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Sherry's Back Surgery -- 06/02/03

Sherry had slipped disc surgery on Friday, May 30, 2003. This is the partial story of that day...

Driving south on I-15 from San Marcos to San Diego, something told me this day would be different. The car drivers were driving more erratically than usual. I found I needed to be more alert of their movements. It was this keenness to attention that would make its presence throughout the day.

Sitting in the hospital Admitting room, I cracked open my book, How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable and began to read. I made it past the first paragraph when I looked up to notice the other patients gathering in the room. Little did I know that by the end of the day, I would know some of them a little better. I tried to finish reading, but their personal discussions between one another kept my ears on them. Sometimes Sherry and I would chat ourselves, adding to the various discourses in that room.

About an hour into the waiting, they called Sherry back to Pre-Op. This area has many beds and each one is curtained off for privacy. It was here that Sherry started receiving her IV and drugs to prepare her for the operation. Each of the staff that attended to her was very polite and explained what they were doing each time. Their professionalism helped Sherry feel at ease as the drugs took their affect. The surgeon came by to check up on her and not long after she was on her away to the operating room. We kissed goodbye and they wheeled her away. I left for the Waiting Room with my book and her clothing bag in hand.

Down the hall after a few turns, I entered the filled Waiting Room. A friendly volunteer met me at the door and asked me to sign in. I filled in the form and said I would wait down the hall where I could get a can of soda. Near the soda machine, I found another empty Waiting Room. I set down my diet pepsi and picked up a recent copy of Time Magazine and began to read. Just as I finished scanning that issue, I looked up and saw a young woman walk by the doorway. She stopped by the soda machine and set down her purse in the nearby chair. Reaching inside her purse she retrieved her cell phone and walked into the room where I was sitting. Stopping in front of me, she called someone and began speaking to them.

She said to the listener, "She just left us... Five minutes ago.... I had to call someone..." I knew she wanted to be alone and while she was talking, I signaled her I was exiting the room for her private conversation with whomever was on the other end. I sat outside near the soda machine, two chairs from her purse so that it wouldn't be left exposed to disturbance or theft. She watched me take my seat and in a few moments she moved out of sight of me and her purse to speak in private.

In a few minutes she came back into view. She walked over to her purse and placed her phone back in it. I could see she was very upset inside but trying to maintain her composure. Then she turned away from me. I heard her start to break down. I asked her if she would be alright. She shook her head yes with the indication that meant no as she walked away crying. She never spoke to me, yet we had communicated. She knew I was there for her, if she needed it. It is the second time in my life a woman who I'll never meet again has walked away from me crying; the first time by my words of rejection, now this time by words of compassionate support. Sometimes words just fail me.

I immediately returned to the first Waiting Room that by then had a few open chairs now. I sat down, I put the clothing bag holding my book next to me. I was about to retrieve it when a woman about my age sitting across from me asked, "Have you learned to disagree without being disagreeable yet?" Everyone sitting near us looked over at her and then to me. It was the start of one of those consuming moments of time. I looked over in response to her. She had long black hair and a very friendly smile. I said, "Not as well as I probably should." Everyone who had now involved their interest in her question and my answer laughed. A human bond was taking shape amongst we strangers even though only a few seconds had passed.

I must have had that quizzical look on my face, so she added, "I saw you reading that book in the Admitting Room and was caught by its title." From that point on more people joined in the conversation. I never did finish the first page of that book that day. Instead I discovered a new friend, someone I'll probably never see again in my life. Her name is Cindy and she lives in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was captivating in her thoughts and expressions. She was there with her mother and father waiting for news of her Grandmother. We chatted about many things in life. She is of partial Native American decent and knows a lot about the Sioux of South Dakota. The time went by without notice over the next few hours while I waited for news about Sherry.

One of the other people who joined Cindy and I in discussion was a young man who uses PC's. I helped with some advice on fixing his Sony Casio PDA and he asked me for my business card. He was at the hospital helping out some elderly neighbors, one of whom needed a new Pacemaker installed that day.

Another person was using a Mac Powerbook over in the corner. We chatted about using Jaguar and she later asked me for my card as well.

Cindy who had been listening to my conversation with the other two people remarked that she isn't interested in computers. She is interested in person-to-person communication. I told her I was deep into computer technology but have never forgotten that people are more important than technology. We continued our topics of conversation and I learned a lot about her. When she and her Dad went to get something to eat and upon their return, Cindy offered half of her sandwich to me. I sure needed it because I was getting hungry, but anxiously waiting to hear of Sherry's status from the doctor and afraid to leave the room.

I don't know Cindy's last name. I have no way to reach her again unless she finds me somehow. I most likely will never see her again, but I felt as if I knew her for a long time. Some people just strike me that way.

After Cindy and her family left the room to be with their relative, a new volunteer took over the watch duties. She started asking me some questions and one thing lead to another. After a few minutes the remaining people in the room were interested in my comments about diabetes and high tryglycerides. I think people always want to know about common diseases but prefer to hear news from strangers than from those they are familiar with.

Before I realized it, I had ended up speaking with almost everybody that I had earlier seen in the Admitting Room hours before. Some experiences cause humans to relax and talk to one another in ways they never would outside those special circumstances. It was a great day in that regard.

Then the phone rang and it was time for me to rejoin Sherry in Post-Op. She was doing pretty well and after a couple hours we were able to leave for home. Twelve hours had elapsed between the time we left home and arrived back. Sherry's operation went well and she's doing much better because of it.

I have a new found respect for medical personal, hospital volunteers, and the regular average person waiting to hear from the person who is in for surgery. I may not ever finish the book I brought with me on Friday. Maybe it was just there to be the catalyst in something far more important in life.

Don


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