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A pause that refreshes? |


A pause that refreshes?

FROM MY HEART - Barbara C. Gonzalez - The Philippine Star
A pause that refreshes?
Graphic by Scott Garceau

Omigod, is this “the pause that refreshes”? In case you don’t remember, that’s an old advertising slogan of Coca-Cola, a brand I proudly handled when I was working!

What a hassle it is to get operated on!  I thought it was a minor operation but it took three hours plus approximately two hours of preparation, which thankfully included conversation with the anesthesiologist, Dr. Michael Alvarez, who had watched one of my daughters on TV.  Then another two hours of recovery time. They picked me up from my hospital room at around six in the morning and wheeled me back close to six in the evening. A total of almost 12 hours.

I slept very well, hungover from the anesthetic. The next morning Dr. Aldine Basa, my surgeon who has a great sense of humor, told me I could go home. I had two small plastic bottles hanging from my sides. One on the left, another on the right. Every four hours we had to empty those and measure whatever was in them and write down the measurements. We were told we could go home at nine so we started the exit ball rolling and finally left at two in the afternoon.

I felt no pain but I was wobbly. Since I had overslept the night before, I could hardly sleep my first night home. Friends and relatives sent fruits, ensaimadas, salads, even macopas from a student’s fruit tree. I had lunch with one of my best friends, a close cousin-in-law, and a first cousin visiting from Canada.

But I don’t feel right. I think my operation turned the old me off. I don’t want to do anything. I think I have watched every film on TV. I tried to read but failed miserably until I picked up I’d Like the World to Buy a Coke: The Life and Leadership of Roberto Goizueta by David Greising. Another writing student lent it to me. I get a lift reading it because handling Coca-Cola at McCann-Erickson Philippines was the most exciting time in my advertising career. Reading the names of John Hunter and E. Neville Isdell, who were clients of mine then, makes me smile.  Apparently the Philippines played an important role in Goizueta’s career. Goizueta rose to his position as chairman and president of The Coca-Cola Company during my time on the Coca-Cola account. I met him when he came for a working visit. Remembering this rekindled my pride and happiness. Once upon a time this old woman with two plastic bottles hanging from her sides enjoyed a glorious career.

It’s amazing what an operation will do. I have friends who labeled me a superwoman because I came home from the hospital 24 hours after a major operation. I think that was because whoever runs the hospital decided to dismiss patients early to avoid sepsis. It doesn’t mean that I am superwoman. Sure, I can walk and talk but I know that, until today — 15 days after the operation — my mind and body are still on vacation.

My mind was put into a deep rest by a skilled anesthesiologist. It takes a long time to wake up. My muscles were trained into numbness by having both arms strapped over my head for at least three hours. Now I feel the inconvenience of their slowly coming back to life. If I stretch my arm up to reach for something — it hurts. When I reach down to button or unbutton my pajama tops — it hurts. When I get up from a chair, I know my underarms are there — they hurt, pain that’s not serious enough for a scream, but nevertheless — it hurts.

I don’t know what to do with myself. I do not enjoy the small, post-op pains though they are far from being intolerable, just mildly inconvenient. I don’t enjoy having to be awake every four hours for emptying my little bottles. On top of all this I miss my husband, whose absence stands out in our little apartment. His hospital bed that his daughter wants is still here. I cannot look at it without feeling my heart break. His caregiver takes very good care of me but I miss my love’s voice endlessly calling me.

So I dabble in fixing our home. Small tasks. Setting up the coffee maker and toaster on one end of the dining table to make it easier for me to have breakfast now that I have it alone. Finishing off all the fruit juices I bought for my husband just to get them out of the way and to force me to stop remembering. Watching Netflix and falling asleep at odd hours during the day.

Is this my life now? Divided among pain, sorrow and joyful visits of friends? Or is this the “pause that refreshes,” that will pass sooner or later and give me a new, joyful life?

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