Impulse led Margie and me to hug Dr. Vianna on the spot. I got the distinct impression hugs weren’t really a regular part of his patient/family interaction.
Dr. Vianna pulled out Allison‘s camera (Nate had requested pictures from surgery), and began telling us about the procedure where they removed the tumor and only a foot of his intestine, as he proudly flipped through them, acting as if photos like these were the most normal thing in the world. I loved it. If you’re curious to see for yourself, click HERE.
Dr. Vianna left the room and immediately I was completely overcome. Unable to move or speak, I collapsed on a couch behind me. Back in the waiting room…well my bother-in-law, Phil, described it best in a letter he wrote us last summer:
“I remember the vibe in the waiting room was so tense. Then Holly’s pager went off – she grabbed mom and dad and went to the front. Our section went quiet. Heads bowed, no one broke the silence that engulfed all of us. Then we heard it, “IT’S GONE! IT’S ALL DONE, THEY REMOVED IT! THE TUMOR’S GONE!” Dad’s voice came over the silence as he ran back to inform us what had taken place. Still no one talked for a few seconds. Shock had taken over us. Then there was complete rejoicing. People were screaming, crying and hugging. It was so crazy. People were partying that you had been healed.”
After rounds of hugs and crying, I wanted/needed to be alone. And I needed to be alone in Nate’s room. I waited for him to be brought back from recovery – with a thousand inexpressible, insubstantial thoughts swirling in my brain. I switched chairs I was sitting in twice. I couldn’t sit still and had the overwhelming compulsion to be on the floor – I felt so humbled by what had just happened. And I waited for Nate.
Eventually Allison text me from the waiting room, having just seen him being wheeled by. My heart was racing, my cheeks hot, my mind still pretty numb, and I met him in the hallway. Wow. He looked bad. Two IV’s in his arm, a neck IV, red iodine all over his body, vaseline over his eyes, and the overpowering antiseptic smell of surgery. I’d never been happier to see him.
Nate already knew the outcome – the first thing he did after waking up was feel for an ostomy bag. He was groggy and silly, and feeling perfect and pure joy. He wanted to hold every nurse’s hand, and tell them he loved them – even the nurse he’d just met that wheeled him back from recovery.
We had a few moments together, then…I passed out.
Well almost. It was a bit much to take in – he truly looked beautifully dreadful. Besides, I totally thought the red iodine was blood. :) Nurses took one look at my face and snapped into action. Chair, juice, crackers, breathing exercises. Sitting next to Nate (in all his surgery-ness), my sudden patient status was embarrassing.
The dizziness would subside enough for me to stand beside his bed for 30 seconds. Then I’d sit back down until the blackness in my vision cleared. Up, down, up, down. Nate did most the talking. He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for having his life back, and was direct in letting God and every nurse know he felt that way. He’d have these deeply personal discourses with God while I was standing there – and later while others were with him, too. Phil wrote about this, saying, “Those ten minutes were so powerful for me. I don’t know if I have ever seen anyone so honest, grateful, and so worshipful. It was something I will carry with me forever.”
Friends and family came in small groups to stand/sit with him. Nate was truly hilarious, and we joke that Nate-on-drugs is such a wonderfully uninhibited Nate. It was as if he had rehearsed speeches ahead of time for all our family and friends. One speech in particular, though, stays with me…and I still think of it often.
Adam and Al– my team, our team. The two of them stood around Nate and he wanted to hold their hands. One at a time, he told them how much he loved them, how thankful he was for them, how we could have never made it through this without them.
And guys, that is absolutely the truth.
Adam, you gave up over five weeks of your life, and work, and other relationships, and time with your family to get us through this. And Al, you selflessly & completely gave up your days and weeks, and sleeping, and normalcy, & your trip to Uganda – literally canceled your ticket to stay by us in the hospital. The two of you carried more and sacrificed more than we’ll ever really know. How could we possibly thank you for your loyalty?
This feels like a good place to wrap up for now. I’ll attempt to finally conclude the story of Tumor in part ten (ten also feels like a satisfyingly even closing number of installments).