Nov 14, 2012

The Career and Family Dichotomy: Part Two

Read Part One of this two-part story.

All illusions of control vaporize like heat mirages on the pavement of U.S. 40 as Amber and I head east toward Little Rock, where a good team of doctors awaits the arrival of Titus at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We drive in silence, playing old Rich Mullins tunes. “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy I cannot find in my own,” Rich sings as we pull into Little Rock. I hope he’s right.

We arrive and check into the Emergency Room at 9:30, well past Titus’ bedtime. As we wait, Titus begins crying, bags under his eyes, so I hold him and pace the floor for almost an hour before the triage nurse calls his name. As we walk behind the double doors, I look at Amber. She smiles weakly, then takes my hand and squeezes it tightly.

After the lengthy medical history questionnaire, Titus is stripped naked, weighed, and fitted with name bands. He is given a baby-sized hospital gown, and we are moved into a temporary room in the ER. It is nearly 11:30 before the nurses begin the first round of poking and prodding. They attempt to seat the IV and Titus writhes until, on the sixth stab, the line is finally anchored.

“I’m sorry; he’s just so little that it’s hard to find a good vein,” the nurse who placed the IV says.

“It’s okay,” I tell her. “It must take a special nurse to work in a pediatric hospital.” The nurse smiles and thanks me, tells me the doctors will be in shortly.

When the doctors arrive, they come with their clipboards and hours of questions.

“When did his growth stagnate?”

“How much does he eat?”

“Are there any genetic anomalies in your family?”

Each comments on Titus’ size, how small he is, but they always add “cute too,” as if to lighten the mood. The last doctor informs us that they are preparing an in-patient room.  “How long will we be admitted?” I ask. The doctor shrugs her shoulders and says, “That’s up to your attending physician, but I’d plan on at least three days.”  She leaves the room, and Amber curls into the fetal position in the ER bed.

Looking for distraction, I turn on the television but only infomercials are playing—Oxiclean, a hooded fleece sofa blanket, the George Foreman Grill. I rock Titus, who is wide-eyed, though his head rests on my shoulder. Amber notices that she has a bit of blood on her shirt, and I tell her, “a bit of Oxiclean would get that out.” She laughs weakly.

At 2:30 we are ushered to our room, and Titus finally settles around 3:00. Amber and I fall asleep in fold-out chairs until the rounding physicians wake us early in the morning. They ask another long list of questions, many duplicative.  The attending physician admits that he is perplexed by Titus’ weight loss, but promises to find a solution. “It could take weeks, though,” he says, and my thoughts turn to my work, my case load.

At 3:00 my phone rings. It is the associate who is handling the trial scheduled for today—my trial. “We won,” he says, laughing. After he gives me the play-by-play, I congratulate him, thanking him for shouldering my load. He asks how Titus is, and I tell him that it’s been a long day for all of us.

“Hang in there,” he says. “Your family is the most important thing right now.”

For two weeks we stay in that little hospital room, each day bringing more tests, more procedures, more uncertainty. The ups and downs of caring for a sick child weigh on us, and every night before bed Amber says, “I know you’ll need to go back to work at some point, but thanks for being here now.”

Every night I think about it—work. The passing trials and obligations of career will one day be forgotten. But these difficult days with Amber and Titus will serve as a marker of sorts, an altar of decision. And in these moments of reflection, I play that old Rich Mullins song and I am thankful for the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.

* * * * *

The Career and Family Dichotomy: Part One

Image by Royce Bair. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines.

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