“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up”
- Allen Klein
Over and over again I heard from people that I was just too young to have diverticulosis. I was in my mid-thirties, but I did indeed have it and I had a very bad case too, one that required surgery.
I had rarely been sick in my life so the idea of being in the hospital and spending hours on an operating table and then days in recovery frightened me. I liked knowing what was going to happen; I liked being in control. There was nothing I could do to control this disease or the treatment I had to undergo to be healthy again. I just had to trust that things would go well. The alternative was unthinkable.
A few days before the surgery, I was in the bathroom picking out the things I would need to take with me to the hospital. I knew showers would be out for a while so I packed ponytail holders and barrettes to keep my hair off my face. As I rummaged in the drawer for a few extra barrettes, I saw a bottle of rosy pink nail polish.
The color of the nail polish reminded me of climbing roses my mother used to have in her yard. I knew following the surgery I would be bedridden for a few days while my incisions healed and that it would be a long time before I could bend again to touch my toes to paint them.
Putting my packing aside, I set to work on a first-class pedicure for myself. If I was going to be staring at my toes for days on end, I wanted them to look good. Even though the inside of me looked bad, at least I could have pretty feet. I took great care to do a neat job and when I was finished I had to give myself credit – my toes looked wonderful.
The morning of the surgery, as I lay on the gurney in the hallway next to the operating room, my father stood beside me looking nervous and scared. Carefully, so as not to bump the new IV in my hand, I pulled back the sheet covering my feet and said, “Look Dad, I painted my toenails”.
He was surprised and said, “I never knew you had such pretty feet” and he began to point my toes out to every person who came to check on me. Nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists – and even one man sweeping the hallway – all got to see my rosy pink toenails as my dad tried to take the edge off the fear we both had by focusing on my toes and not the surgery.
It worked. We were laughing and not thinking about what was going to happen to me. When they finally came to take me into the operating room my dad no longer looked nervous or scared; he was smiling. The last thing I remember before the anesthesia took me under us my surgeon saying how great my pedicure was and asking whether I would do her toes when I got better.
The surgery went well, though it took longer than they expected, and soon I was in recovery coming out of the anesthesia. I was still a little groggy, but understood the nurse as she uncovered my toes and said, “Can’t cover up those pretty pink nails”. It made me smile. My toes and I had made it through.
All those long days of recovery, my pink toenails continued to delight the hospital staff and the people who visited me. It was one small thing that shined a positive light on an otherwise painful experience.
If I ever face a hospital stay again, you can be sure I’m going to round up a bottle of bright pink nail polish… or maybe I’ll try red next time.
Shawn Marie Mann