“Nice way to wake up,” I snarled at the nurses. From my hard, fold-out chair beside my son’s hospital bed, I saw three nurses and heard Deane crying as they peeled his eyelids back to put eye drops his still sleeping eyes.
I fell back in my bed and really felt like I might not make it through this marathon. The night had included three hours of standing by the side of the bed trying to figure out how to soothe Deane back to sleep. The day ahead held the prospect of forcing Deane, shouting and crying, to go downstairs to school. I was ready to wave the white flag.
But what a difference a day can make.
Deane and I have come to a truce in our battle of wills. I caved to his loud and insistent refusal to even talk about going to school. He said he was too tired. So I said he could stay in the room, even go back to bed, but – showing Deane where he got his stubbornness – I was turning off the TV and dimming the lights. If he was that tired, then he should have a nap.
While he stared at the ceiling, I took our schedule and colour coded it with time blocked out for physio, school, organized recreation and TV watching. I would still prefer he be out with the other families eating meals and not in his room, but so far our ceasefire is holding.
One of the blue sections I marked on our new schedule was going swimming for the first time since the operation. This was a bit of a gamble. It would be the first real activity without his leg immobilizers and wedge. I didn’t know if Deane would be too apprehensive about being moved in a way that might hurt to let us go.
We rolled into the pool on a reclined chair and Deane looked nervous as his body began to rise from the chair. I undid the straps and floated him on his back with a pool noodle behind his neck. He could not have looked more content. For 15 minutes, I walked him around the pool as he gazed at the ceiling more relaxed than I ever remember seeing him. You could feel the relief he felt from having no weight or pressure on his hip, on his legs and even on the bedsore on his coccyx.
Eventually, I raised him upright and held him on my hip – something his muscles were too tight to allow him to do pre-operation – and bounced slightly. He had this far away look in his eyes. His expression seemed to say this is something he had a distant memory of enjoying. And then he broke out into the biggest, most genuine smile I have seen in a long time and started to laugh. It was amazing.
I wouldn’t trade this evening’s swim for anything. This is why I didn’t wave the white flag.