Friday, March 23, 2012


We all took turns spending some time in pre-op with Jay. David and I went first, and I had to really concentrate on not be distracting so that David could be pastoral. He prayed. I cried, and then Jason and my dad went in for a quick high five. Finally Jay's parents went in. Then the anaesthesiologist came in to review how it was all going to go down. We also made friends with Cindy, the pre-op nurse. Between her and the floor nurse we were with prior to pre-op, Jay was called Sunshine, Baby, Sweetheart, and Precious more times than we could count. But I think he liked it. And then they wheeled him off. And we waited.

In the main waiting room is a monitor that lists the first name and last initial of everyone in surgery, along with the start and stop times of the operation. And, apparently, if you have awesome people in your OR, those awesome people post little notes to update family members on how their person is doing. We got two updates. They were reassuring.

David, Christie, dad, and I went to Au Bon Pain for lunch and then back to the waiting room to do what you'd think we would do in a waiting room. My dad left with plans to return, David kept me plied with alternating classic David sarcasm and profound conversation. Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was his presence that kept me sane. Despite the fact that I kept reassuring him that he could leave, he stayed. Because he's amazing. And he's the one who leaned over to show me the email from church announcing that Cecil and Tharon Kirk, two of the most amazing people who ever drew breath, and who lost a grandson in a tragic car accident less than two weeks ago, were leading a prayer service in the chapel at church at noon for Jay. After that I was pretty certain that Jay would be OK. I think Cecil and Tharon have some sort of special line to God.

Then my cousin's wife Amanda came. And then my cousin David, and then a member of our church who is a chaplain at the VA Hospital adjacent to Vanderbilt (also named David). And by the time it was all over we had assembled quite a crew. We decided that we should have actually made it a Facebook event, and wondered if Mark Zuckerberg wanted to know who Jay Bernheisel was. The number of texts, Facebook messages, and Facebook posts was overwhelming. It was so good to be connected to the rest of the world when my own world felt as small as a circle of chairs in the back corner of a hospital waiting room.

The surgery monitor said that the surgery started a 1:16 and that it should be over by 6:10. At 6:15 I started to get a little antsy. At 6:30 I started checking the board every minute, and at 7:00 I started to come a little unglued. Finally we heard our name over the intercom and were directed to the Family Consultation Room. It wasn't long before the surgeon came in to tell us about the surgery. According to him, it was as good as anyone could have hoped for. The donor liver was beautiful, Jay only needed five units of blood, and the surgery went completely smoothly. He said that all we could do now was wait and watch the numbers to see if the liver was going to work. He said that Jay would be on SICU in about an hour and that we could see him then.

We went back to the waiting room to report to the rest of the crew and then someone mentioned dinner. The word had been thrown around for the last few hours as though I would actually eat something. But after the surgery was over, despite protests to the contrary, I was told that I was going to eat dinner--preferably outside of the hospital. When someone suggested SATCO I decided that I could be persuaded. So seven of us traipsed down 21st Avenue in search of tacos and fresh air. Dave stayed behind. And we ate. And drank. And pondered the question, "Given the glory of tacos on the porch in the spring, would you want to do college all over again?"

And then we went back to see what was happening.

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