“This is my boyfriend, Brian,” Lindsey said, introducing me to the blonde nurse whose name I have forgotten1 and Phyllis, the older nurse who has been caring for Lindsey since she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.
Lindsey was at the clinic for an infusion of Tysabri, a monthly treatment that helps prevent recurrence of symptoms of MS sufferers. I was there to help entertain her and as moral support.
And, also, I was there because I care about her. But I believe today was the first time she has referred to me as her boyfriend.
It’s a new relationship. She and I are still noticing many “firsts”. I very much like it.
As the blonde nurse helped Lindsey get settled in to her reclining chair, got her some pillows and a blanket, I stood out of the way. The infusion would take about an hour or so, and then she had to wait an hour or so after to ensure that she did not have a reaction to the drug. Today was her 13th infusion. I mugged for her and smiled and blew kisses at her.
I thought about the last time I was in this hospital, last summer, when my sister was having a gall bladder attack and had to have emergency surgery to remove it. It was serious, and her life had been in danger, and our immediate family had rallied around her while she recovered. She had been here for almost a week, and eventually recovered, but that episode had reminded me that hospitals are places that will always be associated with loss, both potential and realized.
Lindsey’s monthly infusion helps her deal with her disease. But it is not a cure. I am aware of that, today, in this room, more than ever. I feel Lindsey’s bravery and strength and I hope that I am that strong, too, because now that I have met her, I would very much like to get to know her even better. Ours is the kind of relationship I haven’t had in a long time; one that makes it easier for me to think of future things.
The nurse whose name I have forgotten prepped Lindsey’s arm for the needle. Lindsey has learned that her right arm is better able to take the needle; trying to get a vein in the left arm hurts and is rarely successful. She’s learned that the hard way. So today she is clear and direct about which arm is to be used. The nurse cleans the arm, locates the vein she will use, and pulls out the sterile needle and tube and blue connector to which, later, the tube that leads to the clear baggie of Tysabri will be screwed into. The IV. Intravenous.
Lindsey turns her face away, and closes her eyes.
I think of all the times I have given blood, and how I can’t watch as it enters my own arm. The quick sting and the sudden warmth, and how the warmth of the blood flowing out of my body and through the clear plastic tube laying along the skin of my forearm feels so strange.
I watch Lindsey’s face, eyes closed, and I have to turn away. “I can’t watch,” I say, trying to put a joking tone into my voice.
“Neither can I,” Lindsey says. “You know they do this every month, right?”
“I know. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch.” I reply.
“He’s got that empathy thing goin’ on,” the nurse whose name I have forgotten says, and Lindsey opens her eyes and looks at me. I smile. I like that. And it’s true.
I love her.
1 Lindsey informed me, after reading a draft of this post, that her name was Julianne