Cheri woke me at 3:30. AM. “What time did you want to get up?” I didn’t want to say, “Certainly not now!” Instead, I thanked her, and rolled out of bed, going over to check my alarms – I set two of them – and sure enough, one was set for 3:45, and one for 3:50, so it wasn’t too bad. I just knew I wouldn’t need much time to get ready.
Let me go back and set the context of it all. Our eldest, Aaron, went to the doctor, and came home with a diagnosis and an appointment to do out-patient surgery for a hernia that had been plaguing him for a few years. It was to be on this Friday, which is Cheri’s day off. As you know, I carry the anti-word for love with me whenever I have to enter in any form in the medical world. I quickly recalled that they had put restrictions on the number of non-patients a patient could bring with them to the hospital, and believing that number to be ONE, I brought up the honest fact that medicine was Cheri’s bailiwick, and that she should be the one to be with Aaron that day. I graciously volunteered even to drive them and pick them up, so they wouldn’t have to find a parking spot at 4:45am. It was a grand scheme. Unfortunately, a couple of hours later, Aaron was reading the literature for the hospital, and lo and behold, they had changed the number of visitor at any one time to TWO persons who could come with the patient. Stuck and on the hook.
Now, I figured that with the need for Aaron to be there at 5am, that meant the operation would happen about 5:45, lasting an hour, in recovery for about a half hour, in the room for another little while, and we would be home by no later than 8:30am. That’s how I would run a hospital. I’ll tell you in a little bit how very wrong I was with my estimation.
But first – I’m sure it’s happened to you that for some reason you had to wake up far earlier than your body wanted to… the time of my deepest dreams, my most active REM sleep is between 3 and 6am – maybe even 7am every night. Therefore, to wake up at 3:30 meant that I was down, deeply asleep with a myriad of dreams, resting and restoring my body. At 3:30, I was ripped out of dreamland, knowing that we were going to leave at 4:30. Even to write those hours makes my neck and most of my spine hurt from how early that is. There is a reason God did not bring me to be born on a dairy farm. Under my care, the cows would explode.
So, I got up, had a half a cup of coffee, brushed my teeth, did whatever else I needed to do, put on my clothes, my shoes and socks – and it was 4:15. AM.
So, at 4:30 we headed over to the hospital, which I had been telling folks, at that time of the morning would only take us 15 minutes to travel. Sure enough, we pulled into the parking lot at 4:45, and walked up to the front door. We were met by the security officer, who told us we were the first ones to come this morning. Wow. What a distinction.
We made our way deep into the middle of the hospital, wearing our masks, of course. How fun to spend the better part of a day behind a mask! As we checked in, and got to Aaron’s first room, the prep nurse then described how the day would go. I must say it in no way or shape took the form of the way I described the day a little earlier. My learned estimation was a 5:00 in, 8:30 out proposition. In Italian, they say, “Ma no.” It means, “But no….” Indeed, we were there at 5am so that we would be ready when the anesthetist came in at 6:15 (!) to talk about knocking Aaron out. After she was to be done, we then would see the doctor at 6:40 (!) – almost two hours after we were already at the hospital. This was not going well. He then told us Aaron would get wheeled down for the surgery about a half hour later, to be prepped and given all sorts of drugs and such, and that the doctor would then begin the operation (minor and done every day) at about 7:30. AM. Four hours after I had been awakened, and the sun just coming up.
I was still hoping for about a half hour surgery and clean up, a half hour in recovery and a half hour in the room – bringing us to 9am. A half hour later than I had figured. Ma no. As they went through the work with Aaron, we stepped out and went downstairs to have some breakfast. Can you imagine our shock to find we were the first and only persons to order something for about a half hour?
We finished our breakfast, and then went back up to the “waiting area” where a few other folks were lounging around, waiting for their own person to get done. The hospital has a fancy way to notify families via text, and so every so often, as we sat there waiting, another text would jump into my phone: Patient ‘s procedure has begun. Patient is doing well. Procedure progressing as expected. These all came during the 90 minutes of Aaron’s surgery. Notice: not a half hour… at 9:04, we got another text with the exciting news that Aaron was in recovery! Ok – my guess for freedom time got pushed back a little, but I still figured we’d be home by a little after 10am.
It was all pretty quiet, until I got a phone call from the hospital. Now realize, we are in the hospital. Maybe they were just shy. Anyway, at the time I thought Aaron would go to a room, they told us that, as is the case with Aaron, he never does things simple and done. Apparently they first had trouble getting him to wake up after the surgery, and then they had trouble getting his pain level down to a reasonable number. No matter what combo of things you should never put in your system on a normal day were injected or ingested, it wasn’t working, but they called just to say hi, and to let us know they were “working on it.”
The curtain of silence descended at that moment. No more texts, no phone calls – just the patient number that Aaron had been given, showing up on the lit up board telling us that he was in recovery. Nothing else. It’s a long wait to wait for something that you know is going to happen at a certain time. It is a terrible wait to wait for something that you know you don’t know when it is ever going to happen!
We waited, and waited, and went down to the gift shop and back up, and waited and waited. Finally, I noticed, two and a half hours later, that his number had turned from bright green to dark green. This meant something. It meant that he was moving out of recovery and into another room – apparently to recover from the recovery. At this point, it was 11:30am. Remember that I was expecting to be home at 8:30? Not good.
We saw Aaron, kind of beat up looking, but not too worse for the wear. His nurse then explained how Aaron had to have some things happen before he could go home. I thought that was something like put his clothes and no long show the world his backside, but she meant for him not to be on oxygen, to eat something, to go to the bathroom, to stand and walk a little, and all the other kinds of things we desire our two-year-olds to master. She estimated he could leave around 2pm. For crying out loud! It’s not fun to begin with, but to have the leaving time about 5 ½ hours later than I wanted – well, this was now crazyland, to be sure.
To shave a bit off the story, he did manage to eventually do all those things we cherish, and we did get him in the car, and now he is home, drinking a milkshake, eating some toast and sitting in a recliner with a huge elastic band across his midsection. The good news is, we probably won’t have to go through it again…
There were a few good things about the day, if you have to have a day like that. First and foremost, Aaron went through it all with no real complaints, although he would have every right to do so. He kept a strong outlook, and will make a great recovery. Secondly, I have to say that from the first staff person to say hi, to the final goodbye from his last nurse, Aaron – and we – were treated like we were celebrities, with every need met, every question answered carefully, and as though they understood and respected the fact that people like us don’t go through this every day. It was refreshing to see such professional and caring attitudes from the people who worked there.
The third good thing about the day – was Brahms’s lullaby. More than a couple of times while we waited in the various rooms, there was broadcast throughout the hospital about ten seconds of the sweet music that we have all heard, or have in a music box, or maybe even played on the piano. The lullaby was to tell us, and the world, that a baby had just been born at the hospital. Even with the grind of waiting endlessly, there was a sweetness to each of those moments that somewhere in the hospital, a child came into the world, hopefully to be loved and cherished their whole life – even when they become old enough to have to have a hernia fixed, and Mom and Dad will spend the day – just waiting and caring.
You know, we really don’t know what each day brings. Some of it will be anxious, some frustrating, some boring and waiting and some full of joy for yourself or someone else. And you know what I am going to say: It’s not what happens to you that matters today – it’s what you do with what happens to you that makes the difference, and makes a day significant and nearly holy as we live it under God’s care. Enjoy the tomorrow that is on its way!
Word for the day: palmarian or palmary. Pronounced PAL-muh-ree. It nearly sounds what you think it might be. From the Latin palmarius, meaning “deserving the palm.” Not your palms clapping together, although that’s nice, but it refers to the tradition of the Romans in presenting a palm leaf to the victor in a competition, or a conquering general, or some other person of pre-eminent status and nature. A palmarian individual is someone deserving of a prize, or superior praise for what they have done. Interesting that the crowds laid palm branches before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem, ‘deserving of the palm,” with their highest praise – until they crucified him.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.