Ten months ago, on the morning of Thursday, April 21, my wife (Becca) had to be admitted to the hospital for chest pains. This was three weeks after she had a C-section and we welcomed our baby girl (Alice) to the world. It turned out that those pains were caused by gallstones, which led to a bad case of pancreatitis. While this is extremely uncomfortable, it is not a difficult problem to resolve.
It was supposed to be an easy fix. A scope to clean out the stones the following day, then some laparoscopic surgery to remove her gallbladder on Saturday, and we would have her good as new and at home by Sunday.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. We made it through both surgeries, and the doctor described the second and more extensive one as “textbook”. So, we went up to a room for her to recuperate and impatiently waited until we could go home and be with Alice.
Becca was groggy, in pain, and lethargic as she came out of the anesthesia. We figured once she rested, she would be better later in the day. We waited, and waited some more, for her to return to a more normal state. It didn’t happen. Actually, the opposite occurred. Her heart rate started to rise and it didn’t stop.
To make a long story short, Becca ended up having internal bleeding and being rushed into surgery. She ended up passing out on the surgery table as the doctors rushed to put blood into her. After about an hour of surgery, they were able to find the bleed and get her taken care of. She was then taken up to the Intensive Care Unit (ironically, she works there), where we would spend the next five days, before spending three more days in another part of the hospital.
These days were extremely difficult for Becca, our family, and myself. There were a lot of long, sleepless nights. On my part, there was a ton of worrying. I spent a lot of hours in the dark ICU room, filled with monitors and machines that Becca was hooked up to. I spent a lot of time just staring at green numbers on a black screen, and listening to beeps.
Throughout this whole crisis, we were extremely blessed and fortunate to have a family that took care of everything for us. Alice was spoiled the entire time we were gone. Our dog was well loved. My work was accommodating and everyone was willing to do anything they could to help us.
There is a bit of pressure that comes from this as well. So many people wanted to help that I felt obligated to give them a chance to. So, when Rob (you know Rob) texted me to check in and asked if I needed anything, I told him I wouldn’t turn down blue Gatorade and Chex Mix (I lived off of Gatorade).
I learned this day that a person should only tell Rob they want something if they truly want it.
Rob ended up bringing 20 bottles of blue Gatorade. He bought every type of Chex Mix they had in the store. He got Chex Mix that I didn’t even know existed (Movie Theatre Popcorn Chex Mix???). Grocery bags filled with Chex Mix and Gatorades! He looked ridiculous as he trudged through the hospital, carrying around a trunk’s worth of snacks.
It made for a great laugh and a much needed, light hearted moment. It also was practical as I ended up drinking every one of those Gatorades during our stay and munched on my fair share of Chex Mix. But what Rob didn’t know was the impact he had on strangers he would never meet.
If you have never been in an ICU room (first, good for you!) they are small and cramped. Tons of machines in there (and they don’t let you play with any of them!). So we had to store this stash of goodies in the waiting room with other items. That’s where our families spent most of their time as they only allowed a few people in the room at a time.
So, when the waiting room would fill up with other people who were dealing with their own crisis, my very outgoing father would try to spark up a conversation with them (I think mostly out of boredom). I walked out there one time to the room being filled with laughter and loud conversations. All of these strangers were acting like they were family, connected by the bond of the trauma they were going through. We opened any or all of our snacks up to them. Suddenly the ridiculous amount of Chex Mix Rob brought in had a purpose.
By the time we left, the stash was basically gone! Eaten by strangers! And we were perfectly happy about that. Everyone understood the hardship the person across the room from them was going through, and that created a connection.
The moral of the story is this: Don’t underestimate the power Gatorade, Chex Mix, and the courage to spark up a conversation with a stranger can have. We all go through tough times in life, and we all long for kindness and love during this time. Difficulties tend to show our vulnerabilities and insecurities. There’s no better way to support a person than to simply be there for them; whether that person is a close friend or a complete stranger. Trust me, I was in that position.
God uses little things to heal people. For me and a whole waiting room of strangers, that little thing was Gatorade and Chex Mix.