Sunday, December 21, 2008

In sickness and in health...

It is approaching midnight now, and what a day we've had. It started off average enough; Lizzy getting ready to drive to Orlando for a singing gig and me sitting on the couch watching the news to see if anything big happened overnight. Then when Lizzy was brushing her teeth, right around the time when she usually asks me if I could go down to the car and get her makeup bag (it is always in the car, unless we are in the car, then it is in the house), I heard her scream. It was not a "saw a roach" scream, it was a terrible noise. I ran to the bathroom and found her laying on the floor in between the bathroom and the bedroom writhing in pain with a toothbrush still in her mouth.


You don't realize how much you care about someone until a moment like that. All I could think was that I wished it was me instead of her, that I hated the whole idea of toothbrushing that seemed to have caused this, and worst of all, that I was helpless to help her. It turns out that her back had gone out entirely. It has been threatening to do this for years. It threatens her with a frequency that I would have challenged it to a fight if it was not, in fact, her spine, and it would defeat the purpose of my concern. As she lay there face down, I called an orthopedic surgeon who explained to me what had happened. It was not a herniated disc, one of her vertebrae had slipped off of the one below it at the facet joint. Because I am an idiot, I did the only thing I could to contribute the situation and ran and got her an anatomy textbook to show her where the problem was. Considering the amount of pain she was in, she was very kind about my explanation.

It turns out that the only thing you can do about it in acute situation is take ibuprofen and muscle relaxants. We had neither so I called in a prescription at CVS for the muscle relaxant and picked up both of them. When I showed up at the prescription counter and gave the girl my VISA explaining it was for my wife, she looked at the name and then confusedly at me and said, "You're the doctor, too?" I realized then that I was wearing a T-shirt that looked like I stole it from a homeless person and that my hair looked like Don King's because I'd just woken up. I said yes, and then, looking to excuse me, she said, "You must be a resident." I told her maybe she must be a resident, and then left with the drugs.

I got back and Lizzy was still face down in the bathroom doorway. I gave her some pills and then we laid on the floor together. Six hours later, we were still laying on the floor together. At that point, through 15 minutes of intense effort, and using my back as a ramp to the bed, she was able to get in bed. If she were not light as a feather, I am pretty sure my vertebrae would have been as aligned as the teeth of the homeless man's whose shirt I stole after this maneuver. But she is light as a feather. I then climbed into bed with her and we watched old episodes of The Office until the Northland service came online. Pop is a great preacher. That has nothing to do with this story, but he is.

When 10:00 rolled around, Lizzy was ready to go to bed. The tranquilizers running through her veins finally sedated her enough for her to fall asleep. If not for the grounding effect of horrendous back spasms, they would have been enough allow her hear colors long before that. For the last time of the day, I hooked my arms under her shoulders and pulled her into a more comfortable position. And then she drifted off into oblivion where I am sure she is dreaming of large anatomy book pictures.

And so it was that Lizzy and I spent 12 hours side-by-side on the floor and the bed today. Aside from the agony, I have rarely had a more fulfilling day of marriage than today. Anyone who has been married longer than a week knows how minutiae can crowd out or obscure the vows that you took on your first day as husband and wife. To love and to cherish gets pushed aside by who's turn it is to take out our small-bladdered dog. Honor and obey get hazy when she wants to watch the Food Network and I want to watch Survivorman. But big events cast the small stuff into sharp perspective. When the chips are down, we both fly back to the vows we took and marriage becomes simple again.