procedures are done well.

The spot on the back of her shoulder was not large.  To guarantee that the perimeter of the patch of skin removed was clear of Cancer cells, a pretty large area of flesh was removed.  Each time a procedure has been done, I have watched each step.  The rooms are very small, so I always have an unobstructed view. 

It is always a surprise to me to see the size of the string of stitches when the the wound has been sutured.  In this case, it was at least a couple of inches long.  He sutures the lower edge of the epithelium, deep in the hole left after the circle of skin is removed.  That is a very tedious process, including a number of steps with each of the many stitches.  Then comes the suturing of the surface edges.  The round opening is pulled together into a line, not exactly straight, but close.  Again each stitch takes multiple steps. 

He made a point of closing the wound tightly since Mary Ann takes Plavix and aspirin.  The doctor observed that Plavix actually sometimes gives surgeons more trouble that Coumadin, a much more powerful blood thinner.  He wanted to be sure there would be no problem with bleeding. 

The day went well after the surgery.  Even though we had been given suggestions for dealing with pain, Mary Ann reported no pain.  The doctor called last evening to ask how she was doing.   There were no problems. 

Today was a good day in many ways.  Mary Ann went to her weekly small group meeting at church.  I was basking in the possibility of a water problem in our back yard turning into a beautiful garden and water feature.  Most importantly, some gossip came my way — good gossip.  The sadly empty building that used to be our Baskin-Robbins ice cream place — yes, I said ours, by squatter’s rights — may eventually open again. 

After lunch, I actually managed to do some cooking using a very complicated recipe.  Here it is:  Brown one large package of country style boneless pork ribs in a large frying pan, then transfer them to a crock pot, add a bottle of KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce and cook them forever.  The recipe is came to us from Larry and Jolene, when they brought over a huge and sumptuous meal.  My creative addition to the recipe is to open a couple of cans of beans and add them to the crockpot a half hour or so before eating.  Enough of the culinary diversion.

Mary Ann wanted a snack.  We had some ice cream.  She ate part of it and decided there was something in it.  I find those hallucinations to be especially annoying, since once they appear, the only alternative is to throw away perfectly good food for no good reason.   An hour later, Mary Ann popped up out of her chair, and as I suspected had decided she needed another snack.  I couldn’t pass up an comment on the last snack’s fate, and then I headed for the kitchen to see what I could find for her. 

I left her standing beside the transfer chair.  As soon as I got to the kitchen, I heard the familiar thump of her falling.  It was in an open carpeted area.  She hit nothing that might hurt her.  Normally, such a fall is just routine.  Not this time.  She landed directly on the shoulder that had been stitched up yesterday morning after the surgery on the skin Cancer. 

I knew it would be so, and as soon as I got her to the bedroom to look at it, my fear was confirmed.  The blood was running.  I headed for the case we have filled with first aid supplies we have gathered after past experiences like this.  I got a thick surgical pad and some tape to try to contain the bleeding until we could get back to the doctor.  The tape I had  (too narrow) combined with the awkward location of the incision resulted in blood seeping through to her clothing in spite of my best efforts. 

 I called the doctor’s office and was advised to do the obvious, bring her in.  The doctor had to send home a patient who had been stuck and prepped for a procedure because Mary Ann’s wound could not wait.  She had done something he had never seen before in his career (started medical school forty years ago).  She had torn open the two inch stream of stitches on the top and deep within the wound.   He had to start over completely.

The afternoon grew in complexity as it went on.  The doctor had sent home the other patient prepped for a procedure.  As he and two assistants were doing a cluster of preparatory tasks for Mary Ann’s repair, the doctor’s preschool-aged grandson came running down the hall.  He poked his head in.  He was not put off at all by what he saw.  Obviously he had wandered in on procedures before.  What added to a sort of chaotic tone that was developing was that the little boy’s mother. the doctor’s daughter-in-law came down the hall holding a cloth to her forehead.  She had run into a door and was also in need of stitches. 

The doctor left Mary Ann to attend to his daughter-in-law.   The assistants continued the prep, obviously a little unsure of how to proceed.  During that time the two assistants were sharing with each other their concern that they both had to leave and could not stay much longer.  One  had an appointment to take her two year old horse to be broken.  The other had to pick up her preschooler (who happened to be attending the preschool at the church from which I retired last summer). 

The doctor had done some preliminary work on his daughter-in-law so that she could wait until he was done with Mary Ann for her stitches.  When he returned, the imminent departure of his two assistants became clear.  The word went out to the office manager who had been with him for much of his practice to scrub up so that she could take over when the assistant’s left. 

Through all this, every time we checked with Mary Ann, she said she was fine.  She lay a long time on that table as he redid the entire suturing process.  It was long and tedious.  As time went by we all began to appreciate the craziness of how the afternoon was going.  They all commented on how uneventful the day had been up until we injected some drama into their day.  I told them that if it was okay with them, we would opt out of any future need for excitement being added to their day. 

The moment, Mary Ann is in bed.  As a her Caregiver, I have a dilemma.  First of all, I bear responsibility for what happened.  Had I been there with my hand on her gait belt, I could have prevented the fall.  Secondly, I was not calm and reassuring after it happened.  Instead, my frustration with the situation spewed out of my mouth.  Gratefully, I moved quickly and got done what needed to be done.  My dilemma is the implication this has for how I go about my Caregiving task. 

I have felt free to be in the kitchen for a time, go down the hall to my office to be at the computer for short times during the day,  go to the end of the block to get the mail.   At least until the stitches heal fully, this episode suggests that freedom no longer to be an option.  Mary Ann simply cannot keep from getting up and going.  I need to be there immediately to offer an elbow or put my hand on the gait belt. 

Tomorrow, I need to follow through on getting an audio-visual monitor from Babies R Us, or wherever I can find one.  If I can keep the receiver with me wherever I am in the house, maybe Mary Ann and I will not need to be joined at the hip every minute of every day.  That much closeness would all but assure both of us going completely crazy.   It would not be a pretty sight.

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