Just a few nights ago I scoured my house looking for an old hat. I looked in the attic, the garage, my room and every closet. I looked everywhere. I ended up in the spare room again searching through drawers. The last drawer that I opened captured me. It was filled with teddy bears that William had received from CHKD for each surgery. He’s had 12 surgeries. I hate those teddy bears. They remind me of all of our trips to that hospital. I am reminded of the sick feeling that I get when I walk through the doors. They remind me of the waiting room and the pain that William has endured. I hate that for him. I hate that he has had to face that pain. I hate that he has had to do it alone.
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When it comes to William and his surgeries I gotta be there for him. I mean I just gotta be! He has to know that I am there for him. He’s gotta see me and I gotta see him. I’m there! That’s all that there is to it.
Our children depend on us. Whether its sitting front and center at a their first play or standing in line waiting for hours to buy the hottest toy on the market, mommies and daddies make it happen. It doesn’t matter if our child plays as the stalk of broccoli in the school play or if we know in the back of our minds that hot action figure will be on sale after Christmas. WE WILL BE THERE AND WE WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN, period!
Most of William’s surgeries have taken place at CHKD. It’s the usual drill; His doctor schedules the surgery, we hear the date and time of the surgery on our voicemail, the night before surgery William doesn’t eat or drink after 10pm. The next day we get up at O-dark thirty in the morning, drive to the hospital, check in, wait among a gaggle of other children while trying to explain to William why he cannot eat or drink anything. The scene continues as we are then greeted and checked in by a few nurses and an anesthesiologist that are excited to get William under the knife and bright lights. They weigh him, measure his height and take his vitals, we pray that he does not suddenly have a fever so we don’t have to reschedule the surgery (WE JUST WANNA GET IT OVER WITH!) The doctor pops his head in to make sure everything’s alright, and then…
Lisa, William, a few nurses, the anesthesiologist and I all walk out into a hallway, a bright white hallway. Clean. Spotless. Just a white floor, white walls and a bunch of white ceiling tiles with alternating white lights. It’s not really heavenly though, to me it is kinda cold. In this moment, all that I know is, Lisa and I go left and William goes right. One of the nurses carries William through two huge doors that always open automatically. My son disappears.
I always have a pit in my stomach when those two huge doors close and I can no longer see William. But, I find comfort in knowing that we are right outside those doors. As they close he sees mommy. He sees daddy. He sees me.
One morning the usual drill turned unusual. I had to open the gym before William’s surgery. My help relieved me late. I was flying to CHKD trying to get there before the huge doors closed. I parked, ran through the entrance, got my “parent” visitor’s pass, dashed down the hallway, went up the elevator, jumped off and made a B-Line for the huge doors. Like me, the hallway was empty. The lights were on but no one was home. Just the white floor, walls, ceiling tiles, alternating white lights and huge doors that were tightly shut. I will never forget how big that hallway felt. It was as if I was standing in an empty warehouse. Where did everybody go?! Better yet, “daddy, where are you?”
I cried. I thought to myself, “I have failed.” I wasn’t there for him. William is always there for me. When I get home William is always there for me. When I go to his school William is always there for me. When I tuck him in at night, William is always there for me. He’s incredible. He’s just a child, yet he is always there for me. I’m the grown up, I’m his daddy, I’m his protector and I was not there for him. The one I missed hurt the most.
Finally! Surgery was over. We went back to see William in the recovery room. Again, there he was….THERE FOR ME. I never found my hat.