Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Surgery and Stories

          I should be writing something deep about our experience at Shriners Hospital this week, where the Wrestler had surgery on his femur. I wish I had photos to show you, of my brave boy, and the interesting people we met. Instead, I come to the keyboard with bits and pieces of stories, of people whose whole books I’d love to read, if they’d written them.

          There was the Amish couple, at the hospital with a son who’d suffered a terrible barn accident, which had caused lots of internal damage and a residual hip issue. I spent a long time in the tiny kitchen on the surgical unit, where the man, who looked much like an old friend of mine with a beard (no moustache), Amish haircut and suspenders, slowwwwly spun the story of his son’s injuries while he and his black-clad, white bonneted wife helped themselves to their snack of cheese, ham and ice cream. I could tell of the adorable 5-year-old Chinese adoptee recovering from cleft surgery, and the brief conversation his mother and I had while we waited for the Wrestler’s surgery to be done.

         At Ronald McDonald House, where we spent the first night and Husband stayed the night after surgery (I volunteered for overnight hospital duty; he got the two-hour drive home), there was a teen-aged boy who wore a cap that looked like a skull, and listened to music so loud we could hear it coming out of his ear buds. He held doors for us, saying in a Spanish accent, “we’re all family here,” and helped translate for the other residents, all Spanish speakers.

         Two of those residents were a woman and child from the Dominican Republic, who've spent the past year at the Ronald McDonald House, so that the little girl can get surgery and prosthetics. She came to see us in the Wrestler’s hospital room after surgery, and we talked in pantomime for a bit before she sat her little girl in the Wrestler’s bedside chair, and left her there with us for a while. The child’s tiny hands held a little Cinderella doll, and she looked at my phone photos, shaking her glossy curls and saying Beeuuuteeeful!” after each picture of our cat or dog. Through gestures and fingers, we ascertained that she has 8 cats at home.

          In the hospital recovery room, we met a local couple, and we waited together for our children to wake up from anesthesia. Their child was young, her hand wrapped and bandaged, and the couple was young, worried and sincere. We told them we knew how scary this is and how well we knew toddler would do, so quickly, and they seemed a little relieved. There was the nurse in that room, pregnant with her fifth child but considering adopting after that, and another nurse whose daughter had Celiac. There was a pharmacist, elegant with short silver hair and dangling earrings, with whom we discussed the challenges of raising teens, and the cleaning woman who told us she had been in fostercare, and wanted to give her toddler son opportunities she never had. She’s taught him English and Spanish and is working on Italian and sign language, she told us.

          Then there was the Wrestler. He is our quiet one, calm and capable and unflappable, who doesn’t like to fail, to admit defeat or upset. He can be the class clown, distracting others with a funny face, or trying to give a brother a wedgie during history, of all things. He is hard to know sometimes despite the fact that we spend all day together, and yet on this trip, I learned more about him and am further in awe of this young person I am blessed to parent. I realized, as we watched Home Alone together at the Ronald McDonald House the night before surgery, how much he just loves to laugh, and how much he enjoys it when I laugh with him. I don’t do that enough. I realized, as he woke in that recovery room and asked, voice raspy, “May I please have a drink of water,” how very, very polite he is even half sedated.

          I realize again, as he uncomplainingly recovers from an undoubtedly painful surgery that leaves him with a weak spot of bone on his femur (until it heals) and a sizable incision, how very brave he is. I knew this, when as a newly arrived three-year-old, I took him to the doctor for shots. Seeing the tray of needles, that tiny boy pushed up his sleeve and offered the nurse his arm. Today, two days after surgery, he wheeled about in his borrowed wheelchair, peeling apples for apple bars and insisting on doing his schoolwork even though I’d given him a pass to rest for the day. Now, mid-afternoon, he’s let himself sleep on the sunny library futon, a cozy and well-deserved nap.

          I had gone on this surgery trip hoping to minister, and connect with the people I knew we’d meet, and on reflection, I realized that what I’d done most was listen to stories. Stories in broken English, in Spanish I couldn’t understand, stories unspoken, stories hurried and stories slow and dramatic and told for the telling, from so many diverse people. I would love to read the book of each of their lives and am thankful for a glimpse at the pages and the chance to connect for even a few minutes. I am thankful for my brave young man, and the incredible gift we have of seeing him through surgeries, to hear his please and thank-yous in the middle of the night, to be the hand he grasped as he woke from anesthesia. Might you pray with us for his continued recovery? Thanks for sharing a bit of our story. I’d love to hear a bit of yours.

Giving thanks and
Trusting in Him,


  1. PRaying and loving your description of the hospital - it can be hard but I am also always enamoured by the others stories - how often we forget to just sit and listen

  2. What a beautiful post! It's amazing what and who the Lord will show us is we're just ready to receive the story. Glad your little dude is getting better.

  3. Yvette, thank you for your prayers - I know they're making a difference - and for letting folks in on your beautiful stories too.

    Carrie, isn't it neat? I forget that here, where I think things aren't going to be so interesting, we're surrounded by so many amazing stories. I've so enjoyed reading yours!