Valentine’s Day from a Hospital Room

This is our first Valentine's day together, gifts have been bought, plans have been made. The one hundred and thirty-four miles between us is driven often to make long distance work for us. The brisk air of a Texas winter whips around me, while I start my trek down to see him this Valentine’s day.

Then I got the call, the call we all fear to get. The call that means that your loved one is hurt and in the hospital. Luckily, this call came from my boyfriend himself. He was going to be having surgery the next day, but they had admitted him for the night.

I asked him which hospital he was in and what his room number was.

You see I’ve gotten calls like this before, when my mom passed away two years ago. It’s part of the reason I have separation anxiety with my phone, I never want to miss these calls.

When I walked in, they were dressing his wound, he had an infection in his thumb that he’d gotten during some injury that he’d brushed off a week or more ago. His grandparents were there with him. His grandmother gave me a hug, she’d met me before we had started dating.

“Look who’s here?” her smile put me at ease.

He winced as the nurse dabbed disinfectant on the sore. I came around to hold his other hand. I wrap it up in mine, reminding him he can squeeze it if he’s in pain. Even when I could see his face contort in pain, he was very careful not to hurt me.

“This isn’t the Valentine’s Day I had planned,” he whispers to me, catching my eye with a smile. It amazes me that this man can be sick in a hospital bed, and still have the gall to smile and joke with me.

“Oh yeah? So, you’re saying this wasn’t your plan all along?” I said raising my eyebrows at him. Apparently, he’d had a romantic date all planned with roses and dinner.

“There’s always next year,” and with him, I have no doubt that there will be a next year. But that night we had sandwiches in a hospital room, brought to us by his aunt, who also still managed to pick up the roses for me.

Our Valentine’s Day did not go as planned. I oh so romantically fed him his sandwich, because he lacked the use of his hands, seeing as the uninjured side was being used for IVs. The red roses in the vase on the windowsill next to a little wooden heart that said ‘you and me’ completed the romantic atmosphere.

The nurse brought a more comfortable pull-out when she realized I wasn’t going anywhere. The kindness was so refreshing, she didn’t have to do that, I didn’t ask her to, but she did anyway.

It was strange being someone’s person, the person who the doctors and nurses turn to, to give information to, the person who cares for them, I was never that person for anyone else. In my mom’s case, my older brother was the person she’d chosen to make her medical decisions. When we were younger, it had been my mother in charge of us, but because I was the one that stayed, I was his person.

As they pushed him into surgery the next morning, I told him I loved him. He wasn’t nervous in the slightest. Me: I was a tense, tight ball of nerves. The last time I’d been in a hospital for a significant amount of time, I was watching my mother die. I knew he was in no danger of dying, but there is no way of telling myself that everything will be alright when the smell of disinfectant and echo of shoes on tile floors pull me back into those last moments. He said he loved me too right before the doors close.

Surgery and recovery take less than two hours and his family sits with me through most of it. His grandma couldn’t be there so I’m texting her updates as they happen. She tries to praise me for being sweet and staying with him. I tell her the truth, I don’t want him to have to be alone here, and that I’m glad that I’m able to be here. I had taken two days off work so that after valentine’s day I wouldn’t feel like I had to rush back for my job, which meant that I could now be there to see him through the recovery period.

His family and I go up to his room, happy to see him without pain, he was super doped up on pain medication. I laid down on the couch-pullout next to him and we both took a nap. Our friends and family came and went bringing food and laughter. He requested both groups of friends bring him bottles of coke, he’s the type to choose coke over water any day.

One of his friends brought him a pack of Magic the Gathering cards, because apparently, he’d really wanted to open some, which had me teasingly asking him how exactly he was going to open them, seeing as both of his arms were incapacitated.

We have a best friend that we share, he was talking to me about how this must not be a very fun way to spend Valentine's Day weekend.

But thinking back, this was my favorite Valentine’s Day. I got to spend time with the man that I love with no outside distractions and demands being made of us, there were no expectations that were not met. It was just us. I felt very loved, which before he came into my life was a rare occurrence that typically only happened with family and longtime friends.

This was a bonding experience for us and one I didn’t expect to have. I have never been a nursemaid type of person. I don’t like taking care of sick people, which is one of the reasons I’m not in a medical career path. Whenever I’ve been put in a situation where I must step up and care for a sick family member, it has always ended in frustration for me, and they typically feel my anger showing through. But with him, it was different. I didn’t want to leave his side for anything. If he needed anything I was there, I didn’t feel the burden of taking care of someone else. I waited to feel frustrated or irritated, but those feelings never came.

He is my partner; I would do anything for him, especially when he isn’t at the top of his game.