“The surgical waiting area is located on the 5th floor,” the female nurse with a pixie cut informed Tim after his mother got wheeled away.
Tim thanked her and walked out of the pre-operative holding area towards the hospital bookstore on the first floor. The surgical team he met with mentioned the procedure might take a few hours. Apparently, putting screws into bones that are falling apart is not easy. The doctor did not ease Tim’s worries about his mother, but Tim appreciated honesty. There was nothing worse than to expect the best and then be crushed with the worst. Tim had always been a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy, always prepping for the worst but hoping for the best.
The bookstore was well stocked. There were multiple staff recommendations making it easier for Tim to pick a book. He could not focus on thoroughly browsing through books, having his mother in the back of his mind. She fell the other day and broke both of her legs. The doctors said it was cancer eating her bones away. Tim shuddered at the thought, grabbed a book he was just passing by, and headed to the register. He paid for it quickly and took the elevator to the fifth floor. It had only been a few minutes since his mother was taken into surgery, but Tim would not forgive himself if something happened, and he was not there to receive the news.
Upon entering the waiting area, Tim stopped at the desk to “check-in.” The volunteer working there asked him where he would sit and then market his name on her seating chart.
“Wow, that’s kind of neat,” Tim said softly, trying not to disturb anyone.
The room was utterly silent.
“Yes. Some people pray, some read, others sleep. We want to make them as comfortable as we can, so we do not use any overhead speakers. If a message comes through, I simply walk up to the related person and pass it on without disturbing anyone else,” the elderly woman explained with a smile.
Tim smiled back at her and made his way to the table by the window. The very same one he indicated to the woman at the check-in desk. As quietly as he could, he took out his cell phone, which was already on mute, and placed it on the table. Tim’s father and brother were overseas.
“Keep us posted of everything that goes on,” they requested.
Next to the phone, Tim placed his tablet, which he liked to use to surf the web rather than his phone. The book was set next to the electronics. He also took out a bottle of iced tea and a candy bar from his backpack and put it on the table. Tim needed the sugar to have the energy to remain sane and awake, ready to act whenever the need arose.
“Mom’s in surgery. I am in the waiting area. They will update me every hour on the hour unless something goes wrong,” Tim typed on his phone. He was told it was possible that the doctors would not accomplish what they hoped for. Then, they would just stop the surgery and inform him it was unsuccessful.
“And then what?” Tim wondered to himself. “I’ll keep you posted,” Tim added to the text message and hit “Send.”
Horror stories came to Tim’s mind. There was a chance his mother would never walk again, and he would have to take care of her.
“That would be terrible,” he thought, realizing the house was not really wheelchair friendly.
“Her system is very weak because of the cancer,” Tim remembered the doctor saying.
It meant that the wheelchair was not the worst-case scenario. It meant that he could lose his mother right there and then.
For the first hour, Tim was on pins and needles. Having eaten the Snickers and washed it down with tea, he tried to read his freshly bought book. As much as Tim tried to focus his eyes on the pages before him, his eyes kept darting around the room. Plus, the book turned out to be about dying family members. Touché. Not something Tim wanted to read while he waited to hear about his mother whose body was not as strong as it once was before all the chemotherapy.
Somehow, between snacking, texting, and reading, an hour had passed, and the hospital volunteer came up to Tim.
“Everything is going well,” she announced quietly. “Would you like a blanket?” she asked, noticing Tim’s goosebumps.
“Ah, a blanket would be nice,” Time replied, only then realizing how cold he was.
“You see the door on the far wall over there?” she asked, pointing at the wall behind Tim.
“There are blanket drawers. Please, help yourself,” she said with a smile.
Time thanked her and marched towards the back of the room. He opened one of the drawers and pulled out a toasty blanket. He wrapped himself up in it, and he could swear that a pound of worry melted off his shoulders within seconds.
No update was available an hour later, and Tim got worried. The volunteer assured him she would notify him whenever she received the call from the operating room.
A woman sat down a couple of tables down from Tim and opened a book. Soon, she began to shiver, running her hand up and down her arms. Tim, who usually tries to keep to himself, got up and retrieved a freshly toasted blanket from the back wall of the waiting room.
“Would you like a warm blanket?” he asked as he approached the woman.
She thanked him and offered him a homemade brownie.
Tim looked in the direction of the front desk, but the volunteer was not looking in his direction.
“Would you mind keeping me company for a bit?” the woman asked.
Worried that the volunteer would not be able to find him, he walked up to the desk and informed her that he would chat with the lady at table number 4. The volunteer nodded and made a note of it on her chart.
For the next hour, the woman and Tim talked about their loved ones in surgery. About their hopes and dreams. The time went by so fast that Tim did not even notice.
“The second leg was more difficult, but they managed to put the screws in. Everything is going well,” the volunteer announced. It will probably be another half an hour or so before the doctor comes out and talks to you,” she added.
The half-hour turned into well over an hour, but Tim did not notice. Multiple people joined their table. Going through a tough time alone is not easy. Having someone nearby who knows exactly what you are going through helps a lot. Supportive words were exchanged, snacks shared, and fingers linked in prayer.
That day, Tim felt the power of a community. Even though his family was worlds apart, he still had people that supported him. Although the people waiting in that room were so different (age, race, gender, weight, height), they were all the same. They were all united in hope for their loved ones.