After we got settled into a room, Beth and Don left to find a motel nearby. Don was so sick…throwing up and such. I really didn’t want him to be around Adam in case he was contagious. They immediately began working on Adam…more x-rays, blood work, scans, another 24 hour urine collection. The plans were for Mom and Pop and Don’s Mom to come up the next day. The surgery was scheduled for 6:00 AM. They were planning to be there by then. I met with the surgeon and liked him a lot. Adam was still sick from his ear infection and cold, and during the night, he spiked a fever of 103. After this, the DR. came back and said he would put the surgery off til the next day due to his high temp. So, I called Don and told him to just sleep in the next morning and called the family to tell them not to rush to get to the hospital.
As I sat there in that room, I prayed so hard. What was going on? Is this real? Am I dreaming? All I wanted to do was run…fast and far. I remember asking God to take control of this situation. I had my Bible and kind of clung to it like a life preserver. I would open it and read, and pray, and read…and wait. I asked God to tell me what to do…to let me know He was there…to save us from this nightmare. I wanted to hear His booming voice saying it was all taken care of. But, I didn’t hear that. I didn’t hear anything. I wondered what was to come…I wondered if God even heard what I was saying. I was not nearly as strong in my faith at that time as I am now, and this was a sure test of that faith. Finally, I dropped off to sleep, and at about 6:00, the surgeon came in. “Mrs. Owens”, he said, “I have a feeling that I need to operate on your boy…now! I never operate on a child with fever like this, but my gut tells me to get in there now. Will you give your permission.” Well, what a way to wake up! “I have spent the greater part of the night praying”, I said,”so if you feel that strongly, then I feel like the Lord is leading you.” So, I gave permission, and he picked up my little boy in his arms and off they went…down the hall, onto the elevator…and away. Just like that. I had no time to call Don, or family, or God. I had to make a decision right then and there and pray it was the right one. What a feeling it was to be there and know my baby was in a fight for his life. They had told us the night before that his type of cancer…ganglioneuroblastoma…was usually discovered during the first year of life…the later it was discovered, the greater the likelihood that it had spread. They said we would be lucky to have him for a year. A lifetime can not be crammed into a year.
I quickly called Don and Beth and the parents, and they spread the word. They all began to make their way to the hospital. I had to give up our room and go to the intensive care waiting room to wait. All our belongings packed up, and moved with me, into a little room that came to be a “hell on earth” to me. This was in 1978, so the smoking rules were non existent. This dungeon like room was dark and had chairs all along the outer walls and a row down the middle. There was very little room to walk. Some of the people had been staying there for weeks, so they had little homesteads set up. People asleep on the floor, in chairs…and more than half of them smoking. No windows in this room….just a coffee machine, 2 televisions, about 30 people, 1 pay telephone, and enough cigarettes to circle the globe. I have never been so miserable in all my life. And, there was no other place to wait unless you sat on the floor in the hall. When they would go get food the odors of the food would float on the smoke and stay there for hours. Hell-on- earth. But, this was the only place we could stay for the next 4 days. So we did. These people were in the same position I was. They were hurting, too. Their children were fighting for life just like mine. Being so young myself, there was much I didn’t know about human nature. Things like desperately ill children can bring out the worst in people and families…or it can cause you to cling together and draw strength from each other. It causes some to lose every bit of dignity they have. Some lose all restraint, and don’t care what they say or do…or who is nearby. What I observed those days sitting in that waiting room taught me much about people…a real lesson in life.
Don got to the hospital while Adam was still in surgery, so he was there when the dr. came out to tell us the news. He said, “When I opened Adam up, I could see the tumor. It was on the adrenal gland. It was visibly bulging and could have burst at any moment. I think we got it out still encapsulated. But, if we had waited another hour or two, it would have been too late. He could have died from the tumor bursting, and if not it would have sent the cancer all over his body. We did the right thing.” Friends, I hugged Don, I hugged the Dr., and I sent a hug right up to God! It was so evident to me that I had just seen God at work. This was the first of many, many lessons I would learn about letting God be God and following His will. The first of many.
Adam went straight to ICU, and when we went to see him, he looked so pitiful…my heart was torn in two. He had no clothes on and was crying for someone to put his diaper on. He was not completely potty trained and still wore a diaper at night. He had 2 drains coming from his abdomen, a tube down his nose and IV in both arms. Now, he was and had always been a thumb sucker. He arms were restrained and he was unable to get to his thumb. All he would say was ,”Put on my diaper or give me my thumb.” I got the nurse to give me a diaper and I laid it open on top of his bottom. They could not put it on him because of the incision. But that satisfied him. Then they let me hold him and while I held him, he could suck his thumb. What a comfort for him. When they found out that I was a nurse, and was not going to freak out , they moved him into a little side room sort of by itself, so that I could stay with him more. When the Dr. came in, a few hours later, Adam said, “please give me my thumb.” The Dr. looked to me and I asked Adam if he would promise not to pull at the tube in his nose. I told him if he did we would have to tie his hands back down. “I pwomise, Mommy”, he said. We untied his hands, and he never once tried to pull it out. Boy that was the best medicine in the world for him at that moment. He was able to sleep and rested quieter for the rest of the time. We spent the next 4 days there…parents, family, friends…pulling together for the life and well being of this little boy. Watching God work,,,feeling the strength only He possesses…knowing the peace that only He can give.