Answers Before I Call

Water terrifies me.  Rip tides. The deep end. Whirlpools.  If I should fall in, who will save me?

Water terrifies me. Rip tides. The deep end. Whirlpools. If I should fall in, who will save me?

Pedro’s cancer relapsed one month after he went into remission—he went from a healthy-looking sick guy to a walking skeleton in three short weeks. The day a bed on University of California, San Francisco’s  cancer ward opened up, Pedro’s wedding ring fell off when he stood up.

After a series of miracles and a late-night arrival at UCSF, Pedro slept fitfully in a hospital room with nothing but a thin curtain separating him from another patient. The clock struck midnight and I relaxed long enough to realize I didn’t know where I’d spend the night.

A nurse informed me that since Pedro shared a room, I should have left hours ago. I passed an uncomfortable night on the hard floor of a waiting room with the minute’s news spilling out like endless vomit from an overhead television.

At first light, I wandered down the street near the hospital through the grey fog, looking for a place to eat. A Starbucks sign down the street beckoned like a beacon of hope—a place to relax and collect myself, I thought.

Then again, maybe not. The city Starbucks held court in a small corner of an office building. No quiet music. No comfortable chairs. I sagged. At least they sell coffee and scones.

I wandered around, nibbling my scone while waiting for visiting hours to start. When they did, I spent the morning helping Pedro eat his breakfast and chatting hopefully with him about the treatment he would receive (while inwardly fretting that nothing had happened yet to make him better).

After lunch, two interns showed up to administer intrathecal chemo via a spinal tap. When they’d done the lumbar puncture and tried to measure Pedro’s spinal fluid, champagne-colored fluid bubbled out over the top of the extension tube. The interns looked at each other, but I couldn’t interpret their look. Doubts circled my confidence like piranhas in a murky pond. He would receive help here, right?

An hour after the unappetizing supper tray arrived, Pedro started to convulse and choke. I ran out into the hallway screaming, “Somebody help!” then dashed to Pedro’s side and hunkered helplessly by his side and watched red pour out of his mouth while personnel packed the room. Waves of words washed over me.

“We’ve gotta get his pulse ox!”

“Is he cyanotic?”

“He’s going to aspirate!”

“He’s diaphoretic.”

“He’s got blood in his lungs!”

Under the whirlpool of activity, I launched prayers heavenward, hoping for a lifeline. I remembered the bland supper tray. “It’s Jello!” I blurted. The nurse by his head took a closer look at what she’d been cleaning. “He had Jello for supper,” I explained.

A Jello lifeline. The seizure continued, but I knew without a doubt it didn’t threaten his life. After all, it had taken a miracle for him to arrive at UCSF.

The author would work the story out His way. I would just cling to the lifeline and swirl around a bit if I needed to. (click to tweet)

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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