In the meantime, Pam had to watch from afar as all this was happening. I couldn't have her take care of me as I attempted to recover from my appendectomy (though Ma did a valiant job at it) and I couldn't hold her hand as I waited in the E.R. or recovered in my hospital room.
But, Pam would soon change that...
I sure did!
I couldn't sit here in Australia any longer and watch Joe suffering from a distance. I'd already put up with the hours of not knowing what was going on when he was suffering from appendicitis, and then watched over a fortnight of him suffering post-appendectomy as the abscess slowly grew worse (though we didn't know what was happening). Skype is a miraculous thing and we were in constant contact through our regular channels (Skype, Gmail, Google+, AIM, Facebook and our sky-high phone bills), but it didn't feel like enough. I could see Joe in pain on his couch and all I wanted was to curl up beside him and hold his hand through it all. Once he was hospitalised for the second time, something in me just snapped - especially when I learned that he had an abscess and the large bowel obstruction.
Early Sunday morning (I counted down the hours until it was an appropriate time of day), I texted my manager to apprise her of the situation and ask permission to leave. Within an hour, she had given me her blessing. I immediately got on the phone to Qantas. The lady on the phone could have gotten me on the 1pm flight/s, except the final leg of the journey, an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Philly, was fully booked. She suggested that I could fly Qantas to Dallas and then try to get on another flight with a different carrier to get to Philadelphia, but I didn't feel confident doing that. I decided to wait until Monday lunchtime and fly the whole way with Qantas. That way, I had some time at my disposal to prepare, and also get more information from Joe and his mother about what was really happening before I committed myself to 30 hours of silence up in the air.
It looked like Joe was going to be in the hospital for a few days, so I boarded the Dash 8 plane in Canberra and set off for Sydney. I landed with only an hour until my scheduled departure time for Dallas. Qantas put me on those flights so they knew - but all of their staff were hurrying me along like it was my fault! I blasted my way through customs as quickly as I could but they don't like being rushed by anybody. I could hear my name being paged as I was finally free of the security checks and was jogging through Sydney duty-free. A Qantas person was hollering, "ANYBODY FOR DALLAS?" so I checked in with him, then checked in with a scary-looking security lady with a fierce frown, then checked in with another lady, then finally had my ticket and passport checked by the people actually letting people onto the plane. I hurried down the long passageway to the plane and there was a huge queue of people waiting to get on. So I don't really know what the drama was! We set off around 20 minutes late.
That was a long flight. 15 hours and 10 minutes. I landed in Dallas (Fort Worth) around 2 or 3pm in the afternoon. A young Australian was chatting to me as we made our way through security, immigration and customs checks in Dallas. He was in America to do extensive pilot's training, as it was cheaper to train in the USA than Australia. I asked him what he thought of the scary moment in the air when the plane had banked sharply. My seatmate had been holding a glass of water, which had splashed all over the guy on the other side of him! They'd all thought it was hilarious, though they had to remain in their wet clothes for the duration of time that the seatbelt sign was illuminated. Scary! The young Aussie (John, I think he said his name was) had enjoyed it and said he'd been expecting it. He helped me find the monorail service that was shuttling passengers between terminals. It was on this monorail that I finally got to speak to Joe on the phone!
I got off the monorail and had plenty of time to spare, being that my next plane wasn't due to depart for five hours. I got myself an American SIM card for my Apple iPhone 4, and, after some trouble with it, the techs at the shop realised that my iPhone was locked to Optus in Australia and that an American SIM card wouldn't work in it. Typical. So I ended up buying a small Telestial handset with its own SIM to use in the US of A. It's the most basic phone I've ever owned - even more basic than the first phone I owned in 2001. It calls and texts. That's it. It doesn't even have predictive text. Lord almighty. I ate some food and wandered around the airport.
During this time, the board showing all of the arrivals and departures had changed its mind five times about which gate my flight was going to be departing from. I was continuously shuttling from Terminal D to Terminal E until I finally cracked it and asked a volunteer what the hell was going on. He said that was a bit unusual, but we then worked out that my flight was delayed, and they were changing the gate to accommodate other flights. ANNOYING. The volunteer then proceeded to tell me all about The Descendants and gave away the ending to me. Oh well.
I finally got on the AA flight to Philly. The flight attendant doing all of the announcements had the slowest Texan drawl I've ever heard in my life. Interestingly, she made some allusions to the existence of safety instructions on board but the flight attendants didn't do a safety demonstration. Weird. My cabin was separated from first class by an old blue curtain. It was freezing on that plane, and I was wearing a vintage-inspired frock made of nothing very thick! We landed in Philadelphia at 12:30am. Far too late to visit Joe. And it was FREEZING! It had snowed the day before. Joe's brother, Gerry, and his mother, Marcelina (we call her Lola, which is the Filipino word for grandmother, which is what the kids call her), were there to pick me up, and they took me back home for a feed and some sleep. It was really great to catch up with them. Resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be able to see Joe, I slept in his bed and relished the scent of him! (And the cold.)
I finally got to see Joe around 10:20am the next day. Visiting hours didn't officially begin until 11am, but Joe sought permission from a nurse and it all turned out okay. It was so good to see him! He was moving very slowly, with a catheter and a long tube attached to his backside. The tube from his nose had been removed. (I told Joe that I'd suffered the tube-down-my-nose-into-my-stomach thing twice as a child, but it didn't stop him from telling me how much he'd suffered it.) He looked a little pale, but it was so good to just embrace him and breathe him in and know that he was alright. I gave him a bit of a sponge-bath soon after arrival, because he hadn't had one for a few days and, y'know... phew.
Our clock became centred on Joe's digestive system and how quickly it was processing the food through it. Eating small meals tended to exhaust Joe, and he'd have to sit and recover whilst his stomach burbled away, digesting it all. I heard some incredible noises from that stomach of his for the 10-11 days that I spent with him. Loud gurgling, like water swishing down a drainpipe. Amazing. I'd lie my head on his tummy and just listen in wonderment to everything going on inside of him. He was in hospital for a further two days and was released on the Wednesday afternoon. Lola and I took him home, which commenced our living-on-the-couch routine for the next four or five days. I was going a little stir-crazy inside the house, but Joe was great company. Lola kept us well stocked with food, and Gerry helped entertain us in the evenings. It felt great to be alive, and I was never very far from Joe's side. He slept sitting up on the reclining seat of the couch, and I curled up next to him, despite my long length being very cramped. I suppose I could have slept upstairs in the bed while he slept downstairs on the couch, but that seemed very lonely after travelling so far to be with him. I can't imagine ever being in the same house as Joe and not sleeping with him.
I'm so grateful for the Universe for allowing me to find a way to take the time to travel and be with Joe during his post-appendectomy illness. Whilst not usually life-threatening, all infections are serious, and the obstruction was terribly painful for him. I feel like I got to help out in my own little ways, and I think Joe was just glad to have somebody there who really wanted to hear all of the gory details and and be his cheer squad every time he went to the bathroom. It's gotta be true love!