WELCOME TO OPERATION OBLITERATE
So, Saturday morning this happened:
Those of you who know Wilson know it’s a big day when you’re walking in somewhere and he says, “Dad, I’m really excited about this.” Shoutout to the saints at Chapel Hill Peds, the Durham office, for a smooth process. It is a gift to get the final human member of our household his first COVID-19 vaccine. I suspect I’m preaching to the choir here, but please, please, please get vaccinated. For yourself and for your neighbors and for people you don’t know but who are beloved children of God just like you are. Please.
It has been a pretty good week.
I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan (I’m fully aware of the conversation around the name and the chop, and I think its probaby time the name be changed and the chop discontinued). I remember going to a game with the youth from First Presbyterian in Savannah, where my parents served from 1979-1987, in the old Fulton County Stadium. I’m by no means a die hard fan, and confess to paying attention a little less in the lean years. Constant coverage on TBS growing up meant I had seen some of those years, though, as well as the amazing run in the 1990s, culminating in a World Series Championship the year I graduated from high school and started college. One of the many things I loved about the woman I met at Columbia Seminary as we began dating was that she was always game to come by my apartment in Decatur and we’d buzz down I-20, pull into parking at the back of one of the cheap lots at Turner Stadium. Carrie and I would get a $5 ticket and a $7 beer and sit for three hours up high over right field. Once we moved to Greensboro we’d spend many an evening watching Braves games, though for some reason the cable coverage shifted once we moved to Durham. Memories of those games carried me through our early family life together, which made it all the more special to have watched the playoffs – sometimes in the hospital and sometimes at home, with my boys. Sometimes in the recliner in Heath’s room, sometimes at Duke. Reliable sports on tv on long evenings, made more special watching a team you actually root for.
Heath was admitted back with our friends on 5200 on Tuesday morning. Carrie was with him through a day of prep and organizing, moving up to the floor, getting the play set. We switched off around dinnertime, right as the pre-meds began for the first infusion. One of the pre-meds is Benadryl, which means a serious NAP. I was sure to check and see when in the game he wanted me to wake him up if he was still asleep. The end of the second inning was the answer. I ate dinner, got some work done, and turned on the game. He was sleeping so soundly, and had been so tired, that I let him sleep a little longer, but I woke him up yelling when Jorge Soler hit that MASSIVE home run. We sat there together through the rest of the game, with the wonderful nurses coming in every 30 minutes to check vitals and increase the rate. The infusion ended around 11, then another short chemo infusion, then some IV magnesium, meant that we had plenty of energy and were still awake when Dansby Swanson fielded the ground ball, glanced at second, and threw to first for the final out, our arms shooting straight in the air just like Freddie Freeman. It was such a special moment to share, and to share together. I know, sports aren’t real life. But my goodness they sure give us a place to put our hopes and our dreams. I wiped a tear and I gave him a high five and then leaned over to kiss his bald head.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday brought its own series of infusions and pills, emptying the ostomy bag and consulting with the team. The chemo process went pretty smoothly. Much of the week was spent trying to figure out how to regulate his magnesium level. We realized recently his pills hadn’t been fully digesting, which meant trying each day a different combo of IV and liquid to see what worked and wondering if we actually needed to come home with his port accessed and give him infusions at home. But he ate and drank and gained some weight, took walks and did some school work and played Xbox. It was a lot, but especially in comparison to previous weeks, we’ll take it.
I spent the first two nights at Duke, and Carrie spent the last two – and did most of the days as well. I got some work done and had some great help from my mother who was here to help us Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. She was here just long enough to be able to see us bring Heath home today (Saturday). After that, I was able to rake some leaves and EB went to an amazing UNC game with Carrie’s dear friend from high school, Wendy, who was in town to watch one of her former students who plays for UNC. What a game! Carrie was able to catch up with Wendy a little afterwards, too. Wilson was Wilson, and Rosie got a playdate with neighbor dogs and is now passed out in the hall. I cracked a beer and am sitting by the fire typing this and watching a little football. Mostly, though, I’m filled with gratitude for a night with all of us under the same roof, as well as for all of you who have supported us and cared for us and fed us and prayed for us thus far. We’ll go back to the clinic tomorrow to check that same dreaded mag level, hopefully be at home Monday, then back again for a few hours for a procedure and another infusion Tuesday. There is always more to do. But, thanks be to God we don’t have to do this all by ourselves. And, for the gift of being able to enjoy your team actually win sometimes.