Fifteen Minutes

A number of years ago I attended a seminar on President Lincoln.  The title of the course was “Controlled by Events.”  That name puzzled me when I first read the brochure.  Abraham Lincoln, in my mind, was the most dogged, determined figure in American History.  Because of his resolve, the Union was saved.  The title had come from a Lincoln quote where the President admitted that he hadn’t controlled events, but that events had controlled him.  Today, after our struggle with cancer and Chad’s brush with death I understand exactly what our 16th president meant.

Through rigorous exertion Chad made his requisite fifteen minute sitting up goal.  Not long after, his doctors determined he was ready for transfer to a rehabilitation hospital.  The move was to get him the help he needed to learn to move again.  Seriously, the man could not walk, lift even a styrofoam cup, brush his teeth, shave, or comb what was left of his hair.

The nurse notified us by nine in the morning that he was scheduled for transport to the new facility sometime before lunch.  Of course that meant the orderlies arrived around two in the afternoon, and Chad was tucked into his new bed in the new hospital by three.  Not too bad for hospital time.  But what he heard at the new place left him frightened and angry.

One by one, therapists visited us until six that evening.  They introduced themselves, and gently informed us that sitting up for fifteen minutes was only the beginning.  Now his relearning would reach news levels of expectations.  So weak at that point, Chad became deeply worried and stressed because what they were asking seemed impossible.   I vicariously felt his fears, and could do nothing to allay them.  I couldn’t do anything about anything.  I bumped along the currents of medical advice.  After all, he couldn’t come home until he rebuilt his body.

There he lay, bag of poop on his belly, an open, seeping surgical cut, from his naval to his groin, and the hospital was forcing him to get up and live again.

The looming deadline ahead for me was school starting again.  There was no question that I had to work.  We had to have the insurance and the income if we were to survive this disaster financially.  The medical bills were piling up, and I had no choices but to accept my situation.  Then events, for a change, turned for the better.

One of my students lived behind our home, and I had hired her to tend our dogs while I spent days at the hospital.  It turned out her mother was a registered nurse, who, just steps away, could be at our house within minutes.  Wow, what a miracle for when he came home.  Secondly, my seventy eight-year-old mother informed me she was coming to care for Chad so I could return to work.  Honest to God, I didn’t want to bother other people, but there were no other options.  And both our neighbor and my mother assured me it was no bother, and they were glad to help.  Both parties kindly offering the gift of their time and skills.

After two more excruciating weeks in rehab, I got to bring him home.  That night my mother chauffeured by my brother arrived at our door.  I knew my husband looked so much better after four weeks of hospitals and treatment.  But the both of them came in, and their faces fell in shock by his condition.

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