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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Courage Smells Like a Hospital

We walk into Children's Hospital holding hands.  You are terrified.  You have already endured numerous operations, but at age eight, this is the first one you have faced with some idea of what is happening.

You are trembling.

Minutes seem like hours.  They test your oxygen level, take your blood pressure, ask a million questions.  I have kept as much of this as possible from you, but you sense my distress.  I have told you that you will have an operation.  I will not lie to you, but you guess that I haven't given you the entire story.

You cling to me.

The smell is all-pervasive.  It is an antiseptic smell, an indefinable "no smell”: cleaning fluids, anesthesia, rubbing alcohol, all mixed into one.  It almost hurts to breathe it in, like too clean air invading my lungs, leaving them empty.   I know you will remember it.  In the future, something will trigger the memory of it and you will relive the terror of today.
They take us to pre-op.  Here the smell is more definable: sharp, astringent – like sandpaper as it rakes past my nostrils.
You look at me, and your eyes well with unshed tears.  You know that this is one of the "biggies."  They will take a large portion of bone from your tiny hip and replace the missing bone in your upper gum line: the alveolar ridge.  You sense that it will hurt.

You are afraid.

The smell is starting to make me ill.  Or is it fear?  Once again, I will be turning you, my baby, my little love, over to strangers.

They will cut.

The anesthesiologist arrives and takes your hand.  You look at me with glistening, tear filled eyes, and smile.  Your back straightens.  Your chin lifts and just as those big double doors swing shut, you raise your hand and sign, "I love you."

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch 

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