So, about that brain surgery…. As many of you who are friends and family have heard in bits and pieces, all did not go exactly as planned. It was two weeks ago tomorrow that Kerrie, the kids and I rolled up to the highly acclaimed Kasier surgical facility on Sunset Boulevard. Each of us carrying our own sets of fears and expectations. My check in time was 5:30 a.m., and as I rid myself of all clothing, personal identification, and even my wedding ring, I recall a sense of some huge, inexorable push moving me forward moment by moment. I was resigned to what in simple terms boggled my mind. I would be having my head opened up, various elements essential to my nervous system shifted about, arteries moved, Teflon pads inserted…
“Mr. Bjerkaas, may I put a line in?” Of course. How did this so-so-young girl Tracy know how to pronounce my name? “You’re going to feel a pinch and…” No worries, take your time. “Let’s try that again. Can you please make a fist for me with your left hand?”
“Good morning Mr. Bjerkaas, can you verify with me your full name and date of birth?” This nurse was older. Almost before I could finish a young man came in. “Mr. Bjerkaas, may I call you Bob? I am going to set up a drip in your right arm so we can begin to relax your body before the procedure. When we get you all lined up here we will have your family come in.” OK, thank you.
More medical professionals. “Can you tell me what we are doing today… Okay I am going to draw a circle on you right here… The anesthesiologist will be in shortly…”
Kerrie, Maggie, and Nat come into the room. Kerrie’s parents, Mom and Dad Williams, have not yet arrived in the second car with Cubby and Tim. Small talk, how is the waiting room, did you bring enough reading and games to keep you occupied?
“Mr. Bjerkaas, your surgeon is here. He will be in to see you shortly.” The coach in me sized him up one more time. Does he look me in the eye. Does he appear confident – is he game day ready. As ever he does. He has the top reputation as the local neurosurgeon available to me. He is particularly recognized for dealing with brain stem related issues. He is my guy today. We repeat the same conversation about the procedure, its goals, challenges, risks… We have had this conversation a number of times now, each time slightly different as new bits of data become available through different tests. “…And so in light of some of your particular anatomical challenges, we are looking at about an eighty percent success rate…” This was the new fact this time. On my first visit it was ninety five percent. Then ninety. Now down to eighty.
My mind flashes back to the winter of 1988. I am in the used car offices of the Normandy Ford on Route 40 just west of Baltimore. The numbers keep changing throughout a conversation about a 1984 Tempo. The car dealer’s name was Ken “Pops” Robinson. Such a friendly guy. I bought the car. Big mistake. Eighty percent. Eighty percent…
Kerrie and I nod at each other. I realize I am still holding my wedding ring in my hand, and ask her to keep it for me. She puts it on her finger. I ask the doctors and nurses if I can pray with my family. We pray together. “Oh dear God show us your grace and favor. Bless us this morning. Give wisdom and skill to all of these dear men and women who are helping frightened people become well. Heal me. Thank you for loving me. Please forgive my sins. Help me to love you and others well…
I tell my children I love them and that it is our highest calling in life to take Jesus with us on this life’s journey. I am so proud of them. My wife kisses me softly. The gurney wheels are creaking. People are talking. I remember a cool breeze.
To Be Continued: What Went Wrong?
N.B. The buildings pictures are the Sunset Boulevard Neurological Buildings.