I arrived in New York, to be there during my son’s operation on his neck, last Wednesday afternoon.
I flew into grubby Kennedy International Airport. I stood in line waiting for a cab. “Where you wanna go?” the dispatcher shouted at me. I gave her the address on east 46th street. “Fifty dollars,” she barked. Ah, yes. I’m in New York, I thought.
I met my son and his wife at the apartment where we were staying, kindly lent to us by my cousin who was away on vacation. We decided to go out for dinner. There were lots of restaurants nearby, and we finally chose one that had “Indian – Latin American fusion” cuisine. The food was fine. I had a whole fish spiced with ginger and hot pepper. I was hungry, having eaten nothing but airplane peanuts all day.
The apartment we stayed in was a penthouse, so-called (though it had no balcony) because it was on the top floor – about the 27th. The views were panoramic.
We had a full day in New York before my son’s operation. We walked the streets and planned the next day and shopped for dinner which I was to cook.
I was astonished at how many nail salons there were. I think about one in every block. New Yorkers must spend a lot of time and money on their finger nails. There were lots of flower stands and fruit stands.
Michelle and I stopped for a drink at a sidewalk café. It was a treat just to watch the variety of people passing.
There were lots of babies in strollers and carriages. Many of them were pushed by nannies. Many were pushed by daddies. I saw only a few stroller pushers who could be suspected of being mommies. How things change. When I was young a man would be laughed at for pushing a baby stroller in the daytime when he should be at work. We saw quite a few twins in carriages in the short time we sat there. “Must be something in the water,” Michelle said.
The number of dogs on the streets was a wonder too. And they all looked so squeaky clean and groomed. I thought there should be as many dog groomers as nail salons.
There were old people too out walking in the sunshine; old men alone and old women with companions and helpers.
Oh, and the young women! On a warm day there was so much to be seen. Gowns, some long, some so short as to hardly rate the name of gown, clung to the curves, barely covered the bosom and were held up with the thinnest wisps of straps. Some were strapless. Jerry would have loved it, though he claims to dislike all cities.
We didn’t know until Thursday afternoon at what time the next day Steve’s operation would take place, and that made him tense all day. The operation has significant risks: risks to life, and risks to mental function, because the area of the surgery is full of major blood vessels and nerves to the brain. He was supposed to call at 3 o’clock to find out the time. It took three calls but at last he was told to appear at 10:30 the next morning.
He had expected to be discharged the same day as the operation, but discovered that the admissions people mistakenly thought it was to be a shoulder operation, not a neck one. When the doctor came into the prep room to write his initials on the left side of Steve’s neck with ball point pen – so everyone was clear about which side was to be fixed, he said Steve would have to stay in the hospital overnight. Steve finally walked to the operating room, wheeling his IV’s beside him, at about 1 o’clock.
Michelle and I, both nervous as cats, went to get some lunch in the hospital cafeteria. We shared a table with a nice nurse who knew Steve’s surgeon well and she told us that he is the team doctor to the New York Giants. The time seemed to drag, and I kept thinking of the time I spent sitting in a waiting room when he was 8 years old and was having his ruptured spleen removed.
We had been told that the operation would take about an hour and a half, but it was nearly 4 o’clock when the doctor came out to see us. He explained that the operation had gone well, and drew a little picture of how he had installed the ligament of a cadaver to tie up the dislocated collar bone. Then he said, “I’ll need to see him for a follow-up in about 2 weeks.”
I said, “But how can they, they live in Charleston, South Carolina?”
He gave me a long look and said, “People come from all over the world to see me.”
By 5 o’clock they had Steve in a bed in the hospital. Michelle and I stayed with him until visiting hours were over at 8.
The next day his neck was swollen, and it soon was clear that he would not go home that day. The swelling had to go down first. We came and went most of the day, and in the afternoon set out to get him some non-hospital food, specifically, some sushi. And to get some additional undershorts that he wanted. For that we stopped at Banana Republic, and I was astonished to see elegant ladies with elegant dogs on leashes right in the store trying on clothes.
Michelle’s cell phone rang. It was Steve. He said we were not to worry, but something had been seen on an x-ray taken after the operation (air where it should not be) and they wanted to do another x-ray and an MRI. When we got back to the hospital he was back from x-ray, looked really upset, and couldn’t eat the sushi. By 7:30 there still was no news from radiology. Since he is a doctor himself, he understood well all the unpleasant possibilities, and was scared. But it was the weekend, and things were moving slowly. Finally he called the nurse and said, “I want to see the resident, NOW.”
Then we got the news that the air seen on x-ray had not been in a region of vital blood vessels, but in overlying tissues. We all sighed with relief. By this time the swelling was down, and he was to be discharged the next day. I said goodbye, since my plane left early Sunday morning.
Sunday was Jerry’s and my third wedding anniversary. I was so glad to see him. We still hold hands across the table in restaurants. It has been a good 3 years.