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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In The General Hospital

Basically I’ve titled this thusly, because my daughter didn’t believe I would (And yes, General Hospital was my favorite soap back in the day). You see, today has been a day of watching the “soap opera” of my family’s life mesh with the “soap opera” that one watches and participates in when one spends a day in a hospital emergency room.

“Today” actually began yesterday. My mom spent the weekend with me and by Sunday she felt quite ill (… uhm, now that I’m reading the previous sentence, that doesn’t seem to speak too well of my hospitality). Actually, a previous condition blossomed and made it clear that mom needed medical attention, so off we went, back to her hometown and her doctor.

By 9 am we were sitting in an urgent care center (as we were advised to do) which had a giant poster with the word “Risk” prominently displayed.

By 9:30 am we had wisely moved on to the area’s General Hospital (as we were advised to do) and were sitting in the ER waiting room. I was reminded, as I looked around, that there never seem to be any Dr. Tony Gates types just hanging around when I’m in the ER (yes, I loved the show “ER”). You semi-expect someone to run through the room flinging their stethoscope around their neck yelling “stat!” However, the room was uncharacteristically quiet and still, affording me the time to be the same. I had been lifting up those little “help me” prayers throughout the morning, but my usual morning time of sitting and conversing with God had been replaced by the morning’s rush. I think God quite understands my change of venue and time frame.

By 10 am we were in an examination room. Mom was hooked up to IV’s and started on pain meds. This began an 11 hour wait for the OR. Waiting is hard to do, for patient and family. It can get tedious and worrisome, but our family history is one of facing the situation with patience and humor. This wonderful hospital offers wi-fi, and I just happened to have my laptop with me. With a sad selection of shows on the room’s TV, we turned to the internet and videos for something to take her mind off of her pain (Thank you YouTube and Tiger Woods).

When she nodded off to sleep for those blissful moments of unconsciousness, I admit that boredom raised its ugly head. I found myself considering McGyver projects with the available gloves, tape, tubing, and a stick of gum. And yes, gloves can be blown up into balloons.

By 9 pm we were told about plan…. D, or was it E? The former plan of transporting her to a hospital where there was an empty bed was replaced by the new plan of remaining at the current hospital where a bed opened up. Everything fell into place and surgery happened within the hour.

Waiting, part deaux:

Then we (my daughter and son-in-law arrived by then) were shown to the OR waiting room where we spend time relaying information to family and friends. My brother and sister live out of town and I know they wanted to be there with us, but we will each have a time to help out. As we waited, we prayed, visited, found a coffee machine, Twittered, IM’ed, emailed, jogged (for a bit of fresh air and a necessary trip out to the car), Facebooked, and connected with people that care about mom and about us. The responses to our information and requests for prayer came in overwhelmingly quick and en masse. Being on the receiving end of that compassion and care does lighten the load and make one feel loved.

Within two and a half hours of her surgery, she was in the ICU and we began settling in to the new digs there. Sleep tonight is intermittent, but we are all getting some rest as we are able. Mom is doing well in the scheme of things and is so thankful for the words of kindness and the prayers that have been offered to her and on her behalf.

So, for those of you who have been asking, those are some of the details. Her perfed ulcer is sealed up, and her gall bladder has been removed. But her attitude of gratitude and her expectation of overcoming this remains steadfast.

So now for my thoughts on the day and a couple of things that stand out to me:

Walking in their shoes: I’m being given a refresher course on what it means to sit in a hospital with someone you love. I visit hospitals every week. I’m a pastor. That’s what I do. I care about my congregation and have the honor of sitting with them during a time of struggle, fear, pain, and questions. I had major surgery a number of years ago, and that, along with this foray back into the patient’s perspective, multiplies my compassion for those whom I will visit in the future.

Making lemonade: Life happens. There are ups and downs. I remember my mom saying once that if you never had the great struggles, you wouldn’t fully appreciate the great joys. So in my family, we experience both the ups and downs, all the while knowing that God loves us through everything we face. Because we fully rely on Him, we know the joy of celebrating and also the comfort of being given His strength to persevere and overcome. Because we don’t have to be slaves to worry, we can face a day in the ER with patience, humor, and moments of growing closer together.

Dr. Tony Gates a no-show: When you watch ER, and all those other hospital shows, you see these brilliant doctors and nurses who breeze into the patient’s life with the perfect answer and cure. Everything, for the most part, ends up with a timely and tidy finish. But the reality of it is that in “real life” the doctors and nurses we meet have to earn our confidence. We step out in faith, wanting to trust them for our care. What I am experiencing here (as I and many others do every day) is the expertise and compassion of a medical staff that really do care. I watched the night nurse as she stood over my mother and offered excellent medical care and spoke and acted with gentleness and compassion.

God’s compassion and care goes beyond what we feeble humans can accomplish. Though my trust in a new doctor or situation may waiver, I am able to step out in faith and trust God for my care and for the care of my family, friends, and those whom I visit in the hospitals from week to week. God continually stands at the bedside, offering His most excellent care and He speaks peace and healing into our lives.

In all these things, I’ve witnessed God’s grace and mercy. He has moved through the actions of others, and has been present in every moment of this day. I can only move forward with confidence because I am fully aware of His Spirit filling up the room and flowing through me. So as I end my journaling of the day, I am thankful… just thankful.


MrMartinsClass said...

Thanks for the play-by-play. It is helpful here, first thing in the morning, to know how mom is.

The only thing that bugs me is that in phone conversation and now on your blog, you mentioned "a bed opened up". Sounded unexpectedly., "Oops! Oh well, now we have an open bed." LOL. I just keep telling myself that someone suddenly got to feeling much better and went home.

Give mom a big squee, um, a gentle kiss from her favorite child. :)

Anonymous said...

Ummmm...I'm the favorite child. Tell her I lover her and I'm praying for her to be ready for her next adventure soon!!~~Bran

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I can't spell.

Virilene said...

It's obvious I'm an especially blessed mother---I have several "favorite children".

It became quite obvious this week, as they stayed with me at the hospital, took care of me, kept my spirits lifted, and now providing for my needs, now that I'm out of the hospital.
All my thanks go up!