Stage Two – Major Rude has a heart

He was standing there for couple of minutes, behind the glass window separating intensive care room with a captain’s monitoring one, staring at Szymon, his vitals, and thinking what to do next.

“Remarkable…” Major suddenly broke the silence. “Take the epidural out and see if the normal dosage of pain killer will be sufficient enough. There is no point of poisoning him more if he shows such a high tolerance to pain.”

“Ok.” One of the two corporals that were in the room replied.

“I will come tomorrow morning to check on his progress and we will decide on what to do next.”

“Tomorrow is Sunday…” the other corporal stated.

“Not for him.” Major replied leaving out the captain’s entrance.

I saw him at the end of the corridor when I was coming to change M in the room. We were trying to take shifts sitting next to Szymek’s bed. There could only be one parent in the room, as this is intensive care, and the stool was very uncomfortable, therefore we tried to change every few hours. We needed to leave the room for the night and could sleep in his standard training room with two other parents. At first the thought of leaving him alone for the night was terrifying. Soon we saw that if Szymek needed us during the night corporal would rush and ask us to come. Otherwise they made sure he is well taken care off and we finally were able to get some rest.

“What was he doing here, today…” I started to wonder when seeing Major limping out of the facility. “It’s late in the evening and today is his day off.”

“Szymek is sleeping now.” M welcomed me in the entrance to the intensive care room. We decided to step out together, sit on the chair in the waiting room and chat for a while. We had very few chances to talk freely in past few hours, as one of us constantly needed to be with Szymek. Therefore, we used all the opportunities we had to at least exchanged few sentences in the corridor when we were switching places.

“How is he feeling?” I asked.

“With every hour much better. When he first woke up, he looked around and went back to sleep. This happen couple of times and each time he showed more and more strength. And few hours later he even tried to sit down. Like he would not do much with the fact that few hours back he was half open and having serious surgery performed on him.” M started to talk.

“He is incredibly strong, physically and mentally…”

“Major was here…” Meg informed me.

“Yes, I saw him.” I have reacted with a surprised.

“He checked Szymon’s status and decided that he will take out the epidural to see how he will cope being only on pain killers”

“This guy really surprises me. One day you would want to strangle him and the other he is caring more about your child than anybody else so far.” I replied with a bit of nerve in the voice.

“One of the corporals told me today, after asking me how I feel and I told her a bit of what we just experienced, that this is his style. He will be very unpleasant to the parents but will take huge care for his cadets. Sometimes even strangely jeopardises their flight to heaven for no reason.”

“Hmm…really?” I was still not fully believing in what Mag was saying.

“Yes, she was telling the story of her ten-year-old daughter who was suffering from belly pain. She started to go to different captains with her, first normal one from the day care camps, to find a reason for this severe pain. They started to examine her but could not find much so they were giving her different drugs hoping some will work but it didn’t. Then she decided, being a corporal in this facility, to try with captain’s here, but not many could of them could help and find the reason of her daughter’s pain. They looked from left to right, did plenty of scans but there was nothing special about her. No clue to what might be causing this pain. She started to worry and got very desperate as she could not easy the suffering of her little one. In her desperation she approached the Major asking for help. He, in no time, took her daughter to the surgery room and open her up. He said it should be standard, 30 min, procedure when he will open her up and look from inside hoping to find the reason for this pain knowing that it is much better to look this way. The surgery took 3 hours and when he left the room, he approached the corporal and told her that he just jeopardized her daughters’ flight to heaven, which in best case would happen in the next few days. There was a strange knot in her body causing bowl necrosis. If he would not cut it out this dead tissue would cause her death in the coming days. He saved her daughter’s life and she will always be grateful for that.”

” Remarkable.” I reapplied. “Well, let’s put it this way. He can be as mean as he wants to be to me, until he is doing all he can to jeopardize Szymek’s flight to heaven and leave him with us.”

When your child is close to dying you put away your pride, hide your ego and swallow all the nasty things people are throwing at you just to be sure nothing bad will happen to your little one. You will do all for him to be healthy again. To be a day longer in your arms.  You will take it all, as this what a real love is…

Eyes of curiosity, eyes of compassion

“With my eyes shut I sense your peeking, gazing, even when you’re trying not to show your curiosity. I feel your sight even when you think it is unseenable. In those short moments where our eyes meet…which last a life time to me. Don’t be scared to look deep inside.

A small window to my soul, I hoped to be small enough to hide my fear. And while looking back at you I could see what you see, it still did not give me full confidence I was able to cover it fully. Hide the reason why I’m here. Yet, it is not me who feared the most. You worried your child will catch it from mine. The uniqueness which you don’t have.

Don’t allow your superstitions take you over. You are perfectly safe, you can not be infected by his touch, by his smile. Don’t be scared to say “Hello”, simple “Hi”. Those few words in moments like those will allow us to take our minds off what is happening. Will give us a moment of rest from this heavy burden.  I am not asking you to lift my cross and carry it for me, just to pretend we’re no different, we are the same.  And I know it’s not true but let’s pretend. Can you do this for me?”

Funny how life can lead you to places you never thought will be given to you to experience. In the facility we were currently staying most of the cases were very trivial, minor to us. Not really life-threatening i.e. broken leg, or some minor surgeries. And we came here with serious case, where the surgery does not have to go well. This could mean we could be facing a situation where we did not even have a chance to properly say goodbye to our son. Szymek could just fly off to heaven and we would be informed afterwards.

It took only a day the news to spread, which cause for us to be on the spotlight. This was due to blood transfusion, which we needed before the procedure. Here, it was quite a unique thing as you don’t need it other cases. To our misfortune the blood came late at night making this even more spectacular event. Due to the big windows in the wall, and the need for having full light during the transfusion as we needed to make sure Szymek will not get any allergic reaction, next room neighbors had to be also awake. It was then, when curiosity filled their hearts and they have started to wonder why we are here. What was bringing us to this facility and how fatal it was since we needed late evening blood transfusion. A procedure already common for us, as this was quite often in the recent days, completely strange to them, causing more attention than really needed. From that moment on, we had their curious eyes constantly gazing at us, trying to find out why we are here.

It did not help when later in the week, after the surgery Meg or I was coming back to this empty room to get a bit of a shut eye while Szymek was staying in the semi intensive care room. This caused speculations if all went well.

“Don’t be afraid to look me in the eyes. I am not a monster, who will hunt you down. I am no different from you in a need of compassion. I still fully understand you because few months back, before all of this, I would too wonder why you’re here. Same as you, I would not have a courage to speak up, to say few words that will comfort you. Be more than me, be better than I would have been if I would be standing in your shoes. Just say, “Hello…”

Stage Two – Major Rude

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. “