Cammie is now home, up and about, but taking it easy. This is in no small part due to the prayers of many, including yours. Everything appears to healing up normally.
A hospital can be quite inhospitable. We never wanted to be there. Nope. We wanted to be back in our village in Africa—we were much more willing to take “come what may” there, than the “come what did” that first brought us here. The first week sitting in the Pedi clinic on the sixth floor of M.D. Anderson I was flat stunned at all the little bald-headed alien midgets, realizing full well we would have one of our own very soon. It was depressing. I am pretty outgoing, but my feeble attempts to enter into dialogue with other parents felt flat and fell flat.
The other thing that we discovered that makes hospitals somewhat sterile is that the professional staff, from doctors on down to patient care techs (who used to be called nurse’s aids) keep a “professional distance” from their patients. It is easy to understand why, especially in a cancer hospital. Objectivity is good.
By the way, Cammie didn’t have cancer, WE had cancer. And it took us a little while to realize what it takes to deal with aspects of an inhospitable hospital. We set about to get to know, and I do mean “know”, the medical staff. We were profuse with our appreciation and discovered that goes a long ways. And we genuinely attempted to get to know the names of everyone, especially those we had periodic contact with. The doctors and their PAs were easy—especially Dr. Jaffe and Dr. Edwards, both of whom we have known for 23 years now. Typically we would see the same nurse each time and that was easy. But we also got to know the receptionists at Pedi by name, the PCTs by name and even the janitors. Both Cammie and Judy are just excellent at this. And whenever Cammie is in the hospital not a single person comes in the room that she does not try to engage them in conversation—their name, where they are from, how long they have worked there, their family and so on (and pass a tract too if they are willing and the situation allows for it).
When we cleared the five year mark back in 1987, Dr. Jaffe said we could return to Africa if we wanted, but that he wanted to see Cammie every year for a checkup. Dr. Jaffe is himself from South Africa. And seeking a suitable gift for him by way of thanks for all he had done (not being able to endow a building in his name at that point) we presented him a stout leather shield from the area in Sudan in which we had served, complete with an Ostrich feather pom-pom on it. During the time leading up to this last surgery he casually mentioned to me that he still had that shield hanging up in his house.
I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere we morphed from patient to…something more than a patient. I realize this is a bit unusual, but we have the home addresses and phone numbers for a number of these care-givers and doctors and we keep in touch with them. After the last surgery we were waiting for the outcome and one of the primary PAs came by to see if we had heard anything. Dr. Vaporciyan, the surgeon, had just left and told us everything had gone well, beautiful in fact. We passed this on to her and she was so overcome she had to excuse herself. And we were touched that the successful surgery had touched her.
1595957 is her number. But Cammie is her name, and she is much more than a number.
We have discovered that doctors and nurses and caregivers are much more than their profession. We have discovered they are people too. Real people. People with names and a heart.
What’s in a name? Just about everything.
(undated, written sometime after her lung surgery in November 2004)