Monday, August 1, 2011

Breathing Easier (Literally) Over Here

The prospect of a road trip excited us!

A few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over, and determined that Warren surely must be dead. While this groggy, still-half-slumbering assessment was, I'm certain, influenced in part by the fact that I was reading a memoir about a woman whose husband drops dead in his forties, something else was at play. I hit Warren in the back, probably too hard, and said, "ARE YOU DEAD?"

As it turns out, Warren was not dead. Thus I had disturbed what had probably been Warren's first peaceful night in, oh, say, fifteen years or more. The short version of the story is that he has a chronic lung condition that makes breathing very difficult. This condition had been greatly aggravated over the past year or so by the development of -- how to put this delicately and not gross you out? oh wait, I can't-- a sinus cavity chockfull o' massive polyps.

These polyps, in turn, led to unsavory side effects, including a couple of bouts of pneumonia and constant-- I mean constant as in shares in Kleenex surely jumped-- nose blowing. It was painful to watch, and to listen to. Save for that one night when I mistook him for dead, I cannot recall another night together where we both weren't awakened, usually several times, by Darth Vader breathing and massive coughing attacks.

Why are we locked in this bathroom and WTF is that SMELL?

I've written before about our insurance problems. With me a sole proprietor and him unemployed and both of us riddled with pre-existing conditions, neither of us could acquire-- at any cost-- an insurance policy that would actually cover anything we needed covered. I tried getting a job with benefits, and even promised myself that if the only job I could get was with the state (which does not honor our domestic partnership) I would suck it up and get married so that the imagined health coverage of my imagined job would cover us both. Of course in this economy there were no jobs to be found.

Warren decided he would pony up cash on the barrelhead for the procedure until we learned it would cost... oh hell I can't even remember now. $30,000? $60,000? I think it really was $60,000. Then I found out about a little known government sponsored insurance program that would allow us to get actual, decent coverage. By this point, months had passed, and another month would pass before the new plan kicked in.

I'm not looking for a pity party here-- in fact what I say next I hope comes across more as empathy. If you have or have had a partner with a chronic health condition, my heart goes out to you. Of course my heart first goes out to your partner, and my Warren, because they have to suffer the immediate effects. But it is no walk in the park playing the supporting role, and I'd be a liar if I said I managed the role with consistent grace. Somedays I did not manage at all, and it seemed like even the palest shadow of grace had long left the building.

Warren and Rebound attempt to use TV as a form of denial. 

But fast forward to a week or so ago when, armed with insurance, Warren headed down to Houston where a surgeon put him under and, with three or four hours of work, left his nasal passages clean as a whistle. Because surgeons do not take into account things, like say, Spike's Summer Camp Schedule or Spike's Wedding Minister Schedule, I could not be there for the big day, which bummed me out, but it was a bummed outedness tempered by the thrill of knowing that Warren would, at long last, be able to breathe through his nose. You know that old song about not knowing what you got til it's gone? Well I want to either write a song about not knowing what you didn't have til you get it or, maybe in honor of Warren's pun obsession, something along the lines of, "You Don't Know (how much) Snot (there was) Til It's Gone."

I managed to get to Houston the evening after the day of surgery. The plan was that I would stay the week and play nurse, by which I mean I procured a hotel room with some extremely ancient about-to-expire frequent flyer miles, and got the idea that Warren and the little dogs and I could hole up and watch TV and play Scrabble. As it turns out, the hotel room was so skanky-- I mean so beyond the pale disgusting-- that it took me an hour just to make myself sit down on the bed. Bear in mind I set the bar for cleanliness so low in my own home, that I wasn't expecting the Four Seasons. I would've settled for the One and a Half Seasons. But this place was Seasonless, to understate the matter.

In the lobby I encountered a display of knock-off perfume for sale, along with plastic statues of tigers. A very bad drag queen wandered past. And by bad I don't mean so bad that she transcended to Divine status. I just mean she was lazy, her wig all crooked, and her Old Navy PJ bottoms just not living up to the sort of negligee-and-mule ensemble I better appreciate in DQs.

Warren said it best when, noting how the towels scratched off a layer of epidermis, "These towels are theft-proof."
The room was up on the third floor, which required convincing the dogs to mount a couple of flights of open concrete steps, scaring the hell out of all of us. Luckily for Warren, his missing sense of smell (he's never had one) was not restored by the surgery, because the room smelled like the inside of a taxi cab with one of those scary scent dispensers in it. Unluckily for the dogs, they did not have the necessary opposable thumbs to hold their own hypersensitive noses, and their olfactory glands went into terrified overdrive as they looked at me with hurt and suspicion, worse than if I'd beaten them. Why are you doing this to us? they telepathed repeatedly.

Seriously scary.

Warren busied himself with three activities during our brief stay in the room:

1. Flaring his nostrils-- something he'd never done before, since he never had inhaled before (take that, Bill Clinton).
2. Repeatedly demonstrating his New Noise. As he aptly pointed out, pre-surgery when he wanted to feign listening to me and/or condescend, he would use his mouth to make an Unh-Hunh noise. But now he can give Oprah a run for the money, and sound far more condescending, by using his nose to make a Unn-Huhnnn noise.
3. Reminding me that if we were in a third world country this would be considered a very nice hotel room.

Let's put those sounds together now and listen in for a minute, shall we:


Alas the humor was not enough to convince me to stay for our fully allotted time, even if it did mean forfeiting the 17,000 fucking miles I had to sacrifice for the room. Warren suggested I follow my heart and head back to Austin the next day. Bad nurse that I am, I did not protest. We woke up early to the smell of Eau d' taxi, and I realized I forgot dog dishes, so I made the pups little wet food "sno-cones." Then, wanting to at least salvage a little bit of together time before I left Warren for another week of TV watching at his parents while he awaited a post-op, we headed down to Galveston. There we sat, very, very still, for about four hours in the backyard of my college roommate and her husband. Compared to the hotel pool,  their little inflatable (purchased at Big Lots!) seemed like an Olympic sized, lavender scented lap pool at a billion-dollar spa.

Who wants a wet food sno-cone?!!
What a lovely day that was. And now we're all back in Austin-- me well-rested after a week alone during which I read the entire internet and got quite a bit of knitting done, and Warren who continues to do experiments with his nose, like put it right up against my neck and inhale, like he's the horse and I'm Elizabeth Taylor in International Velvet.

We are all breathing easier over here, save for those middle-of-the-night moments when the sounds of silence (or rather the absence of coughing) jolts me to the surface and I have to fight every urge not to pound old Warren on the back as a means of checking his vitals.