Posts Tagged ‘time’

The other side of the OR door

May 31, 2010

I’ve often written of how surgery day is excruciatingly long. They may tell you that it will take four hours, but that is rarely true. And every minute seems to drag as you wait for news of your loved one. You just want this to be over – but nothing good comes of a short operation. The longer, the better – the doctors are still working, still fighting for you. A short operation could mean that the fight is over and the good guys lost.

It’s the same on the other side of the Operating Room door. When you are waiting, just standing there twiddling your thumbs, time drags. When surgery begins and everyone has a job to do, time flies. “Five people working as one unit,” Gene Hackman said in the movie Hoosiers, and a Surgical Unit is a team in every sense of the word. Everyone has a job to do, and when you work together long enough, you even begin to think together. In this article appearing on, Dr. Bruce Campbell explains that time distorts in operating rooms, too. But it seems to act in reverse:

I look up at the clock. It seems like only a few minutes have passed since I had anxiously waited to begin the case. Five hours have disappeared like an instant.

Go and read Dr. Campbell’s work.

A Beautiful Heart

October 23, 2009

Funky Heart has a new friend – meet Chloe, a 9 year old Cardiac Kid! Chloe has Partial Atrioventricular Canal and already fought the Battle of the Operating Room once.

But she’s going back – Chloe is scheduled for surgery next Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Her blog is BRAND NEW and Chloe would love for you to drop by and say hi! Don’t forget to wish her luck next Tuesday!

Her blog is named A Beautiful Heart – if you think you’ve heard that phrase before, you very well may have. Chloe’s parents tell us why:

Our daughter is beautiful, yes – big brown eyes and an enchanting grin. But is her heart? The name of this blog comes from chapter 5 of the book Walk on Water by Michael Ruhlman. It is a must-read for those touched by CHD, and an excellent book in general. This chapter ends with a mother standing in a hospital corridor, having just handed her baby over for open heart surgery. She is sobbing into her hands. Those of you who have been in that corridor – you know.

That walk down to the OR by your child’s gurney is the longest walk you will ever take. And once you’ve said all there is to say and the gurney rolls past the door with the NO ADMITTANCE sign, it marks the beginning of the longest day you will ever live.

And it will be much longer than you think.

When the door closes and you’re left alone as the nurse points out the Surgical Waiting Room, a clock starts in your head. The doctor said four hours, you think.  Four hours from now will be…

But things aren’t happening yet. If you could go through that door, all you would do would be to wait. The surgical suites are usually occupied; and nobody is going to tell a surgeon to hurry up, his next patient just rolled in.  The staff is still taking care of pre-op details and doing their safety checks: Correct patient? Correct diagnosis? Correct procedure planned? Correct surgeon? All these questions have to be answered before the patient even enters the OR. When I was being prepped for my second operation in 1977, one of the nurses leaned down and asked my my name and my birthday. Then she asked “Do you know what they are planning to do today?”

You mean you don’t know? I thought. It must have been obvious on my face, because she smiled and patted my shoulder. “I have to ask, it’s the rules.”

And we aren’t even in the Operating Room yet. Meanwhile, over in Surgical Waiting, a lot of people are watching the clock.

Perversely, you want the operation to take longer than you expected. The battle has been joined. Our side  may not be winning yet, but we’re still in there fighting and by God, we aren’t losing.

The predicted time comes and goes with no news. Finally, hours later, almost at the point when you are about to panic, the phone rings and it is the OR. Surgery’s over; they’re closing. In about half an hour we’ll bring them down to Recovery and you can see your child.

As you leave Surgical Waiting you see another couple enter and glance quickly at the clock. And you know exactly what that glance means:

Four hours from now will be…


October 29, 2008

UPDATE: As of 6:00 PM Eastern, Katie is out of surgery. Click here to go to her blog for more information.

It’s been an interesting day. Even though I’m here in South Carolina, I’ve been following Katie’s surgery, checking her website for updates. Judging from my website stats page, quite a few people are also keeping up with her by clicking through from here to her blog.

The Internet has given a whole new dimension to friendship and concern. In 1967 and 1977, when I was a long way from home having surgery, all my friends and family had no choice but to wait by the phone for updates. In ’67, no one had even thought of a home answering machine, (as far as I know) so you pretty much had to be there or you missed the call. The first time it was just the three of us, but in 1977, my church passed the hat and collected enough money to send my pastor to Alabama to be with us for a few days. He arrived the day before the surgery, stayed for 3 days – they got up enough cash to pay for a hotel room, too – and then he flew home. I didn’t find out until later that someone (and I still don’t know who it was) gave him two rolls of quarters so he could call home with any news. And in those days, you had to find a pay phone. But since hardly anyone had a cell phone (I had never heard of one) there literally WAS one on every corner.

Websites are active 24 hours a day (unless the server goes down, which occasionally happens) and e-mail is almost instantaneous, so we can find out what is going almost as soon as it happens. Sitting in a waiting room waiting on someone to let you know how a surgery is proceeding is a mind numbing kind of loneliness; having friends to share the burden doesn’t seem to make it any easier. When it comes down to it, it’s just you and the clock.

Rodney Dangerfield once said, “I’m having heart surgery; if everything goes right, it will take about four hours. If it goes wrong, it’ll take about thirty minutes.” Rodney was only half joking; you mentally note the time your loved one was taken from you and watch the clock. If you don’t hear anything for a while, you’re relieved: apparently nothing has come up that would alter or cancel the planned procedure. But if they are gone too long (and everyone has a different idea of how long is too long) your worrying again. Something’s up… it’s taking too long. There must be a problem. What’s going on? It’s a natural reaction.

You have family and friends there with you, and those who can’t be there but who call in to check. Hopefully they are doing all that they can do to support you. Your internet friends  – many of them you have never met – are “standing” with you too. Because “alone we can do so little; but together we can do so much.” (Helen Keller)