„ I will put on your path thick-skinned, rude and unpleasant people just to teach you humbleness. As it is easy to surround yourself with those who praise each word you say, each thing you do, but they will not teach you anything. They will just feed your ego, which will grow to the size of your whole world, covering what matters. Leading you to places where I will no longer be willing to protect you. I will put those people on your path not to make your life more miserable, but to show you, that if you peal their thick layers, you will get to their enormous heart. As this is their way to protect themselves from cruelty of this world. Their only way to make sure they will not lose their kindness and motivation to help the ones, which need their support the most. Therefore, take what they give you, as this is just to test you. Try and see if they can trust you. And once you pass their exams, they will feel safe enough to show you their real face. The one, you could not imagine they might even have. Just be humble, wait and see.”
New place, new challenge. We got used to our main facility, to our corporals, the way how they treated us, way how certain procedures looked. Hence, when we entered this new facility, located in the south, it shocked us how things can differ. It was a county training facility without any distinction between children and adults, until now our facility was for children only. Here there was only one section of the building dedicated to the young ones. This, to some extent, caused the staff to be less caring, as they did not distinguish too much between young or old cadets. And even in some cases they seemed less qualified, having more general knowledge rather than uniqueness specific.
The rooms were quite big, enough to fit three people without a need to bump each other each time you move a round. Here, the camp beds were already supplied, so there was no need to carry your own. What was strange for us, as we saw this for the first time, was a big glass in the wall, which separated the rooms. It allowed you to see even far to the end of the corridor, peeking on what your roommate was doing. This lack of privacy was annoying for us and unpractical. Especially, at night when your neighbor turned on the light, as he needed to check on his child. It easily could wake up your kid due to no shades on the window. Still this was something we managed to quickly get used to, knowing, that we will not stay here for long. We knew those few days will bring us something bigger to worry, than peeking neighbors.
“And here we have a two-year-old boy,” said Major Rude entering the room with group of young captains, looking more like interns than full time personnel. “He has very special uniqueness, not often seen and operated here, called neuroblastoma forth degree. Tumour is located on the adrenal gland. We will run some blood tests today in preparation for tomorrow surgery.” He did not even care to look at us. Like we were just extras in his magnificent play. You could feel this anxiety in the room where no one dared to speak up. It is fully opposite to what we experienced before, where each time there was a captain’s round entering our room in the centre, first thing Major D did was asking how Szymek feels and how we feel. Seconds after, she asked if there are any questions and reassured us again, that he is in best of care. Here it was not the case. Here best would be to stand at the attention, not asking any questions.
And then it happened. Out of the old habits, where we felt a bit like a partner to captains, where they listened to what we had to say, Mag responded to what Major Rude was explaining to the interns and captains. She asked a question just to reassure herself if her thinking is right. If what were read online during our long nights of trying to find the answer to our reoccurring question “why?”, was still in line with what he is teaching now to those interns. As it seemed to be slightly contradicting with his opinion, as soon as the last words came out of her mouth, we could see how quickly anger was building up in his eyes. How he could not imagine that someone could question his authority, even unintentionally. He replied politely, but we could feel in his voice how big mistake it was to speak up.
“I am happy to address all of the question tomorrow at 8 a.m. in my office,” he said at the end and left the room.
“What did I do wrong?” Mag asked puzzled with tears in her eyes. “I just wanted to reassure if my thinking was right.”
“You did nothing wrong,” I tried to comfort her. “We are just in the place where we, parents, have nothing to say. And for sure cannot ask any questions, especially in front of his audience.”
We spent rest of the day trying to calm down, knowing Szymek could sense our feelings and better for him if we would not be nervous. There were couple of other smaller incidences, which surprised us, like corporals not knowing how to inject a needle into a port and at the end it had to be done by one of the captains. This never happened in CSD, as it was such a routine procedure, no corporal would bother captain. The lack of clarity on what will be given and when to our son annoyed us. And the fact that we were seen by the staff as an additional problem they had to deal with did not helped us in feeling peace and comfort needed in those kinds of moments. We managed to stay focused and tell ourselves it will just be few days and we will go back to normality. I left for the night hoping, Mag will manage to rest before the big day.
Next morning showed us that day before was just a foretaste of what we will soon face. I could not be with them from the early morning, as I had to join some urgent calls at work. As soon as it was over, I have passed the corridors to look for them, expecting the surgery to start already. I assumed Mag will be sitting somewhere on the chair and anxiously waiting to hear if Major Rude was able to save the kidney. This was the image I envisioned but it was not the one I have come across.
“I told you to come to my office in the morning in case of any questions. You are obviously not ready for this surgery! I will take someone in your place now and give you time till afternoon to decide. If you will not be ready by then you can go home! I will not operate your son!” Major Rude opened the door to the surgery room yelling at Mag, who was holding Szymek on her hands. She was all shaking and crying not fully understanding how we got into this situation.
„What the hack happened?” I asked Mag, shocked by the situation I have just witnessed.
“I don’t know” Mag replied whipping. “We were taken to the surgery room and just when they were about to start the surgery anesthesiologist asked me which option, I would like to have to secure Szymek afterwards with proper pain killers. Morphine, which may cause issues with breathing and longer convalescence period or epidural, which is much more recommended for us. I had a doubt since Szymek had spine metastasis, hence this might have some negative side effects, like bone crumbling. So, I turned to the Major and asked him a question, what he recommends and his just burst. He has started yelling at me that I am not ready, I was supposed to come in the morning but decided not too and did not even gave me a chance to explain why I couldn’t. The rest you saw.”
“Damn, with all the drama we have, why we need to battle with such a jerk. Such an ego bastard!” I was filled with anger, I knew there is no turning back. We needed him but could not understand why he is behaving in such an idiotic way. We came back to the room, made few calls, just to reassure, that the decision we are making is the right one and communicated to his assistant that we will go with epidural. A few hours later and we were sitting in the waiting room, biting our nails and waiting for the information how the surgery went. How much tumor he managed to cut out and weather he was able to save Szymek’s kidney.
He did not bother to come to us after the surgery was done. We just saw him wandering on the corridors. I assumed all went well since he was not showing any awkwardness on his face.
An hour later he came to us just telling that “Surgery went fine, your son is now in the post-surgery room, where you can go and be with him. I will tell you more when I will have a minute.”
“Can Major tell me if the kidney survived?” I asked nervously trying to get the key information from him.
“I said, I will tell you more when I will have time” he replied rising his voice.
I knew there is no sense of pushing him, just needed to wait.
A few more hours passed by. Mag was sitting with Szymek in the post-surgery room. He was hooked up to all bunch of equipment showing his vitals. From time to time opening his eyes but without a strength to do anything more. And you could feel, when seeing him in this hard state, like somebody would be taking a long skewer and puncture your heart slowly enough to make sure you feel each inch of it, entering your body. And only relief was coming from the fact that the surgery went well. When I saw him wandering again on the corridor, I could not wait any longer. I have approached him and trying to poke him a bit, joke just to get his attention. I said, “Mr Major, can you please end this thriller and let me know if you manged to save the kidney?” Minute I finished my question I knew that it was a bad idea.
“Thriller?!? This is funny to you?! I said I will inform you how the surgery went when I will have a minute. Do you see this woman?” He pointed to a woman standing next to the doors to his office, all in tears. “I need to tell her news, which I hate to tell. Tell her information that will cause that she will not be able to walk out from my office on her feet, but apparently you are more important than her! You, people from the centre, feel that everybody needs to act like you are the kings and queens. Please let her wait and let’s be over with it. Go for your wife and let meet in my room in 2 minutes!” He yelled at me so loud that the whole corridor could hear it. And I was looking at him and not believing what I am seeing.
A few minutes later, after another lecture how disrespectful we are, we finally had a chance to tell him why we could not come to his office in the morning. We told him that we felt it is not necessary to bother him just before the surgery as we fully trust him to know what is best for our son. And finally, that we could not leave Szymek alone and coming with him had no point as we could not talk freely. He finally told us that, although he could not cut the hole tumor, the main success factor of cutting over 95% of it was achieved and he manged to save the kidney. It was not the message we hoped to hear, still back then fact of saving the kidney was good enough to hope for the best.
“Remember even when the world is humiliating you and you feel left alone,
I stand next to you to ensure nothing without my will is done. “