Thursday, August 28, 2008

Angels in Scrubs...


Sitting in the operating room with front row seats to the most incredible show I'd ever seen... I couldn't take enough in. I'd never really seen the inside of a real OR... to my left, a nurse typing some sort of information on the computer... to my right, my wife's head looking over at me with a dazed look: she seems content... almost amused (?!); I best not remind her that just beyond the blue curtain in front of her, there is a large-scale excavation project going on in the southern regions of her body. Behind me, largely responsible for the amused look on my wife's face and for keeping her nervous system completely unaware of the excavation party, is the anesthesiologist...reading an article on carseats out loud to my minimally lucid wife...why not, right?? Oh boy. Leading the excavation team on the other side of the drape, the doctor we had only met the night before was cutting and cauderizing the layers of Stephanie's abdomen(nothing calms the nerves of a young father to be like the pungeant smell of burnt flesh). This was a sensory overload that no one really prepares you for...

Over in the corner on the other side of the room, stands a small group, clad in green smocks. Why in the world, when I looked over in their direction, did I feel strangely comforted?? For all I know, they are the janitorial staff hanging out to clean up after the surgery. Yet... there is something vital to them being there...being ready. It's as if they are watching over this surgery, waiting...I need them. I don't know why...it's just a feeling. Somehow...I can tell that this group represents a very important part of the next act in this play.

The curtain raises on the next scene of the drama of our life, and the green-smocked spectators take center stage. Insignificant as our parts ultimately were in the moments deciding whether this scene would be a tragedy or a triumph, Stephanie and Avery and I will always be the lead rolls as we recall this scene in our memories. Yet, there began the moment they took our baby in their arms and kept her little life spark alive, an award-winning supporting role that continues to this day; a part shared by many with wings tucked under their fashionable scrubs: the hands and hearts of Heaven.

To all of the staff in the NICU who may ever wonder what you actually accomplished between clocking in and clocking out for your shift today... maybe I could give you a small glimpse into what you mean to us.

You held my baby before I did...you took care of her immmediately, in a way I never could have: you cleaned her, breathed life into her, and you became forever entwined in our lives as you completed our family for the first time, closing the circuit from the safety of mom's womb to the safety of dad's arms.

You patiently answered the millions of questions that raced through a helpless new father's brain...you gave me some sense of providing for my little family, when in reality...all I could do at the time was comfort mom with the information I gathered from you, as she lay in her bed on the other side of the hospital without her new baby.

You welcomed us like family into our child's new home. Do you know what it means to us that you made her a little sign with her name on it!?!? We've never really seen our child's name posted anywhere...and the colorful scrapbook paper...the coordinating colors in her bedding...the cute little bow in her hair... it softens the prick that hit our hearts when we saw our little angel hooked up to so many cords and tubes. How did you know that we weren't expecting her for months...and wouldn't have time to ready her room at home?? Thanks to you, she has never spent a night away from "home"...

You seem to understand when I call...just to see if she's okay. Maybe you know that sick feeling a parent gets, when they can't explain why they are worried about their child. Yes, you must be able to feel like we do... you get so excited to tell me she's gained an ounce, or stayed off of her oxygen for a while today! You have to know that that phone call is the highlight of our day.

You stand by our baby's bed with us...you have smiled and laughed with us through the bright days... and you must have known how much we just needed to talk on those darker nights. Because somehow, if you were there... it would be okay. You always seem to bring us a chair to sit on...maybe you notice that our feet come out from under us alot lately...You must know how helpless we feel...and yet, you give us the comfort we need. Every time you have explained something...we gain confidence. Your patience, your friendship... they are answers to prayers we have prayed all day.

You know us by name... you smile and greet us when we come in. I guess you realize how hard it is for us to drive all the way here to see our baby...when her room is just feet away from ours at home. And yet, you have somehow made a hospital- a place feared and despised by most- our home. The place where our family can be together...a family of which you happen to be a part now...

You taught us how to handle our baby...helped us not be afraid to move her, touch her, hold her...you let me change her diaper...take her temperature...you give us a way to connect with my child at a time when fear and plexiglass try hard as they can to keep us apart.

You've taken pictures for and with us. You've scrapbooked for us. You've saved us long trips home when we've forgotten something in our rush to come up to the hospital. You've placed blankets and hats aside saying how they just look like they should go with our baby. You've played jokes on and with us. You always make time to come answer any small trivial question, when you see that look on my face.

We talk about you at home all the time. We notice the individual strengths you personally bring to the collective effort that is raising our little baby. None of you are exactly the same...thank goodness! Individually and collectively, you are just what we needed today...any given day. We needed your kindness, firmness, gentleness, love, patience, lightness, severity, honesty, buffering, humor, candor, ...fill in the blank...you were what we needed today. We watch you care for our child, and say a prayer of thanks for you right then and there.

Talking to some of you...I don't think you have more than a small idea that you do the work of angels each day. Walking through those double doors...you leave your life behind...and you enter ours. Whoever or whatever you are outside... you are angels to us. You are forever a part of the most important thing that has ever happened to us. We can never really thank you enough for what you do not only for our children:because it's your job...but also for us:because you must know how much we need you.

God couldn't personally be in the NICU each day... so he sent you to us: the hearts and the hands of Heaven.



(I just threw a few pictures together at the last moment...representing all of the NICU staff... I know you all think I take tons of pictures...but they're all of my daughter!! Please know that I haven't gotten a picture of all the wonderful people who have touched our lives from the NICU...but I'm working on it! ;) )

7 comments:

Brock and Jennie said...

Wow, what a beautiful tribute. You are such a great writer.

Katie said...

I'm sorry, you don't know me and I'm sorry if I'm intruding. I found your blog when I googled NICU. I had a little girl about 2 years ago born at 25 weeks but had the development of a 23 week baby. She weighed 1 lb. at birth and dropped down to 14 oz. This tribute you wrote for your NICU staff is incredible. It really touched me and brought back memories that I treasure. I'm so glad your little one is doing well and growing. Hang in there, it gets easier. My little girl is now 2 and is starting to walk. She's healthy, happy and thriving! Congratulations on your little one, and again, I'm sorry for intruding.
Katie

Sherrie D said...

Well, you did it again, Ryan. I am sitting here crying "like a baby." Wow, that was such an impressive tribute. I know how much those people mean to you! Thank God there are people like them on the earth. As you said, God couldn't be everywhere, so He sent these angels in scrubs.

We love you and pray for you every day. It is paying off!!

Happy Harrison said...

Hi, my friend was blog-surfing, and came across your blog. She told me I HAD to check it out. This post is one of the sweetest things I've ever read! I had a baby four months ago, and although she was full-term (42 weeks!), I cried and cried as I read some of your posts (especially the one about babies belonging in thier mother's arms.) You are a wonderful writer. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck with everything.

Dianne said...

Ryan,da kann ich nur das sagen was Sherrie gesagt hat: again i cried like a baby. Du bist wirklich ein gifted writer! Merci vieumau.

Waggoner Family said...

I found your blog through my extended family the Ron and Lori Nelson's. You are an amazing writer and I had tears streaming down my face as I read this. I hope Avery is doing well and you all will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Waggoner Family said...

After reading more of your blog I realized you know Mandy Harline who is one of my sister's best friends. It is amazing how small the world is.