(It's actually hard to sit down and remember all of this in order. Some of it remains a huge blur. Anyway, a little more for the memory store today.)
With morning came the news that there was indeed staph infection inside of Jeff's hip joint. MRSA? MSSA? The labs would have to be cultured in order to find out. They could not afford to wait to see what kind of infection it was, nor how far it had spread. Jeff was one sick guy - still going thru cycles of shaking, sweating profusely, high fever, intense pain, then medication to relieve the pain, then nausea. He had very few moments of being alert and aware.
A cavalry of doctors came through his room: Infectious disease, the orthopaedic surgeon, and our regular doctor. Where did this infection come from? To this day, we still don't know. There were no obvious wounds, no dental work nor abscessed teeth. Did the infection linger in his surgery site for three years? The doctors felt it was unlikely, but they wouldn't rule it out. Staph infections can be so subversive, so sneaky, so tenacious.
I was allowed to follow him to surgery prep, and to kiss him goodbye at the swinging doors. There was so much I wanted to say - but it all happened so quickly. He wouldn't have heard me, nor remembered me anyway. I couldn't quite believe all that was happening.
The surgeon came and spoke with me before surgery began. He explained what he planned to do. He would go in through the previous surgery site - a 12 inch scar - and take Jeff's entire hip apart again. He would need to see how much infection was present, how much damage had been done. He would irrigate it and clean it out, douse it with antibiotics, and then put him back together again. This time, however, a strand of 17 antibiotic-emitting cement beads would be left inside Jeff's body, lying right below the hip joint. The cement "necklace" would stay in for several months, and another surgery would need to take place to remove them.
The surgeon is a brilliant, gifted man. He is known for his perfectionism. He's a bit crass at times, but it struck me that I didn't care one bit about his personality or quirks or even personal shortcomings. I was thankful that he was prone to perfectionism when it came to bone and flesh eating infections in my husband's body. You can believe that I thanked God for his wisdom and the skill that he had obtained through many many years of study.
The surgeon was a bit stunned when he heard that we had eight children at home and were expecting our ninth. (Our family doctor, someone who has become a friend, filled him in on our family.) I think (no, I know...because he told me so....) that he was well aware of the weight of responsibility he held in his hands. Nine kids, potentially fatherless, if he could not eradicate the staph. He looked me in the eyes and said, "I will do my best to save him and his hip, too. I will treat him as if he were a member of my own family."
And then, the waiting game began. I was alone and had been alone throughout all of this time. The kids were home alone as well. My parents live nearby, but my Dad does not drive. They are well beyond taking care of toddlers. In fact, I was supposed to be driving my father to an appointment with his endocrinologist this day. Also, the sentencing was taking place for the man who attacked our son. I had called the Prosecuting Attorney to let her know that we would not be at the courthouse. It was not due to a lack of concern or interest, but that we simply could not be there.
I was alone, but I carried with me and sat with the memory of another hospital, another time, another daddy, another woman and mother and children for whom the story did not end well. That story is not really mine to tell, but it impacted our lives (Jeff's and mine) in a really big way. Without invading (too much) a friend's memory, I will just share that around 14 years earlier, a friend of mine lost her young husband to a sudden staph infection. I had still vivid memories of bringing her 14 month old twins to the hospital the night he died so that she could nurse them. I remember walking the hospital halls with her - of her being handed his physical/material belongings in a plastic bag - and of her walking out through the hospital doors carrying her two babies out into the night - babies who still had not taken their first step. I remembered her with those babies and her 4 year old daughter, alone....alone for ten more years until God brought her another husband. I remembered her deep, deep pain and anguish day after day after day after day after day.
At some level, I had known that Jeff and I would face this very thing one day. Jeff later told me that he had known, too. We can't explain it - simply that in some way, God had let us know that we would also walk through this shadow. God did not tell us how it would end. We simply did not know. I did know what was possible with a staph infection. I had no naivete when it came to illnesses like this. I knew there were no, are no, guarantees.
And I sat alone with those thoughts in the waiting room for hours. I was too numb to pray, nauseated at everything, hated being the nearest relative responsible for the one in surgery, yet loving him so much and being so very willing to carry this pain and responsibility for him. I hated that it was me, but was glad that it was me. He was mine, had been since I was 17 and he was 18, and I would gladly go to the edge of the grave with him. I'd go further, if I needed to.
On second thought, I was not even physically alone. I had a tiny little baby with me who brought me great comfort. This little one and I would go through a lot together in days to come.
I knew the Lord was with me, and with Jeff and the kids - but the trust and the feeling were purely cerebral. I felt nothing - no guarantee - only the knowledge that I had to keep walking, keep waiting. The groundwork for faith had been lain years before, and now, faith was not dependent upon feeling nor upon outcome.
I couldn't really pray - but that seemed beside the point. I knew that God knew my thoughts and requests, as surely as any good friend would have. He simply knew.