I was proud of my daughter for having the courage to admit she was so scared.
- Posted on Jan 24, 2011
"Mother, ask them to let you come to the operating room with me and hold my hand. That's all I need...just till I go to sleep."
"I don't think they'll let me, Julie," I said sadly. "Rules are rules."
I knew, from the two previous minor surgeries Julie had experienced during the past several years, that she would put on a brave front, smile and go to surgery without any complaints. But down in the operating room, as she waited to be put to sleep (there was always the wait), she'd shake. Not tremble mildly, but shake so violently that she'd be sore from the shaking.
This operation to remove wisdom teeth was not serious, but Julie had a horror of this trembling that was beyond her control. "Mother, I dread the shaking more than the surgery or the pain. I'm eighteen years old, engaged to be married, and I shake so hard I rattle the bars on the bed. I'm shaking already!" And she was.
"I have an idea," I told her. From my purse I pulled out a small card. The day before, when I'd been searching through my desk drawer for a stamp, the smiling face of a little girl on the card had seemed to look up right at me. She had red hair like Julie and was saying, "Hi, I just wanted to tell you that...." The rest of her message had been on the inside of the greeting card. I tore off the printed message and added my own so that the adorable little girl seemed to be whispering, "I need someone to hold my hand while I'm waiting to be put to sleep. I won't shake if you'll hold my hand. Thanks. Julie."
I read the note to her and added, "If you'll let me, I'll tape this note to your sheet. Someone in the operating room will see it. I even remembered tape."
"They'll think I'm a baby," Julie said softly.
Just then an attendant came to take Julie to surgery. I helped her tuck Julie's long hair under the small green cap, and watched forlornly as she was placed on the wheeled cart. At the door I read Julie's lips, "I love you." I kissed her on the forehead and waved goodbye.
Twenty-five minutes later the doctor phoned me to say that Julie was in recovery and would be back in the room in a short while. He said surgery had gone beautifully. When they brought Julie back, her eyes were open and she was smiling as best she could with the gauze pads sticking out of her mouth and the ice pack tied around her head. She winked and made an "okay sign" by putting her thumb and forefinger together in a circle.
Then she began waving her hand around to get my attention. She couldn't talk and wanted to write. I handed her a pad and a pen. Still groggy, she scribbled, "I have to see the nice black lady who came to get me. She read your note and stayed with me and held my hand. She never left me. She kept me from shaking. Even wrapped me in warm sheets. Please find her."
When I promised I would, Julie went immediately to sleep.
Later in the day, I asked one of the aides if the woman from the operating room could stop by Julie's room.
"Oh, that's Ernestine. I'll ask her to stop by."
Ernestine came in flashing a warm smile. I showed her the note from Julie. Even with the gauze pads in her mouth, Julie managed to say, "Thank you." Ernestine brushed off my attempts at gratitude and talked instead about Julie's pretty red hair.
When the doctor came by that evening, he asked right away, "Did you put that note on Julie?"
Not sure of what be was going to say, I admitted that I had.
His stern face broke into an enormous grin. "Well, that was about the neatest thing we've seen in the operating room. We want to help people. Often we just don't know what their fear is. Ernestine stayed right with Julie. I wish more people would tell us about their fear, so we'd know how to help them. Thanks for the note."
After the doctor left I sat down and looked out the window. I could see people moving in the busy street below, some walking, going into shops, riding in cars. I wondered how many of those people harbored unspoken fears. And pondered how much better it would be for all of us to admit out weaknesses, ask for help, confess when we're afraid.
Watching Julie sleep, my heart was filled with gratitude. She'd had the courage to admit to strangers her desperate need...please hold my hand...and the Lord had provided Ernestine.
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