So when I woke up this morning, I had every intention of getting something written by early afternoon. I always plan for the best, then find myself adapting to the real world. But it’s an existence with which I’m comfortable, so I doubt I’ll ever change.
I should have known today would be a day of playing it by ear. My wife had surgery this morning, and as I bringing her home my youngest daughter was being wheeled into the same operating room. Both were planned procedures, and fairly minor when compared to a quadruple bypass or brain transplant. Still, the stress is there and it takes a while to unwind. But both of them are home and recuperating pretty well.
Our day started early. Doctors always want you to be at the hospital a few hours before your procedure in case the golf course is closed and they don’t have anything better to do. Okay, in our case all of the golf courses are closed – the holes are full of snow. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise snow? I looked at the temperature when we left the house and over the next twenty minutes it quadrupled – it went all the way up to 4 degrees. Break out the suntan lotion!
Okay, there are a few doctors following these blogs so let’s be fair. Doctors want you there early for a few reasons. Mainly, they want to make sure you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for at least a few hours. So here’s my question – if all they need is proof of the past 2-3 hours, why do they always say “nothing after midnight”?
I was looking at the patient status monitor that showed where everybody was in the surgical process, from check-in through post-op. Some had surgery scheduled for 7 in the morning, and some for 2 in the afternoon. But they all had to quit eating and drinking at midnight. Seems to me the late bunch could have swung by Denny’s for a Grand Slam breakfast and nobody would have been the wiser.
Another reason doctors want you there early is because it’s possible they may actually be running ahead of schedule, and God forbid they should ever have to wait on us. I can say that because doctors are never ahead of schedule. Never. Well, until today. My wife’s doctor was running about an hour early. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s that good or because a few people chickened out. Either way, it was a welcome change.
As I sat in the waiting room, I watched the people around me. Some had the whole family with them, laughing and chatting. Others were in obvious distress, barely holding back the tears until the doctor came out and told them everything was okay. And some didn’t get that news. For some, there would be no happy reunion. It really puts things in perspective.
It reminded me of a time almost twenty years ago when I left work early to take my wife to the hospital for what I thought was a case of appendicitis. After a transfusion and several tests, we found out she needed abdominal surgery. I kissed her on the cheek as she went in, with no concept of what we would face over the next few days.
That night she was thrashing around in intense pain, and all the nurse could say is, “That’s perfectly normal with this kind of surgery.” Excuse me? But I took her word for it and went home.
The next morning the hospital called to tell me she was in Intensive Care. By the time I got there, she was on a ventilator and in critical condition. I remember asking the nurse if I had to stick to the ten-minutes per hour visitation rule, and she said, “Spend all the time you can with her – you may be glad later.” Those words will bring you down to earth really fast.
I spent the next two or three nights in the hospital, praying that I wouldn’t have to raise two little girls on my own. Gradually she started to improve, and after a couple of days the ventilator came off. The next day she left ICU and went to a regular room.
In that time I had come to know several of the other families in ICU. By that I mean we all felt a certain camaraderie and did our best to encourage and console one another. If one of us went to get food or coffee, we offered to bring some for the others. We’d give up a pillow or blanket, or the only comfortable chair for someone who needed it more. It was a kinship that’s hard to explain. When one came back with good news, we all felt a sense of relief and shared in their joy. Thankfully, most of the news in those few days was good.
I didn’t think of that this morning as I waited with my wife in pre-op. In fact, I didn’t think of it until I started writing this blog. But the relevance of that experience played a big part in our day even though we didn’t realize it. We spent the time together talking about our future, planning an escape from the snow, and laughing about some of the things our grandkids have said and done.
It was a peaceful time – a time of relaxing together, taking our mind off the impending procedure and any of the things that could possibly have gone wrong but didn’t. Just before they shot the loopy juice into her IV, she was just about as relaxed as she was at dinner last night. Okay, not quite but close. Within seconds the drugs took effect. Here eyes sagged, her speech slowed, and she smiled and said, “Wowwww.” One little kiss that she probably doesn’t remember, and she was off to la-la land.
And as I went back to the waiting area I looked around. Some of the same people were there – some had gone home, and new ones had taken their place. I watched as some laughed, some held hands, some hugged, some prayed, and some cried. And I remember thinking I hope they all made time to share a smile or a laugh before their loved one went into a room where anything can happen.
Yes, even in times of deep stress and anxiety, we can find time to lighten up and enjoy the moment. Because, as that nurse said to me so many years ago, you may be glad later. The laugh you share now may be the memory that will sustain you in the days to come. And when things turn out better than expected, it’s just one more of the many memories you’ll share years from now.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon