Saturday, February 20, 2010

In The Eyes of a Stranger

I'm really not used to hospitals. And frankly, I really don't want to get used to them.

My 2-yr-old son Noah had surgery recently to remove a nevus sebaceus (medical term for really weird mole on his scalp). The event itself is enough to make one uneasy, but now add an environment you just don't comprehend. It's unsettling.

After registering, we were sent up to the 6th floor to get settled into a room and dress him in hospital pajamas. (I must say he can even make those things look cute!) The pediatric nurse introduced herself and said, "I will be Noah's nurse today."

She failed to mention only for the few minutes he was on that floor! We never even saw her again until we returned for a half hour post-surgery.

But whatever, lady.

Sure. You're his nurse for the day.

Anyway...soon we're ushered down to surgery - actually the pre-op room - where we anxiously await the anesthesiologist's arrival.

And meet more medical staff.

I really don't even know what their jobs were. And you would never recognize them again if you passed them in the grocery store or sat by them at a ballgame because they're so garbed with scrubs, booties and hats that they could be anybody.

I completely understand now why in TV shows the actors trying to sneak into a hospital can just slip on some scrubs or a white jacket and parade right by without any suspicion.

More staff pop in and out. Someone hands me a snap-up shirt, booties and the ever-fashionable blue shower cap thing. I now feel like strutting into surgery myself and uttering a few lines stolen from an ER episode.

And I probably could have. The swarms of people in blue get-ups racing here and there were nothing short of nuts. Who knew it took so many people to get us in and out of surgery?

Another staff person comes in to keep us company. Or so I thought. Actually, he was comic relief. He was great with Noah and did a good job of calming my nerves.

What I'd soon discover... he was the person I needed to trust most that day. Because eventually he was the one to send my son into an unconscious state.

Some might think, "Well, Maxine, you should have been more nervous about the surgeon, or the anesthesiologist!" Perhaps.

But this is the man who had his hands on my son at the moment I had to leave him behind.

And there was something special about him. Between his scrub cap and mask were incredibly bright - yet comforting - eyes.

I was told Noah would very likely fight the mask a lot - start screaming, pulling it away, reaching for me.

That I would have to stay strong.

It would only be 5 breaths...and he'd be in dreamland...that's what this stranger in blue told me.

But Noah didn't fight the mask at all. He went to sleep without an ounce of struggle. I couldn't help but notice Noah was looking into that man's eyes.

Then it was waiting room time.

I was in a daze. I couldn't read a magazine or pick up a newspaper. I even saw someone I knew but couldn't utter a simple "Hello." My only focus was on that big TV screen in the room that told what "stage" he was at in surgery.

"Procedure" it said.

30 seconds pass.

"Procedure" it read again.

5, 10, 20, 30 minutes passed.

It still said, "Procedure."

Ugh. The surgeon said this would take 15 minutes tops.

Finally. The surgeon approaches me.

Everything went fine, but basically my child is full of holes.

"It took just as long to get an IV in as it did to do the surgery itself," he tells me.

All that toddler chub makes it hard to find a vein, apparently.

I wouldn't realize just HOW MANY places they attempted to get a vein until I was at home, putting him in pajamas later that evening. They obviously had quite a struggle and turned him into swiss cheese! Thank goodness the poor kid was out cold for all of that!

So it was off to the recovery room. This is where I determined I made a wise career move to not pursue the medical field.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of "regular" staff are the med students. Like deer in headlights, they are bombarded with techniques and medical jargon that made me dizzy.

How do they remember all that stuff?! I'd inadvertently kill someone for sure.

One guy sitting at the computer and monitoring my son's vital signs, gives me a brief run-down of the surgery. And encourages me to touch my son and help him come out of his deep sleep.

Noah is sawing logs. And I'm so grateful.

Before I left Noah in surgery, I asked if I would be able to be there when he woke up. They told me they would have him in recovery cleaning him up, so it would be a couple minutes before he'd see me.

Truth be told, that bothered me. But I realize they're just doing their job.

So I was secretly very grateful God kept Noah snoring away until I arrived. Because when he opened his eyes, my face was the first one he saw.

Thank you, Jesus!!

Noah immediately put his arms out for me to pick him up. I held him snuggled against me, so grateful for this moment. And feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to be there.

Not just in that recovery room. But in every step of this process. Because it opened my eyes.

Here's an example:

As we waited in the pediatric unit prior to surgery, Noah went to explore the large play area on that floor. I sat down to watch him and as I scanned the area, it hit me. I had been there before.

You see, over 10 years ago, we lived in Bismarck and I worked as a reporter at a local TV station. One day I did a story about a man who would come to the pediatric floor and sing songs for the children to encourage them. He had some tear-jerking stories to tell about his experience with children fighting for their lives. That particular day the play area was buzzing with several pint-size patients.

He sang "Puff, The Magic Dragon." You know, the one where the dragon can't be brave without his life-long friend.

I'm with you, Puff. I'm not so good at this bravery thing, either.

At the end of my report, the video concluded with a little girl driving a child-size car, waving at the camera, and the music fades...

Touching, yes. But this was before I had any children.

Before I knew what it felt like to be a parent of a child in the pediatric unit.

And I just never know what the future will bring.

Had you told me 12 years ago I would be sitting in that play area with my own child as a patient one day, I could not have comprehended it.

Here was my son puttering around the room in the same car that little girl was in all those years ago.

And there I was. A young, inexperienced reporter, attempting to describe the meaningfulness of a man singing songs of hope for sick children and their parents.

Believe me, it had meaning now.

My mind darted back to the present as I heard the nurse say, "We're ready now. I'll take you down."

One week later, I walk into the doctor's office to learn results of the biopsy. And I had to ask myself, Am I okay with whatever God does here? If the news is not good, will I crumble? Or will I trust?

Fortunately, we were blessed with good news. No cancer. Nothing to worry about.

And honestly, I was grateful that I wouldn't have to be brave anymore.

I know it was a gift, regardless of the outcome. Because I know the Giver.

I saw Him in the eyes of the man holding my son when I had to walk away. I'm convinced Noah saw Him too.

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