With tears in her eyes

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time waiting for things. And a few “out-of-the-ordinary” moments came about because of some of the delays.

I mentioned that the biopsy didn’t happen until two hours after it was scheduled. You expect this sort of thing, when you’ve got all kinds of busy people having to converge on a single time and space (in this case, the recovery room at West Penn). Beth had 20 or so blood tests for which to give blood. Dr Rossetti was coming in from somewhere else, and had other patients to see besides Bethany. And the “hardware” to be used for the biopsy, which needed to be signed for (and which Dr Rossetti has brought in himself in the past) was delivered by someone else this time.

Beth wants me to be with her constantly, through this whole process, and as much as I am able, I want to be there with her as she goes through this. And the hospital folks are good enough to allow me to walk down to the recovery room (where the procedure will occur), and wait with her while she’s waiting.

During that time, they hook her up to the heart monitor, blood pressure cuff, the thing on her finger that measures her pulse, and we play games with each other. We have learned that spending time kissing (the curtains are drawn, of course) lowers her heart rate and blood pressure. It relaxes her.

After Dr Rossetti arrived, somewhat late, but before the hardware arrived, the nurse anesthetist began to ready herself for the procedure. And at one point, she had given Beth some of the “twilight” or “conscious sedation” medication that is used in the procedure.

This medication functions as a kind of truth serum, and I’m sure that medical people have heard lots of ramblings from people before they actually go to sleep. And we have seen limited glimpses of how this works ourselves. For example, our son Zach, before a surgical procedure for a hernia when he was three years old, went from a hard scream and cry to a calm, peaceful smile, almost instantaneously.

Beth, once the mask went on and the white plunger was pressed, began to cry and talk, and I bent over and stroked her hair and kissed her forehead and let her know I was there. She looked me right in the eye and struggled to articulate the words, but I heard them very clearly, “I will never forget you”. “Thank you for loving me, I will love you forever,” she said to me, and to be sure, it’s a moment I’ll never forget. She mumbled something about “our daughters” but her eyes were rolling, and her eyes were still teared-up and it wasn’t long before I was getting kicked out.

It must have been awkward for her, but I’m grateful to the nurse anesthetist for not booting me out right away, for allowing me to share those moments. Of course, Beth was not merely crying because of the biopsy procedure that was about to occur, but because of the whole process of having a life-threatening illness, and the struggles she’s faced over the past few months, facing the thought that she really could die very soon.

These are incredibly hard, though incredibly human things to face. She has done it with such an exterior calm and dignity, that it’s almost possible to miss what she’s struggling with. I am tremendously grateful to those who have come into our lives – lots of people we don’t even know, her old friends from the 203rd MI BN — her army unit, the people whom I work with, those who know me from my blogging, and most of all, Pastor Matt and the members of my church, City Reformed PCA.