December 23, 2010

The Christmas Surgery

I wanted to get this story to print before I forgot some of the details. I thought it would be a great Christmas story. I was in the hospital for sinus surgery today, three days before Christmas. I went in the morning around 10 and it was to be a quick in-and-out outpatient. So much for well laid plans of men. It was to be a one hour surgery that probably would've had me home by 2-2:30 pm. God had different plans. It started with a fire alarm around 11 am in the hospital. The alarm was a test but it put things in disarray and set the tone for the remainder of the day. The fire alarm, which is apparently linked to the piping in the hospital  caused grief near the operation room and scrub room. This pushed back my surgery about an hour.

I didn't go under until around 1:30 for a 12:00 noon surgery. According to my doctor half way through my surgery he ran into issues with my septum and some other nonsense that was causing grief (probably my brain). A short surgery went wide and deep and I ended up in the OR for over two hours. I didn't regain consciousness until 4:30pm. In excruciating pain I might add. I have had quite a few surgeries and some broken bones and mangled body parts but this was the longest most acute pain I can remember. This is all fine and dandy but here is where it really starts to get interesting.

The pain was so bad that they couldn't really discharge me. So I kind of worked with one of the nurses to help find a happy medium. I didn't want to stay overnight three days before Christmas and I had the feeling the registered nurse on duty with me didn't want to stay in the O.R. all night either. The O.R. officially closes at 6:00pm and by 5:45pm the pain was about the same and the woman sat patiently by the head desk waiting for my Narcs to kick in. She had left my curtain open because at 6:15 there were no other people in the O.R. ...everyone had gone home except for a attendant to wheel me out and he was in the lobby watching TV. The janitor had walked past and I was just watching the nurse reading and waiting patiently for me.

With my face absolutely killing me and in no mood to talk...I felt absolutely compelled to ask this woman a question...the Holy Spirit has impeccable timing :)

"Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
She looks over cautiously and says, "No, no one else is really here to overhear anyway, go for it."
"You wouldn't happen to be a Christian would you?"
"Why yes, yes I am"

As I begin to talk with her the pain in my face that the drugs couldn't kill goes away and I find out that she goes to a church near my home. I find out that she doesn't normally work this shift. I find out she lost her husband a year ago. I find out her son is suffering from brain cancer...and I forget about the pain in my face two hours after surgery and begin to feel her pain. The pain shifts from my face to my heart. I have just lost my father and Christmas just won't be the same without him. But she has lost more or so it seems.

I feel her pain. Two Christian people three days before Christmas, in pain and suffering. I ask her if I can pray for her and she agrees. I pray the best I can in my discomfort and the pain feels almost secondary. I realize then and there that this moment is Christmas in its truest sense. No gifts, no trees, no snowmen or reindeer. Only a love of God, Jesus Christ and compassion for my neighbor. Especially one that is in pain. I imagine the feeling is mutual. She crys because of her pain and I tear-up because my face feels as if it has been mangled with a hammer (actually I cry because I am moved by the moment but tough guys can't admit to being crybabies). My wife then returns from the CVS and comes in with the kids to pick me up. She had left for only 10-15 minutes but it was just enough time to speak privately without my children climbing the walls. In the pain of another we unload some of our own.

Then I start to think about the timing and scheduling. If the fire alarm hadn't gone off the hospital wouldn't have had problem with the plumbing and the surgery wouldn't have started late. If the doctor hadn't found more "stuff" to cut out of my face the surgery wouldn't have taken so long and I would've recovered sooner. If my pain would've been less I would've been discharged sooner and never had those 15 minutes with the nurse at the Nurse's Station across from my recovery room. Had this woman not worked this shift I wouldn't even have met her.

I was late all day. The hospital was running behind because of unforeseen events. The day got pushed further and further back until I almost needed to be admitted to the hospital for the night. My wife spend a majority of the day in and around a hospital (thank goodness for Home Depots) and was quite late getting us all home. The nurse was late getting home too. All this transpiring three days before Christmas.

...but God's timing was and always is perfect. And now I see just how perfect it was.

A week ago I kind of thought it was strange to have surgery days before Christmas but now I know why I needed to be there exactly at the time that I was. It was to comfort and pray for a fellow Christian, ....a neighbor, my neighbor...all while my nose was bleeding like a stuffed pig.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

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