"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Family That Waits

"Jan, come on, we gotta go." He calmly told me as he came to the screen door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. I knew immediately something had happened simply because of his request. As I turned to see him standing on the front porch, I saw him holding his gloved hand upright with his other hand. “What happened?” I exclaimed; this time closer to panic.

“Oh, the cutter,” he muttered, “we have to find an emergency clinic.” I grabbed my purse trying hard to remember to breathe. I knew this moment would someday come, and I also knew I was not good in moments like this.

“Boy, I don’t know where the closest one is; let’s go up to the fire house. They will have a paramedic on there.” I breathlessly suggested.

“Ok, now don’t panic,” he lectured. “I am ok.” He didn’t know what it was that I suspected, and I did not know at this time, what he suspected. Both suspicions were one in the same: that he would not take his glove off, because of a fear that the finger was no longer attached.

I rang the bell at the station…no answer. I rang it again, this time holding the button a little longer. A young man quickly opened the door, with an expectant look on his face of an impending emergency. When I saw him, I knew he had been on his way at the first ring. Ouch. I wanted to tell him I was sorry for my impatience, but instead I asked him, "Is there a paramedic on duty?”

“EMT”, he responded, “what happened?” So as my husband explained his situation, the young man on duty took us back and told my husband to step up into the ambulance. I took the opportunity to turn away and breathe a quick prayer. I couldn’t watch. Remember, I don’t do this kind of thing well.

As they removed the glove, I heard one of the men on duty say, “Well, you still have a finger.” Then my husband’s chuckle, “Yeah, I wasn’t sure.”

They cleaned the wound and bandaged it up and told us they could take us to the emergency room at the hospital, or if we preferred, we could drive ourselves. We all knew now that the wound had been cleaned and dressed, we would be able to drive ourselves as easily as they could.

So off to the ER we went with me as a calmer driver now that the wound had been looked at by a professional. I knew things would take longer than they should at the hospital. Four hours to be precise. It isn’t our sleepy, little town any longer.

Surgery was scheduled for the next day – this would be at the larger hospital in the larger nearby city. Though we were told it would be a surgery that lasted 2 or 3 hours, I thought with check-in and recovery and things simply going as they normally do, it would end up being the full day. So I packed a bag of things that I thought I would need as I waited. A couple books, because I knew I would need a change from Dickens to something lighter. A couple magazines, because I knew there would be a time I needed something even lighter still; and I packed my blanket. Yes! My blanket! After sitting four hours in the chill of the emergency room, I wasn’t about to be cold again. Mr. Air Conditioning and I do not get along well.

Once checked in, it wasn’t long before they called my husband back for all the pre-tests.

Through the whole ordeal, my husband was, as is always his character in a tough situation: calm, quiet, and without complaint…accepting.

Once he was off to surgery, I settled in. The waiting room was fairly spacious and comfortable with lots of windows. I chose a window seat… I was glad that I had, as later in the day it offered warmth from the afternoon sun. I was able to do quite a bit of reading. But without choice, I also overheard many of the reasons that people were there also waiting: a tonsillectomy; removal of a tumor; prostate surgery; most were minor surgeries that would allow the patient to go home the same day, or within a day or two. Though privacy was attempted, through the doctors’ reports, or cell phone calls to other loved ones, one could not help but hear some of the conversations.

I eventually caught on to the rhythm, if you will, or the sequence of events that involved each family that was in the room waiting. I marveled. Each waited, reading or visiting with other family members. The surgeon would come out and give a report to the family member waiting. I could tell the doctors were exhausted, though these professionals would not let on. I thought about the stress they were under because of their profession and I knew they deserved their title, deserved our respect and should be appreciated. Each time it was good news!That is amazing to me. Ok maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. Medicine has come so far and what we experience here in America is the best in the world. We have so much to be thankful for, I thought. Once given a report, the family member would sit back and wait some more.

One patient had 13 – 14 family members waiting. It was so heart-warming! Fourteen members of this family took time out of their day - actually a full day as I overheard this would be an 8 hour surgery - to sit around a hospital room where they could do nothing but support one another. It was remarkable! Incredible - when you think about that many gathered together…just to wait. And when I saw them get a phone call of yet another family member requesting direction to their location, I watched as one who was probably the oldest sibling sent another down to help usher in an elderly couple. This couple was probably in their eighties and had also come to wait with the others. All ages of this family was present and it reminded me of my own family. Had my situation been something more serious, or had I requested it, my family would be there for one another too. I reflected on what a wonderful thing God created in families. And though I did not know this family, I was proud of them. What an awesome thing!

As I sat, I noticed a Bible on a shelf toward the front of the room. How nice to see that there. I found I would need it to verify a reference as I read an article in a magazine. When I took a walk down the hall to look for a snack, I noticed the history of the hospital written on the wall. “Ministers of Jesus Christ” something read. This hospital, too, had been started by Christians. I didn’t know that previously. As I walked back to my chair, I noticed the phone on the desk at the front of the room. A plaque that sat in the center of the desk directed: “Answer the phone if it rings. It is for someone in the room.” I watched amazed as each time the phone was answered it seemed to be for the one that answered it.

Once in a while during the day, memories would enter my thoughts to which I was not willing to return on this day. I kept pushing them back…adding sandbag after sandbag to keep them from flooding the home of my thoughts. Though the situations here were not nearly as dire, I couldn’t help but think about another hospital room I once sat in. It was an entirely different situation and an entirely different hospital – Harborview - one of the best trauma hospitals in the nation. There, grief was the overpowering emotion. There, family members sat sometimes alone, sometimes quietly conversing with others. Some sat with heads in their hands, some sat curled up asleep on a chair with a blanket. I remember when I was there, knowing the cleanliness of my loved one that would at some point need one of these blankets, I had found myself wondering when was the last time they had been washed. Unimportant…a life in the balance, and grief, buoyed only slightly by hope, was the only important thing there. There my son, who was 13 at the time, grew to be a man in merely a day. I didn’t want to think about these memories, so I shook the thoughts from my head. I had to do this more than once, because if I allowed an entrance, floodgates would open that I am not always prepared to revisit. More sandbags!

Our surgeon came out looking for me at just the right time. I waved catching his attention. He came over to me smiling. “We’re done,” he told me, “It went well. One of the tendons was stretched, so that presented a bit more of a challenge to repair, but all is good. You might as well sit back and have a cup of coffee; it will be an hour or so before he wakes up.” I thanked him and smiled at the report that came with a trace of a southern accent. I appreciate this surgeon that brought me my good news. I sat back to wait, but without coffee…the pot was empty.

The truth of the matter, though the situations I watched here weren’t the direst of conditions in comparison to the other hospital, it was all very thought provoking. We are so blessed to live in the country that we do. God’s miracles through what man pridefully calls his modern medicine happen every day. The truth is, all the glory belongs to God. All the knowledge and wisdom we have is His. We are blessed to live in this time of success.

We aren’t blessed because we are worthy. We are blessed because we are His. There-in lays one of the dangers of allowing our nation to be stripped of the definition of our nation that has always been understood since its beginning…a Christian nation. To not preserve this definition is to join the ranks of those that seek to destroy our heritage.

There you go again, Jan. Are you even going to get political about a situation as simple as this? Yep! I guess so, because I believe “Politics” is merely a dirty word someone created to keep us from being involved with life. In my opinion, life is about two things: Jesus Christ- the Author and Finisher of our faith which includes sharing His Good News, and secondly what some would call “politics” which allows us to be able to walk circumspectly through this life, and which also allows us to protect and preserve our faith so that we might continue to share it. Our Founding Fathers, having been closer to those that had once almost lost their faith, understood this and through what I believe was also God’s wisdom offered us a means to protect our faith. Yes, we are blessed!

The phone rang and this time I answered it. I didn't have to wonder; I knew it was for me.

“‘C.’ family?” the voice on the other end inquired. “Yes!” I said.

“He’s awake. Come to room 13.”

May God bless those in His care with what is entirely His medicine, and may God bless the family that waits.


  1. So grateful it was a relatively "minor" situation this time. I'm glad he didn't lose his finger and he's going to be okay!

  2. Thanks, Karla!! Me too!

    Ha ha...thanks, Kelley!
    I do carry-on; don't I!?!

  3. Praise God that he is ok. And still has his finger. You are right about being blessed simply because we are his. Sending thanksgiving for a good outcome this time. Amie

  4. You make every story you write a delight to read!!! Really wish I had that gift!!
    I, too, am so thankful for our family, and that Rick is O.K.