Last Thursday night I sat at the computer struggling to write a blog entry that required pulling from those painful memories about Jennifer’s death. Heart Lesson 4 was due, and it was time to tell the story. But it was harder than I thought.
I had written two sentences when Larry called me from downstairs to say that he could see a shadow in his left eye. We pay attention to his eyes in this house. Twenty-five years ago he had a detached retina and emergency surgery to repair it. A year later he had the same thing in his other eye. Both eyes have done well, but he doesn’t ignore shadows or other strange things in his eyes. When he called his eye surgeon and got the answering service, I knew it was serious, and he needed to call back to say it was an emergency.
I thank God we live in a large city and close to several hospitals in these moments. His doctor called right back and was concerned, told him to come in the next morning, and not to eat after 6 A.M. in case surgery was needed. We both felt some relief that we would know fairly soon how serious this might be.
But he still had things to do that night. A self-employed videographer has events or jobs planned sometimes weeks or months in advance, and he needed to make preliminary arrangements at least in case he had surgery. He was to tape a surprise birthday Friday night and could not cancel it. So, friends in the business were called, contingency plans made, and we went to bed.
My counted blessings recorded that night:
2035. Dr. G.’s quick response to Larry’s call
2036. Dr. G. paying attention to Larry’s concern and will see him in A.M.
2037. arrangements made to take care of our baby-sitting duties for Friday
The next morning I pack a journal, current novel, my IPad, the newspaper I’ve not read and some snacks, not knowing how long we’ll be gone. I drive Larry across town to the doctor’s office– the shadow has grown to about 85% across his eye. When his eye is dilated they ask him to read the eye chart with the left eye. He can’t see the big E. We wait while an office-full of people are quickly in and out to see the doctor. I wait while Larry sees the doctor and in a few minutes the nurse comes to get me. The doctor is using colored pencils to shade in a large diagram of an eye. No question in my mind, we are headed to surgery. The doctor explains that Larry has two tears in his retina and will have surgery that afternoon.
I am comforted to know this surgeon has performed thousands of these surgeries – two for Larry already. We drive home for an hour, make quick arrangements for his up-coming jobs, and head to the hospital. Writing that blog is not even on my agenda today. Thinking that I’m glad I don’t need to teach a Bible class this Sunday.
We are sent to the wrong hospital, but Larry and I crowd into the front seat of a small security truck and are driven over to the Women’s Hospital. Larry keeps asking me, “Are you sure they do surgery here for men?” I remind him that one of his previous eye surgeries was here. As we check in the clerk asks Larry why he is here, and with typical dry, wit he says, “To have my ovaries taken out.”
Surgery in the late afternoon seems out of order, and neither of us have had lunch. The waiting room is full of families as they wait to hear from a surgeon. We don’t wait long, and he goes through the familiar steps to prepare for surgery – asked the same questions three times, name band checked, put on those shapeless paper gowns, and wait. This gown has a vent in the side for a heater! What will they think of next?
The operation goes as planned, and Larry is wheeled back into his room with a large white patch over his eye. He says he was awake but sedated the whole time, so he’s more alert than usual after a surgery. He has to keep his head down, looking down, on his right side. After a while he asks for his IPhone and takes this picture. When we get home later that night, he sends it to friends and says it’s his new IPad.
Things have changed since that first eye surgery, and instead of staying at least one night in the hospital, he is sent home the same day of surgery. The doctor and nurse stress the importance of the position of his head, so riding in the wheelchair to the car, his head is parallel to the floor. The seats are folded down in my little HHR, and he crams his 6’2” frame across the flattened seats. I have some cloth shopping bags to use for a pillow – we did not anticipate the need for a pillow or blanket for the ride home. Despite surgery and the uncomfortable bed he can still give me advice on my driving!
How many times have we done this for each other – waited in a surgical center, or an ER room, or a waiting room of a hospital? Seems like we’ve had our fair share of surgeries and illnesses in 43 years of marriage; we’ve seen the best and the worst of each other. That vow – through sickness and in health? It’s important. I think of how many times he has waited for me. The last major surgery I had was on my foot, and he had to carry me into the house when we got home. It was 8 weeks before I could drive or go back to teaching – tough on both of us.
For two independent and stubborn people, I like to think that we nurse each other in the best way we can – he’s ready to shop, run errands, help me to the shower, buy a walker before I’ve thought about what I need. I’m taking care of the homefront – rearranging the living room furniture so he can see the TV, making meals, putting in eye drops, driving him to the doctor. It’s what we do without much thought to “should I” or “this is too much trouble”. Since Jennifer’s death and especially since we have both turned 65 this year, we are more mindful of having each other, leaning on each other through the good and the bad.
So many blessings on Sept. 14:
2241. helpful doctor’s office staff
2242. efficient, competent hospital staff, accommodating to me as I wait
2243. Dr. G’s explanation of what was done in surgery
2244. surgery is successful
2245. Medicare and insurance to pay for hospital bills
2246. technology and surgeon’s skills
This morning’s entry from Jesus Calling reminds me that “just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.” How true!
I Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”