“Your husband may have a blocked kidney,” said our doctor at Andrew Jackson Hospital in Lexington, Virginia. “You need to drive him to the Emergency at Roanoke Hospital, or I can call an ambulance. I’ll have a urologist meet you. We don’t have the specialists here to deal with this. Take these x-rays with you, and…” he hesitated, “Good luck.”
Such alarming news would be scary anytime, but I was only a few weeks past surgery myself, having recently birthed our third child via C-section. Our newborn daughter was asleep in my arms, and the two and six-year olds were being attended by our neighbor, Pat. My husband Dave was in trouble, in agony, curled up in searing pain.
“Oh help, God, I really need help – and fast – please!” I prayed.
“Pat, what am I going to do?” I asked, tearing up. “I can’t leave the children. Roanoke’s an hour away – God knows how long I’ll be gone. Oh geez – I’m not even supposed to be driving yet – the car’s a stick. I can’t drag my stitches up and down the highway two or three times a day.”
“Donna, you go to church there; maybe somebody could put you and the kids up. Come on, let’s pack fast. Where are the diapers? Where’s the nearest suitcase?”
My brain went on high speed, Will Dave be OK? What about our income? We’re scraping by on his teacher’s salary and my part time speech therapy now…. And… what if Dave is dying … or needs dialysis… or – Oh stop it Donna and get packing. Let’s see – extra diaper pins, wipe-ups, butt rags, diaper ointment, No More Tangles for Tanyalee’s hair. Oh God please heal Dave.
“Pat, can you throw the baby’s car bed into the car? Oh, and extra sheets for it (they’re beside the diapers). What am I forgetting?”
“Nothing, Donna, I double checked you,” said this mother of four, turned angel in a crisis.
Pat stowed us all into car seats and seat belts as she commented teasingly, “Some people’ll do anything for free maid-service. I’ll collect my tip later.”
Off we went to Lexington’s hospital to get Dave wheeled out on a gurney and inserted into the third seat of our ancient station wagon. I had no idea what would follow.
I merged onto Highway 81, accelerating with my entire nervous system.
“Wow, Mommy, you’re passing everybody. Go faster, go faster! This is fun!”
“Right, Sean, Mommy wouldn’t usually drive this fast, but we want to get Daddy to the
hospital so he can get help. He hurts; the doctors there can help him.” (I hope)
“Won’t a policeman stop you, like happened to Topher’s mom?”
“If he does, Sweetie, we’ll ask him to help get us there faster.”
Tanyalee had fallen asleep in her toddler seat, and Baby Debbie was zonked. Dave was very quiet, but I knew he was wide awake and probably terrified. What can I say to him that will be of comfort but not scare Sean?
“Hey, Love, how you doin?” I asked in what I hoped was a calming, sympathetic voice.
“We’re blessed the urologist will be waiting for you. He’ll know what to do; he’ll be able to help get you out of pain, I feel sure.”
Upon reaching the hospital, attendants took my husband to a bed in emergency, and then a sleeping infant, a groggy toddler, a perpetually active six-year old and I checked Dave in through the laborious procedures of institutional medical America.
Finally, we were ready to join Dave when I heard,
“I’m sorry, the children can’t accompany you to the emergency room.”
“Oh No! I know that, but I didn’t bring anyone along to help me, and I’m sure my husband needs me too. What can I do?” I asked the admissions lady. The look on my face, or perhaps whispering angels, or pure pity caused her to offer to watch them while I went to be with my husband. “As long as you hurry back,” she added. I considered that a minor miracle. Turning to a woman in the waiting room who’d been listening to the exchange, I asked, “Can you watch them if she gets tied up?”
“Sure, I’ll be here awhile from what they tell me, and my daughter’s in with him now. They won’t let us both in. I could use a distraction.”
I supplied the children with toys and reassurances. Thanking my way through the corridor-mazes,
I reached the white-curtained cubicle as the urologist had finished a quick check of my husband’s gigantically swollen testicle. After asking him some obviously answered questioned about the level of his pain, the doctor turned to me,
“We need to inject a contrast dye, then Xray to show what is happening with the kidney. I’m not sure it’s blocked, but we’ll start the procedure immediately just in case. I do know that your husband has epididymitis, an inflammation and probably infection in the testicle. That’s the reason for the massive swelling. It will be a couple of hours before we can give you the results from the Xray. I do know he’ll be admitted and need to stay for at least a week, maybe more.
I went to the waiting-room while Dave was whisked off.
“Hi, Sweeties, having fun?” I asked Tanyalee and Sean.
“Sure, Mommy, and the baby’s still asleep. I watched out for her,” answered my two-year-old.
“Hey, Mommy, check out this car race,” Sean half-shouted as he pointed out his well-organized match box line-up. Glancing at my face, he stopped with one car mid-air, “Is Daddy going to be better soon? Did the doctor help?”
“Yes, Precious, but the doctor says Daddy has to stay in the hospital for a few days, maybe a week, so we’re going to stay here.”
“In the hospital?”
“No, Sweetheart, I’m going to call Unity, where you go to Sunday school and see if they can help us figure it out. Let me know who’s winning the car race when I get back.”
“Mommy, where will you be?” asked Tanyalee with concern.
“At that pay phone – see it – the one right there. I’ll find us some place near here. We can pretend we’re on vacation and stay near Daddy, O.K.?”
“O.K., I’ll feed my baby and watch Debbie too,” responded my two-year old, too young to be toilet trained but old enough to play mommy.
The phone call to Unity Church produced the name of a family who might be able to put us up. I wasn’t sure who Janet and Sam Wade were, but when I heard her voice assuring me that the children and I were more than welcome to stay with them, I saw that couple as angels. Janet said she’d watch the kids whenever I was at the hospital.
The same phone call to Unity yielded, at my request, the name of a church member who did spiritual healing. I was positive that Dave was not scheduled for surgery on any calendar. I knew spiritual healing was a possible reality. I had read about it, hands-on-healing or whatever it was called. I was ready to do anything.
In amazingly short time, the nurse called me back. The good news was overwhelmingly relief-producing: Dave did not have a blocked kidney; he simply had only one kidney, perhaps since birth. Since it was larger than normal, it served him well, and that was not an issue.
The horrifying news was that if the localized infection in the testicle did not abate in a week of his being totally horizontal, Dave would need surgery. Meanwhile, he was not to be moved again after being wheeled to his bed in a hospital room. No standing, walking or sitting.