Fragility, Acceptance, and Patience

We are fragile creatures. We like to think that we are at the top of the food chain, the apex predator, the all powerful human beings, but in reality we are sensitive little organisms going about our lives as this tiny planet spins around on its axis orbiting one of billions of stars in the expansive universe. And we can be conquered by organisms that we can’t even see with our naked eye.

I have been reminded of this over the past week as I’ve sat in a hospital bed, tethered to an IV drip of a cocktail of antibiotics, saline and non-narcotic pain medications.

About a week ago I did something that millions of people do every day — something that I’ve done hundreds of times before in my life without incident — and it landed me in the hospital.

I plucked a nose hair.

Yes, I plucked a nose hair and set off a series of events that I could not predict nor control. The small trauma inside my nose was invaded by a virulent microorganism that appeared to be resistant to antibiotics. I began to feel pain on Monday last week and thought I had a pimple on my nose, but there was no evidence of one. By evening, my nose was starting to swell and looked a bit pink. Tuesday morning, it was swollen and red and I went to urgent care. That afternoon I found myself leaving the ENTs office with instructions to head straight to the ER for a CT scan. I was admitted to the hospital that night.

After 48 hours of two of the strongest antibiotics we have available, I was still getting sicker and my nose had ballooned up to the size of a golf ball. I had cellulitis (an infection of the soft tissues) and an abscess forming. I had surgery on Thursday evening and felt relief from the pressure within a few hours.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about acceptance while was in the hospital.

We were supposed to leave for a vacation on Thursday. It was abundantly clear on Wednesday that we would not be able to go. In the past I would have felt that it was unfair. That I’d been wronged. That surely someone was responsible. And that I was owed something by the universe.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a little self-pity party on Wednesday. But it was clear that there was nothing I could do to change my circumstances. It was clear that I’d only create more misery for myself and others if I got angry and frustrated about it. So, I spent some time feeling the disappointment and practicing letting go.

On Friday, after surgery, when I was staring to feel better, I started to have the self pity again. My situation sucked. There was no way around it. I’d been stuck inside for days — hadn’t left the room in days — I felt trapped and annoyed about things. But I knew that I needed to accept the current situation and I needed to not judge it.

I got past my self pity when I found way to get connected to the program of recovery. On Wednesday I reached out to friends in recovery and this agnostic asked for, gasp, prayers. Yes, it’s true. As I mentioned in my post on the eleventh step, my understanding of what constitutes prayer has changed and I’m now comfortable asking for them, and accepting them when I need a little help.

On Thursday the program came to me. I got a lovely text from a gentleman who I’d told my story to a month ago — a friend of a friend whom I’ve never met in real life — with a picture of his 1 month chip and a note of thanks. This little message lifted me up and reminded me that small actions can have big impacts.

Friday afternoon, I worked from my hospital bed to connect a young man who I know in recovery with some resources in the city where he will be attending college. It turns out that one of my connections at my alma mater, Penn State, who is the faculty coordinator for the collegiate Recovery Center on campus knows the coordinator of a similar group at my friend’s school.

By getting out of myself, and finding ways to be of service to others, I was able to pass my time here in the hospital in a productive manner and make a difference for other people.

There have also been some lessens in patience for me here. As I mentioned I was admitted on Tuesday and had surgery on Thursday. I would have liked to have had surgery sooner, but it turned out that the abscess just wasn’t ready and surgical intervention prior to Thursday would have been pointless. And so we waited. And my nose got more swollen, and more painful.

After surgery, I had two full days of sitting in that small room, waiting to be released. Again an exercise in patience. I was physically healthy enough to leave on Friday but wasn’t released because cultures take time to grow. And my doctor wanted to ensure that we had the right treatment in place before sending me home. So I waited. My patience was thin, but I reminded myself that getting out of the hospital only to have the infection come back would be worse.

So I made some calls to friends in and out of the program. I texted with a friend new in recovery. I took laps around the floor. The decision was not mine to make and it would come when it came.

On Sunday morning I woke to the news that my cultures were done and they had a treatment plan. I was sent home at 10:00 AM, with a prescription for a ton of antibiotics over the next ten days.

This too shall pass.