As we spooned the last of the broth from our steaming mugs of chicken soup, Tom and I reflected on our day. We don’t often sit in the ground level family room for our meals, especially when eating hot soup. Tuesday, however, was an extraordinary day that necessitated this. There Tom sat, on the couch, with me perched precariously on the edge of the recliner nearby, the coffee table pulled close, and a candle glowing atop a Christmas tea cloth.
Ten hours earlier, Tom was draped from head to foot, in an operating theater, with only his right eye exposed. After more than two years of treatment for several eye issues related to proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and a postponement for surgery when it was discovered he had major blockages of two arteries, Tom finally underwent the delicate eye surgery to remove an epiretinal membrane, brought about by long-term diabetes, and a vitrectomy, in which the vitreous was removed from his eye, laser treatment was done to the retina, and an air bubble was implanted to keep the retina in place. By 10 am, we were home, a patch on Tom’s eye and instructions to lay at a 95° angle, sitting up only to eat.
We ate, then we talked about gratitude; for good doctors and nurses and hospitals and for the ever-moving landscape of modern medicine and technology that continues to advance in directions undreamed of a few decades ago. We talked about how fearful we had been for this surgery and recalled the vitrectomy Tom endured more than twenty years ago, spending the night in the hospital, on his back for weeks, and the pain he experienced. Advanced technology and equipment now allows doctors to perform eye operations with more and more exactitude. Newer drugs allow for patients to be sedated, rather than completely anesthetized, making for quicker recoveries, especially for the diabetic patient.
We marveled at doctors who are not only experts in their specialties, but who are more aware and respectful of the patient as a whole being. Tom was able to wear his insulin pump the entire time of the surgery. At his endocrinologist’s coaching, he was able to adjust insulin for the pre-op time he would not be able to eat and for the surgery. Tom controlled this, as well as checking his blood sugar, except for the hour of surgery. His wonderful retinal specialist, as well as the anesthesiologist, endocrinologist and the cardiologist worked in tandem to ensure the best possible medical scenario.
We spoke of hope; for Tom and a future where we will not know for many months what vision he will have in his eye, though certain that without the surgery there was no hope. Tom spoke of hope for all the children who have Type I diabetes, and for their parents’ hope as well. These children will have an easier row to hoe as they grow to adulthood, careers, families and a life much improved in the treatment of this insidious disease.
As we finished our simple supper, reflecting, it was all as if the steam from the nourishing, hot soup was grasping our gratitude, marvel, and hope, in spite of a brittle situation, and carrying it upwards like the anticipatory candle of this Advent season.