On December 14, 2010, Jorge Jarolin reached into my chest an took hold of my slowed, cooled, barely beating heart. I had open-heart surgery. My aortic valve took a dump and was leaking all over the place. Okay not all over the place, but it didn’t seal. It was replaced with a model from Edwards Health Sciences made of Cow. Yep MOOOOOO!
After 4-5 hours in the OR with a tube of oxygen in my throat I began to wake up dehydrated. It’s common in surgery for the pressurized air to wind tunnel your tonsils and dry out your throat and mouth. To make matters more fun, the surgery left me in a slight diabetic condition. Not only will that make you dehydrated but it ratchets up your sensation of thirst. I found this out after I went home.
I began to come out of the anesthetic stupor and for the first time in my life I experienced genuine, significant thirst. I am not talking about “Whew, it’s hot out here” thirst. I mean a profound necessity for liquid, specifically water. As light flooded my vision, I was searching the room wild-eyed, parched, looking for water. I faded in and out a few times before I was able to form words. When the words did come, my first one was “Dasani”.
In a moment of consciousness I peered over the shoulder of my nurse, and on the table just a mere six feet away sat a sweaty bottle of cool water. I still had a pressurized tube in my throat so at best it was a rasp. She politely told me that she couldn’t give me any at the moment because it would jump-start the vomiting.
My mind reeled. I was being overtaken by the thirst and I thought that she didn’t realize the bottle was right behind her. I tried to explain that it was there on the table in my best post-surgery, tube-in-throat, Spanish as a foreigner. When she turned and saw the bottle she said, “It’s not Dasani, it’s Seltz.”
Was she serious? I could care less what brand the water was. I was dying of thirst and could see my salvation but couldn’t reach it. I breathed out “Igual”(equal- as if to say, “So what? It’s the same”).
The nurse left the room and left Christie by my side. I just keep saying “thirsty” to her. The overpowering feeling of thirst invited the drugs entering and leaving my system to do a precarious little dance in my system. I believed with absolutely no uncertainty that I was about to die from thirst. I thought the staff didn’t understand my Spanish. They had no idea how bad my dehydration was.
My brain was in a panic. “How ironic that I lived through the surgery and now I am going to die of thirst in the recovery room!” I prayed that God would spare my wife the horror of watching my senseless death. I prayed He would take care of my family. I prayed someone would check my levels and discover some grave error and poor an ocean in my mouth. I was in the midst of severe thirst.
I did begin to get water. At first it was half a straw full every 20 minutes or so. That was 5 months ago and I still vividly remember the feeling of that first drop of cool water hitting my mouth and snaking its way down my throat. I can still touch the spot on my throat where the trail ended. The drought in my throat gobbled up such a paltry offering. It didn’t even reach my stomach.
Eventually I drank a little and it made me sick. That seemed like a fair trade for the chance to live. The funny thing is that I was nowhere close to dying from my thirst. My health care providers had everything perfectly under control. They were aware of my condition and were treating me accordingly. My fears were based in an untruth that I believed more than I trusted my CAREGIVER.
A couple of days later I am thinking over the events of the last few days. Scripture comes to mind that speaks of thirsting after God and His presence. The deer panting and such. I thought of times I told God I thirsted for Him or talked to others about it.
If true thirst is what I experienced in the hospital, the kind that convinces you your life is about to end, then I have NEVER really thirsted for God. I have asked God to forgive me for the arrogance that caused me to falsely use such terminology. I have not used the phrase or word picture of thirst to reference God since that experience. It just seems so cheap now.
Have you ever been thirsty? Tell me about it.