Our daughter finally had her gallbladder removed about 10 days ago. All the unexplained pain and tests eventually led to surgery—during the semester, unfortunately. However, her condition was already affecting her ability to do her work and sit through classes in a functional way. Spring Break seemed way too far away.
Thus surgery last month. Routine procedures aren’t so routine to those undergoing them, even when all goes as planned. There are consequences for removing an organ, even if today’s surgeries often involve really teeny, tiny incisions. Plus, turns out she didn’t react well to the prescribed painkiller, meaning she got that help for less than 48 hours. She passed most of a week lounging on the couch with our two dogs, moving between deep sleep, “old lady” movements around the house and the block, watching movies and other shows, and taking naps. And she still wasn’t that well when it was time to return to college.
Nonetheless, she drove off on her own and tried to get back to her regular schedule, even if that meant paying for parking instead of walking and taking the bus. But I don’t think anyone—she or her professors—really thought about how hard it is to sit so much with just barely healing incisions. Turns out art majors use their abs for leaning forward and drawing or for snapping photographs and processing film. Those classes are scheduled long on purpose to promote progress on projects.
Let’s just say the university’s “no excused absences” policy does not make for a relaxed recovery. So here I am, staying with her off campus. Today, I drove her to classes and back to the photo lab after her nap—or at least the nap she tried to have with the foster kitten who is into cuddling on the couch as much as the dogs were back home. (Shh—don’t tell them just how she is cheating on them.)
I understand that the college wants to make sure that completed courses have meaning and I also bet many people have probably tried to take advantage of the system, but, really, who has major surgery during the semester unless it needs to be done sooner than later? That’s why we had the surgeon send a note, even if the “no excused absence” policy includes medical reasons. Yes, it’s inconvenient for the professors, but it’s really inconvenient for the person who had the surgery.
When I was in college, I missed a whole week (during mid-terms and in a 10-week quarter) due to having mono and strep so badly that I stayed in the student health center that whole week. My own home was 1,000 miles away and not even possible to visit. The professors worked with me, plus I had the university’s make-up policy giving structure to when my delayed work was due. Trust me, it’s bad enough to be the student inside watching everyone else have a nice healthy life without having to worry about whether or not the professors really believe you’re physically unable to keep up with all the assignments when it’s all you can do to get through each day. Believe it or not, most students—and especially most seniors—know how important it is to finish each course and its attendant work.
These are high stakes times for those of us “consuming” both health care and higher education and my daughter knows that. She feels guilty about having high medical costs and worried about whether or not her health is going to delay her education while increasing the cost of it. The thing is, she shouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting to feel reasonably healthy. Sometimes health problems crop up in highly inconvenient times, but let’s face it, when does anyone want to have a health problem at all, whether or not the problem falls at a convenient time?
I’m tired of seeing people whom I love in pain and really wish other people would show a little more empathy for how hard it is to be that person in pain. And, as I said before, it’s not that easy being the person helping people in pain either.
With any luck, my daughter’s on her way to not being that person in pain and I’m on my way to not having to help with her pain. But first, she’s really got to have a chance to focus on healing from the treatment. I’m pretty sure she’d love to get back to doing her work in a more convenient way—both for her sake and for the sake of everyone else.