Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Just Never Know

Yesterday, I was driving to the hospital with my middle son (Jack), who was scheduled to have knee surgery. While his knee is in a large brace, turns and bumps in the road are still painful, so I was very careful as I turned into the gas station. Checking my rear-view mirror as I did so, I saw the young driver behind me.  To say that he was not happy with the speed at which I turned into the lot is an understatement. This young man was making all kinds of hand gestures, yelling, basically full of road rage. Normally, I laugh this idiotic behavior off, but this time it got me thinking...

You just never know what people are going through at any given moment.

That older man you just passed on the highway doing 55 in the fast lane? Maybe he just found out his wife has Cancer.

The young couple in front of you taking the turns so slowly? Maybe they're on their way home from the hospital, their newborn baby cradled in the back seat.

The woman speeding down the highway like a fool? Maybe she's racing against the clock to say goodbye to her father.

But I digress.  Yesterday, Jack had surgery.  He had a complete knee dislocation, and 30% of his kneecap had broken off in the process.  This was Jack's first surgery (and hopefully his last). I've been in the waiting room at St. John's many times, though. His older brother has had six surgeries, his first when he was just five...

I remember when the nurse called me back to the post-op room - where the patients wake up after surgery. They only allow one parent in that room... I don't even think I gave his dad a chance.  I got back to my little boy, who was just starting to open his eyes.  I held his hand, and ran my hand through his hair, telling him everything was okay, mama was here. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. "Mama? Mama! I need the nurse!" I tried to calm him but he was insistent that he needed to see the nurse right away.  I ran to get her.  She reached his bedside and leaned close to find out what was wrong. When he saw her there he reached for her hand, and started to cry. "Thank you.  Thank you so much for taking care of me."
That was all he needed to say.
The nurse and I cried with him.

But I digress.  This was Jack's turn. And when they called me back, I headed to the post-op room to hold my boy's hand.  When I got there, he was in a great deal of pain, in a fog from the anesthesia, and couldn't feel his leg at all because they'd put in a nerve block. "They cut off my leg!" he screamed.  It took a few minutes - and several doses of morphine - for the nurse and I to calm him.  But when we did, and that medicine took hold, Jack was in typical form. In fact, the nurse loved him so much, she called the other nurses over for a laugh. The two that rolled his bed up to his hospital room were in stitches and told him they wished they could hang with him all afternoon.  He shook hands with everyone who entered his room, cracked jokes, sang songs and generally made everyone else feel good.

Speaking of Nurses... These people are angels. Really, they are.  If you are a nurse, know or love a nurse, or happen to need a nurse sometime in the future, please remember that these people devout their entire career to taking care of people who are miserable, in pain, unhappy, don't want to be there, can't sleep, are crabby, and generally not too pleasant to be around.  I've spent the night in the hospital with my boys a total of 7 times now. And believe me, it's work. There are constant requests for drinks, urinals, food, scratching of itches, and pain medication. There are countless complaints, many tears, some frustration and general crabbiness.  At one point today, trying desperately to help Jack into a wheelchair I just burst into tears. I simply had enough. I was beaten down, exhausted, stressed and ready to go home.

Nurses take care of perfect strangers. I watched half a dozen of them work with my son, and not one of them was anything less than helpful, kind, and caring.  Props to all of them.

But back to that young man in the car behind me on the way to the hospital yesterday morning. He really got to me. I mean, ask any mom.  Mess with me, okay - I can deal with that.  But you f*&k with my kid? We've got a problem.  Maybe I need to take my own earlier advice and realize that teenage boy might have been going through his own turmoil.  Nah. My guess is that he was just a kid - selfish, as teenagers can be.

But someday, that teenage boy is going to be a husband, driving his very pregnant wife to the hospital. He's going to be a daddy, racing his own teenage boy to the emergency room. He's going to be a grandfather, driving a little slower, a lifetime of living and worry slowing him down just a bit.

Until then, I'll do my best to remember...
You just never know what someone else might be going through.

Author's Note: Jack is home from the hospital and doing well. He's got a long road ahead of him... Four weeks in a locked leg brace, and then the pins in his knee will have to be removed. But he's in good spirits and glad to have the worst of it behind him. Thanks to everyone for your calls, texts, prayers, and kind thoughts!


  1. Speedy recovery to Jack and hopefully less stress to momma. We missed you of course! Take care.

    1. Thanks Lynn! I'm sure I missed a good time - happy to read anything you want to send!

  2. Jack on pain meds? He's such a hoot on his own, I'm sure he had those nurses in stitches.

    1. Ha! It was certainly a treat for them ; )

  3. I am so glad to hear that the surgery went well. I wish Jack a speedy recovery. You are right, we never know what someone else is going through, and we should all be mindful of others. But in this rushing world in which we live, nobody seems to be able to slow down and consider the other person. Missed your cheery presence.

    1. Thanks Linda. Right - it's a lost art! Missed you guys, too... send me something to read!!

  4. So glad that surgery is behind both of you. And hooray for paying forward some of that compassion even though it doesn't sound like the jerky driver deserved it.