The evil results of pain can be multiplied if the sufferers are persistently taught by the bystanders that such results are the proper and manly results for them to exhibit. Indignation at others’ sufferings, though a generous passion, needs to be well managed lest it steal away patience and humanity from those who suffer and plant anger and cynicism in their stead. But I am not convinced that suffering, if spared such officious vicarious indignation, has any natural tendency to produce such evils…I have seen great beauty of spirit in some who were great sufferers…and I have seen illness produce treasures of fortitude and meekness from the most unpromising subjects.
C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain
In the brief time I had back in Santa Barbara prior to Rudy’s surgery, I considered bringing along the above title but thought the better of it; partly because I wasn’t sure I’d have the concentration for thoughtful reading but more because of my tendency to carry six books in my luggage when I probably won’t make it into the second. As it happened, friends Bonnie and Monique came to the hospital with a book of daily readings from Lewis that serves things up in easily-digestible chunks (please pardon the jargon). The readings for October are all from The Problem of Pain so I’ve enjoyed being spoon-fed this wisdom each day.
I appreciate the words above for Rudy’s sake and my own. Trish and I are so blessed to have such a cadre of friends walking with us through this. Our kids see and experience it and I trust Rudy will know it as well. Life on this journey includes lament, frustration and anger, but I have pondered the appropriate place of this. It would deny something very human to suppress such feelings, yet I’ve found little to gain by taking offense on someone’s behalf. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I can be glad for what Rudy has to go through. I hope it won’t be viewed as ingratitude to say that any and all of the blessings received within this time don’t make me grateful for HLHS. I’m not looking forward to conversations in the years ahead where we have to be frank about Rudy’s physical limitations and perhaps explain to him once again that he can’t engage in certain activities. But I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want him to be angry. May the fortitude and meekness Lewis displayed in his own life bear fruit in ours.
The patient vigil continues here in CTICU room 5439. As Trish has already indicated in her post (we’re engaged in a laptop duel this morning), Rudy is making slow and steady progress and we’ve made some adjustments to our own expectations regarding his timeline. While his initial bounce back after surgery got us hopeful that such a pace would recover in his recovery (with the breathing tube coming out sometime last weekend), the pace is not concerning the doctors. They tried to back him off all medications on Tuesday, but decided yesterday that he still needs some to regulate blood flow and kidney function.
In the last couple of days they have rolled in some of the big machines to examine his internal organs just to make sure there’s no damage and everything is checking out fine. They want to make sure Rudy gets enough nutrition so he stays strong and that his body continues to gain strength and not lose weight. The good news is that his creatinine level is down to 1.7 (from the 2.4 range) so the nephrology team is happy. Over the next few days, the team will take things more slowly on the ventilator, turning it down in very slight steps to see how he adjusts.
As I write this, Rudy is wide-eyed and alert. Every now and again, he stretches out his arms and holds up a fist—kind of like a football player does when he’s being carted off the field to assure his teammates he’s OK. Trish and I are would like to remain here together until they free him from the ventilator as that will be our first chance to hold him other than the brief instant just after birth, but we sure were hoping that chance would come this weekend. It looks like we’ll have to wait until next week sometime. At that point, I think the staff can roll his crib out of the room and give it to someone else because I don’t think we’ll be putting him down.