I’m in a hospital bed, sufficiently scrubbed and gowned, IV hooked up to my left hand, listening to the nurse assigned to me explain how my surgery and recovery is expected to go. The surgery and the condition it’s going to repair aren’t life threatening and I’ve been telling myself up until now that it’s no big deal. A little sleep, a little snip, a little stitch, and then I’m done. Easy peasy. I haven’t allowed myself to think too long about the procedure. I spent the day before picking up my house, putting clean sheets on the bed, tidying the bathroom, seeing to the laundry, and basically completing every household chore that I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish for a couple weeks after the surgery. And anytime my mind lingered on why I was engaged in this mad dash marathon of household chores, I quickly switched the mental channel to the next item on the to-do list. Plus, I needed to be brave and tough for my 11-year-old who had asked me several times if I the surgery was any big deal. “Nope,” I’d told him with a reassuring smile and a nonchalant shrug which belied the 2 hours of mandatory online video viewing the hospital sent me to watch about the procedure and its potential implications (serious injury or death may occur). Nothing phases me. I’m Supermom.
I hadn’t allowed myself to sit with the potential risks of surgery or to dwell on “what could happen” because I refused to accept anything except a 100% positive outcome. And because, quite frankly, deep down I was a little bit scared. And no one likes to be scared – unless it’s on Halloween and you’re visiting Busch Gardens or Universal Studios Orlando. Yup. I’d spent hours, days in blissful denial by being busy with a capital B. And now, I had nothing to do but lay in that hospital bed and think about all the things that could go wrong.
So, when a familiar face appears around the corner – my doc of 17 years – and says, “They are going to get your mom and bring her back for a few minutes before you go into to the OR.” And then asks “How ya doing?” I just plain lose it. How am I doing? I’m scared. Hot tears stream down my face, though I try my best to stop them. I am mortified. What had come over me? I am tough, tough, tough. Nothing phases me. Super Mom. But just being asked how I am by my poor, unsuspecting doctor is enough to push me over the edge and suddenly, I am not feeling very super.
My doc does then, something I’ll never, ever forget. Something so simple, but so powerful. She walks over, lifts my glasses from my face and wipes my tears away. Then, she touches my forehead and says, “hey, look at me.” At first, I can’t look at her, but that tiny bit of pressure on my forehead and her voice come again, gentle but firm. “Look at me, Elissa.” So, I do.
“You got this, okay?” Her eyes are calm, reassuring. I’m not sure at first that I believe her, but she says it again. “We got this.”
We. As in, we are in this thing together and I am not alone. I feel the connection. Not doctor to patient. Human to human. Soul to soul. We are in it together and together we can do anything. She’s right. Everything would be just fine. I take a deep, steadying breath. A flood of calmness washes over me. Just in time for my mom to show up, sit down beside me, and take my hand.
“You know it’s going to be fine,” Mom says.
I glance at the doctor again who smiles and nods and says, “see you in there,” then disappears around the curtain.
I look at Mom. “Yeah, I know.”
Later, I shared this moment with my mom. I explained how reassuring it was, that small gesture of togetherness with my doc. Feeling that connection. Human to human. Soul to soul.
My mom nodded knowingly and shared a similar story with me. She was waiting at the hospital to be prepped for surgery on her eye. It was a pretty significant surgery, with all the usual risks, including complete loss of vision. Something that for my mom, with her love of sewing and books and bird watching was a horrible fate to consider. But she hadn’t allowed herself to worry about it. The surgery had to be done and she was determined to get it over with.
She’d been fine leading up to the day of surgery. But while sitting in that waiting room, she was hit with such a wave of anxiety, she’d had an overwhelming urge to get up and walk out of the hospital…despite the fact she’d waited months to get the insurance approval, get on the doctor’s calendar, and a half a dozen other scheduling arrangements she’d had to make in order to work the surgery into her hectic life.
As if by magic, an older woman had appeared, sat down beside her, and gave her a big, reassuring smile.
“You’re having surgery today?” The woman asked. My mom nodded. “Well then, would you like to pray together for your happy, healthy outcome?” The woman’s face was so sweet, her voice so sincere, my mom couldn’t help but agree.
And so the woman took Mom’s hands and invited Mom to close her eyes and bow her head and there, in that busy hospital waiting room, the old woman led them through a beautiful prayer of hope and love that left my mom moved beyond words.
“Thank you,” Mom said afterwards. The old woman merely said “I know God will see you through your surgery safely and that you will have the best outcome and speedy healing. God bless you. I will continue to pray for you.” Their eyes met and Mom felt it, deep inside, the connection, the power of their prayer. And she knew the woman was right. All would be well. And it was.
After Mom told me this story, I couldn’t help but smile. “There’s something so powerful in that connection, isn’t there?”
Mom nodded. “Oh definitely. We need each other. We can’t do these things alone.”
No, we can’t. There is power in connection. In letting each other see our humanness. In sharing our fears and being willing to take on a little of someone else’s burden. There is magic in letting our souls dance together, even if just for a moment or two. Even if just to express solidarity or share a moment of prayer. We’re all in this together. And together, well, we can do anything.