Mrs. T is back in the hospital, this time in Connecticut rather than on the road. Unlike her last hospital stay, which was the direct result of a life-threatening crisis, this one isn’t as scary. She went to UConn John Dempsey Hospital eight days ago to undergo a routine test intended to monitor the progress of the chronic respiratory disease for which she will ultimately undergo a double lung transplant. While she was there, her doctors discovered that she had developed a staph infection at the site of the central line implanted in her chest through which she receives intravenous medication around the clock. Such infections are not uncommon and can be potentially dire, so she was hospitalized for treatment the very next day. Alas, one thing led to another, as often happens with central-line infections, and she’s been cooling her heels at UConn ever since.
The good news is that the infection is now under control. The bad news is that Mrs. T’s compromised central line had to be pulled—a procedure that proved to be far more painful than either of us expected—and it won’t be possible for the doctors at UConn to insert a new one until next week. For reasons too complicated and frustrating to explain in this space, she can’t spend the intervening time at home in Connecticut. Instead, she must remain in John Dempsey Hospital, where she’ll continue to receive the intravenous antibiotics necessary to ensure that the infection is gone for good. The initial stages of her treatment were inescapably unpleasant and things got pretty rough over the weekend, but Mrs. T, though she’s still in a fair amount of pain, is now resting more or less comfortably.
I’ve rearranged my work schedule to be with her, driving into New York to see shows and returning to Connecticut immediately afterward. Would that John Dempsey Hospital were a bit closer to our place in Storrs! No such luck, though: I spend two hours on the road each day, not counting the time needed to drive to Manhattan and back, as I did on Sunday afternoon to see a press preview of Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem at Lincoln Center. Fortunately, I’m accustomed to writing under adverse circumstances, and I’ve already knocked out a couple of Wall Street Journal columns in Mrs. T’s hospital room, which is brand-new and surprisingly spacious and attractive. While we’d rather be spending Thanksgiving somewhere else—anywhere else, truth to tell—we’re both well aware that things could be a whole lot worse.
My new routine is now set in stone. I commute from home to the hospital at midday and return at night. During the drive, I think about whatever I’m writing and listen to new albums and old favorites, taking my meals en route or in the hospital cafeteria (the minestrone is excellent). I continue to tape podcasts from Connecticut via Skype, and I’ve been amusing myself after visiting hours by working my way through Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin novels for the umpteenth time.
Mostly, though, I sit with Mrs. T, playing music for her on my MacBook, chatting idly about this and that, and doing everything I can think of to distract her from the comprehensively disagreeable fact that she’s stuck in a hospital bed again. She is, as always, coping gallantly with the situation, and her doctors and nurses, who couldn’t be nicer, are all doing everything in their power to ensure that she’ll return home next week in far better shape than she was when she arrived last week.
As for me, I’m where I belong and where I want to be, looking after my life’s companion. For that inestimable privilege, I will unhesitatingly give thanks come Thursday, and no matter what the UConn hospital kitchen dishes up that day, I’ll eat it with gratitude. I know how lucky I am.
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Billie Holiday sings Cole Porter’s “Easy to Love” in 1936. The band includes Ben Webster on tenor saxophone and Teddy Wilson on piano: