Friday, February 26, 2010

La Verna awaits Debbie

Joanne and I had arrived very very early at the hospital the morning of surgery. Debbie's daughter Hillary took the elevator down and escorted both of us up to the surgical prep room. Debbie joked with Dr. Giannotta’s nurse that she fully expected to come out of the surgery speaking fluent Italian, since Dr. Giannotta was Italian.

We had a few minutes with her and then waved bye to Debbie as she was wheeled into the surgical suite. She was holding a baseball cap which was imprinted with the design of a human brain. I think it was a gift for the doctor.

We waited in the hospital lobby with Debbie’s family. We played games, read, ate snacks and prayed. We waited for hours. With my BlackBerry I wrote email updates to one person at work, who in turn forwarded them out to everyone.

Suddenly, in the lobby, costumed British Christmas carolers began singing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” In that same moment, Dr. Giannotta’s surgical assistant appeared walking toward us. I searched his face to prepare myself for his news. He told us, Dr. Giannotta was done and would join us shortly. We had no hint as to whether the news was good, bad or in between. I quickly emailed this information to work.

After another wait, a tall, smiling handsome doctor walked briskly toward us.  So this was Dr. Giannotta!  He had good news! Debbie had survived the surgery, but even better, he felt he had removed most of the tumor. It was not cancerous. A small portion was firmly attached to the brain stem and he had to leave as it was dangerous to disturb. This had been the blood source of the tumor. He felt that the tumor would not grow again. He gave us hope that Debbie would not suffer any ill effects from the tumor or the surgery. He thought she would go on to live a normal life. I stepped up to him and shook his hand and said “Thank you.” Her family just stood there stunned and immobile. Debbie had survived.

Dr. Giannotta's nurse told us we could go in pairs to look in on her in the recovery room. Joanne and I took our turn last. Debbie was peacefully sleeping. She was beautiful and serene. We were pleasantly surprised to see her hair pulled into pig-tails, one over each ear. Her bangs were in place. I was glad Debbie would wake up to see herself in cute pig-tails and not with a shaved head. Weeks later, we were able to see her scar, which went fully down the back of her head.

While Debbie recuperated at home, we were busy at work formulating a PLAN. The plan grew and everyone participated. It was decided that Debbie needed to go to Italy. We collected enough money to pay for both Debbie and her husband to make the trip.

Several months after the surgery, we held a welcome back to work dinner at a co-worker's home. We had pot-luck Italian. At a certain point, background Italian music began to play, which was the "signal" to everyone. The party chattering went silent and our hostess handed Debbie an envelope. After she looked inside, she shocked us all by folding right over in shock. I thought she might fall to the ground. The joy was just too much. There was an abundance of emotion that evening.

Debbie had survived and except for feeling of hollowness inside her head, she was totally and absolutely normal. Her Italian dream was going to happen.

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