Tag Archives: hospitals

Scars

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A little over a week ago, Jordan had his post-surgery follow-up with the surgeon who spent seven hours getting to know an unconscious Jordan as he lay with his chest open on an operating table. He delicately removed the mass that had entangled itself in Jordan’s chest for 17 ½ years. After wiring his sternum back together and closing Jordan’s chest with a clean row of stitches, the surgeon let us know he had the feeling all would be well. And it is. Jordan recovered very quickly and has been given the go-ahead to resume normal activity. He’s been doing 1000 push-ups a day and is breathing easier, his attitude as carefree and positive as ever. If not for the stainless steel wires in his chest and the scar that marks the experience, you’d never know he’d been through such a frightening ordeal.

This morning I made the final drive to Children’s Hospital. Jordan and I grabbed a couple drinks at Starbucks on the way (sorry, Bob and Frankie…) and talked on the way there about music and the goofiness of some words in the English language. We walked into the doors and headed up to the Infectious Disease department. The nurse did the usual height, weight, blood pressure check. All is normal and, in fact, he is two pounds away from his pre-surgery weight! The doctor then looked Jordan over and questioned him about his experience with the antibiotics to take care of his bacterial infection. It was a quick visit. We headed downstairs to the lab for one final blood draw. Two months of needle pokes and lab work finally came to an end.

When we left the hospital, we were both glad to be done with medication and doctor visits. A few days ago, Jordan posted a picture of his scar on Facebook with the following words: “This surgery was probably the hardest thing I’ve gone through, but in a weird way I’m glad I went through it.”

Last night we talked about why he said those words. He wasn’t exactly sure, it was just a feeling he had. I told him it might be because no matter what happens in his life from this point on, he knows he can handle it. He agreed. It puts life in perspective. He has been through a lot in the last six months. So has his brother. So have I. Unlike Brian and me, however, Jordan has something tangible and vivid to remind himself that he is resilient, that he can face adversity and tragedy and overcome it.

In response to Jordan’s Facebook post, I shared the following quote: “There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.” (Harry Crews) I am happy for the scar that remains and what it will mean to Jordan, to Brian, and to me. It’s beautiful.

Scars = Joy

Storytelling

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I’ve lived in many settings, and while I love the serenity of rural life, I also find myself very much at home in a bustling city. Perhaps it’s because you can lose yourself in the city. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention and a large city offers anonymity. Walking the streets of San Francisco or Denver or Dallas, I could be virtually anyone from anywhere and there is something freeing about that.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. Oh, what opportunities there are for that in a crowded place. Sitting at an outdoor café recently, I watched people walking by and in my mind I could create stories about who they were, why they were there, and where they were going. Of course, other people watchers could be doing the very same to me, making up tales about my life. It’s a great creative exercise.

Sometimes I place people in comedies, other times dramas, occasionally stories of action, and, on very rare occasions, sci-fi adventures. It makes life more interesting and, you never know, some of those stories could be pretty close to reality. Truth is stranger than fiction, after all!

Today I had to go back to Children’s Hospital for one of Jordan’s follow-up visits. That’s a mixed bag when it comes to people watching. There was an adorable little girl there today. She was with her mother and she was dressed in a black sparkly skirt with a hot pink tank top and matching shoes. Her blond hair was pulled back and she had a cute little face and bright eyes. She hopped on the elevator, waved to Jordan and me, smiled and said, “Hello!” I wondered what her story was. I know they were at the hospital for her because we got off at the floor for the Lab and she started to whine a little and protest. She didn’t want to go in there. I felt bad for her. I had watched my 17 year-old be poked and prodded for two weeks and he’s tired of needles and labs. Imagine being three or four… But when I looked at that sweet little girl I also imagined that she is the life of the party, that she lights up a room. I picture her spreading joy as she waves to strangers on elevators and flashes her brilliant smile. No matter what she has gone through, what illness she may be facing or what her future holds, I like to imagine that she is a little fairy here on earth, depositing joy wherever she goes and bringing light and love to everyone.

Fanciful Fiction = Joy

13 Days

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We lived at Children’s Hospital Colorado for 13 days. When Jordan walked down the hallway yesterday nurses cheered for him and wished him luck. One dad, sitting by the door of his son’s room, smiled at us and congratulated Jordan on getting to go home. I wished at that moment that every child in there would get to go home soon. When we walked through the lobby of the building, Jordan commented that it was the first time he’d ever seen that part of the hospital – the happy part with the colorful floor and kids laughing and the noises of parents and children talking and going every which way.

The ride home was bumpy and I cringed and looked at Jordan every time I hit a pot hole or a rough spot in the road. He cringed too, but we both laughed about it. Really, what else are you going to do?

Now, the worst is over. Jordan is on the mend. He has stainless steel wire holding his sternum together (no, it won’t mean TSA goes crazy when he  passes through airport security), internal stitches holding his skin closed, and a nice long line of steri-strips. He’ll have five other small scars when  his other incisions heal up. His arms are sore from five IV sites and 16 other “poke sites” where blood was drawn every time he ran a fever. His chest is feeling more normal now that the 14″ chest tubes are gone. He has a bacterial infection, so he’s on an antibiotic for the next couple of months and has weekly visits for blood work with Infectious Disease at Children’s to make sure he’s tolerating the medication and getting well. He is sitting and walking and eating and managing his own pain with Percocet and Motrin. He sleeps sitting in “the cancer chair” that was purchased when his dad had cancer surgery back in 2005. When all this is over, I’m donating the cancer chair! In six months, Jordan should be back to normal, save the awesome scar marking this time in his life.

Jordan had the best attitude while in the hospital. He never complained, joked with his nurses and doctors, and tolerated the entire experience with a smile. There were moments he was frustrated and just wanted to get home so he could shower and wash his hair, but he made the best of every day and found things to be happy about. He and I shared tears and laughter. We also shared a lot of quiet moments where there really wasn’t anything that needed to be said. Silence is sometimes the perfect prescription.

So we are now home again and ready to journey on. Very soon we will be getting back to school work, not Jordan’s idea of a good time by any stretch of the imagination, but probably better than surgery! I’ll begin work on my book and on making Joyful on Purpose bigger and better, trying to infect the world with the idea that nothing in life is without joy. Nothing.

We are hoping for smoother sailing. The water has been just a tad rough this year. I can’t see what is on the horizon, but I do know that growth can come through pain, tears, adversity, disease, and even death. I have many more lessons to learn. I will undoubtedly still screw up… a lot. I am sure I’ll have days where joy is very hard to find and other days where there’s so much of it, I can’t see anything else. I’ll take either one. I’ll take them all. Life is good.

Smooth and Rough Seas = Joy

A Selfish Way of Thinking

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Jordan apologized to me yesterday. He hadn’t done anything wrong, of course. He said he was sorry that I was having to take care of him in the hospital, and do things for him that are, in his mind, not very fun for me and probably awkward for him. I told him the only thing I could tell him: the truth.

The truth is that I hate being in the hospital. It’s cold, uncomfortable, and noisy. I wish we were anywhere but here. But because Jordan is here, trying to recover from having his chest pulled open and a tumor cut out, there is absolutely no place on earth I’d rather be.

Hospitals like this one are places that will teach you perspective real quick! When Jordan was in pre-op, I watched a little boy walk down the hallway with a tumor the size of a large grapefruit on his head. I’ve seen kids with baby-smooth heads, their hair lost to chemotherapy. I’ve watched parents sit, looking bewildered, at their tiny infants tangled up in tubes and wires, clinging to life. I’ve heard children screaming at the top of their lungs in agony. Massaging Jordan’s back, tending to bed sores, helping him endure 14 blood draws so far, turning and moving him in his bed, working with him on breathing, maneuvering him to and from the bathroom, waking up when he calls for me… those things are easy and, compared to what others have been dealt, I have it made.

I have heard, time and again, how I’d make a great nurse after going through everything I’ve experienced over the last five months. Actually, I’d make a terrible nurse. Everything I’ve done has been out of necessity. Love too, of course, but definitely necessity. There’s no other option when you are faced with death and illness. I could never choose to care for the sick and dying. I have compassion, but I don’t have the stomach for what nurses see day in and day out. I don’t know how they are able to handle the heartache, especially in a children’s hospital where the patients are so innocent and vulnerable.

The hand that has been dealt to me has not been easy, but it could be so much worse. Tonight, joy is found in some rather selfish thinking. I’m glad I’m not experiencing some of the things I’ve seen. I am grateful this has turned out so well. In all honesty, I have thought, more than once, “I’m glad that’s not me.” I hope I will leave the hospital with fewer complaints and more compliments, fewer gripes and more gratitude. I want to selfishly cling to all that is good in my life.

Selfish for the Good Stuff = Joy