I love surprises.
Well, I love the kind that involve flowers and/or travel.
Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost money. A good surprise could be cleaning out my car or washing the dishes before I can get to them.
Or chocolate, always chocolate.
What I don’t like are surprises that involve a hospital stay.
And that’s exactly what happened just a few days ago.
It’s no secret how much I love my daddy. I’ve written about him several times over the last few years. He was heroic in Mom’s last days and has fought to really LIVE the days that followed.
It’s also no secret he’s battled some health issues, but you’d never know it by his positive attitude.
It was an ordinary Tuesday, a day I would normally be at work. Dad was scheduled for a heart cath after some abnormalities showed up on his stress test. True to his nature, he didn’t think it was a big deal, he was already planning to eat at Cheddar’s following the procedure.
Something baked, of course, since he has to watch his blood sugar.
We were sitting in the sterile space divided only by a curtain on either side, waiting for the nurse to escort him back to the exam room. We, as in me, my dad, and his wife, we were shooting the breeze and talking about my recent gallivant to New Orleans. Dad was cool as a cucumber and I was fidgety as a field mouse.
I don’t like “procedures.”
Especially on my only living parent.
A few minutes after one in the afternoon and it was finally his turn. I kissed him on the cheek and told him I would be praying for him and headed for the waiting room.
I also don’t like “waiting rooms,” for obvious reasons.
I took the opportunity to return some phone calls and text messages, hoping to take my mind off what was happening not too many yards away behind the gray double doors
After about an hour, the doctor emerged. By then we’d all made our way back to the waiting room.
He began to tell us in language I didn’t understand about Daddy’s heart, all I remember for the life of me was his last sentence. “I plan to keep him. He needs open heart surgery immediately.”
Weren’t we just talking about going to Cheddar’s??
You could’ve heard a pin drop. Our nervous chatter turned to silence.
Open heart surgery?
My throat went dry and I couldn’t swallow.
The moments that followed felt surreal: we peppered the doctor with questions, we paced the room, cried and made more phone calls to family and friends.
I hated every minute of it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Dad in a room overlooking the parking lot. We drank lots of bad coffee and attempted conversation.
Honestly, no one really felt like talking.
That night before open heart surgery has got to be near the top of my “worst nights ever” list. Leaving the hospital knowing in a few short hours my dad would endure traumatic, invasive surgery kept me awake until the wee hours of the morning.
And then it was time to get up and be back at the hospital.
We had to be there REALLY early if we wanted to see him before he went back behind those dreaded gray doors, and, of course, we did.
One thing we understood from the doctor was daddy had a diseased artery, one of the main ones. It was diseased from one end to the other and they weren’t sure they’d be able to bypass it, it was just too far gone. Something about “no place to attach the new artery.”
The second bypass should be a piece of cake.
Except a piece of cake didn’t sound so good once the doctor finished telling us all that was involved.
Until you’ve been in a situation like this, you really don’t understand the gravity of what the family is going through…not to mention the patient.
My sympathy has turned to empathy.
Again, that cold March morning, when most were just rising from bed, we sat again in sterile make-shift room with curtains for walls and waited for daddy’s turn. You know, when you’re sitting there looking at someone you love so much, the reality you may not see them again squeezes your heart like a wrench bearing down on a pipe fitting.
Mortality becomes very real.
Of course, you speak none of this, you just sit there and crack uncomfortable jokes and shiver, but not just because it’s cold.
Doctor after nurse after anesthesiologist came by to introduce themselves and we all nodded and thanked them for what we prayed would be a successful surgery.
I keenly remember the moment we were asked to leave.
Daddy was lying in the bed with all sorts of apparatuses attached to him and several nurses lined either side of the bed, ready to roll him back.
All I could think were the words he’d spoken a few minutes earlier…
“You know, I don’t usually get scared for medical stuff, but I’m scared.”
My heart shattered.
Daddy was scared and there was NOTHING any of us could do but reassure him he was in God’s hands and promise to be there when he woke up.
As I was walking away, I stopped to look back, I just needed another moment to snap a picture in my mind.
I never wanted to forget, you know…just in case.
A tear slipped down my cheek, I willed the rest into submission.
I turned and headed for the waiting room where a small crowd of friends and family waited.
An hour or so later, a nurse called to tell us all was going well. She did this every hour for the duration of the surgery. Every time the phone rang, we held our breath.
Finally, after more cups of bad coffee and shallow chit chat the doctor entered the waiting room. He signaled for us to join him in a smaller room off to the side. I hadn’t seen any other doctor who came into the waiting room do this so, of course, fear gripped my heart.
I know what the Bible says about fear.
We shouldn’t live in it.
But, I also know God understands the heart.
There is a price for love.
The price takes you to fiery pit of hell and back.
I understand this all too well.
But it’s worth it.
Standing in the smaller room off to the side, our family stood waiting for the physician to tell us the outcome.
I knew the next few words could alter my world, so I stood firmly on both feet to keep me grounded.
Then he spoke, “The surgery went well, both bypasses were successful and the diseased artery wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought.”
I felt the air return to my lungs.
All of us, including the doctor and his assistant, were all smiles at this point.
Daddy was going to be okay.
We nearly skipped over to tell extended family and friends who were waiting on pins and needles.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since the surgery and daddy is recovering nicely. He still has a long road ahead, but, hey, we’re happy he’s here on the road.
And he is too.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget these events.
I want to leave them here in black and white as a testimony to future me.
Future me who may doubt God’s provision.
So future me will always remember…
the day God healed a broken heart.