December 13, 2013.
2:42 am – My cell phone rings. It’s mom. They have a liver for dad. It’s go time. We have to arrive at the hospital in Louisville by 6am. We will be leaving at 4am. GAME ON.
2:44 am – Michael reaches over, grabs my hand and prays the most beautiful prayer for my family and the healing that my dad is about to receive.
2:46 am – Not rushed, I first make sure I’m actually awake and that this is happening. I briefly mourn the fact that I won’t get to kiss my baby before leaving, but then remember the big picture. I mentally make a list of the few last-minute items I need to grab.
2:50 am – My sister-in-law calls, but I thought it was my mom and after a few seconds of confusing conversation about where I’m supposed to meet them, we laugh, share our shock and excitement and confirm that I will be at their house between 3:45 and 4 to ride with her to Louisville. Check.
2:55 am – After talking through a few quick items with Michael, I get up and start getting ready, start the car to warm up, and grab the last minute items.
3:10 am – Sonny calls. Mom didn’t factor in that the transplant coordinator who had called her meant 6am EASTERN time. Be at Sonny’s at 3:30. GAME ON.
3:22 am – I kiss Michael good-bye and haul my bag and pillow to the car and speed to Sonny’s. Michael’s Buick will flat ROLL.
3:31 am – Arrive at Sonny’s. I beat mom and dad. And I receive appropriate praise from Sonny and Christy for being on time. Ha.
3:40 am – Everyone loaded in the car – still waiting on mom and dad. Sonny is driving them up and we’re following.
3:50 am – We pull out of the driveway, Sonny leading and as they pass I get a glimpse of my purely giddy, frail daddy. Going to get his Christmas gift.
5:10 am (6:10 EST) – After a busier than expected commute to L’ville, we arrive, get dad checked in and begin waiting. (We knew there would be some waiting. We didn’t know how much waiting.)
6:30 am – It doesn’t take long to realize no one but us seems nearly as excited and hurried. But that was ok. We knew it was going to be a slow morning.
7:00 am – Finally get into a room for dad which is thankfully equipped with plenty of chairs, closets, a bathroom, and more space than we expected. And it was clean. I was thrilled. This is where we would spend the day. (Or eternity. I’m still not sure.)
7:30 am – Our church pastor and his wife arrive and are a calming force in a room full of tension and anxiety. (Said anxiety was never from dad – just the rest of us. He was calm. Amazingly calm.)
8:00 am – We can no longer ignore our growling stomachs and the majority of us head next door to get some breakfast. Score.
9:00 am – Still haven’t seen or heard from a doctor. Everyone (except dad) is fed and/or caffiened-up sufficiently and we begin wondering how long the process is going to actually take.
9:30 am – Minimally preparatory things begin like dad getting his IV, fancy leg-warmers/motion cuffs so he doesn’t get blood clots while in the bed, and a heart monitor are all completed and we hope this is a step in the right direction. Around the same time, some doctors start appearing, mainly gastro guys who are checking his condition, meds, etc. to prepare for their part of the procedure. They know nothing about the donor liver we’re waiting on.
10:00 am – I had forgotten to brush my teeth before leaving the house and at this point think I may quite possibly die from gum disease, so I decide it’s time to take a trip to the gift shop for a toothbrush and toothpaste (even though I had that in my bag, I thought the gift shop might entice Payne and Graycen to go with me. It did.) So off we go after 2 items and $40 later, return to the room with much more than a toothbrush and toothpaste. Hospital gift shops are sometimes very fun. Especially when you have two awesome kids with you.
11:00 am – We begin to wonder what’s going on. This was kinda where our threshold of patience began to wane. We still had very little details about the donor liver and/or the arrival of it. We start our own cycle of speculations and are reassured by the pastor of how much paperwork the donor family has to go through, etc. and that hopefully that is what is taking place at this point.
12:00 pm – Dad’s sister arrives, a little surprised to see us still sitting and waiting. Us too.
12:15 pm – A surgical resident on the transplant team comes in and discusses more specific information about the procedure and the donor liver. There were an uncomfortable amount of if’s in what he was saying. To the point that I actually thought the donor was backing out or hadn’t really died or something. What he was saying was NOT encouraging, but not necessarily discouraging either. He did confirm that the donor organs had not been harvested yet, assured us that “all ducks were lined up” on their end for receipt of the liver, and that everything at this point was up to the condition of the liver once it was harvested. I was uneasy. I didn’t like all the “if’s.” We had always known that there was a chance that we could get called for a viable liver only to arrive and find out that something wasn’t a match or something was wrong with the liver, etc., but the likelihood of that seemed remote. It was becoming less remote with each passing minute.
12:30 pm – Lunch. Flatts like to eat. Mom and Sonny stay with dad.
1:15 pm – We return to hear that the head transplant surgeon had been in to see dad. He had entered saying “well, this might not happen today.” Apparently the donor had some sort of heart condition and disease that would possibly compromise the liver, but that they wouldn’t know anything for sure until the organs were examined after harvest which was scheduled to begin at 1:30. He said that means it would likely actually happen at 2:30, and that we would probably know something by 4pm. He assured us that they would only transplant a “good” liver to dad, which of course we’re thankful for, but it left a lot of questions hanging in the air and the reality of the liver viability issue was becoming more and more a concern. The familiar uneasiness from the previous doc settled even heavier on me and everyone in the room. Christy remained positive. Mom remained hopeful. We tried to keep our game faces on and think only in the good.
2:30 pm – We waited.
3:00 pm – We waited.
3:45 pm – Dad’s nurse comes in with his flu shot, which we had previously held off on until we knew for sure whether the transplant was going to take place or not, and she eluded to how close it was to 4pm that it was likely not going to happen. But she obliged to wait until discharge to give him the shot in the off chance that the liver was good.
4:10 pm – Transplant coordinator comes in the room to tell us that the liver was not good. In fact, no organs were usable from the donor. Our last shred of hope flew out the window and we all deflated a bit. That was it. We were going home.
4:11 pm – Dad finds the nearest edible piece of food (a giant cupcake from the cafeteria) and immediately scarfs it down. He had been without ANYTHING since 2:30am. Bless him.
4:30 pm – Nurse confirms discharge but says “it may be awhile…” and says she will be back with the paperwork.
5:00 pm – Still waiting for discharge.
5:15 pm – Still waiting for discharge. At this point, dad had assumed a stance outside of his door similar to his teacher stance at the high school. He flagged down an orderly and asked who he needed to see to check out. Bless his heart.
5:30 pm – Finally, paperwork arrives and he is free to go. We leave in the same condition we arrived in.
6:15 pm – We take dad to The Cheesecake Factory to try to make up for his day of unnecessary fasting, but he is so tired I’m not sure he even knew what he was eating. As did any of the rest of us.
7:45 pm – We finally get on the road home in a wintery mess of precipitation and ungodly traffic. It was like insult to injury having to drive in such a stressful situation after the day we had had. Christy was a champ and thankfully we all made it home safely around 8:30 (CST.)
But we’re empty. We’re spent. We’re exhausted. And I think it’s safe to say we’re all a little angry, frustrated, and phenomenally disappointed.
Yes, we want dad to have the most perfect liver available. Yes, we know God’s will and his timing is perfect. Yes, we know that all of this is out of our control and that we have to be willing to live day to day right now.
But we also know that we just essentially wasted an entire day. Nothing was gained from this day. We didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know. There was nothing accomplished. Dad is still as sick as he was when we arrived. And that plain sucks.
We tried desperately to put it behind us on the ride home. I couldn’t. During discharge and waiting for dinner, I let some of my frustrations known, knowing it would do no good. But I couldn’t get over it. And that’s why I’m here, much later than I should be awake, trying to get it out of my system so I can move on from the dreadfulness that was this day, for my WHOLE FAMILY.
But sweet, strong dad. He never complained. He never stomped his feet or shook his fists. He never asked why. He seemed actually fully accept that “this was just a scrimmage. A dry-run for the big day.” And that was that.
So while I’m finally winding down from the highest of adrenaline highs to the lowest of pitiful lows, I’m thankful for the reason this all occurred. There is no silver lining from today. But there’s a testimony here that’s not mine. It’s not anyone’s but dad’s and his quiet, humor-tinged strength and faith.
Please pray. We’re all weary at this point, each with our own “stuff,” and you know, just the holidays – known for being the least stressful of all seasons, right? Right. Please pray. Just pray.