Monday, July 18, 2016

A Brand New Day

He arrived for his pre-op appointment in a hospital he'd never been to, in a city totally unknown to him, having no idea what to expect. And after quickly running through some introductory questions from a friendly receptionist, who obviously seemed much more at ease in this unfamiliar place than he was, off he was sent for various tests and samples. Basement level, turn left, then right, take a number, 2nd floor, another left, show your card, "did they call my name?", and everyone he met was new, necessary, and never to be seen again. It already felt a blur and an hour hadn't even passed. Now to get back to the pre-op unit. What floor was it on again? Everything was so new. And everything was turning out to be a lot. 

Once back at pre-op, he and his wife were taken to a sunshiny room, where plenty was asked about the past and about lately. It was a relief that amidst so many questions and directions, the people he met were so friendly. This time, he stayed in one place longer. Lots was explained. More than he'd remember. It was good his wife was here; she seemed to be following along better than him. Though they got his attention when there was talk of postponement! It seemed that there was an unusual backlog of patients in the hospital waiting for heart surgery. All non-urgent cases must wait! And a postponement could mean months. This was alarming. But as the orientation continued, there was not even time to send friends a prayer alert, for before he had the opportunity, the surgeon himself came in. 

This was something - to meet the man who might be exploring the inside of his heart tomorrow. What was he like? Throughout the conversation, this world-renowned surgeon's manner was gentle and kind, unhurried and curious. Yes, curious. He seemed genuinely interested in his new patient, asking questions that made him feel cared for as a person rather than just another mitral valve to be repaired. What had been a blur until then suddenly took on the nature of a snapshot - of a face, a smile, a handshake. Before the doctor left, he mentioned the pressure to postpone. He wouldn't allow it, he explained. We had come too far, and it wouldn't be right, he said. He was not only a surgeon; he was the CEO of the Heart Institute, and his word was final. We would proceed as planned. God had made a way. 

As the doctor finally left the room, his next morning's patient felt in good hands. How much time the entire appointment had taken in all of its components was hard to say, as the length seemed better measured in details and subjects rather than the racing units of an unseen clock. But eventually it seemed that there was no more left to explain, and he was expected back early tomorrow for surgery. He needed to be back at 6:00am. 

His mind spun as he walked with his wife back to their lodgings. Things that had once seemed so far away and theoretical were now very real and imminent. He was about to have open-heart surgery. "Thank you, Lord" was all he could think of quietly praying. Yet they now had time on their hands, and their daughter was there to do something fun with. So it seemed sensible to use the remainder of the afternoon to see a bit of the town. After all, it was the nation's Capitol. So off they went, catching a bus, wandering about to find a lunch spot, then tromping up the hill to take a few pics of the parliament buildings. But he had no energy for tours or for too much time in the hot sun; so before long, they were back at a bus stop waiting for their ride "home."

They took the evening to get settled and to complete a few preparations for the surgery, but getting to bed early seemed the highest priority. He and his wife prayed together before bed. This was all in God's hands - they both knew that. In fact, it was because of that fact that sleep came easily to him, unhindered by any nerves about what might come of all this. The only thing that was going to come of it was God's will being done. And as he went to sleep, he felt fairly sure that God had made it clear to him that He had more for him to do in this world on the other side of this surgery. He was certain that God wasn't going to let him get away with not living in the good of all He had been teaching this son of His throughout the many months of waiting for this surgery to come about. God would see him through. 

All three seemed to find it easy to wake up around 5am the next morning. Though it was still a dimly-lit summer morning, there was plenty of light and activity in their small apartment. Soon they were ready to walk over to the hospital. Everything seemed a little less new than yesterday, as they now knew their way through the many halls and tunnels without needing directions. But it still felt like newness was unfolding before them as they walked and arrived and prepared for this amazing experience that only God could have ever given man the ability to pursue. 

Eventually, the patient was ready, lying on a bed, waiting for a call from the operating room that all was ready. His wife, sitting beside him, asked if she could pray for him now. There was time to once again give everything over to their Father, asking Him to oversee the surgery and to guide the doctors' thoughts and hands. And then the phone rang. It was time. As they wheeled his bed out, they paused under a domed mirror in the ceiling above his bed. This was "perfect for a selfie," he said, and asked his wife for her phone. Feeling relaxed after clicking his silly shot, they headed for the elevators and down to the O.R. There was time for no further pauses now; just enough to kiss his wife, hug his daughter, and to wave as he was rolled away through one last set of doors. 

Here everything was busy, everyone bustling about a spacious room, each with a specific roll in that operating room. He did his best to look around and take it all in before he knew what would inevitably...

To say he awoke in the ICU would be an overstatement. It was more like he gradually regained a state of consciousness, and yes, he was eventually awake. But it took some hours. During the initial stages of this regaining of consciousness, although the able staff around him were all contentedly sure that everything was going well, it would be fair to say that the patient more or less resembled poor Jacob Marley breathing his last breaths in "A Christmas Carol", right down to the detail of whispering his words so softly, his eyes barely open, that his wife had to lean in with her ear next to his mouth to properly hear him. Out of this present-day patient's mouth came shaky heartfelt utterances like, "D'you have my wallet?", "Wow," and "Hi Amy (his daughter). I love you" repeated over and over. 

Once again, everything became a blur for the next 24 hours. They kept wanting his blood, or to print his heart rhythms, or to refresh one of the myriad I.V. bags. And always, the staff were pleased with how he was doing. His head felt more and more clear hour by hour as he took in his surroundings, yet never so clear as to be able to ever properly remember that room or its routines. There were too many beeping machines and busy people coming and going to recall it all. But once again, the blur became a snapshot when the surgeon came to visit. He wanted them to know that he was very happy with how it went, the valve was repaired, the patient was doing fine. 

There was so much to thank God for; so much to be pleased about. He had a new heart. He wondered at the wonder of it all. He pondered how this might impact his everyday life. Would the new strength he'd have mean new direction from the Lord? He didn't know yet, because before the everyday came today. For now, he simply needed to get stronger, to recover. This was only the beginning of his recovery, which would soon open the door to a brand new day of possibilities. 

© 2016 by Ken Peters


Karl Neufeld said...

Wow, Ken!

Ken said...

Yeah Karl. It was quite the experience.