4:30 am-I was awoken by lightening & a huge clap of thunder. I rolled over on my side totally disoriented by where I was as I had gotten no sleep the night before. Then I remembered-we were in the hospital & today was the day. I just sat there in my chair & thought for awhile. I don't know what I was expecting to feel the morning of the surgery-but I really wasn't feeling anything. I had no complaints about that. Numb was good. 6:00 am-Time to wake up & get around. They were due to arrive for Joel's embolization at 7:00 & friends & family were coming at 6:30. As I got up & was getting around the resident Dr came in & said that the weather was getting a little crazy outside & Joel's embolization would be delayed a little while until everyone could make their way to the hospital. Silent prayer-"God please-let nothing stand in the way of this surgery happening TODAY. We cannot wait any longer."
6:30-My nerves are starting to build a little so I put on some worship music & it immediately starts to calm me. Joel on the other hand is completely calm. He was handling it as he handles everything-confident-even keel-ready to go. Our friends start to arrive slowly one by one. Soon our room is filled with 10 people. It is close to 8:00 now & they will be by soon to take him in. We all gather around him, lay hands on him & pray. Our friend Chris takes the lead & delivers a prayer that says everything I would want to say but couldn't. Everyone in the room had this sense of confidence for what God was going to do that day. Not that there weren't some nerves there but they were just all incredibly confident that everything was going to be ok. That made me feel good. At some point my Mom looked over at me & asked if I wanted some alone time with Joel. I did.
Suddenly the room emptied out & it was just him & I. My sweet husband. We fell in love nearly instantly when we first met 7 years ago & we have hardly ever been apart since then. We have become a team. He's strong in the areas where I am weak. He is my very best friend. Perfect for me. Even though we were confident in what God was going to do that day-you still never 100% know anything. This was my moment that I had to put everything into words in a matter of minutes. I had to tell him how much he meant to me. How my life has changed in every possible good way since he came into it. Yet in that moment I couldn't say any of it. My throat closed on me & tears were rushing down my cheeks. All I could get out is "I love you". And that is what we said back & forth to one another over & over again for the next few minutes. And then they came to take him away.
8:00-They arrive to take Joel to his embolization. Everything was beginning. My legs were weak. I felt like I was about to vomit. While they had him in the hall all of our friends gathered around to tell him goodbye-smile at him-tell him everything was going to be ok. I went back in the room & hid for a moment. I didn't want him or anyone else to see me break down. This was the lowest moment I have ever felt in my life. I felt such fear & sadness for what we were going through. I knew I had to be strong for him & not let him see me that way. So I privately broke down for the briefest of moments-wiped the tears away-put a smile on my face-& went to hold his hand all the way down to the OR.
They took him back to Radiology. This was the easiest part for all of us. We knew it would be over quickly & then we would get to see him for a few moments. Except "quickly" turned into way longer then it should have. Joel's blood pressure sky rocketed & they came & told us they were going to have to hold him until they could get his blood pressure down. That meant a delay of his big surgery. Another delay. Eventually they got it under control & they wheeled him out to see us. Joel had 2 questions for us. Question #1-Sarah have you eaten anything? That is classic Joel. Always worried about me & taking care of me above himself. Yes baby-I ate a bagel. Question #2-Did it rain in Norman- I want the lawn watered? This is also classic Joel. An ability-even in the craziest moments-to think calmly & rationally about what needed to be done. Yes baby, it rained in Norman.
10:00-They took me back into the OR waiting room with him. What was suppose to be a quick 30 minute wait turned into an almost 2 hour one. I sat by his side & kept the conversation light-while all of the Dr's whirled around him getting things ready to go. He seemed very calm & coherent. The funny thing is when I asked him about it later on he remembered none of those moments together. During this time he asked me if I could be back there when he woke up in recovery. I asked the nurse & she said no not right at first but shortly thereafter. I knew what Joel was wanting without him even saying the words. He was wanting me back there with him to immediately tell him the results of the surgery.
12:00-Joel's Doctor walked in & I knew the time was upon us. He looked at me & gave me a slight pat on the back "I will take care of him". I looked him in the eyes & told him that myself & tons of others were praying for him that God would guide him & guide his hands. For some reason it was really important to me that I say those words to both him & the resident Dr. He nodded & told me everything was going to be fine. Then I looked at Joel-kissed his forehead-& told him that I loved him & I would see him very soon. That was my statement of faith. Inside I was scared & I didn't know what would happen or what the future held. I was battling between faith & my emotions at that point. I can honestly say though as soon as I spoke out in faith I had a peace come over me. It was almost like when you step out & speak to the situation-that is when God provides you with what you need to overcome in that moment where you're battling. And in that moment He provided me with peace. I left the room & walked to the waiting room to wait it out.
The time in the waiting room is hard to put into words. I was surrounded by family & very good friends. So there was definitely a sense of comfort there. People came & people left. It was all sort of a blur to me. During the entire time it kept feeling like something was missing. I figured it out quickly-what was missing was Joel.
We settled into the waiting room knowing that we would have quite a long day ahead of us. We told stories, ate food, & watched TV. They were suppose to call me on my cell phone with updates & they did. The problem was they kept giving me the same exact update. Every hour they would call & say "They are still working to isolate the mass." That same update over & over. I was starting to get anxious & needed something to do. The solution-sweeping! That critical care waiting room was nasty & dirty. According to another lady the the cleaning crew had not come in for their normal shift that morning & it showed. So my friend Teresa tracked down a broom for me & I began to sweep. It sounds like something silly but looking back it just gave me some sense of control of my surroundings when everything else in my life was certainly beyond my control at that moment. I also got to walk around & talk to some of the other families in the room about the circumstances that brought them there as well. When you are going through your own grief you are so focused on what you are going through. It's hard to take a step back & realize that there are other people-literally right beside us-in pain as well. In time I will blog more about some of their circumstances but for now I will just say that we told them we would pray for them & they said they would pray for us well. Hurting will bring you together with people you never thought you would even talk to. It certainly did for us.
5:00-Joel had been back in surgery for about 5 hours. They had told us that it would be anywhere from 3-9 hours. Quite the time frame. We had no idea when to expect him to come out. They had recently called me with the generic update of "working to isolate the mass" when we got a call from our room on the 4th floor. They told us that they needed the room for another patient & could we come pack everything up quickly? This was really frustrating for me but I understood why it had to happen. I hadn't moved one inch from the room we were waiting in & I didn't want to. I wanted to be close by in case they finished. Since we were only 5 hours in though I thought it was ok to go ahead & go with my friend & family to go quickly pack up the room. Well wouldn't you know that not 20 minutes after we got up to the room we got another update call. This time though they said "the surgery is over & they are sowing him up." WHAT!?!?!?!? We had to get down to that waiting room & quick. The next few moments of getting there was a blur.
As we got in the elevator I was going over the facts in my head. Ok it took 5 hours. That either meant something really good or it meant something bad. It either meant that they got in there & everything came out just like we prayed or it meant that they got in there & everything had spread to too great of a point so they removed his kidney & gave up on everything else & sowed him back up. The whole elevator ride I kept saying over & over-it's got to be good news right???? I was clinging to hope. It's all I had. Right when we reached the waiting room the Dr called me "Sarah-the surgery is over. Where are you? I am going to come talk to you."
I went out in the hallway with my parents to meet the Dr. Those few moments of waiting seemed like hours. At some point I squatted down & sat on the floor. My legs were shaking so badly it wouldn't hold my weight. I closed my eyes pleaded over & over again with God "Please let it be good news. Please God. Please let it be good news. Please." Then I stopped & said the words that hurt to say but had to be said. "God I will praise You regardless. Even if it's not the news I want to hear. We will trust You & praise You regardless. No matter what report we get." My Dad came & sat by me & said something to that same affect. Then we saw him-the Dr-walking down the hall towards us.
He finally reached us & told us the news. The kidney & the mass was out & everything went well. You have to pull things out of our Dr. He is very hesitant to give you anything that gives you false hope or anything that will raise your spirits only to dash them. So I started to ask him specific questions. Did you see any spreading while you were in there? No it appeared to be isolated. Did you have to remove any other parts of his organs? No none at all. Was the mass high up in the vein leading to the heart? No we were able to clamp it & quickly remove the mass from the vein. Did he have to have a blood transfusion because of bleeding? No he bled very little. Was Joel still on a ventilator? No he was fine & breathing on his own. As I asked each question I started to realize that every thing we had prayed for was granted to us. From the big to the small. God had taken care of it all. The relief that I felt was immeasurable. I could never even put it into words. With tears streaming down my face I thanked the Dr "for everything". I am pretty sure he knew exactly what I meant by "everything". I didn't even need to say any more.
I turned to go to the waiting room where all of my friends were to tell them the good news. But first I stopped & crouched down to the floor. There I wept. I wept in relief-I wept in disbelief-I wept in thankfulness. It was the biggest release of emotions I have ever felt. And in that moment I thanked God "for everything."
I walked in to that waiting room with all of my friends & was greeted by tears & hugs & an immense amount of love. I thought about that critical care waiting room & how it had seen scenes of both incredible sadness & incredible joy. I was so grateful that we were able to have our moment of extreme joy & I was highly aware that it just of easily could have been a moment with a different emotion & different outcome. We all joined hands & prayed. We thanked God for His faithfulness to us.
All I was concerned with was seeing Joel in recovery. I knew that he wanted to see me as soon as possible & I knew that I would be the one to deliver the news to him. That "as soon as possible" was 2 hours later but the moment finally arrived. I walked into recovery & then I saw him. My Joel. He had all kinds of tubes coming out of his body but he really looked good. I walked over & grabbed his hand. Hi baby-I love you. He looked up & said I love you too. Then came the moment. "Joel-they got it all out. It was isolated. No spreading. They didn't have to remove any organs. No bleeding. They said it couldn't have gone any better." I looked into his eyes & saw a single tear roll down his face. "Really?" he said. Yes-it is all over. Then came his smile.
Because of all of the drugs I got to deliver this good news to Joel 4 more times. He would wake up from resting having forgotten & I would get to tell him again. I didn't mind.
The rest of the afternoon I sat with him in recovery. I gave him a sponge to wet his lips, stroked his hand & his face. Mostly I just lived in that moment. With my husband-alive & well. And with me-so thankful for another chance at life. And many more days to experience it together. We would have a chance to raise a family & to live out our hopes & dreams. In many ways our life together was just beginning. That is mostly what this seemed like-a second chance-a new beginning. I was thankful for every moment & every second. For everything that brought us here & everything that brought us through. But mostly I just sat humbled & grateful "for everything."