Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Op, up, and away — Part 1

At ten minutes to six yesterday morning, I met my wonderful father, stepmother, and sister in the lobby of my apartment building for the short walk to George Washington University Hospital.

Sis was in town from Cincinnati for the occasion. My mother and stepfather had also offered to come, from New Jersey, but I declined, though I was very happy to receive their care package of a week's worth of soups.

I felt very prayed-for going into the hospital, thanks to my friends and blog pals who had offered to pray for me, and especially thanks to my pastor's having given me the Anointing of the Sick. It was my first time ever having received the sacrament. What is particularly beautiful about it is the way it unites one's suffering's to Christ's. As an admirer of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, I didn't want to have any "wasted pain." Receiving the Anointing gave me the assurance that God would receive my suffering on behalf of my prayer intentions, even if I forgot to keep those intentions in mind while experiencing pain.

Before leaving my place, I had removed my Miraculous Medal and Brown Scapular and placed them in my purse — no jewelry is allowed on the operating table. Wanting to take as many saints as possible with me, I wore my "Chesterton University" T-shirt underneath my sweater and packed Sheen's Peace of Soul into my carrying back.

It was very moving to see how concerned my family was for me, especially my dad. I knew as the intake receptionist put the band on my wrist that my father, who turned 70 last year, could remember the day in 1968 when I wore my first-ever hospital tag.

At the hospital, I enjoyed VIP status, thanks to my father's having worked for the George Washington University Medical School for nearly 30 years. I don't doubt that the care would have been excellent anyway, but it was a great blessing to be surrounded by people who knew and respected my dad. One of the third-year medical residents who was to take part in my surgery told me beforehand that my father was "like a mentor" to him.

It's quite amazing how God works things out. If I had remained in New York City, at my old job, where I was until last June, I would not have received nearly the same level of care at a hospital there, and it never would have occurred to me to attempt to get the procedure done at George Washington University Hospital. Funny how it took a job switch — to a Washington-area position that ended prematurely — to get me to the place where I could get the best possible treatment. (Speaking of jobs, I am very happy to be beginning a new one — more on that when it's confirmed.)

There was very little time yesterday morning when I felt alone. It happened only briefly, after saying goodbye to my folks and following the nurse into the pre-op room, when I was left to put on my gown and slippers. That depressing feeling one gets in the hospital of being at others' mercy was just beginning to hit me, when, for some reason, I looked at the label on the package of slippers, which was hermetically sealed. It read, "Medline Industries, Mundelein, Ill."

The name "Mundelein" jumped out at me. I knew I had read about a Mundelein in Sheen's biography, Treasures in Clay and that he was a bishop, though in my mind at first I had him confused with Bishop Spalding, who prophesied that Sheen would be a bishop himself. Somehow, I knew that the town of Mundelein was named after him. (In fact, it remains home to the seminary the cardinal founded, which I now see is four miles from where the slippers were made.)

Even not quite remembering who Mundelein was — he was in fact the sixth American cardinal, of the Archdiocese of Chicago — I knew for certain that he was a prelate, and that he was of Sheen's home state of Illinois. Just seeing his name printed on that plastic bag at that moment gave me great comfort, especially as I had asked Sheen's intercession before leaving the house that morning. It felt like a sign the angels and the saints were with me. I shed a few tears, half a remnant of fear and half an offering of joy.

Only after getting home tonight did I learn that there is indeed much to admire about George Cardinal Mundelein's earthly life. Although liberal and a close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he gained a reputation for speaking boldly against "Austrian paperhanger" Hitler more than four years before the United States entered World War II.

Cardinal Mundelein also established the Associated Catholic Charities of Chicago, which in turn founded, under his direction, the Misericordia Maternity Hospital. The hospital's purpose was, as the Cardinal said, "for the saving of the souls of the babies."contemporary biography of Cardinal Mundelein notes that special precautions were taken at the hospital to secure the baptism of the children and protect their right to life.

Next up: Psalm gave all ...