My Mother-In-Law’s Emergency Surgery

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I was in the kitchen, teaching one of my students by video, when my phone began to vibrate. It was my husband, which was strange because he never calls from work unless its urgent. I let it go to message the first time, then he called again.

Apologizing to my student, I walked into the entryway and took the call.

My husband looked anxious. His English was very broken and disjointed, something that only happens when he is in duress. I didn’t understand at first what he was saying until he said, “My mother must go into emergency surgery. Can you pick me up from the station? Her condition is critical.”

I was stunned and quickly agreed to pick him up when he arrived. He was on his way now. His boss and coworkers already knew.

After apologizing to my student and explaining the situation (she was very understanding), I ended the lesson early and ran around the house gathering things I’d need.

I hurried over by car and he took over the driver’s seat, tripping over his English to explain. Despite telling him he could speak in Japanese, he kept falling into English (because that’s the language we usually talk in).

He felt very guilty because he had his phone off the night before and never received any of the many, many calls from his father. His father finally called his company to get in touch with him. Mr. W was at work when he received word of what happened.

As we rushed across the center of Tokyo, he tried to explain what had happened. Slowly I started to understand the situation. His mother tripped while taking out the garbage and fell on her wrist, shattering the bones in two spots. I thought my husband meant “broke” and had used “shattered” by accident. These kind of mistakes can happen a lot when you don’t share a language.

No, when he said shattered, he meant shattered.

She fell on her wrist and shattered the bones in her hand and the left side of her wrist. Part of the bone even punctured the skin, causing her to bleed out heavily on the ground. (This all happened the night before).

She was rushed by ambulance to the hospital and checked-in overnight. Unfortunately, her hand swelled up like a balloon creating a dangerous situation of all those tiny bone fragments floating around in that liquid. There was a grave, potentially-fatal risk of the bone fragments entering her bloodstream. If they reached her heart, they could kill her.

When we arrived my mother-in-law (giri no okasan) was sitting on her bedside, kicking her legs back and forth (she’s not a tall woman). She grinned at us, the happy grin of someone doped up on a load of painkillers, and asked dreamily in Japanese, “Aw, hello. Are you here to visit?”

She’s a sweet woman. The painkillers made her absolutely adorable, almost childlike.

Her hand was heavily wrapped and she was hooked to an IV drip, staring out the window. Her room was crowded with seven other beds, all hidden behind curtains. It was a gloomy room and her window view faced a concrete wall.

Mr. W apologized to his mother for turning off his phone last night and not coming soon. He felt very ashamed, like he had failed to be a good son. Of course, his doped up mother shook her head and said very giddily in Japanese, “It’s all good. No worries. I’m fine. I feel real good now”.

A little background is needed, you see his mother loves chocolate like I do, so he bought his parents fancy chocolate from his recent business trips in Europe. He brought those gifts to the hospital as part of his apology to his parents. Too bad his mother can’t eat chocolate for the next two weeks. She’s on a strict diet. So he brought her favorite thing in the world when she can eat it.

Mr. W went red and then apologized for that mistake.

By then his father arrived (after rushing home to pick up his phone which he forgot) and greeted us, explaining what happened. His mother told us about how she tripped and fell on her wrist which caused her injuries. They were observing her over night, but then they saw signs that the bone fragments were trying to work their way into the bloodstream and the doctor said that she’d need surgery right away. It was getting too dangerous.

After talking to her and showing her pictures of my husband’s garden, we left her to rest for a bit (the surgery was delayed). The three of us went out to sushi, surprised to find she’d already been wheeled into surgery when we came back.

Oops.

The nurse ushered us into the waiting room where we stayed for 3-4 hours until the surgery was over. They explained that it was a complete success. The surgeon had excellent skill and was able to sift out all the fragments and pin them back together. My mother-in-law must stay for the next twenty days.

Shockingly, such a difficult procedure only cost around 80,000 yen ($800). My husband and I covered the bill.

I must say, I do wonder if my mother-in-law suffers from osteoporosis, given the severity of her injuries. I’ve fallen like that too and all it did was sprain my wrist. If that’s the case, any fall for her will be dangerous.

We left her to sleep and wished her the best.

It was the end of a long day, and the beginning of a long, long drive home.

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