On Monday Jason called me at work to inform me that he was feeling dizzy and had “tunnel vision.” Since my only (young) dependent is a vocal but non-verbal dog, I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to interpreting such statements. Was he looking for my blessing in a bid to leave work early for a marathon Xbox session on the couch? Did he simply stand up too quickly? Did he eat some bad cheese? What do I tell him?
I decided that honesty was the best approach. “I don’t know what to tell you, hon.” I was stumped. “Put your head on your desk and close your eyes for a minute?”
I had an elementary school teacher who suggested that for almost every malady, so I thought that was a good place to start.
I instructed him to call me if he got worse. We hung up and I returned to whatever task I had been engaged in earlier, thinking this was a false alarm. In fact, he called back to tell me he’d gone for a walk and was feeling much better. So I was surprised when I received a call from his boss an hour later from the emergency room.
Apparently, the dizziness and kaleidoscope / tunnel vision had developed a new twist: numbness below the left elbow. (Although I wouldn’t know this until I arrived at the ER.)
As soon as Jason’s boss called, I assumed the worst. My mother lost an early boyfriend to one … my best friend recently lost her mother to one … and a friend’s brother was just diagnosed with one. So of course it had to be a brain tumor. A quick Google search (I know, I know) of “tunnel vision symptom” only bolstered my initial diagnosis.
And suddenly it was as if I’d put on the wrong glasses, getting a glimpse into what life might be like if my fears were confirmed. I couldn’t believe I had ever been so concerned about petty things like proper dish-washing and stacking technique, whose turn it was to take the dog out, toilet seats left in the upright position, etcetera ad nauseum. I wanted to be back in the world of such issues immediately. I wanted no part of the world of terminal illness and early loss of a spouse. I wanted to gripe good-naturedly about work, waffle over whether or not to have children, and find food delicious and irony amusing. I wanted my husband to never feel pain physically or emotionally. I wanted to stop focusing on what I wanted and be the person Jason needed. If it came to that.
How do widows and widowers carry on? How is it even possible? I didn’t want to know. The first four stages of grief cycled through me on the drive to the hospital—especially bargaining. I don’t really “talk” to God, as I’m not sure she exists. And if God did exist, why would he give a rat’s ass about my petty problems? There are entire families being murdered in Darfur. There is tragedy out there on a scale I can’t even comprehend—much of which is affecting more pious individuals.
But you can bet I was making all kinds of bargains with God on my way to the hospital. I used the word "Please" alot, as if excessive politeness would bump me up in a long line of prayers awaiting answers.
I arrived at the ER and promptly got lost in a maze of corridors. A kind nurse eventually led me to Jason’s room; he was reclined on a gurney, his chest pasted with EKG disks and wires. He looked exhausted. The sight of him in so vulnerable a position broke my heart. (Also, his boss was still sitting with him; is that a great employer or what?)
The prognosis? The EKG was normal—no heart attack. Brain scans revealed nothing—no masses, no bleeds, only a clear picture of the organ responsible for running the goofy man I love.
A very nice doctor with one hell of a lazy eye told us Jason’s symptoms stemmed from a certain kind of migraine, which can affect vision and even lead to bilateral numbness and paralysis. Then a male nurse came in to wrap things up, first racing to the heart monitor and shouting, “Oh my god! … Just kidding.”
J needs to make an appointment with a neurologist to make sure his mind is only as warped as it was last week, but it looks like he’ll be fine.
I was so relieved to walk out of that hospital with my husband. Odds are we’ll be back, sooner or later. It’s all part of being human. But I’m certainly hoping for “much later.”