Let me start by introducing you to Cow. Everyone should have their very own sacred stuff totem animal – mine comes in the form of a 4 inch tall jersey spotted mad cow complete with crazy eyes and a tongue hanging out of his mouth. If you squeeze him, he laughs maniacally. Over the years, he’s been my travel companion. When Keith got sick, Cow was ever present. He swapped labels on the samples in the lab, he sat on Keith’s head after his colonoscopy, he brought fried rice and yogurt to the hospital, he ate the lemon merrange pie from the hospital tray, he brought back the rasta Tigger from Jamaica, and on the eve of Keith’s last day with us, Cow was the only one to get a reaction out of him.
I was explaining Cow to Keith’s niece, Mel, and to fully demonstrate Cow’s many talents, I gave the little bovine a squeeze. As soon as his crazy moo laughing started, Keith’s right eyebrow shot straight up into the air. All of us in the room were a little jealous of Cow for being the recipient of the most definitive reaction to anyone that day. It brought to mind receiving the same reaction from Keith when I went bounding into the sunroom in late October to show off my Fall fairy costume complete with towering gauze wings. I got the same eyebrow then and Keith said to me “please promise me your not going to do anything stupid while I am sick”. Me? Never . . . Silly, yes . . . Stupid, no.
Today, Cow traveled with me to UMMC to be by my dad’s side for his second procedure. It was a big day for us all. I’ll start with the good news before carrying on with the details. The doctors conducted an internal ultrasound exploritory procedure at the bile duct site where his original stent had been placed. They also did a biopsy and some scrapings. They did not see any tumors pressing on the site so we are one step closer to ruling out cancer. They still can not determine why the duct still remains constricted and did replace the old stent with a new larger one. Dad came out of surgery with a sore throat and a big thirst but otherwise is doing well. He’s catching up on his sleep as I write this.
So now for the details. Our co-worker Jay (yep, another Jay) drove Dad to the hospital while I drove over to meet them. We all got there way before the scheduled time and hung out in the lobby talking shop. Dad went to pre-op and Jay and I followed. Jay was indispensable. He was joking around and had us both laughing about Dad starting his own Barbie doll clothing line that could be called “the Lankford collection”. Dad shared the story of his allergic reaction to a muscle relaxer that is now so obsolete that one of the medical team tried to google it out of curiosity. Everyone in scrubs kept asking about his allergies to latex and eggs. Finally, after telling them he wasn’t allergic for the fourth time, they figured out that one of their staff members had misread the medical questionaire we had completed. One item on the form stated “circle all that apply”. Afterwards, there was a long list of medical allergies. We properly had completed the form by not circling any of them. The person transcribing the form didn’t catch the “circle all that apply” so they thought the list that followed was a list of allergies. Whoops!
We called Mom after talking with the doctors and she asked if I had Cow with me. Dad made the comment that the last time Cow made an appearance in a hospital, the patient he was with didn’t fair too well. We all started laughing, harder than even Cow would do. I told Dad that I had that same thought myself and that I didn’t want Cow causing any trouble till after the procedures. So Cow did remain in my bag until Dad was wheeled away. Of course, Cow joined Jay and I for lunch, and looked out the window in the waiting room, embarrassing Jay with a sudden outburst (now is that Cow or Cherish being silly?) and when Dad was in the recovery room, Cow snuck a peak at the charts. I can’t say for sure, but Cow may have even drawn a happy face on the discharge papers.
There has always been some strange medical connection between my Dad and Keith. They were travel companions from Colorado to Maryland in late August. Driving in the pouring rain, Dad was getting sick on the side of the road every few miles while they needed to make frequent restroom stops for Keith. Shortly after their return, Dad had his gall bladder removed on the same day that we got the first test results back indicating Keith had cancer. The Monday before Keith died, Dad sat in the ER, a lovely glowing shade of yellow. On December 15, Dad went into surgery that morning and Keith left us that evening. As Dad and I drove away from the hospital this afternoon, we talked about these odd connections. Dad said that the quickness that everything happened to Keith reminded him of the rabbit in that fable about the tortoise and the hare. Meanwhile, Dad is turtling along 5 years after his problems started and still trying to figure out what is wrong. The parallels between husband and father can be drawn, just on a different time line. We know how it turned out for Keith. I think that’s what makes all of this hard on Dad – where does the connection end? When do we stop stressing the similarities? I know we all think it and it scares us. What we all have to remember is one simple truth – the tortoise won the race.