My eldest son, unfortunately, had Pectus Excavatum and needed to have chest reconstruction surgery when he was younger. It was a significant surgery – which like most surgeries came with a certain level of risk. I am sure that I speak for most people in saying that as a parent or family member…..the waiting is the hardest part.
Our son was one of six children undergoing significant surgical procedures that morning. Not one of the surgical procedures would take less than five hours. Therefore, each family would ride a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the day. With that said, most of us spent several hours together in the Pediatric Surgical Waiting Room. It was amazing the diversity within the room (cultural, socio-economical, religious, etc). However what was even more amazing was the comfort, support, and reassurance that we were able to provide each other through this incredibly stressful time.
Within a few short hours, anyone entering the waiting room would probably assume that the six couples were friends for many years. They were laughing and crying together – sharing their fears as well as humorous family stories with each other.
Although my wife and I have been together for many years, I have a natural ability when attempting to comfort her to say something stupid. It is probably my poor attempt at releasing stress with levity. However, this did not occur on this day due to the great support I had from the other husbands in the room. They were my wing-men. As I was entering a danger zone, they foresaw the potential implications of my actions and immediately changed the focus of the conversation. These were good men.
By mid-afternoon, all of our children were out of surgery and in recovery. It appeared that all of our children successfully made it through their surgeries. There was a sense of peace and relief throughout the room. Some parent stepped out to get some coffee following their conversations with the doctors. Others made phone calls to family members to provide them an update. There was truly a universal sense of peace and relief throughout the room. That was until there was an announcement over the hospital loudspeaker stating “crash cart to pediatric recovery Stat.”
Needless to say, the mood of the entire room instantly changed. No one spoke a word and everyone sat emotionless. We have spent the entire day with these people. Although externally there appeared to be no emotion, internally there exists a massive confliction of emotion. Throughout the day everyone was providing support to one another, but that, unfortunately, could not be done under the circumstances. For there was an immediate flood of prayers that the crash cart was not for our son, but that would mean that we are praying that it was for one of the children of our new friends – so the conflicting emotions were that of fear, hope, and guilt.
As my wife and I sat close together holding hands, I noticed someone looking through the small window from the hall. It was the father of one of my son’s friends. He motioned for me to come into the hall. My wife and I stepped out and he said that he just came from my son who was doing well. This father happened to be the Operations Manager of the hospital so when he heard the announcement, he immediately ran to the recovery unit. He mentioned that one of the boys was not doing well and suggested that we not return to the waiting room for a period of time. We were thankful, relieved and sad (for the other parents).
Following that day, we never again saw our friends from the waiting room. We shared some of our most intimate thoughts and fears with these individuals. They were there to comfort and support us as we were them. They were our closest friends – for a day.
A few years later when talking to that father of my son’s friend, I made mention of these special people that we spent the day in the waiting room. He said that it is one of the most common and intriguing aspects of many medical procedures. Although there are those rare occasions in which continued friendships are created, it is more common for the friendships to last for just that single day.
The one undeniable truth is that this is just one more example of the true loving compassionate human spirit that lives in each and every one of us. It was an extremely difficult day for all of us – especially those parents who heard the crash cart being requested for their son (who thankfully fully recovered). But in the end, I am truly thankful for my friends that day.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.