I arrive in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport at approximately 6 AM with just a carryon. It’s a breeze to go through customs and Laura welcomes me at about 6:15 AM. We head straight to Kaiser Permanente’s Acute Care Center. When I arrive, we have all of the test results and Laura gives the doctors a quick update on what has been happening as they check me in. They put me on IV fluids right away and take labs. The next thing I know, I am being taken down for a CT of my midsection. I am thinking how great it will be to get this fixed so that I can get back in the game and supporting the work in Peru. The scan is not difficult and I enjoy the warm blankets that they provide for the patients. When the scan is over, I am returned to the waiting room and the doctor comes in to talk with me. She asks me where my wife is and I tell her that I will give her a call and have her come back in.
Laura arrives and the doctor begins to talk. She tells us that they found a mass growing on my pancreas. It’s blocking one of my bile ducts and that is what is causing the yellowing of my skin. I need to be transferred right away to Emory Midtown for a stent placement to relieve the blockage and further evaluation.
I ride the ambulance transport to Emory Midtown. This is where it starts to get real. Laura is not allowed to ride with me, and they are required to use the ambulance, so I cannot ride in the car with her. I am feeling shell-shocked as I bump along the highway in the ambulance. On some level, I feel a bit incredulous. Almost like I am in a dream sequence that I am about to wake up from. But the presence of the EMTs and the ambulance moving through traffic continues to establish the fact that this is real.
We arrive at Emory Midtown and they take me out of the ambulance. The entrance to the hospital is having technical issues so there is a delay as we wait for someone to open the door from the inside. Once inside, we begin the long journey through the backside of the hospital and up to the room that awaits me.
My room is at the end of a long hall. It’s a large room and has a small window in the center of the wall that looks out into the courtyard below. The EMTs help me move from the stretcher to the bed. They bid me farewell and tell me that a nurse will be coming by soon to check me in. And that is it. I am alone. Just me. In this foreign room.
I look around for something familiar. Something that will tell me that things are going to be ok. I see a bird land on the window ledge outside. I think of my friend Becky and how 27 years ago a bird was a sign that she needed to see one day that told her about the baby growing in her abdomen. A baby doctors said she could never have!
I think to myself, “is that You God?” As soon as the thought enters my mind a second bird immediately appears on the ledge. In a moment, I know I am not alone. God is going through this with me. He is here! I am unable to explain the relief and sense of peace that washes over me. It actually confounds me because of all that has happened in the last eight hours.