My husband Orchid needed surgery. He had been stabilized with pain management while we waited for the big day. Of course, we were nervous – even after reading and re-reading the statistics of clinical outcomes (very favorable) and after consulting with surgeons in different specialties. Still nervous, although everything indicated to us that our chosen path was the correct one. At least it seemed correct when viewed through the lens of an unknown future. And that’s just it, isn’t it? Statistics only speak to the likelihood of a future; each life rolls its own dice. Where would we fall on the bell curve?
When the day of the surgery finally arrived, we sat waiting and waiting. When the time came, I walked beside him a few last steps before I gave him a kiss and squeezed his hand. Then they rolled him down the long hallway. They rolled him away from me. I watched his gurney become smaller as I stretched to see it through the sea of hospital scrubs walking the hallway. And then he was gone.
I went to the waiting room. I checked in to receive my buzzer in case the surgeon needed to contact me, the kind of buzzer some restaurants use to let you know your table is ready. I looked at the buzzer and hoped that it didn’t buzz until the predetermined, scheduled time. Suddenly, waiting meant that things were okay.
I found a comfortable place to sit and read poetry. I’d brought books I’d already read so there wouldn’t be any surprises: Lucille Clifton and Sharon Olds. Strong women. I opened to a random page, flipping the coin of the book.
And that’s when I realized it: I wasn’t afraid. I mean, if I was afraid, how could I casually read? I stopped reading and thought. I sat in the middle of a large hospital. The waiting room looked down on a large atrium full of people in scrubs and white coats walking invisible highways. People who had trained for years and conducted medical interventions every day. Every. Day. If Orchid had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, they would know what to do. Our surgeon was late to start Orchid’s surgery because he had been called in as a specialist for neonatal surgery. His problem seemed minor in comparison.
I sat alone for hours, reading and thinking. I even ate a little food. I had successfully done what I didn’t think I could in such a circumstance. I had let go of that which was beyond my control. I had released the semblance of ownership for something I couldn’t hope to own. I trusted professionals. I felt deep within that everything was going to be okay, before it was okay.
And then, it was okay.
I would say I realized that what I thought didn’t matter at all, that my stress was not something I could barter with the universe for a good outcome. Except that what I thought DID matter. The positivity I felt in those hours alone may, in some way, have helped Orchid as much as it helped me. Maybe the idea of bartering emotions isn’t to prove to the universe that we’ve suffered enough, but more to show we’re willing to take the first step ourselves toward the light. Faith. Trust. Positivity. I was not enough to fix him, so I trusted those who were.