Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Go and Wait. We'll call when she is in recovery."

"I think that was the entrance." The faint rays of sunlight failed to hide the annoyance on my face. This was my third missed turn of the early morning. I was exasperated at my own inability to drive from point "A" to point "B" without spinning in circles and I decided that I wasn't going to circle the block again. I hit my emergency lights, slammed the lever into "R" and we shot backwards down the thin road, came to an abrupt stop, hit "D" and bounced into the Emergency entrance of the Hospital. How fitting... I still missed the correct entrance. Oh well, at least the guards who came walking quickly our way were assertively helpful.

Kellie took over from here. We made our way into the lobby where I held a pink Barbie backpack, a grumpy four year old, a mug of coffee, and fumbled with my mobile phone so that I could enter the coordinates into Waze. I might as well be in Egypt. Without technology it would be quite an adventure to find my way home. I could hear Kellie up at the counter, patiently providing all our information to the intake clerk, executing the conversation in spanish.

I checked my watch... 5:30 a.m. The door opened as a white coat stepped out, "Sterling Shepherd." It was time. Kellie took Sterling and I stood, checking that we'd left nothing behind, and then hit double time to catch up with them as they went down that hallway, that one that we all are thankful we have, and yet still dread to walk. It's just never a good time when we enter a hospital for our child. We're thankful for the technology and the doctors, and yet we'd rather be anyplace else. We saw this knowledge reflected on the faces of each parent we encountered. It's like an exclusive club that no-one wants to join.

The smell of astringent and bleach coated my throat as my ears filled with sounds of crying children and the whispered words of the adults that loved them. I felt relief when we were shown to our little room and the door clicked shut behind us. I'm not sure why, but this small space that held us felt like a refuge from the events that we knew were to come.

It wasn't a big deal, just tonsil surgery. Routine and common for the doctors, but it was the first time for Sterling. She'd overcome so much in her life: born premature, left alone to die in a public park, delivered by a police officer to the nearest orphanage that happened to have just received a new incubator for preemies, and then she'd gone from survival to growth in the months before we took her home. I knew she was a survivor. I knew that the outcome is always in the hands of God. He gave her to us, he certainly can take her back. I wondered if I could withstand that. I don't know.

Sterling wasn't happy about the loss of her Frozen themed pajamas and undies. I snickered a little as I saw her hatred of the hospital smock. Anyone who has had one of those paper thin, butt-vented, excuses of modesty can relate.

Sterling suddenly went through the full five stages of grief in a two minute blitz: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each step played out on her face... "No, I don't need my tonsils out... I don't want my tonsils out... I promise not to get sick again..." and then a big tear ran down her cheek as she pulled up her legs in a protective posture.

Then it was time. The usual questions: allergies, reactions, history (of which we have nothing), and the waiver signature. She was transferred to the transport bed and we walked alongside her down the hallway, into the elevator, and just outside of the operating room. In this moment I looked down, she was on bed number 13. 

I quickly banished superstition. God owned the number 13 before King Philip IV ordered the assassination of the Knights Templar and tainted the number as unholy. Thirteen had been the number representing God himself: 12 tribes of Israel plus God, 12 disciples plus Jesus." Sterling was riding in the hands of God. As always... she has endured so much. This child is his. 

We were told, "Go and wait. We'll call when she is in recovery." And so... we went to one of the worst places in the world, the waiting room of a pediatric hospital. I personally have no belief in purgatory, but time here may be that place. We had nothing to do but observe other waiting parents who were also observing us. We all stared at the black phone on the wall. Each time it rang, we'd all exchange glances. No-one wanted to answer it. The news that phone delivered was potentially life altering. 

I reminded myself: (1) it's just tonsils, (2) she's survived tougher situations, (3) she belongs to God. 

The phone rang for us. 


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