Well, it happened. We got the call at 4:22 am on February 1st. It is a morning of infamy for me at least. One of the liver coordinator’s called from Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida and told us that they probably had a liver for Brian. They also said we didn’t have to leave home until 7 am so we got up and started getting organized, packed and cleaned up around the house since we would be leaving for an unspecified number of days. The liver had a couple of problems but nothing that would render it unusable so we said that we would take it. A six to six and a half hour surgery followed and Brian has a new (if not slightly used) liver to replace the one that was slowly killing him. He did really well during the surgery, not even needing blood and staying strong.
They quietly wheeled him away around 9 pm and at 5am I sat and whispered, ‘you did well’ while he lay there with tubes snaking their way from his body as they managed the functions that up until now had been the every day.
His recovery was both markedly remarkable and unremarkable at the same time. He remained hospitalized until the 17th. He had some fairly profound rejection which was controlled through medication and generally regained strength very quickly. He got 68 staples in his belly and he didn’t eat anything but saline water for 7 days because the combination of anesthesia and morphine virtually stops your gastrointestinal system in it’s tracks and they don’t allow food until everything begins moving again. I was fairly floored to find that once he was able to eat they offered him everything from fried catfish to fried chicken with a healthy (@?!) smattering of mashed potatoes and gravy or macaroni and cheese in between.
This was a defining moment of understanding that we live in the deep south. This is comfort to some. It was shocking to me. Food, like tears, prayer or exercise is comfort. Something we use to soothe and remind us of the past, for release. The hospital is a place that is filled with waiting, angst, grief, joy and healing. We were bathed in prayer the entire 17 days we were there and have been every day since. Our family, coworkers and friends around the world asking God to give healing and sustenance. Prayer at least, is fat free.
Brian is healing. His body is recovering from the stress of his sickness and from the surgery itself. I am healing too and hoping that we don’t eat hospital food again soon for many years.
Hospital Food: part 2