I guess I should probably start this off with an update since almost 6 weeks have passed since my last entry. The update is life is good! I got back into the city this week and am getting back into the swing of things. Likely at this point many of you have heard from some other outlet that the surgery went well and both dad and I are healing marvelously. I want to say that the thoughts, prayers, warm wishes, and support we received was overwhelming. Literally overwhelming, I didn’t respond to each of you as I had hoped in the rush of things. If I missed you, let me say thank you. Truly, thank you all.
My plan in writing again is to resume from where I left off. Telling this story about my dad, his liver disease, and the chance I was given to help. I want to carry this story to completion as both a release for me and potentially as catharsis for those of you who are still reading. If I’ll continue to write after that I have yet to consider, but that sounds like a problem for future Josh to figure out (+2 points if you get the reference).
I woke up to darkness after what seemed to be minutes of sleep. It was 5 AM, but I wasn’t tired. The adrenaline rush of realizing “the day” had finally come far surpassed my fatigue. We loaded into the cars and drove made the short drive from our hotel to Lahey. While the rest of the family parked the cars, dad and I went to check in for surgery. The hospital was essentially empty. There aren’t too many 6:00 AM appointments to get blood drawn, I suppose. While I was pushing dad in a wheelchair around the hospital I had a sudden realization. I’m terrible at driving a wheelchair. I think I pushed him into a few doors, a wall, and maybe a few other things. Luckily we managed to avoid any major accidents.
Shortly after checking in they had us report to surgery. While we waited we tried to make some small talk, take our minds off of things. Its tough to come up with a topic that is more distracting than the thought “Hey, someone is going to cut you open in a few hours” (that should be read comically). I was called in first, through a set of formidable looking double doors to a little fishbowl room where told me “take off your clothes and put this on”. So much for the romance I’ve come to expect from Grey’s Anatomy. They didn’t even buy me a dinner first…
After I had changed into my johnny they pulled back the curtain so that family could join me. Mom, Shara, and her husband Jake (not to be confused with my little brother Jake) came in first, my Auntie Gloria was with dad and would visit later. None of them were looking particularly excited, it was about to be a much longer and trying day for them than it would be for me. The first thing I told them was “I love you guys so much and no one could ever replace all the love and memories you’ve given me.” At least I think that’s what I said. Shara claims I said “I’m not wearing any underwear.” It is up to you to choose who you’ll believe… Some nurses came to take my vitals (the first time of 302,407 that would happen that week) and had me sign some final paperwork and then I got to cross the hall to see dad. In his room we continued to make small talk until a nurse came to say it was time to prep me for surgery. It was time to say goodbye.
Except not really goodbye, I’ve always prefer “see you soon” over “goodbye”. As we shared a hug and I kissed him on the top of the head I realized I had been duped by Hollywood. This parting was too quick and nearly dramatic enough. I don’t know what I expected exactly, maybe some type of wide-angle shot with my family surrounding us, our doctor looking on, and a slow motion zoom into our embrace before cutting to black? This was far from that picturesque scene. However, there is one thing that Hollywood has gotten right about these scenes, the emotion. That short embrace, tears welling in our eyes, the nervous look on his face, words that didn’t need be spoken, this is what I remember most from that morning.
Back in my room they started prepping me for surgery. Poking me with things, asking questions, and doing who knows what else. My anesthesiologist came in to give me a sedative while they were doing all the prep work. She was quite entertaining. She gave me a shot and said “I call this the happy hour shot”. Why? Well, because a minute later I felt like I’d had 2 or 3 drinks. Hadn’t felt that in awhile! When I asked her if I could have some for after surgery, she reprimanded me and said I sounded too much like her boys. One of them is a football player at Tufts, where one of my best friends from college happens to coach, what a small world.
When the prep work was done my family got to come in one last time to say their “see you soon”s to me. People still tell me I’m very brave to do what I did, but they were the brave ones that day. I certainly wouldn’t trade my May 7th experience for theirs. I spent most of the day completely unaware of my surroundings while they had to spend it fully aware. I really can’t imagine what it was like for my mom having a husband and a son in surgery on the same day. Then again I really don’t have any idea how she has managed to do all she’s done until this point either.
After the room was emptied except for the medical staff, the anesthesiologist said “Ok, I’m going to give you this and it will seem like 3 minutes and you’ll be waking up…” As she finished her sentence I woke up, but it was several hours later. I have only two memories from that day post-surgery. The first is of a styrofoam cup with swabs hanging over the sides. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was in the cup, water! I remember trying to reach a hand towards the cup while making some guttural noise to convey desire. Suddenly an angel, or maybe a nurse, understood my grunts and handed me one of the swabs. The feeling as the moisture hit my lips and a slight trickle of water wet my tongue was one of the most satisfying “drinks” I’ve ever taken. The other memory is of my nurse Denise, the donor coordinator, leaning over me and saying “Josh breathe” (yes apparently I’m too stupid to breathe on my own) and then telling me the surgery went great and my family was here to see me.
Although far from coherent, there was a rushing sense of relief in hearing that things had gone smoothly and having family by my side. Man is it a blessing to be surrounded by loved ones like I have been that past few months. What is more amazing to me is that this love hasn’t come from only close friends and family members, but from all kinds of people. People I hadn’t heard from in years, people I’ve only met once, and people that are states away that I’ve never actually met. That is crazy to me. I’ve done nothing to deserve this love, but still it comes and I think it comes because of our humanity. See, even though we spend a lot of time fighting about different things; politics, religion, and how any sane person could support the Yankees, we’re all human. We know what it feels like to hurt, to be scared, and to want to be loved. We know exactly what it feels like and how greatly we don’t want to feel these things. So when we see someone who is we put our differences aside, and our hearts go out to them… At least sometimes. Admittedly some people are much better at this than others, and many of you are much much better than me.
Last night I was at an “end of the year” party for the graduate school. It was a great chance to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for several weeks. At one point a friend tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hey, I wanted to say welcome back. I hope my facebook message didn’t scare you. I know we’ve only met once, but I found your blog and wanted to give you my support.” She’d sent me a message before the surgery. I remember it because I was struck by how amazing it was that this person would make such an effort even though the last time we talked I’d been dressed as Vanilla Ice. So no, it didn’t scare me. It touched me. I wish we did this type of thing more, as friends, as a society, as humans. I wish that we would be more willing to put differences aside and realize, this person is hurting, how can I help them? Seems it should be something that comes easy to me right? After all, I’ve said several times that I believe this guy called Jesus and all these things he taught us and as far as his teachings go, this was kind of a big one. Turns out its a good thing he was Jesus because I’m far from it, but after this experience I’m determined to be better, especially in this aspect.
Last thought of the night. I know how hard it is to open up when you’re hurting, but after this experience I would encourage you to give it a try. Try, because there are people out there who will love and support you, even if you don’t know it yet. Don’t go it alone when there are others who would walk by your side.