So I got a verbal HIPPA release from my dad and so I can publicly say this week he had his chest carved by an amazing surgeon (Dr. Edward Kincaid, Wake Forest Baptist Health). Open heart surgery. Dad had his aortic valve replaced. We McKinneys don’t mess around. If we’re getting a new valve, we go for the big one!
My mind has been troubled and tired and emotional and frustrated in the last couple of weeks. We thought surgery was going to be Friday, then were told it was Monday, then a heart transplant needed to be done for another patient, and so it was put off until Wednesday. Dad was in the “get it done” mode, as were the rest of us. But I was dreading it at the same time. It’s seemed like being in constant fog…..and quite frankly, nothing else seemed to matter much.
But in the midst of the fog, you can see the sun. There is much I am grateful for:
~ My parents. For their strength and how they built our family. They have always been there for us, and taught us how to be there for others. And each other. The raised us all to be independent and have never been the type of parents who made a lot of demands on their adult children. But as they care for us, we will care for them.
~ My siblings…..for the way we care together. We did learn something over the years, after all the squabbling of our youth was over. Actually, even when it was going on. We were raised to share. In chores, in stuff, in responsibility. I see so many families who fall apart when hard times hit, or who abdicate their own responsibility of caring for their families in hard times with the flimsiest of excuses, but my siblings share the load. Like all partnerships, the load is seldom really equal…but our goal is to try to make it so. Some of this happens because we have vowed it will be the case. And if butt kicking is required, we are all quite accomplished at it and will gang up on whoever needs it.
~ My aunts and uncles….for their consistency and modeling and humor, no matter what is happening. My dad was one of ten children and most of his siblings and their spouses are characters. (I say “most of” for self-protection”….they raised me smart.) Get that crew together and there is always very loud talk and laughter. Yes, that is where I got it. They’re a bunch of stoics, especially the McKinney men, but if you need them, they will be there. Two of his brothers and their wives were with us during Dad’s surgery. I wondered at one point if families had ever gotten thrown out of the Intensive Care waiting room for loud laughter. I don’t think they have.
~ Dr. Kincaid – What a way to use your life! The same week he did my dad’s surgery he did two heart transplants, and who knows how many other procedures. He’s also a professor at the med school here, so teaching others to follow in his footsteps. This guy….he’s our hero. There would have been a time when a valve replacement wouldn’t have been available to someone who is 83, but he and my dad make a great team and prove it is worthwhile. I am so happy my dad’s docs sent him to this great physician.
~ The staff at Baptist Hospital. Everyone has been nice to us so far. Everyone. And you know I would loudly proclaim if they weren’t. I ask tons of questions and am a bit demanding if you are looking after my loved ones. I am a bit squeamish as a nurse, but quite good as a patient advocate. They have my seal of approval. I couldn’t ask for more. They even give out their cell numbers, answer them, and come immediately if you need them….just like they promise when they introduce themselves at the start of a shift. I have tested it. I have been known to stalk health care workers at other hospitals before….and would have here had it been necessary. But no…..they tell you they are here if you need them and it has proven to be true. From my healthcare friends I know most are kind-hearted by nature and really want to help sick people, but it is all in those staffing ratios and sometimes they make it impossible. They seem to be reasonable here. Others should learn from them. (And no “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. Some of you Statesville folks will understand what I mean and know the peace that it adds to our nights here.)
~ My friends – I didn’t talk about this publicly or widely until I knew Dad was OK and until I had his permission. But a few of you knew for various reasons. There were times when a well-timed text or private message made me smile, consoled me, or calmed me. You know who you are. And my co-workers….so many were so wonderfully flexible and covered for me when necessary (and will continue in the next few weeks). Others would have had I needed it. Kindness in action.
~ God – He answered our prayers. The way I wanted. Truthfully, watching how easily Dad seems to be recovering (“easy” being relative. It is and will continue to be a tough recovery, but he is doing incredibly well. Even compared to others far younger than 83), God exceeded what I thought was possible. But one thing I think is important to note. Even had things not been picture perfect, the prayers would still have been answered. God is good. Whether we get our way or not. I do not understand sickness, and suffering, and death. But still I trust God.
As I sit in my dad’s hospital room, watching my mom sitting next to his bedside holding his hand as he sleeps and she dozes, I smile. The fog that has covered the past few weeks is lifting and I can’t help but know that even in these less than ideal moments of life, the sun shines. And life, even when difficult or a battle, is good.