Amid the beeping and prodding all around me, two things became clear: I was running on hospital basement mochas and Jon Kabat-Zinn.
My husband was in the Shock Trauma ICU of the University of Maryland Medical Center, recovering from fibula flap jaw reconstruction surgery for a rare aggressive noncancerous tumor called an ameloblastoma. It took a team of four surgeons ten hours to remove most of the fibula bone from his leg, shave it, shape it, and then place it in his face with a bike-chain-like titanium rod to replace the six inches of excised jaw bone where the tumor had been.
He was on a ventilator; he was on a feeding tube. He looked like a shark attack victim. His neck scar looked like a botched decapitation. Blood seeped through the bandages. I was having a terrible time looking at him, but I could not turn away.
Had I not been taking a mindfulness meditation class, I’m certain I would have cracked like a vase, like the 12th-century Korean celadon pot the kids and I have been reading about at night. They snuggled close to me, missing their father, as I read aloud Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard and we considered that, unlike the characters Wood-ear and Crane-man, we had enough to eat. We had much to be grateful for. I made them list a few things every night. For several nights in a row my daughter had written “CATS.”
“But Daddy had a huge surgery,” she now said, her eyes starting to well up. “Daddy’s face! Daddy’s leg!”
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