This was our first child. A girl. We were full of hope and excitement as we made our way into the maternity wing. We were led into the large room which would be ours for the next several days. This was to be the delivery room, the recovery room, the visiting room, the hope-to-get-some-sleep room, and eventually, the why-are-we-still-here room. That was the plan.
Near the middle, there was a bed for my wife. On one side, there was a chair which would pull out into a narrow cot to sleep in. On the other side was a another chair, this one a bit larger. There was a bathroom, a handwashing sink, and a baby bassinet with all kinds of medical equipment and displays on it.
Though time dragged at first, the baby finally came out, and then things sped to a blur. The baby came out quietly. I glanced at the doctor and nurses gathered around, and no one seemed worried. They siphoned out the baby’s airway and she strongly announced her arrival and displeasure. One of the nurses called me over to the bassinet so I could be with the baby. I walked over and marveled at this tiny, fragile creature.
Unknown to us, a couple we had met in church a few weeks before was in the room next door, also giving birth. The doctor congratulated us and started taking off her gloves as she bolted next door. Since this was our first baby, I was a novice. I did not know what "normal" was. There were things I saw, but was not concerned with, at first.
Things like the enormous bag of blood at the end of the bed.
The blood on the floor.
The blood on the observation lamp.
The blood on the nurses.
One of the nurses picked up a cell phone and I overheard her call for the doctor. Evidently, the doctor was tied up and could not come this second. The nurse insisted, “Doctor, I need you to come right away.” Another pause. “Well, come as soon as you can.” Now, they had my attention.
Just minutes later, the doctor came in. After working on my wife for no more than a minute or so, she looked at me and smiled. “I’m going to take your wife to another room, where the light is better, so we can finish up, ok?” I did not have a chance to answer. Three or four nurses quickly came in gathered up all the hoses, sensors, and medical equipment, and wheeled my wife out.
Another nurse smiled at me and said, “We have to clean up the room a bit so we are moving you. Please gather your things and come with me.” She was out the door before I moved. I grabbed what I could and followed. I would have to come back for the rest. My mind was a whirlwind, and truly, I was too overwhelmed to know what was going on. A friend dropped off my mom, who had flown in that same afternoon. Mom stayed in the room and I went to the nursery.
Things finally slowed down and I looked at my watch. My heart dropped, and for the first time, I was scared. It had been several hours since they had taken my wife away and no one had come to give me an update.
I asked a nurse for an update. He did not know but would find out. That wasn't good enough for me. I found someone hunched over a computer, grabbing a bite to eat and typing something in. I apologized and interrupted, asking for information on my wife. The person absentmindedly, yet politely, answered over her shoulder. "Let me finish entering this in and I'll check with the nurses. Then, the person turned around. It was the doctor.
"Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry. Your wife is ok. They will be bringing her down shortly."
She sighed, breathed back in, and said," Well, your wife had a serious cervix rupture that was difficult to repair. It took us a while, but she will be fine. She's going to be weak for a while. She lost almost half her volume of blood and needed a transfusion. In all, we've given her 6 pints of blood. Rest and recovery will be very important because it will take her a month or so before she feels normal again. We'll keep her here a little longer for observation"
I remember the number because, when the doctor told me, I wondered how much blood I had donated up to that point. It's as if I thought there was some cosmic blood bank teller who would check my balance before approving the transfusion.
Of course, there is no teller. No one's keeping score. Even so, since then, I have tried to give blood regularly. If nothing else, simply because someone else did it for my wife. Somewhere out there, 13 years ago, people gave the blood my wife needed. I can't thank them, really. I don't know who they are. But I can be that person to someone else. So I will be. I don't need to be thanked, either. I'm simply paying back a debt.
A debt that I owe from a long time ago.
And a debt I hope not to incur in the future.
I strongly encourage you do to the same.