It’s been a week now since my successful kidney cancer surgery June 23, and here I am at home, relatively pain free, and writing a brief SEP at my computer. The week also included a visit from my son, daughter-in-law and grandson who have gone back home. So I am now able to take the opportunity celebrate my week through my SEP!
It’s not my intention to offer a report on the particulars of my hospital experience, but I do want to offer publicly, perhaps for you as well, my gratitude for the complicated and somewhat miraculous way hospital health care plays out. From a patient’s point of view, the primary challenge is the experience of submitting one’s body - and life really - to a complex system of procedures and care for which you no longer have control. I was simply swept into a vortex of both sharing in the preparation and implementation of the procedural expectations while also totally relinquishing control over to others. The trust necessary to receive both kindness and firm direction while being so vulnerable is a kind of grace. And to complicate the emotions of it all one is sedated and in physical discomfort which creates a somewhat other worldly reality.
But the “conveyor belt” of preparation, surgery, post-op and recovery moves right along in a subtle but reassuring way…this will happen, followed by that, and "we hope you can go home soon." Not all surgeries and hospitalizations have such a predictable process, of course, and I was grateful that mine did have an established guideline.
The ultimate takeaway from the experience is my most profound gratitude for all the administration, planning, training, technology, and simple human kindnesses that are especially appreciated in the wondrous complexity of the hospital culture. Because Harborview Hospital is a trauma hospital, and because I shared a double room, during my four days there I had three roommates in various states of extreme stress, and I got to observe first hand the ethical choices and challenges of crisis management that the attending doctors and staff had to make that also gave me a whole new appreciation for my interest in the justice issues related to health care.
A medical crisis brings us, often so suddenly and soberly, to the interface of life and death, of inter-dependency and vulnerable solitude. It is a reminder for most of us of our own mortality and relational dependencies. If it has a redemptive value, it is to remind us yet again of the precariousness, preciousness and sacredness of life. And more important yet, it can renew our commitment to live even more gratefully, graciously, and lovingly.