Monday, January 09, 2006

“I Will Wait For You.”

Along with, “Don’t forget about me” (see previous post), “I will wait for you,” could serve as Haiti’s national motto. We hear it frequently when we are leaving the country or when we have told a family we are searching for a hospital. They mean it too: they will wait.

Today, we are the ones waiting. Jackson’s surgery has been postponed until later in the week. The doctors are concerned about his liver function, though except for his elevated bilirubin (bile) levels, everything with this forgiving organ seems to be improving. The liver is making clotting factors, which is a good thing as when Jackson goes under the knife, his blood will need to clot. Because of all the diuretics, swelling all over his body, including his liver has decreased, and he feels much better.

It was hard to tell him this morning that he won’t be having surgery on Tuesday. Having lived with the pain of his dysfunctioning body for months now, he more than anyone is anxious for surgery. “Why aren’t they going to operate?” he asked. “They want you to be as strong as you can,” we reply. I don’t think this makes much sense to Jackson as he now feels as good as he has in awhile, and he knows he needs surgery to feel really good.

Walking down the skywalk to get a bite to eat, I bump into Jackson’s surgeon. We haven’t met, but I recognize his picture from the Cleveland Clinic website. This accomplished surgeon is shockingly young. He says that he doesn’t think the surgery will be on Tuesday, but later in the week after any additional liver problems have been ruled out. “We want him to be as strong as he can,” he reiterates. I tell him we have seen Jackson this morning, and his swelling is reduced. I tell him Jackson will do fine. The surgeon seems happy to hear about the swelling reduction. I thank him for the care he is giving Jackson. He says he is happy to do it. As he walks away he says, “I will take care of Jean-Baptiste.

So Jackson will wait for his surgeon. Haitians are used to waiting: they’re waiting for elections, waiting for a decent government, waiting to get to America, waiting to see a doctor. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. They are used to it, but I think the kind of waiting Jackson’s doing is a cruel though necessary kind. He's been in a hospital bed for almost two weeks, staring at the cold snow he hates falling on a gray Cleveland. He's having a good day today--his nurse George is going to take him on a field trip to the gift shop-- but the bad days aren't lurking far away in memory or reality. So, like the old Tom Petty songs says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” At least it's better to wait in Ohio than Port-au-Prince.

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