August 4th 2012 looking up at the dotted squares and flourescent lighting. Two days after a central pancreatectomy. The afternoon sun gazing in through large eastward windows. Unusually tired even with respect to my postoperative state, it is time for me to walk, but I cannot. A woman slightly older than me with reddish hair and a kind face enters the room. The sounds of small talk slow. She records my vitals. I ask about my abdomen because it has become very full. She advises me to sit up and dangle my feet before walking. I press a button to elevate the head of my bed. Up to about 20 degrees. Then black spots and stars glint and burst in the room. Back down I go. Kindly, the nurse advises me to try again after a few moments. Her routine demeanor changes slightly as she takes closer note of my abdomen. Pursing her lips she seems concerned. Up goes the head of the bed again this time only about 10 degrees and the stars return. Back down I go. Laying completely flat I look at my nurse. She now seems rather concerned. Things are fuzzy. Suddenly, there are a lot of people in my room. White coats everywhere, several nurses, my surgeon. The calming voice of my husband by my side. A blood test showed my hemoglobin had plummeted. The red-haired nurse disappeared into the sea of faces. I remember my abdomen hurting in a way I had never experienced before. Next thing I recall is laying in the gurney in a hallway with a doctor standing by my side. I asked if it was ok that I couldn’t see too well. I don’t remember his answer. He explained that the medical team was preparing to take a CT scan of my abdomen. With the images in hand the medical team wheeled me into a sterile procedure room. A paper was held up for me to sign. Informed consent for something or other. I was clear by this point that they would need to do whatever that paper said. I scribbled something near the bottom of the page. A vague relative of my signature. It was very cold. Not the typical doctors office cool. More like a walk-in freezer. I lay under a machine while the surgeon said, “Don’t breathe.” His voice firm, sure, demanding. If he had told me to yodel, I would have tried. I didn’t dare flub his directions. These simple words, “Don’t breathe” had the sovereignty of God in them.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
An artery from the surgical site pulled loose and had pumped around 2 liters of blood into my intestines. The world around me was completely quiet. Looking up I could make out bags of blood hanging and hands rhythmically massaging to thaw the blood before it entered the tubing and descended into my arm. I heard clamoring and footsteps as new bags arrived. Six units of blood, platelets and plasma hurriedly filled my body.
Blood donors really do save lives.
I have heard the slogan, “Donate blood save a life.” Now it is personal. I wish I could meet the ~21 individuals who saved my life by donating blood. I wish I could shake their hands and properly thank them. They were like Christ to me and I’ll never know their names.
After the procedure I was moved to the Intensive Care Unit under direct nurse care. The first day I laid completely weak in the bed. I did nothing more than pass blood. I felt scared and embarrassed. My nurse told jokes to keep away the fear. After a day and a half, I went back to a regular hospital room where I remained for 16 more days.
Dear Jesus, thank you so much that there was enough blood available for me that day. Thank you that there’s a blood bank across the street from Virginia Mason. Thank you for giving me a discerning husband who pushed the nurses until they took a blood test. Lord, he knew something was wrong and he persisted. Thank you for your loving hand over this entire situation. Thank you for every single person who donates blood. Amen.