I stood in the shower letting the hot water wash over me.  My friend had told me a secret.  If you cry in the shower, you don’t feel the sting on your face.  The tears blend in with the water.  I liked the shower.  Sheila and I had stayed the night at the hospital housing.  Jeff was scheduled to have a new bile tube inserted that day and we were determined to make sure it didn’t go like the first one had.  I took my time in the shower.  He was required to fast from evening the day before, but usually they didn’t work him into the schedule until midafternoon.  Then he couldn’t eat again until the surgery team looked at his results, usually after 5pm.  If they didn’t like what they saw, he’d get to eat a light snack and then start his NPO for the next day.  They were starving him in their efforts to help.

As I made my way out of the shower I heard my phone ringing.  It was Jeff.  “Hi.  They’ve got my test scheduled.”  “When is it?”  “They’re wheeling me out the door right now.”  “WHAT!!??!!  NOOOOOO!!!!!”

“Sheila!!  WAKE UP!!!!  We’ve got to GO NOW!!!”  We must have been a sight.  My hair was dripping wet.  I believe we both had on clothes and not our pajamas.  I’m not so sure if we had shoes on.  We were no less than 1/4 mile away down a maze of corridors and three elevators to get to where they were taking Jeff.  We ran.  We arrived in the waiting room.  Others were sitting there waiting quietly and patiently for their test.  The receptionist looked up from her work, nonchalant. 

Sheila is a superb patient advocate.  I don’t like to rock the boat for personal favors.  She’ll do whatever it takes.  And it really wasn’t a personal favor.  It was a matter of life and death for Jeff.  That tube was the only hope he had at living.  And that tube had caused such excruciating pain going in the first time, he swore he’d never do it again in his life.  Unfortunately it had blocked within 24 hours.  And, more unfortunately, the surgeon had told me- but not Jeff- that he’d have to have it replaced every 6 weeks or so.  I had talked him into trying one more time…hoping and praying it would go better this time so that he’d be willing to do it again in 6 weeks.  This HAD to go smoothly.

Sheila took the lead.  “Where is Jeff?”  “Hmmm… he’s not on our schedule.”  “He HAS to be here SOMEWHERE.  He called and said they were bringing him.”  “Sorry.  I don’t see him on the schedule.  Are you sure he was coming here?”  “Listen!  We stayed overnight to talk to the person in charge of his anesthesia before this case.  We are going to talk to them.  Jeff came from the floor.  Not an outpatient.  Where is he?!”  “Oh, let me call and see what I can find.”  (and…. let me sip a little coffee and chat with my friend, and then I’ll check into that for you….)  Nobody caught on to the urgency of what was about to transpire.  HELP ME, GOD!!

Pretty soon a tech showed up at a side door.  “Are you the ones with Jeff?  Follow me.”

We went through another maze of corridors and up an elevator.  Then he tapped on a door, one of many in the hallway, and we waited.  A middle-aged gal came to the door- and there laid Jeff on the table.  “Hi, Hun.”  He was pleasantly surprised to see us.  We spoke with the gal in the hallway.  She was going to be giving his anesthetic that day.  Sheila is all for pulling doctor strings or whatever other strings are required to get the job done.  “I’m a nurse.  And she’s a doctor.”   Good introduction.  “And we are here to make sure that man does NOT hurt during this procedure.  What are you going to give him?”  Well, it really depended on the doctor.  He might need Jeff to hold his breath or move this way or that during the procedure in order to manipulate the tube as required.  She really wasn’t sure what she could do but she’d try.

“Here’s the deal.”  My lip was trembling and my eyes were brimming by this point.  “This is his last chance.  He’s been through hell.  He has had many surgeries and months of chemo and now his bile tube is blocked.  The procedure two days ago took 1 1/2 hours to break through his scar tissue.  The first surgeon couldn’t get it done and had to call for back-up.  He bled enough from that procedure to require a unit.  He swore he’d never do it again.  I’ve talked him into this.  But I can assure you, if he feels pain, he will NOT do it again.  And he will die.  You HAVE to do something for him.”

Jeff woke up about 6pm that night.  Now that’s what I call service.  Thank you.

(The next story in the sequence of events is entitled The Time Capsule.)

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