Last Thursday, October 6th, I lay on a gurney in a small waiting room before the start of a surgery that would repair a double hernia. I arrived at Aria Hospital in Oxford Valley at 10:15 a.m. It was now well-past noon and I was mostly bored and ready for the show to get started. A group of young people dressed in surgical scrubs wandered in the room. A young woman approached me and asked, “Mr. Stuart?” Yes, I said. “I’m a resident and I wanted you to know that we’re going to be in the operating room with you today.” I thanked her and her colleagues as I thought to myself: they’re going to see a lot of this middle-aged man shortly, probably more than they want to. I wasn’t bothered because I was about to check out; no problem for me, kids.
After twenty-seven years of standing where the young resident stood, I have a new perspective on surgeries and hospital stays. My surgery was same-day and could be called minor surgery. However, I did share my definition of minor and major surgeries with both congregations on Sunday. Minor surgery is when it happens to you; major surgery is when it happens to me.
I came away from my surgery with a greater gladness and a deeper thankfulness for nurses. God bless ‘em! As the son of a nurse, I’ve known of the incredible work they do for years. Throughout the course of my procedure, from the time I walked into the unit until the time they rolled me out in a wheelchair, those nurses were angels without wings. They provide care, information, and comfort with good humor, great strength, and unfailing grace. I read a wonderful thank-you letter in the New York Times written by a young husband. After his 34-year-old wife suffered a devastating asthma attack and later died, the Boston writer Peter DeMarco wrote the following letter to the intensive care unit staff of CHA Cambridge Hospital who cared for her and helped him cope. Read it with a box of tissues: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/06/well/live/a-letter-to-the-doctors-and-nurses-who-cared-for-my-wife.html?_r=0
My surgeon told me that I can’t lift anything heavier than ten pounds for four to six weeks. This week, I’m not interested in lifting anything other than my feet. But I know that if I keep feeling better, I will struggle to follow his directions. I’ve asked people to pray that God deliver me from being a typical jackass male.
Ten pounds is nothing. That’s a big baby, like one of our boys, but less than a big bag of canned food from the grocery. I can’t pick up my dog, she’s 50 pounds. I can pick up an empty garbage can but not a full one. I’m going to have to ask for help or order my boys to do the lifting for me.
Don’t lift anything more than ten pounds seems like good direction for carrying other kinds of burdens. I’m not quite sure what makes for a heavy burden—bitterness, jealousy, and unforgiveness all feel weighty to me. Don’t lift heavy things for 4 – 6 weeks. That also makes spiritual sense to me. Don’t carry that burden for months and years. Follow doctor’s orders and get well soon.