|Tuesday, May 1, 2007|
|1. Lord I need you now||
“I’ll Trust You Lord”
“What’s your name?”
“Do you know where you are?”
“What’s today’s date?”
These were three standard questions given to test patient’s mental awareness and cognitive ability. Doctors and nurses put the questions to me several times a day at Parkland. My answers to the first two queries came easily: “Gerald Prater. Parkland Memorial Hospital.” But I often had to stop and think when giving the date. Away from computers and day planners, anyone might struggle to remember the date – regardless of whether they had a brain tumor.
Dr. Kevin VandenBerge had posed the questions that morning. He had rotated in as my new resident (they rotate on the first of the month) and he arrived about 6 a.m. He waited patiently as I pondered the date. “Well, Monday was April 30 so today must be the 1st.” I smiled, confident in my answer. “It’s April Fool’s Day.” The look on his face told me I had made a mistake and I realized right away what it was. “Wait. It’s May 1.”
I wasn’t losing it – really I wasn’t.
Music was my constant companion during those days. I had my iPod and speakers sitting on the nightstand beside the bed. Gospel music played softly in the backdrop of my nurses visits, telephone calls and visitors. A word was placed into my spirit at about 3 a.m. Tuesday morning as I listened to Gospel to listen to the song “I’ll Trust You Lord” from Donnie McClurkin’s “Live In London” album. This was a song that had ministered to me years before and it occurred to me that it was very appropriate to my situation. Throughout this crisis, I had placed a steadfast trust in the word of the Lord. On the next morning, I told my mother and sister about this and played the song for them. I told them that I almost got up at 3 a.m. and played it out loud for everyone to hear right away.
McClurkin’s lyrics said it all:
What if you call me and don’t feel me near you. Will you still trust?
What if I tell you to let go… of the very thing that you think you have to hold? Will you trust me?
Yes, I’ll trust you, Lord.
What if it cost my life? Yes. I’ll trust you Lord.
What if I lose the very thing I love so dearly? Yes.
Somebody say Yes, I’ll trust you Lord.
Somebody say Yes. Come on, put your hands up and say Yes. I’ll trust you, I’ll trust you. I’ll trust you Lord.
I’ll trust you…I’ll trust you…
I can hear Jesus singing. He says this:
I know that faith is easy when everything is going well.
But can you still believe in me when your life’s a living hell?
And when all the things around you seem to quickly fade away,
There’s just one thing I really want to know.
Will you let go?
Will you stand on my word?
Against all odds will you believe what I have said?
What seems impossible, Will you believe?
Every promise that I've made will you receive?
Yes, I will trust you Lord
I know how bad it hurt you when that loved one’s life came to an end.
And when they had to leave to you, you said you’d never love again.
But will you trust that can help you and I’ll never turn away. Oh my.
Will you trust me child no matter come what may?
What if it hurts? (I’ll trust you Lord)
What if you cry?
What if it doesn’t work the first time that you try?
What if you call my name and don’t feel me near?
Will you still believe in me or will you fear?
Yes, I will trust you Lord.
I didn’t get much sleep in those days leading up to the surgery. Nurses or techs came in every four hours to check my vital signs or administer medicine. My mother and sister slept less than four feet away from me on a narrow green sofa. It could comfortably seat three or four people depending on their size. At night, they pulled the sofa seat out to extend the width to about the size of a cot. It wasn’t wide enough for two people to comfortably lie side by side. They moved a matching high-backed chair so that it extended the length of the end of the sofa. My sister slept with her upper body propped up by pillows on the chair, extending her legs out to the sofa while my mom lay with her head facing the opposite direction, stretching across the length of the couch. Their lower legs met and intermingled.
It was by no means comfortable for either of them and I offered several times to have one of them stretch out on the bed beside me, but they never took me up on the offer. My sister said later she would have brought in one of those fold-up recliner chairs in a bag had she been thinking. But we were all making do with what we had. They weren’t exactly sure what they could and couldn’t bring into the room. As flowers arrived from different well wishers, they added to the room’s décor.
My sister went down the hallway to a nearby lounge and brought additional chairs into my room to accommodate visitors. One of the techs came in at one point and said, “This looks like a living room in here.” In fact, we had slipped and called it a “hotel” a couple of times.
My wife spent the night with our boys and got them off to school each morning, then joined me in the hospital with our 2-year-old son in tow. My sister and mom had been returning to my house each afternoon to shower and rest a bit before joining me in the room again later. My sister logged on to my computer at home and sent out emails to family members, friends and her coworkers updating them on my condition. She sent this one on May 1:
The latest is that the surgery is now scheduled for Friday morning...it will likely take the entire day. The neurosurgeon said that yesterday's angiogram shows that the tumor is separate from the brain with its own blood supply that is not intermingled with blood vessels feeding the brain. This is good news and means that cutting the tumor out may not likely interfere with brain functioning. The tumor is actually compressing some of the blood vessels to the brain right now. Hence the neurosurgeon's question to us this morning on whether we noticed any changes in his personality. He is still talking a mile a minute and getting tons of calls from former Verizon Communications coworkers, current Applied Materials coworkers, family and friends. We told the doctor that his demeanor, apparent hyperactivity and upbeat mood are just about normal.
My mom and I have slept on a sofa in his hospital room the last two nights -- well I haven't gotten much sleep. Gerald and I talk into the wee hours about memories growing up, politics, movies, his final wishes, organ donation, other people's reactions to his illness, the surgery and much, much more. At one point this morning at 6 a.m., I asked if he remembered our elementary school song. He did, of course. We both remember it well and started singing it. I told him that post surgery I will ask him to sing it again to see if the surgery affects that particular memory. I'm praying it doesn't. He has asked me to write about his experience as an inspiration to others who may not have strong faith in God. When he talks to hospital staff and friends, he sometimes turns to me and says "write that down!" He feels very strongly that others should know his story.
Although I was told I would be taken down to radiology before lunchtime that day, I didn’t get to the angiogram until late in the afternoon and returned to my room, tired and confined to my bed. I had to lie flat on my back and not move for six hours after the procedure to allow the incision to heal and to prevent having that artery open and send blood shooting across the room.
I got a visit that afternoon from Victoria German, another friend and former Verizon IT Audit colleague. She and I had actually met nearly 10 years earlier, when we were grad school classmates at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After graduation, I went to work for GTE (which later became part of Verizon) and she was an auditor for the city of Austin. I recruited her to come to work for Verizon in Dallas and she and I had made the trip to Puerto Rico numerous times together for audits.
I was happy to see her as we reminisced about the Puerto Rico trips and I introduced her to my mom and sister. “I live just 10 miles away; if you need anything, just call me,” she told them. “Anything at all. Call me. Call me. Call me.”
Victoria offered to return the following day with dinner for us all from my favorite Thai restaurant in Las Colinas.
© 2007 Gerald L. Prater