Today I took a shower for the first time in a week. What an amazing, liberating feeling - to be released from your Wicked Witch of the Bayou hair, soon to become shaved-it-cause-couldn't-take-it-scalp, and to be freed from your blood-soaked bandages.
Alright, I'll give it to you; they weren't exactly blood-soaked. Still, the little rectangle of gauze over my chest tube incision was moist and red and icky. The hospital did not think I needed stitches or sutures.
Of course, it is precisely due to that indecent incision that I was unable to bathe properly. Since two Fridays ago when I was involved in a serious automobile accident, I have had to wash my body while in a chair each day, and my hair could only be dampened and rubbed with a no-rinse shampoo. I think this is why the nurses who checked on me my last morning in the Surgical Care Unit were appalled by my Natural Woman scent and said as much to each other when not quite out of my earshot. My feelings were hurt, and, anyhow, there was little I could do about my circumstances which were made dramatically worse by the nurses pumping me full of stool softeners and milk-of-epic-discomfort-magnesia.
It just stinks that all the doctors and nurses smelled like strong-and-fruity-female scents, the males included. I was never sure why they smelled so damned sweet. They would wake me up early, early in the morning to put a board behind my back for X-rays or to level my pain with oxy-codine, and their perfume would waft around me, practically sending me into hallucinations of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Were they trying to stick it to those of us who could not cleanse and moisturize? Or were they trying to carry around with them their own odor to block out that of the malodorous, unshowered patients?
Yet, despite the unguarded words of those nurses, most of the surgical staff were understanding and nonjudgmental, and my ED doc was uniformly kind no matter my state. He always had a smile for me and always encouraged me and didn't even act offended at my 4am lung check-up when I was all sweaty from the bedclothes and the Circulation-Straight-Jackets they put on my legs to prevent blood clots. Kindness goes a long way toward making people feel better about things.
And today I am finally a new woman, albeit with some painful memories. I have shed the greasy, stringy hair and the tacky bandage borders left on my skin where the chest tube was glued in place until this last Wednesday. For three days after its removal, I was not allowed to shower. Today is the day. I am clean, sweet-smelling and feeling better than I have felt for over a week.
And last night I dislodged the last piece of glass from my person. It was stuck in my ear canal. I thought it was an unseemly glob of ear wax for a whole week as I tried to carefully extract it. It caused me some discomfort, but not for one minute did I imagine it could be a splinter of my driver's side window that got blown into my ear and stuck there.
All things must pass - the scrapes fade, flake and heal, the bruises turn pale green and sickly yellow, the lung grows stronger, the ribs slowly, surely mend, and the last of the fractured glass is shed as evidence. Yet I am still a work in progress. My mind is still sensitive to all recollections of the trauma.