Posted by: trevormeers | August 17, 2010

The Longest Day

In July, a buddy and I went 40 hours without sleep during a climb in Colorado. It was a sprint compared to standing watch through Katie’s surgery in Iowa City today. Our day:

3:12am – Soft rain gurgling down the gutters outside sends our weather-demented dog on a mission to stuff himself into the laundry basket. The alarm set for 4am is foolishly optimistic. We’re up for the duration now.

4:35am – Start the drive to Iowa City as Teri scrolls her Blackberry through the long list of messages sent by people praying for Katie, her doctors and, thankfully, her parents. “If I had this phone for nothing but keeping in touch with the outside world on days like today,” she says, “it would be money well-spent.”

6:35am – Grab a seat in the packed waiting room at Day of Surgery Admissions. We sit beside a white-haired lady perched primly with a box of glazed donuts on her lap like she’s waiting for a train. Across from us, a guy in a Harley T-shirt breaks down the epic casino buffet he visited last week. “They had potato toppings stacked up to here, man!” he says. Katie wanders around in her jammies asking when we’re going to the park.

7:40am – A physicians’ assistant brings a marker into our pre-op exam room and scribbles on Katie’s neck. The nurse looks at her file and says, “The work your doctor does is amazing.”

8:05am – The anesthesiologist says, “Be patient. This procedure is rewarding. But be patient. It’s going to be a long day.” Teri puts on a mask and gown to carry Katie to the OR, which makes Katie scrunch her face into a laugh that I hold onto like the last breath of air before you dive to the bottom of a pool. I kiss her red head and quickly look down at my phone in search of something, anything that demands my attention right now.

8:17am – Teri returns, hands me Katie’s plastic toy star, tosses her mask and hairnet into the trash and says in an unsteady voice, “Ready?”

9:30am – Out for fresh air, we walk along the Iowa River toward the Old State Capitol. People jogging. People driving dump trucks. People acting as if it were a normal day.

10:32am – Check out the display of sock monkeys that volunteers make for pediatric patients. The Patient Services lady at the Day of Surgery Lounge says, “No news is good news” and invites us to visit the medical museum on the 8th floor. We go up for a peek, see an iron lung through the door and go back to the sock monkeys.

11:20am – The OR nurse calls to say they have “a good start” on the first procedure, which we expected to be nearly done by now. Worrisome.

12:41pm – Overwhelmed by thoughts of what Katie’s undergoing, I turn to Job to remind myself of Stuff God Knows That I Don’t. I get no farther than, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Enough said. Katie’s in good hands.

1:05pm – Lunch at an Italian shop in downtown Iowa City. Check the cell phone for missed calls every 47 seconds. Billy Joel plays on the speakers and a college girls talks about a party as I read that Vanilla Ice drew 8,000 fans at the state fair over the weekend.

1:30pm – Wander through natural history museum in Macbride Hall next to the Old State Capitol. Teri says, “I don’t think tapeworms and pig intestines are going to distract me. Let’s go back.”

1:45pm – Crossing the Iowa River in the rain as the cell phone rings. Procedure 1 done. Procedure 2 about to begin.

2:15pm – Check in at guest house for visiting parents and give Teri the shakedown tour, including hard-won tips on properly conducting oneself around the Everyone Fridge. 

2:45pm – Check in at Day of Surgery Lounge. The Patient Services lady says, “No new updates, hon. Why don’t you be back here at 4:15. You’ve got a long way to go.”

2:52pm – Realize, thanks to the public art program at the hospital, that adding sequins is an excellent way to repurpose old roller skates or a waffle iron.

3:05pm – Feel guilty that as Katie’s entering her eighth hour of surgery, I’m laughing over my brother-in-law’s blog about trapping skunks. Then feel grateful that my brother-in-law sent it today since it’s making Teri laugh.

3:30pm – Pastors and friends from church arrive for a surprise visit. We talk about Iphones, flooded basements and various topics that strike us all as funnier than they normally should. While plenty of family would’ve gladly sat with us, too, the visit reinforces the merits of fellowship from someone who doesn’t suffer from the same hair-trigger emotions we have today.

5:17pm – Surgeon arrives to tell us the operation has gone as well as he could’ve hoped. For the first time in six years of visits, he calls Katie “My Katie.”  He’s done this hundreds of times, yet he can’t help smiling. I want to hug a man whom I’ve never even called by his first name. I do hug our pastor (whom I’ve never called by first name, either) as our little church group huddles for prayer of thanksgiving.

6:25pm – Finally get to see Katie in intensive care. She’s plenty doped up, but looks better than we hoped. She hears my voice and reaches up to grab my finger. When I call my parents with the update, I’m happier than the night I called them to say she was born. I’ve come to understand the gift so much more.

9:00pm – In the low lights and quiet purr and beep of the room, I let the day’s emotions start to drain away like the early-morning’s rain. I look ahead to the long recovery and remember the perspective of Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons after Britain finally tasted its first victory against Germany. “Now,” he said, “this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”



  1. I am so thankful for answered prayer!! So glad to hear that the surgery went well, and already praying for a quick recovery. Thanks for the update.

  2. Thanks for sharing your day with all of us who are with you in spirit. Happy to send up prayers of thanksgiving…as well as for recovery. The Lord is blessing you and your family, which blesses the rest of us as well!! Sleep well!!

  3. Praising God with you and your family tonight! I could barely see the screen to read the end of your post through the tears flooding my eyes and spilling down my face. And to think that your abundant love for your daughter is just a glimpse of the love that the Father had for us when he chose to sacrifice his Son in our place. Overwhelming. Thank you for the update – we will sleep better tonight knowing that surgery is over and Katie (and her parents) are resting now.

  4. Praising God for wonderfully answered prayers. We will continue to pray Gods wisdom and quick healing power now for little Katie.
    Trevor what a gift you have with words, I’m still teary eyed and hanging on to such wonderful insight of how much our God truly does love and care for your precious little girl.
    Now on with recovery!!! 🙂

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