Carl came home from our summer of 250 miles of bike riding at elevation in Colorado to find he couldn't shift his standard Corvette. Things deteriorated from that point to unbearable pain, lots of falls and total loss of his left leg. We met god the Neurosurgeon after a steroid pack, five steroid infusions and a steroid epidural failed to get Carl back to normal, these accompanied by three MRI's and a CT scan. His neurologist made the referral and said that the surgeon had god status in the medical center. I've chosen little g, and big N. god the Neurosurgeon says he's pretty sure he can fix him. I'm counting on it.
I am struck by the beauty of the medical center not three miles from my home. It has its own arch de triumph and fountains, le Metro, and The Sorbonne on Main just across the street. Not Paris, but majestic in its own right.
After Carl gets wheeled into pre-op I take a walk on the Rice campus (the Sorbonne on Main) and just like an old timer marvel at the changes in the last 40 years. Almost no open spaces remain. I wander by the new Weiss College, on to Tudor Field house (didn't that used to be called just ‘the gym’?) and across to the Turrell sky-space installation. From there it is an easy stroll to the RMC, where I could have stopped in the coffee house, the convenience store, or at the fresh Chinese food stand. Instead I stroll into Sammy’s where Droubi’s Mediterranean serves a pretty decent hummus with fresh pita.
I take my time wandering toward Main Street and pass an amazing temporary pavilion being erected for the 100th anniversary homecoming in the space in front of Lovett Hall. After being temporarily distracted with this faux structure, I head toward my nostalgia stop, Brown Commons, to find it converted into a student health center. The new commons is an architectural marvel, a three forked dining facility for Brown, Jones and Martel, separate dining halls all sharing a central self serve cafeteria. Fresh fruit salad on the salad bar, can you imagine that? Probably tastes the same in a week, but it looks more appealing than the one entrée food service of my past. I enter the commons by tailgating on the kindness of a student. Keys and pass cards are required for entry into the residential areas. No more wide open doors. Oh to have attended Rice in the coed era. Guys and gals eating and sharing friendship is such a fine idea.
After a two hour walk, I settle back into the family waiting area looking at the Mediterranean Sea pasted over the windows, glimmering with back-lighting I'm not supposed to get to the Mediterranean on my France trip till sometime next week.
If I don’t get any news soon, I’ll take a stroll down to the lobby of Methodist, which rivals most fine hotels. Maybe someone will be playing the grand piano like they were the other day when we came for a myelogram.
I’m struck by the tradition of the family waiting room. Some patients bring an entire village along to wait. I’m sitting by Chester’s contingent from Orange holding bibles and wearing Texas Temples windbreakers, and I can’t help overhearing their lawnmower discussion. Somebody’s in the market for a new one and Chester’s brother, the only male with four women, is recommending a trailer that works great for his riding lawnmower. The lady chewing Nicorette listens intently to his advice while Grandma is looking as uncomfortable in the Methodist loaner wheelchair as Carl did the other day when I wheeled him all over for his pre-op visit. They say Chester is here for colon cancer surgery and the surgeon got it all, but he’s having trouble waking up so they can talk to him. Chester’s a lucky guy to have all these people cheering for him.
Sitting in the waiting room is a bit like taking an overseas flight. We were required to check in three hours before boarding and were told there would be a delay of undetermined length. Finally we boarded pre-op three hours and forty minutes later.
I’ve been on this flight seven hours now and feel like surely it is time to land. I’m definitely feeling jet lagged. Why we continue this waiting room ritual in the age of cell phones is beyond me. Maybe the surgeons like the walk of triumph, strolling in to inform the family that the loved one is just fine and they fixed everything. I think texting would be fine in the case of a successful outcome. On occasion the news is not so assuring, but I have not witnessed one of those events today, thank goodness. I can remember my mother reporting such news about a distant relative: “They got in there and when they saw how bad it was they just closed him right back up and sent him home.”
I have a very strong urge to press a call button and scream, but that would wipe out all the merit I have accumulated being patient. Only so much being still that I can take. Instead of pressing panic, I wander over to the coffee maker and select the flavor named Eiffel Power. Then I check in at the desk and the concierge calls OR for me. Some surgeons mind a phone call, some don’t. Our god the Neurosurgeon is not on her no call list. The word is they are still working on Carl and he is fine. Wow. Long procedure. The female anesthesiologist from Uruguay has a big job today keeping Carl just below the surface. And I can see how there’s little pleasantry left for office visits at the end of a day like today. Don’t care if the surgeon has no touchy feely in him. Just give him good hands and eyes and stamina.
Eight and a half hours after our check-in, god the Neurosurgeon says he is finished. Lots of work done on three lumbar to open up the space for the nerves. The technical explanation with details does not follow. Man of few words.
Carl will be in recovery about an hour. Guess I’ll take that lobby stroll now and soon enough I will know if his leg works or doesn’t.
***POST SCRIPT: god the Neurosurgeon was right; Carl is fixed. Amen.