Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Count Your Blessings...

Name them one by one," (all together now) "Count your many blessings see what God has done." For those of you not raised in the old-school Southern Baptist tradition, you probably have no idea what I was singing. For those of you who were, you can thank me for putting that brain worm into your head later.

Even if you've never heard the song, you know the message. In this life we all have troubles, but we also all have blessings. I spent yesterday at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with my six-year-old daughter who had to have surgery. So today, dear readers, today I am counting my blessings.

My daughter has come to an age where I feel like I should no longer freely share her medical issues with every person I meet. If you've known me for any length of time, however, you probably know all about them. But since they are a little embarrassing for her, I feel like I should no longer tell all her business. Suffice it to say, we were there for a minor procedure to try and help with a "quality of life" issue for her.

She has had several procedures at Vanderbilt through the years, and if I know anything at all, I know this: there is always someone who has a problem bigger than yours, ALWAYS. One of her doctors shares a waiting room with the Neurology Department. If you are ever having a bad day, dear reader, I suggest you head on over to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Neurology Department waiting room. It will humble you. It will make you ashamed of complaining about your problems. It will make you thankful for the problems you have if that means you don't have to have those other BIG, LIFE-ALTERING problems.

Yesterday her procedure lasted for about 45 minutes, so of course we were there for six hours counting pre-op, post-op and simply waiting our turn through the cases that had gotten backlogged. When I saw her surgeon before her case, I could tell he was a little weary. He said that he had just gotten in the night before from doing several days of surgery in Guatemala with a medical missions group. He had not fully recovered, yet. Oh he was in fine condition to do her surgery, I just mean he was still shell-shocked from being home. I could tell he was still counting all of our collective blessings and that he was thankful for the facility, equipment, medicine, and staff he had to work with -- so was I.

He told me that he did surgery 14 hours a day for four days and there were will still hundreds of patients waiting. He figures there are 11 surgeons in Nashville who can handle pediatric urology cases for a population that is around one million. (This includes adults and children, not just children, but since Vanderbilt has a larger scope than just Nashville, we'll call it a million.) The entire country of Guatemala has (I believe he said) 14 million, seven million of whom are children. And I'm pretty sure he said there are 16 surgeons for those seven million children.

This is not the venue to debate socialized medicine, but I will tell you, dear readers, it scares me to death. I am sure that my daughter would not be able to have a surgery in July and then another one in September if we lived in a country with socialized medicine. I know that medical costs are astronomical for those who do not have good insurance, and I do know that many things about our system need fixing. I know for a fact we spent $5,000 on one test this year for our daughter that was a CYA test. There was probably about a one percent chance she had an issue with her spine, but her surgeon had to order the test. If he hadn't have ordered the test, and ten years later we figured out she did fall into that one percent, we could have sued him. This is madness and it needs to be fixed. But, my prayer is that we do not scrap the good things about our system -- the excellent surgeons and hospitals like those at Vanderbilt -- while we try to fix what is broken. 'Nuf said.

I have a deep respect and fondness for my daughter's surgeon. He has been an excellent doctor for her and is a good man. I truly feel that God has guided his hands while he has operated on her. And the fact that he was doing medical missions does not surprise me. Although my daughter's case is not what I would call complex, there is no easy fix. She is missing some muscle in her body due to a birth defect, and her surgeon, not being God, cannot make muscle. So, he's doing what he can to help fill in the gaps. This is the second time he has done this procedure, but this time he did something a little different to see if it would work better. Today I am finding the results are not great. Last time we saw very good results in the days after the procedure, but after about two weeks, things went back to the way they were before. So maybe this time the results will be mediocre in the short term, but remain steady. That would be progress.

So part of me wants to cry and wants to yell and wants to rail against the fact that six years later we are still dealing with this same issue. The other part of me remembers the mom who was in the waiting room with me waiting for her 17-month-old baby to come out of a one-hour surgery, five hours later. We had a language barrier, but I caught the gist of what she was there for. A week ago her daughter had had an organ transplant from her brother. At first I thought it was the kidney, but now I think it may be the liver? It wasn't working yet, but the doctor said he was giving it a little more time. The night before, a line (I'm guessing to put medicine in) had broken inside her daughter and she was supposed to be in surgery for one hour to fix it. Five hours later, her mother was still waiting. I saw her after I had gotten Langley out of post-operative care. She was crying and distraught and going into the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) where the sickest of children are brought. I knew that we couldn't communicate well enough to ask her what was wrong, so I just told her that I would pray for her and her precious Amelia, and thankfully she understood.

So yeah, Langley's procedure may not have worked as well as I'd hoped. And yes as the Psalmist says, I will continue to "wait on the Lord." But I am waiting on a quality of life issue -- not a life-or-death issue -- of that I am well aware. So yeah, today I'm content to wait. And while I wait, you can find me over here counting my blessings.


  1. This is so not what your blog was about, but my family lived in a country with socialized medicine for awhile, and we never had problems with it. I don't think it is the issue of socialized or not as much as it is resources to educate those who want to become doctors and other issues that fall in the social spectrum.

    As aliens in that country with very little money, my parents were able to bring me into the world for about a hundred dollars. Living in this 'free' country with private insurance, I still haven't paid off my cancer test from 4 years ago.

    Again, not what you were talking about, but just wanted to comment.

  2. Oh, Lori, my dear friend, there are so many ways this post spoke to me. I forget too often to count my blessings.

    While you were reminded to count your own, I believe you were a blessing to Amelia's mom.