Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A New Vision for My Mom

I spent most of last week on vacation visiting my family who live in southern California. It was a nice escape away from our Minnesota winter and an opportunity for two of my daughters, Shannon and Meghan, to travel with me. Shannon is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Strategic Communication. She was able to steal away from her new job for a few days to make the trip. Meghan, a third year student at the University of Minnesota studying Kinesiology, was on her winter break from school. Due to scheduling conflicts and past summer work commitments, neither of these young ladies had seen their paternal grandparents in more than four years. So this was a great opportunity for all of us to catch up with extended family on my side.
Normally, we are greeted at the airport in Ontario, California by my Mom and Dad once we arrive. However, this time my parents were busy attending a pre-operative examination that was scheduled for my Mom. She will be undergoing eye surgery on January 23rd to remove cataracts that are obstructing her vision. For this reason, Shannon, Meghan, and I made our own way by shuttle to the airport’s car rental.
Once we arrived at the terminal, I truly impressed my daughters, ages 23 and 21, by accepting the agent’s offer to rent a mini van. I thought I was being practical. They laughed with tears in their eyes about how "cool" I was going to look driving next to those trendy sports cars when we hit Laguna Beach later in the week. Shannon and Meghan demanded that I take a picture wearing my sun glasses while sitting behind the wheel of our rented mini van. And you know what? They were absolutely right. I did look pathetic!
After many yucks at my expense, we headed out to our hotel reservations in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Yep, Rancho Cucamonga is really a place! I once asked my brother who has lived there for 20 years if Cucamonga is located in the Archdiocese of Archbishop Desmond Tutu? I guess it is not, but I digress from my story.
After a short, rockin' drive in the Dodge Grand Caravan, we arrived at our hotel destination in Cucamonga. And when we entered the hotel lobby, my Mom and Dad were already standing there waiting for us. It was joyous reunion for all of us. It was fun to see the look of amazement on my parents’ faces as it registered what four years means to the growth and maturity of grandchildren. Their grandchildren, Shannon and Meghan, are now young women.
I turned the focus of our conversation slowly away from us and in the other direction. We were all concerned about the health of my Mom and Dad. In their mid-seventies, both of my parents are doing relatively well. Of course, they are slowed by the typical aches and pains that accompany age. However, they are in basically good health for the most part. In particular, we were interested in hearing about the outcome of my Mom’s pre-op exam scheduled for earlier that morning. Mom and Dad shared that the exam went fine and her surgery scheduled for next week would go forward without a hitch.
Suddenly, my Mom’s face became a bit more serious and her eyes grew wider as she shared details about her visit. She said: "Don, I walked into the room for my pre-op exam and went through a lot of routine tests with the technicians. And then, the doctor who had been highly recommended to me walks into the room to talk with me about the surgery. She extends her hand to shake mine and I almost fell off my chair! The doctor who will be performing my surgery has TWO HAND DEFORMITIES. I sat there thinking: Whoa!! You are going to be operating on MY eyes?!!"
My Mom’s face had the look horror as she told her dramatic story. Shannon’s and Meghan’s mouths dropped wide open. And me? I smiled! She had truly raised my curiosity. So I asked her: "Mom, you have an eye surgeon with two hand deformities? Really?"
"Yes," my Dad answered before she could speak. Dad continued: "And she writes with them too. She seems to be able to do a lot of things for herself. But, of course, we are concerned about her physical ability to perform such a delicate operation like eye surgery."
My Mom jumped into the conversation: "We heard a lot of great things about this doctor's work from my general practitioner and other patients at our health clinic. So naturally, I went along with the referral without any hesitation. I have to be honest though, I was blown away when I first met her. I had no idea I would be placing my health in the hands of an opthamologist who had significant physical disabilities. Frankly, it was a bit scary!"
I pressed my Mom for more details. "Hey Mom, tell me more about this doctor. How will she perform a delicate surgical procedure like removing cataracts from your eyes?" "Of course, I was curious about this myself," my Mom answered.
She pressed on with her story: "So I began asking questions about the upcoming medical procedure. Apparently, the removal of cataracts these days is completed by laser technology. So she really doesn’t need to be performing the actual surgical procedure with her hands. It’s done with laser equipment. I am sure that the doctor will have medical technicians helping her out with some of the procedures just like any operation. She is clearly a very capable physician. And apparently, she has a very successful practice in this area based on everything I have learned about her. So I guess I am not really worried about having her as my doctor."
I snapped back quickly: "Wow Mom! That is so cool! Isn’t it wonderful that people with disabilities are making their way into the medical professions? And isn’t it fascinating how modern technologies are assisting people with disabilities to perform functions they couldn’t do before? It's really quite amazing, isn't it?"
My Mom nodded affirmatively and said: "Yeah, who would have ever imagined that someone with congenital deformities to both of her hands could work as a successful eye surgeon? Not me, that’s for sure!"
You know, empathic sensitivity is not an in-bred trait in the Lavin family tree. And staying true to Lavin tradition, I added: "Hey Mom, what the heck. If this operation doesn’t work out, we can always go out shopping for a seeing eye dog!" With a wide smile, my Mom swatted at me playfully. "Leave it to you," she said laughing.
It was a week of family fun and my daughters and I took the long plane trek back to Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. Naturally, my Mom is still a little apprehensive about undergoing her eye surgery next week. However, we left California knowing that she has confidence in the medical knowledge and skills of her surgeon. I have no doubt my Mom will be just fine and she will leave the hospital in sunny California next Monday with a brand new vision. Hopefully, she will able to see much better too.


Post a Comment

<< Home