Looseleaf Laureate: The waiting room – an emotional rollercoaster

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By Terri Likens, Editor

Thanks to a tennis accident, a massive blood clot in my leg,  a bout with cancer, a bum gall bladder and a few other health issues, I’ve spent more time than I care to recall in and around hospitals.
So when my mother went in last week for surgery to relieve compression on her spine, I jokingly told her, “Better you than me.”
Later, as I sat alone for hours in the surgery waiting room, I decided she had the easier role.
The  nurses soon gave her “happy” meds for the pre-surgery anxiety, and then, with full anesthesia, she was down for the count until she woke up in recovery.
Me, I sat alone for hours in the surgical waiting area, watching their cryptic coded messages on monitors scattered throughout the room for clues to her status.
I’m at the age that this kind of thing can really make you feel strange — like you are simultaneously 5 years old (that’s my Mommy in there!) and 85, because being the caregiver for an aging, albeit a fairly healthy parent, is something that just makes you feel older than you are.
Despite my attempts to focus on the book I brought along, I couldn’t help but tune into the plights of others around me in the waiting room.
In one corner, a silent young woman’s face was wet with tears as she sat among a  small group of people.
In another part of the room, a man took repeated calls on his cellphone. From his end of the conversation, I heard these painful snippets: “bone cancer,” “it’s in her liver,” and, “They are going to try ....”
Others talked and laughed among themselves and still others, like me, were alone.
The journalist in me saw a story in each of their faces — perhaps the most important ones in the faces on the stoic loners.
It turned out Mom’s spinal compression was worse than her doctor anticipated, and  the surgery took longer than expected.
“She’s a trooper,” Dr. David Hauge said when he finally came out to let me know how things had gone.
A week later, Mom is doing great.
Her once-shuffling walk is now near normal and the pain and wooden feelings in her feet have diminished to near nothing.
Her surgery and my short spell of tending to her pulled us a little closer together.
I wish all the “waiters” in the waiting room could have the same healing results.