As I recently had shoulder surgery, I was reminded of the time that Aaron had surgery for a broken wrist. It was quite a few years ago, here in Wichita. I was busy in the kitchen that particular evening as I cooked supper. I didn’t pay much attention to Aaron as he walked in to where I was working until he told me that he had fallen outside and hurt his wrist. “Mom,” he said, “I was trying to be one of those people at the circus that walks on that tightrope. I was walking on the bricks around the porch and I fell off.” I told him to go sit in the family room and soon I stood over him, looking down at the bulging bump on his wrist, and fearing the worst.
A trip to the emergency room and an X-ray confirmed what we thought to be true……….Aaron did indeed have a broken wrist. He wore a splint until we could see the orthopedic doctor a few days later. The doctor said that he would try to set the wrist without surgery, but if the bones moved at all then surgery would be necessary. A couple nights later, I stood over Aaron in his bed and watched him have several seizures. There was nothing we could do to stop the jerking. And there was nothing we could do to change the outcome of that movement. Surgery on his wrist was scheduled after the next X-rays revealed that the bones had shifted out of place.
None of these events phased Aaron in the least. I guess God has gifted him with an ability to have no fear of medical procedures. He has always done better if allowed to watch while his blood is being drawn or an IV inserted. EEGs, MRIs, X-rays, spinals………nothing has ever really upset him. Gary and I are very thankful for that toughness! So the prospect of surgery was no big deal to Aaron, even as I was concerned about it and wondering how it would affect his seizures.
The morning of his surgery arrived and there we were at the surgery center, bright and early. Soon a nurse stepped out to usher Aaron and I into the prep area. I knew right away that the second she saw Aaron, she recognized that he had special needs. Nothing was strange about that. However, I soon realized that she thought Aaron was mentally challenged. I knew this because of the way that she spoke to Aaron. She was very nice, but she spoke to Aaron like he was a very young child instead of a young adult. She spoke slowly and deliberately to him, and she also talked in a sing-song voice.
She gave him instructions about undressing and about putting on the gown, all the while her voice lilting up and down. I hoped that she would soon see that Aaron had no mental challenges and would just talk to him normally. I stayed with Aaron, and soon he was settled on the bed. She returned, and began preparing him for surgery. “Aa….ron,” she slowly said, “this is a blood pressure cuff. Do you know what a blood pressure cuff is?” Aaron sighed loudly and looked at her as if she had three eyes. I knew that we were headed for dangerous ground as Aaron gruffly answered, “Yes!” He stuck his arm out as she continued half-singing and half-talking. “I’m going to wrap it around your arm and then it’s going to squeeze a little bit. It won’t hurt at all.” I wondered if her voice could possibly go up and down any further even as I noticed that Aaron was becoming more irritated. If only she knew how often he had worn a blood pressure cuff! As she removed the cuff, she said, “Very good, Aaron!” with all the enthusiasm and lilts in her voice that she could muster. And Aaron was not enjoying this one bit!
Everything she did was preceded by her elementary explanations to Aaron in her singing voice and drawn out words. “Aaron, this is a thermometer. Do you know what a thermometer is?” “Aaron, this is going on your finger but it won’t hurt.” “Aaron, this will stick a little. Good boy!” I was in a dilemma as I patted Aaron’s arm in an effort to calm him. Of course, she thought I was patting Aaron’s arm because he was scared when in reality I was patting his arm in the hopes that he wouldn’t lash out at her verbally by telling her what he thought of her silly voice. I knew that if I corrected her in any way in front of Aaron, he would say, “Yeah! I’m not dumb! You are!!”……….or some variation of that. Yet I kept hoping that she would lay off the singing voice and the simple childish talk to Aaron.
Finally, it was time for Aaron to mark his arm that was having surgery. As she handed the pen to Aaron, she sang, “Aa…..ron, I want you to put an ‘X’ on the arm that’s having surgery. Do you know how to make an ‘X’?” And there lay Aaron, who knew his alphabet before the age of 2, being asked by this all-too-nice nurse if he knew how to make an ‘X.’ I happily told him to just make the ‘X’ as he reached up and yanked the pen out of the nurse’s hand, and rather angrily marked a big ‘X’ on his right arm. She seemed oblivious to his simmering mood as she again sang, “Very good, Aaron!”
I was so very happy that she then turned and walked out of our little cubicle. Aaron immediately jerked his head in my direction and loudly exclaimed, “SHE’S CRAZY!!!” And I wanted to say, “Yes, Aaron………but she thinks YOU are!”………..yet I knew that I could not say that, so I just told Aaron that the nurse was being very nice and that he needed to also be very nice to her. She quickly returned and began her lilting talking again while I once again patted Aaron’s arm. And in total exasperation, Aaron rolled his eyes back into his head and gave a huge sigh. He kept his eyes rolled back as the nurse continued to chatter and I continued to pat……….and he now really did look like he had mental challenges. I just wanted to laugh, but I was trying to keep things balanced and I was hoping that Aaron’s eyes wouldn’t stick like that and I was pleading in my head for this oh-so-nice nurse to just hush.
I never dreamed that I would see the day that I was relieved to watch one of my children being rolled into surgery………….but that day had arrived. We had survived the lilting-voiced nurse without a major blow-up from Aaron. Yes, Aaron………..go to sleep now……….and let me go pray that our special nurse is not in recovery.
Thankfully, she wasn’t to be seen again…….nice as she was. But Aaron talked about that “crazy nurse” for a long, long time.