Thursday, February 9, 2012


Everyone should have to go thru surgery now and then. It helps you get a grasp on the things that are really important and matter most.
 I went thru surgery just several days ago. Although I wasn't the one that got wheeled off to the operating room. That would have been Mary, my wife of 35 years. I went thru surgery in the surgical waiting room, for the better part of the forenoon. She's, of course asleep the whole time; me, not so much.
It wasn't a life threatening operation. She had been diagnosed with a hyperactive parathyroid condition. Which I had told her was surprising in itself; I mean she's never acted hyper about anything before. (I say this tongue in cheek)
You have four parathyroid glands which when normal are the size of a grain of rice and control the level of calcium in the blood. When one of them goes haywire it drastically ups the calcium level it wants to put out, so much so that it will pull calcium out of the bones.If this goes on long enough it can prematurely bring on that disease old women have where their bones break so easily. (I know how to say the name of the disease perfectly well, I just can't seem to spell it) This extra calcium in the system can also cause all sorts of joint and muscle pain and fatigue, all of which Mary has suffered.
When a baby is developing these glands are in the chest, but they are supposed to migrate to the neck. In Mary's case they didn't get all the way migrated. I tell her that she grew so fast that she probably left them behind. The scans showed that her offending parathyroid was at least as low as the breastbone or a little lower. Which would make a huge difference in how big a deal surgery would be. If they couldn't get to it in the neck they would have to split the sternum similar to open heart surgery.
This was actually diagnosed six years ago but Mary couldn't stand the thought of the possibility of the more major surgery, so we just kept an eye on it until recently. She was feeling worse and was living on Ibuprofen. For curiosity's  sake she kept track for a sixteen day period and she had taken ninety Ibuprofen during that time.
Anyway, looking at the most recent scans gave the surgeon confidence (90% he said) he could get it thru the neck. So we decided to go ahead.
You're never ready when they wheel your loved one away. You wish you had held their hand a little longer and told them one last time you loved them.
And so I go down the waiting room. I guess that's why they call it that. Time goes by ever so slowly. There is a big screen in the room and you can find Mary's surgery number and follow the line which shows how far along they are in the surgery. I haven't eaten breakfast and I don't want to go to the cafeteria; I'm afraid I might miss a call from the doctor. (They are supposed to update you every two hours)
 The line on the screen seems to barely move. I try to wait at least ten minutes before looking again so I can see a little progress. Finally one time when I look it's showing  her out of the operating room and in recovery. Still it's a good while before the nurse calls for the "Yoder family" and I pick up the phone.
It's Dr. Shonka. He says the operation went well. They were able to get it done thru the neck. Mary is doing great and her parathyroid hormone level went right down to the normal level within 15 minutes of the offending gland being removed. (they check the level while the incision is still open; if the level is still too high there is more than one gland that has been causing the problem)
I am thrilled and feel  relief washing over me in waves. I feel like crying. I can't wait to go up to see her, but it's at least another hour until I get that call.
Finally it comes. She's in room 11 in the SAS recovery area. I can't find room 11. I see all the others. I was almost tempted to ask for directions but then around the corner I see it.
I touch her forehead and take her hand. I take a tissue and wipe where the tears are leaking out the sides of her eyes. I cry a little myself.
Like I said, everyone ought to go thru surgery once in awhile.

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