Hell is a Waiting Room

Sarah Cottrell Special Needs

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I am not a religious person, but I do believe in hell.

I visited hell on the scariest adventure of my life on a recent Monday afternoon when my husband and I were informed that our four-year-old son required surgery and that it would be scheduled for the following day. Did we have questions, they asked.

Will he be OK?!
Is this really necessary right now?!
What are the possible complications of this kind of procedure?!

This last question landed on my tongue and stumbled out in an awkward disarray of insistence and fear. The doctor looked at me and said, “Well, you know, there is always risk anytime someone is put under anesthesia and operated on.”

“Oh.” I think is what I said.

Minutes later my son was chatting away in my lap while we waited to be released back into the wild of our daily lives. He had no idea that in less than 24 hours he would be put to sleep and then endure a two-hour surgery.

Hell is showing up on time and being told to wait. 10, 20, 30 minutes slowly creep by before a nurse comes to call our son’s name. We get up with hands shaking and walk our son to the next room where he is weighed and measured. A nice young man comes in to explain how he will fall asleep.

The surgeon comes in and quickly explains a number of complications. He rattles them off as if he is reading something as bland as the list of ingredients off a box of cereal. Punctured lungs. Hematoma. Heart failure. Thrombosis. Death.

Our eyes lose light. We stare blankly at each other and silently wonder how the fuck we got to this part of this disorder that burdens our son. Were we making a mistake? Were the benefits really that great when we considered that our son might die?!

The doctors connect lines to our son. A large tube of white liquid that resembled Elmer’s glue is making it’s way to my son’s arm. I ask him, “Honey, can you count to 15? He squeezes his eyes shut and shouts out, “1, 2, 3…4” and just like that he is out. His little tiny body falls limp in my arms. His mouth is open; slack jawed.

Suddenly he is whisked away.

And just as suddenly my husband and I are told to wait.

The minutes stretch out into taunting hours. The clock ticks get louder and slower. I wonder if I am losing my grip. This is what my brain does:

Will he die?
Will his heart get screwed up?
Did I feed the dog before we left?
Will they puncture a lung?
I should call my mom.
Did I pack his favorite toys? Shoot…did I pack his toothbrush?
Wait…I heard crying! Is that him!?
Oh…it’s the TV.
It’s only been 12 minutes.
This place stinks like disinfectant and shit.
I promise to be a MUCH better mother when this shit is over.

The surgeon came out. He said our son would be OK. We both sighed a gasping sigh of relief. I cried. My husband had bloodshot eyes and held my hand so tight I lost feeling in my fingertips. I am sure that both my husband and I experienced permanent damage to our hearts and souls that afternoon.

Minutes later we were racing down a hallway toward our son’s bed where he was just waking up.

I’ll never complain about having to wait again.


About the Author

Sarah Cottrell

Sarah Cottrell is a stay-at-home mom of two boys in rural Maine. When she is not chasing children, cleaning disasters or yearning for wine, she blogs under the name .

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