The other day, I was going through paperwork as I listened to music. About halfway through the playlist, Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes” came on. Suddenly, I was brought back to the first time I heard that song.
It was Spring of 2007. I’d finally consented to having the medtronic pump trial. It was a long week, attached to an IV of morphine, to see if it would be beneficial to me.
Each day, the team came in to assess how well I handled the medication. By all standards, their early efforts were a success. It was encouraging, radical (for me), and terrifying.
My roommate was a really angry woman. Every day, around the clock, she’d be arguing with someone over the phone. Occasionally, it would carry over with her visitors. She bickered with the nurses. Needless to say, I did my best not to engage. She’d lost her right arm in an accident and had a really high tech artificial limb in its place. She was in a lot of pain. That was about the only thing I could be certain of, based off of the dozens of shouting matches I witnessed.
One night, really late, I had my earbuds hooked up to the tv system, trying to drown out the arguing. I’m not certain what channel it was on, but they were playing new music videos. And onto my screen came Paolo Nutini. It had been an especially rough day. It was the first time my daughter, then 6, had seen me during this hospital stay. As much as we reassured her, she was not having it. Not only was I not home, I was also hooked up to what might as well have been 100 wires. A heavy IV pole with the large machine attached, and then attached via tubing to me. This was a nooooooo.
I remember her asking me if the lady next to me had a robot arm. To be honest, three days in, I hadn’t even met the woman, only her scowl as she stared at me when passing the foot of my bed. She had the window side and always had a robe on en route to the restroom. Somehow, my gal had seen her arm. Not only that, my roommate had smiled and waved, only to her. Prompting a friendly response. But there were questions.
It was during that night, after I listened to the song and finally cheered up, that I met my roommate. Marta was in her fifties, a single mom who had “stupid, adult kids.” She was at a frightening impasse. Trying to adjust to life with a new arm, potentially losing her job, trying to force her clan to grow up. I heard constant talk about the “mooching” and “draining” people in her life.
She appeared around the curtain, kind of suddenly, and said, “you’re lucky, you have a nice family.” I thanked her. “Was that your baby here today? She didn’t look too happy.” I told her about my gal, that she wasn’t happy. She’d asked me to come home. It broke my heart.
We talked for a while, about family and our medical situations. Each of us in our beds, with the curtains drawn. Right before she went to sleep, she said, “See? Here I thought you were like a goody two shoes, with a perfect life. But you wouldn’t be here if that was true.” Nope, I wouldn’t. (But thank you for that kind, personal analysis. LOL).
It would take me another three years before I’d consent to getting the pump implanted. Fear and uncertainty kept me from moving forward. I dipped my toes in the deep end and believed I couldn’t resurface. It wasn’t true, but it was my truth.
Sometimes I think about that decision, the foolishness of it. But when control over whether or not you have a major surgery is the only control you have? You HOLD it, for as long as you can – at least I did. In the end, the control wasn’t mine anyway. When they did the prescans, etc., they discovered a congenital defect in my spine. This further delayed the implant. Talk about major surgery! Breaking my back to fix my back. (Gag…. for real).
That decision was out of my shaky hands because my docs felt that one more disc slip and I could end up paralyzed. My back would lock – completely taking my legs out from under me. The pain and numbness were so intense, I had to rely on my cane to keep me upright more than once. So, enter the hardware.
But on that night – the night of Paolo and Marta and fear – I remember thinking how happy he looked in that video. How great it would be if life allowed us to simply change shoes for radical joy. Can you imagine? Instead, Marta got a new arm and I was wrapped up in a morphine cloud. Neither of us was particularly happy.
The song transported me out of the hospital room though. This was pre-iTunes. When the video came on, the print in the corner of the screen was so small that I couldn’t even see who the singer was. I’d have to track the album down, once I was discharged.
I did. And, lucky for me, Paolo was coming to NYC in July, to appear on the Today Show. Since it was summer, my gal came with me. She brought a book to read while we waited for him, sitting on the curb in Rockefeller Plaza. When he finished his set, he greeted all of the fans. But he beelined for us because of her! He shouted over the screaming, “My youngest fan!” He signed autographs, took pictures and chatted with everyone. I was so happy.
Thinking back, it was definitely a simpler time. Being in NY Presbyterian for a week, trying to move forward but too scared to really allow progress. Shutting it all down until 2010… I believed I was doing the right thing. Maybe it was.
Nothing is ever as uncomplicated as we’d like. At this point, so many years later, I believe my medical life has played out exactly as it had to. What else can I do? I’m not big on regret. It serves no purpose. So, I believe I’ve played this out as I was meant to.
If only the act of new shoes could flip the life switch in a positive direction. If only a new arm, a repaired spine, or medtronic pump could guarantee better things, for everyone. If only. The pump saved me. Even now, two years without it, I believe it. I hope Marta was saved.
Until an actual life-switch-in-the-right-direction becomes a reality, I’ll simply say that I wish you easy choices, no pain and calm.❤️
Peace and painlessness,
P.S. take a listen to his whole album, “These Streets.” It’s still a favorite.😉