If the only prayer you ever say in your
entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
It’s been a rough couple of years: palsy, lupus, emergency surgery, A-fibrillation. And transformation. Salvation.
I had been in excruciating pain for nearly a week. I couldn’t eat more than half a cup of food at a time, and couldn’t sleep longer than an hour without the pain knifing my gut. I had even told a friend that the last time I had been in that much pain, I was in a hospital (prophecy). After nearly a week in bed, I finally went to the doctor the morning of September 30, 2014. The doctor said I needed to have an abdominal CT—immediately. I started crying.
It had been a very expensive year and a half filled with lab tests and debilitating medication and depression. I told them I couldn’t afford it and asked what would happen if I didn’t get the CT scan. “You’ll die,” the PA said sternly. “Perhaps that’s the answer,” I said, too fatigued from a year of being poked, prodded, medicated, and paupered. Death seemed like a welcome solution to many problems.
Shortly after I returned home from the CT scan that afternoon, the phone was ringing. It was my doctor telling me that I had to check myself into the hospital that evening because I would be undergoing emergency surgery early the next morning. Moments later the surgeon phoned to tell me what to expect. I made a couple of hysterical phone calls to people who mattered. The surgeon phoned again and said he had just spoken to my doctor again and they decided the surgery could not wait until morning. I was told to be at the hospital by 6 pm for surgery at 7 pm. Alas, this is not my first emergency surgery, but it is the first time I’ve been called at home and told to go to the hospital. It was surreal.
The previous weekend I had insisted that my daughter and I have “the talk.” This was never a conversation she wanted to participate in, but it had been a long downward spiral health wise. We talked about what to do with the house and whom to call to help her through adult matters that were beyond the scope of her budding adulthood.
When I phoned her and said they were operating that night, she wanted to immediately fly in from D.C. I told her that the surgeon said I might be in the hospital for weeks depending on the extent of the obstruction. “Wait until I am home because that is when I will really need you,” I said. I told her how much I loved her and who to turn to “just in case.” I phoned my sister in Arizona and my friend Kimber and gave them instructions for how to help Kate, if necessary. Kimber said she was driving me to the hospital, but then realized she didn’t know my address.
Since my health issues had escalated in June 2013, I had weathered everything alone. It was impossible for me to allow anyone to help because I had swathed myself in impenetrable isolation. I told Kimber that I was driving myself to the hospital and that I wouldn’t give her my address. When she finally gave up against my Taurean obstinance, she said, “Fine, I’ll meet you in emergency then.”
“I don’t want you to come,” I insisted.
“Too bad,” she said. Bless her.
When I drove into the hospital parking lot, Kimber was already there. She gathered my suitcase and helped me walk in. The pain had been escalating throughout the day. I had barely eaten in a week, had eaten nothing since the previous day, and was getting weaker by the hour. By the time they took my vitals, everything was completely out of whack. They gave me pain meds. Kimber’s husband, Ron, and elders from their church came and gave me a blessing in the ER exam room. I am not Mormon, but since I believe that God is ecumenical, I welcomed all prayers and solace.
The next couple of hours are a little hazy. I remember being wheeled into the OR prep room and more drugs being administered, but I don’t remember much after that. Kimber said I was awake the entire time I was waiting for the OR to open up—and that I was completely coherent and funny—had all the nurses laughing. I do not remember any of this, but am glad that I finally found the humor in this very strange day.
I was in surgery for several hours. Shortly before 1 am, I came to and was wheeled from recovery to the hospital room. Kimber was still there. She told me she had been in touch with Kate throughout the evening. I started crying and thanked her for ignoring me and staying by my side.
The surgeons had removed four incarcerated hernias from my intestines and released me from the wrenching pain that had kept me from sleep for nearly a week and had likely been playing havoc with my health for a long time. More importantly, the darkness that had me locked in its vise grip for the past few years was simply gone—vaporized from the kindness and prayers of my friends and family.
“You are the most independent cuss I’ve ever met, “ Kimber said as I was being settled into my bed and attached to all the monitors. She told me she’d be back in the morning.
After a sleepless night filled with beeping monitors and nurses checking vitals, the phone started ringing at 8 am. Friends from California called. “How did you know I was in the hospital?” I asked my first caller, stunned to hear her voice. Kate had asked for prayers on Facebook and they rallied. Flowers came. Friends visited. Kimber came back that day. Twice. Kate flew in that night because I was heading home the following morning. In the weeks that followed, Kate would serve as nurse, cook, water bearer, masseuse, errand girl, and rock. She fought tears and fears (most of the time) and grew up before my eyes.
It has been many months since that fateful day. I have weathered more health issues, but the jubilant return of my natural optimism has not dimmed. For a single second.
Ron, thank you for the blessing and the healing prayers that were said on my behalf. Kate, thank you for every breath you’ve ever taken and for being my raison d’être. You proved to be even more amazing than I’d thought possible. And Kimber: for every month you sat by my side and encouraged me through the monthly report, for your sly humor and razor intellect, for matching my stubbornness and “knowing” I needed you, for serving as chauffeur to the grocery store, doctor appointments and church in those first weeks, and for loving my very imperfect self, thank you. I couldn’t have gotten through that ordeal without any of you. Through your love and prayers, you each were the answer to my unspoken prayers. I love you all.