The White Line

The relaxation of a wonderful Labor Day spent on the beach at Sherwood Forest was consumed like dry tinder in the days that followed. On Tuesday we had Abbie’s pre-op appointment with her pediatrician. She is good and healthy, but her doctor raised some concerns about where the procedure will actually be done. Shriner’s Hospital, where it is scheduled to be performed, is right across the street from Kapiolani, where Abbie has received all of her other care. It is likely that she will be recovering, at least immediately, in the PICU at Kapiolani, since Shriner’s doesn’t have intensive care patient settings. Dr. L. wondered why we didn’t just have the surgery done at Kapiolani, in case of a “bad event” during the surgery. We honestly hadn’t considered this before because we have a lot of faith in the folks at Shiner’s, and we have our minds and hearts set that Abbie is going to fly through this, without a “bad event” in sight.

Wednesday morning brought a flurry of phone calls between me, Ray, and Shriner’s, all focused on planning for a worst case scenario. Spending that much time thinking about a heartbreaking outcome put me into a pea-soup fog. I didn’t realize how non-functional I was until I missed a long-awaited meeting with a friend, and was stumbling through the rest of my day grasping, weeping, and recollecting myself.
As we’ve done so many times during this journey, we talked out our fears and prayed through them with our small group that evening.

We fully anticipated the surgeon would not support moving the surgery, but did not hear anything from him on Thursday. What did Tom Petty say about the waiting? He is right, it’s the hardest part. I was still socked in, but at least I’d turned my headlights on. As I did so, a curious thing began to happen — bits of encouragement began arriving from unexpected places, weaving together to form a line I could follow through the fog.

On Thursday I received the itinerary for a women’s retreat I will be attending next weekend. The coordinator included postcards with a Scripture verse, a different one for each woman. She said she’d assigned them randomly, and just wanted us to meditate on them until next weekend when we could share what meaning they had for us. My card said, “Psalms 4:8″ Like a treasure hunter, I opened my Bible with expectation. Not to be disappointed, I read, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety.” I just grinned, because one of the first things to go during times of heightened stress is my sleep.

On Friday I took Kyle to the pediatrician for a physical. Ray met me there with yet another birthday present for Abbie (a Hello Kitty backpack, and makeup kit which she LOVED!). He also pulled out a card addressed to us. The front read, “We don’t always know what the plan is, but we always know there’s a plan”, while the inside said, “Relax and know that God’s got it all worked out.” At the bottom was Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Passengers disembarking the elevators must’ve thought it strange to see a woman choking up in the hallway, but Kelle, you will never know how profoundly you impacted me…you spoke God’s words into my life, and His love into my heart!

We still hadn’t heard from the surgeon by late Friday afternoon, so Ray called him. It turns out that he isn’t absolutely opposed to doing the surgery at Kapiolani, since Abbie will probably go there to recover after the surgery. But, since it is such a major procedure, it requires a lot of equipment, which they have in place at Shriner’s. The staff at Shriner’s is also very adept at supporting him during the surgery because they do it all the time. So, it comes down to a balance of comforts. Will we be more comfortable at Kapiolani where we know all the staff and she can have the same anesthesiologist she’s always had, with the intensive care resources in the same building, yet have a surgeon working in a place where he is not quite as comfortable, with a staff not quite as used to doing this procedure? Or, will we be more at ease at at Shriner’s, with a new anesthesiologist, and the emergent and intensive care resources across the street, but with the surgeon working in “his backyard.?” We honestly don’t know the answer to that tonight, and will talk it out at Abbie’s pre-op appointment on Monday. Please pray for wisdom for us in this matter, it is a big decision. We’ve gotten used to our fairly stable life that has been devoid of decisions of this magnitude for quite some time. Truly, we really could use your prayers right now!

Today brought a huge highlight for me. Kapiolani was having the last day of a radiothon at John Domini’s, a beautiful restaurant filled with views of water, waves, and Diamond Head. We arrived just a wee bit late, and were seated at a table with Jerry Coffee and Susan Page. For the benefit of those who may not be aware of his story, Jerry was a Navy Commander when he was shot down over Vietnam. He spent the next 7 years as a POW, often in solitary confinement. I read about his ordeal as a teenager, and it made a lasting impression that I often called to mind as I later served as a military officer myself. We made small talk for a while, and then just enjoyed the show. As I looked at him, framed by stunning scenery, sitting next to his beautiful wife, I thought, “There IS life after the storm, and it can be radiant!”

Finally, Susan asked about Abbie, wondering why she was in a wheelchair and being fed through a tube. As we shared the beginning of her story it reaffirmed in me just how far she has come. Susan told her, “You are already a miracle girl!” Amen to that!
As we stood to go, Jerry’s time as a POW came up; I told him I read about it as a youth, and that really, as I thought about it, POW life is about the only thing I can compare this journey to..I am not in control of it; I do not have a rewind button to change it nor a fast-forward button to hurry it, I do not know when it is going to change or end…and I wouldn’t give it back if I could. As Jerry said, “I wouldn’t pay a dime to do it again, but I wouldn’t give it back for a million dollars.” He also said one other thing that is going to stick with me. Each day, at the end of the day, no matter what kind of day it had been (and I know his “bad” days were much more brutal than mine), he would just think, “I am one day closer.” Never any doubt, just faith. One day closer.

Jerry Coffee has long been one of my heroes, and I believe God allowed our paths to cross today to bring that thin white line into fluorescent brilliance. Like a driver on a foggy night, I need only follow that line to reach our destination. Abbie continues to improve each day. The hyperbaric treatments are a blessing, and are helping with varied things like her vision and her muscle tone. Lacking a driver’s license, she is already much better than I at following that white line through the fog. She is unshakable, moving ever forward toward being whole again. She humbles me as each day I watch her move one day closer. Never any doubt, just faith. One day closer.

“At some time or another we all get shot down, we are all POWs, “prisoners of woe.” Be tough. Bounce back. Learn not just to survive, but to go beyond our survival: finding the purpose in our adversity.” — Captain Gerald Coffee