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The Day Time Seemed to Stand Still This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

My tired eyes tried to disobey me, they didn’t want to open, but the alarm clock insisted I get up. I slowly sat up, took a deep breath and then- in a feeble attempt to reject reality- pinched myself to see if I could wake myself from what seemed like a horrible dream. A sharp pang swept up my arms coercing me to accept that the dreaded day of my mom’s brain surgery had come. I fumbled out of bed, kicking the balled-up clothes left on my floor out of the way. Before going downstairs I peeked into my mom’s room and noticed her bent over composing a letter on her bed; probably for me or someone else in the family, in case the worst happened. She did that last time. I took in another deep breath, taking in her sweet smelling perfume. I turned around and rested my head against the hard wood doorframe and exhaled. Today was going to be a challenging day. Anytime a loved one goes to the hospital emotions rise and the hospital controls time for itself.

At 5:30 am my mom left before the rest of us. Before she left she gave me a huge hug whispering “Goodbye, I love you, God bless you, sweet dreams while I’m in the hospital. I left you a note on your pillow.” I stood there in her warm embrace, never wanting to let go. When she left, I felt empty, as if my house’s familiar glow and comfort had gone with her. As I trudged up my wooden stairs like I had done hundreds of times before I found myself unable to escape the nagging fears that I may have just hugged my mom for the last time. After getting myself ready I left for the hospital with my younger brother and dad. I told myself over and over that no matter what happened on that day I would have to stay strong for my family. The drive seemed longer and more uncomfortable than any other ride of my life; the leather seats felt sticky, I desperately tried drinking my “mountain fury” to stay awake but it tasted bitter, and even though I had brought my iPod I had no desire to turn it on. Every time I put a song on I felt it disrupted the mood. I wished I had driven with my mom. When we finally arrived at the hospital, the parking ramp seemed damp and ominous. We parked on the roof and made our way to a side door. We knew the way from the last surgery my mom had. Despite the early time the hospital had lots of people walking and running all around. Doctors and nurses talked in the hallways, and receptionists at their desks gave people directions. The coffee shop full of people talking, laughing, and crying pumped a swirling mix of coffee and other baked goods’ aromas into the air. We walked down the stairs where the wall on the right was a waterfall. The comforting noise of the water reminded me of a child’s nighttime sound machine. As we walked in the halls where the carpet turned to tile our footsteps echoed, but none of us spoke. We walked the all too familiar halls where the cream tiles and walls twisted and turned endlessly with a few paintings and directional signs on the otherwise bare walls. When we reached the correct office we asked the receptionist where my mom was in the prepping process. “One moment” she said as she left the room; my brother and I sat down to wait. This would be just a small taste of the waiting yet to come.

As I sat I turned my iPod on merely out of habit, not bothering to actually put a song on. I looked around taking everything in; the full room had many people whispering, praying, sleeping, and waiting. Some small exotic-looking fish swam in a tank against one of the walls; their tank had colorful rocks on the bottom and plastic plants for decorations. Next to my multi-colored seat a small wooden end table sat covered in magazines. I didn’t touch any for fear of germs, but I looked to see if there was a People one for my mom. Once I saw that the table lacked any sort of magazine I went back to looking at the people around me. The group appeared to consist largely of older adults, and many took note of my little brother and me. I think many found it strange to see kids in an oncology surgery waiting room. Most had Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and a few dared to break the silence with their whispers. The room had no scent except the hospital’s disinfectant sanitizer that pierced my nose with its pungent odor. The seats had a light padding but that did not help make them comfortable. Finally a nurse came through the door, bringing life into the room. “Christianas’ family?” My dad, little brother, and I all rose, bringing attention to ourselves. Having so many eyes on us made me uncomfortable; I felt as though some tried to telepathically send messages of blessings and hope while others glared in envy of our health. I felt a sense of relief when I walked through the doors to the next part of the hospital until I remembered that it led straight to the waiting beds full of sick people and their families. We walked down a hallway the opened up to a large room that used blue curtains to divide the space for patients. My mom lay in a bed located in the back right corner of the room. She had IVs in both her arms and was being questioned by a lady in scrubs taking notes: “Do you feel dizzy or off-balance all of the time or just some of the time?” For reasons I could not explain I instantly disliked this woman. “Well,” answered my mom, “I cannot stand up or bend over without getting dizzy, and sometimes it’ll just hit me if I’ve done a lot that day.” Something in her voice told me she shared my feelings towards the woman. “And can you tell me why you’re here today?” I made eye contact with my mom and knew from past experience that this was probably the twentieth time she’d had that question asked so far. “I’m having a brain tumor removed,” she pointed to her head “from right here.” The woman finally took notice of us, and quickly left almost like we shouldn’t have seen her. My mom breathed a sigh of relief and asked us how we were doing. She knew I had only gotten a few hours of sleep because we talked all through the night. I told her, “I’m fine, just a little tired.” and then asked who the questioning woman was. She shook her head and simply replied that she couldn’t even remember because so many had come and gone that she couldn’t keep them straight. I looked at my mom; she looked exhausted and had markings all over her head and neck to indicate where incisions and other medical tools would get hooked up and placed. She had several band-aids up on her arms showing me where the nurses had failed to start IVs and draw blood. This room would serve as our new waiting room while my mom finished getting prepped.

Another doctor came in and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist. I listened intently to what he said and began studying the room. The ceiling had an engraved design, almost making up for the bare walls and boring tiles. A single chair sat alone in the corner where my mom had put her things, and then a computer, swivel stool, and a sort of desk in the other corner. My mom lay in a white hospital bed that had railings down and a blue gown that pumped heat to keep her warm. The heat pump had a logo of a blue paw print that read: “Bear Paws.” Wires and tubes snaked all over the place, and a sanitizer dispenser hung on the wall near the curtains. As I sat down on the chair with my mother’s things, I noticed some pamphlets. Once I started looking I hardly listened to what he said. It was nothing new to me, for I myself have had five surgeries and my mom had already had two. It would be a routine procedure to knock her out, and after a while I became bored with what he said to us. My lack of sleep started getting to me; putting me in a foul mood. That mixed with my sarcasm made me think of hundreds of jokes and smart-aleck responses to the doctor. Some actually sounded pretty good, and I whispered them under my breath to my brother who thoroughly enjoyed them all; but stopped when he slipped and laughed out loud. After the man left my mom gave me a questioning look. I shared the best jokes with her, and even she laughed at them. One of my favorites was that I noticed a straight jacket tucked between the bed and railings, and asked her if she’d “been giving the nurses a hard time.” She told me it would be used in the surgery to keep her still but I just rolled my eyes in sarcastic disbelief. It was nice to see her smile and joke back with me. I then looked at the clock and even though time had passed it had seemed like it had taken an eternity. I looked again at my mom wishing I could instead lie in that bed, I hated the helpless feeling swirling around inside me, prodding my stomach making me feel nauseous. I knew my dad felt the same, and I turned to him next; his red eyes showed he hadn’t slept much, either. He had his usual smile on his face, but I deemed it a façade used only to try and reassure us, and maybe to even try and convince himself that it would all end up okay.

The next hour felt like a bunch of re-runs with the same situations; nurses would come in, take blood or give medicine, ask some questions (always including her birth date, name, and what she was having done) and then they would leave. As it got closer to the surgery time, we all got more nervous; although none of us would mention it. My whole body shook and my little brother couldn’t keep still. I noticed my dad shifting weight and checking his watch more frequently. My older brother hadn’t arrived yet or called to tell us his whereabouts. Finally my dad got a call from him, and he said he didn’t think he could make it until later. My mom said her goodbyes to him over the phone and my heart sank. I had wanted the whole family to be there together; for fear that we may never have that chance again. I could see my mom felt that, too, but she didn’t want him to feel guilty. Shorty after a nurse came into the room with a rolling bed, “Time to go,” she said. All of the sudden the morning that had seemed like it would never end had gone by too fast.

I wanted more time, but it had all disappeared. The nurses moved my mom into the new bed and started wheeling her away. I grabbed her clothes, purse, and my bag and rushed next to her side. Doctors and nurses passed us in the halls, and shoes and voices echoing throughout rooms. My breathing sounded quick and almost shallow. People in scrubs filled the halls; some rushed about while others stood casually and talked. We passed desk after desk of receptionists that had stacks of folders, sheets, and pens covering their desktops. We stopped abruptly, and the nurse told us we could find the family waiting room to our left, and we had to say goodbye to my mom now. I looked desperately at the lady wanting more time, but her eyes told me what I already knew; time was up and, there was nothing any of us could do but hope and pray. I held my mom’s pricked and bruised hand and forced a smile onto my face “Goodbye mom, I love you, God bless you, sweet dreams. I’ll see you soon.”She squeezed my hand back; and said goodbye. My brother and dad said their goodbyes, too, and then they wheeled her away. I watched her roll away from me and felt more helpless than I ever had before. My voice left me and my feet felt cemented to the floor. My mind bombarded me with things I should have said to her, but the hospital hadn’t allowed me the time. My dad put an arm on my shoulder and guided me to the waiting room. I held on to my mom’s belongings as tightly as I could; at that moment they were all I had left of her.

This waiting room appeared similar to the other except that it had wall dividers all around the room. The receptionist gave us a map to the cafeteria and a beeper that would go off if there were any updates on my mom. We found an area in the far right corner and without saying anything got situated. I sat in a chair by a divider, out of sight from anyone but my brother and dad. My brother sat on a bench, and my dad sat on a chair across from me. I felt exhausted but couldn’t sleep because of my nerves. A TV played in the room but I could only hear a buzz from where I sat. I got out my laptop and tried to work on my online Spanish class. I started a test and a few questions into it a pastor from our church came to pray with our family, and offered to take us out for breakfast. Since I couldn’t stop the test, I stayed in the room but insisted they go out. After I finished my test I tried to do more work, but mentally couldn’t focus anymore. It was still early in the morning, and I decided to just sit and let my mind wander. The cold room caused my hairs to stand on end. I heard low voices of families talking and typing on keyboards from others nearby. Every now and then the receptionist’s perky voice broke the otherwise low energy room’s darkness giving directions to a newcomer. I said a silent prayer for everyone in the room; then proceeded to pray for my own mom and family.

An hour had passed since my family left with the pastor when a nurse came up to me and asked if I was Christiana’s family. I said yes, and she happily reported to me that the surgery had just begun. It took all of my willpower not to cry; here I’d sat waiting for hours, and they hadn’t even started the several-hour procedure. I managed to utter a thank you and then curled up in my chair, eavesdropping on the father and daughter in the area next to me. The daughter rambled on and on about how she wanted to become a pilot while her dad continually shot her down. I took out my phone and found I had no signal. At that moment I wanted nothing more than someone to give me a huge hug, hold me tightly, and reassure me that everything would come out alright. I wrapped my arms around my knees and waited for my dad to come back. I felt so alone and afraid; I couldn’t keep my mind from envisioning the worst. I heard a doctor telling someone their loved one’s surgery went well and they wept with joy as the nurse took them to see them. Jealousy swept through me, and I couldn’t stand my aloneness anymore. When my dad finally returned with Pastor Pat and my brother, some relief swept over me. My energy had drained, though, and I finally gave in to sleep. I slept uncomfortably on the lightly cushioned bench that my brother originally had sat on, waking up occasionally when someone would burst out crying or laughing or from a nightmare. Finally after the umpteenth time of waking up, my body wouldn’t allow me to fall back asleep. My sore muscles cried to me about how uncomfortable the position I’d slept in felt, and I shook from the cold. My younger brother played his DS in what originally had been my chair while my dad read. I noticed a woman staring at me from across the room and moved immediately. I looked at the time and became worried that I hadn’t heard anything about my mom yet. I questioned my dad about how much longer it would take, and he said that the doctor had come while I was sleeping and told him it had “been a success.” At that moment I seemed to have more emotions rushing through me than there were medicines in the hospital. I felt so relieved but upset that I hadn’t known; I couldn’t believe I had slept through the doctor of all people and that no one had woke me up! I then looked at my dad and asked “Well where is she, then? When can we see her?” When he said he didn’t know, I stood up in frustration; all this time I’d had to wait, and he was fine with just waiting more? The time had crept to two p.m., and I for one was done with waiting. I went up to the receptionist and asked if I could see my mom. She made a quick phone call, dialing the number without even having to look. She informed me that my mom passed all her tests so far, and seemed very alert but I couldn’t see her for another half-hour or so. This greatly upset me; just like a child I wanted to see my mom now. I stormed back to our waiting area and started quietly ranting to my dad about how dumb it seemed to keep us waiting even longer, teasing us with her being awake. I felt joyful that she had made it through okay, but just as Thomas needed to see the holes where the nails were driven in, I needed to actually see my mom to fully quell my fears.

Finally a nurse came back and showed us the way to my mom. The halls looked the same as the ones I had walked in earlier, even though we had gone to a different area of the hospital. When we finally walked through the doors of the recovery room, my eyes darted to my mom immediately. A dozen or so other patients lay in beds nearby but I hardly noticed them. My mom’s head had bandages wrapped all around it, and she had tubes all over her. She smiled weakly, but didn’t say a word. A different nurse stood nearby watching over her. My attention then became fully devoted to my mom. I noted the adhesive marks on her skin where monitors had attached to her and studied where the bruising had started darkening on her hands and arms. A loud moaning came from a bed nearby as another woman came to. A clock ticked impatiently reminding me I had missed the whole school day and was now missing One Act rehearsal too. My mom struggled to lift her arms as she pointed her index finger to her wrist, asking the time. I told her “it’s almost three” and her eyes widened as she mumbled “Play rehearsal?” I told her I would skip it to stay with her, and she shook her head and said “no, you go. I’m fine.” I knew it would cause her more stress if I stayed and miss rehearsal than if I would just go and come back later. I said a much happier goodbye than the last one and left to go to my rehearsal, glad to still have my mom.

That day felt like the longest day of my life, and I think many would agree that many emotions rise when a loved one is there, and it manages to take time and mold it to how it wants it to be. I’m very lucky to have such a strong mom that made it through such an obstacle, and we’re very grateful for the doctors who did such an excellent job. Unfortunately we’re going to have to spend more time at the hospital as my mother goes through radiation and chemotherapy, but it should hopefully be a little easier since we can talk to her and have her awake with those treatments. And as scary as the hospital may seem I know that without it, and its employees, my mom wouldn’t have the chance at life that she has today.





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