The air was stale and had been lingering heavily in the waiting room when the doctor found Morgan hoping for a positive report of Isaac’s condition. Morgan’s face fell with the delivery of the news and his eyes turned glassy and red with raw emotion.
“Dr.—” Morgan stammered.
The doctor knew Morgan had never grown accustomed to calling him by his formal title. Because they had been close friends long before he received his license, it didn’t bother him when Morgan continued more informally using his first name instead. “Ray, I don’t know what to do.”
“Morgan, he needs the procedure. Remember, your valve replacement was particularly hard because of the additional stresses: Medical school, a new baby. You made it through, even with all that, and I believe he will too.”
Morgan shook his head despairingly. “Sure I made it through, but I had to drop out of school. There’s got to be an alternative.”
Dr. Golward pursed his lips together then asked, “When did you say Rita would be back from her mother’s?”
Knowing Morgan’s wife would help him recognize what was medically necessary, he suggested, “Why don’t you talk to her about it then and give me a call.”
“I already have. She can’t understand why I’m holding back. I know. I know; there’s really no question. We’ve just got to do it.” After a halting pause, he nodded, “It’s okay.” Morgan sat quietly with the doctor for a moment, gathering his thoughts. His brows furrowed slightly before asking directly, “But what if it doesn’t work?”
“Morgan, you’ve experienced this as a patient. I don’t need to explain the risks; you know them as well as anyone. But you’ve also seen it work, and Isaac really has no other choice.”
“I know; you’re right.”
“Just let me do my best, and pray for God’s hand in his full recovery.”
Morgan nodded, and took a deep breath. “You know, if I’d been able to stay in medical school, you realize I might be the one performing this surgery?”
“No, Morgan. Everything happens for a reason. It’s not your job to do this for your son. And somehow, all that’s transpired will ultimately reveal a grander purpose for your life, and greater meaning to your challenges.”
Morgan lamented, “I never aspired to work for a medical devices company; I always thought I’d be in the trenches saving lives like you.”
“Well, we all play our part. I couldn’t do what I do without the tools you provide. And look at you now, succeeding magnificently right where you are. Your interest in medicine making you uniquely equipped to bring passion and purpose to an industry often driven by profit alone.” Dr. Golward smiled. “No wonder you’ve done so well. In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d so quickly end up as the company president?”
Morgan was too numb to respond.
After a reflective moment, Dr. Golward put his hands on Morgan’s shoulders and reiterated, “Now. Let’s help your son. That’s my passion and purpose; I want to see him grow up to play football for our old high school. Deal?”
“Alright,” Morgan nodded, “I’ll trust you.”
“No, don’t trust me. Trust God, Morgan. I’m just an instrument; and like I said, all I can promise is to do my very best. You know, my own heart is in this one. I want him well.”
Eight months later
“I’m so sorry, Morgan.” Dr. Golward looked at his hands, wringing them as he prepared to deliver the devastating news. Then, bravely making eye contact he stated, “It’s infective endocarditis.”
Morgan closed his eyes and Rita put her arms around him, hiding her face in his shoulder. Questioningly, Morgan looked up, shaking his head to Dr. Golward: “Why Isaac? How can thousands of people come through without a hitch, and Isaac’s little body goes toxic? Can you explain that to me?” Morgan was angry and Dr. Golward just listened. “This was supposed to work, Ray!”
It’s not that Morgan didn’t understand the medical terminology or anticipate the potential setbacks of his son’s condition. He had spent hours at the hospital library learning everything he could about the aspects of cardiology that had impacted his family twice now, but Isaac’s situation wasn’t a story in a medical textbook. This wasn’t just “O” positive on a chart. This was real blood, and not just any, but his own, coursing through the veins of his very sick, but cherished offspring.
In reality, this was his own flesh, under conditions beyond his control. Powerlessness, helplessness—emotions not easily adjusted to by any grown man, but especially Morgan, who erroneously felt that if somehow he had been able to finish school, he would have had more power or knowledge to avert this tragedy in the first place.
Finally the doctor responded. “The valve is compromised; the leaflets have seeded bacteria. We hope to get the infection under control with antibiotics, Morgan, but I’m afraid the valve is only temporary. The leaflets are damaged.”
Morgan’s anger melted away as he mustered some weak but hopeful determination. “So now what?”
“He’ll need another surgery. How soon? Not sure. We’ll wait as long as we can, managing his condition with medication to delay the second procedure.”
“So what’s to keep this from happening again?”
The doctor silently pressed his lips together and then replied, “There are no guarantees. There are inherent disadvantages to both the mechanical prosthetic valves and the ones made from animal tissue. We do the best we can with what we have to work with.”
Unsatisfied with the doctor’s response, Morgan replied resolutely, “I believe in miracles, doctor. I still envision Isaac leading a normal life…”
The doctor cautiously assured, “I believe in miracles, too, Morgan.” After a sympathetic pause, Dr. Golward smiled faintly, “I’m looking forward to the football game we’ll watch him play in about ten years. Mark your calendar; we’ll eat nachos at halftime.”
The doctor would never express such confidence to just any of his patients’ families, but he knew Morgan needed his buoyancy more than he needed a report of the apparent truth. Their enduring friendship transcended the typical professional protocol, and he knew the friendship would endure, even if his words proved to be a lie.
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