Surgery in the Time of COVID-19

This is a very personal blog post, but it describes what’s occupying my mind these days, and might be something you can relate to. While most of us are staying home and following physical distancing, some people are dealing with challenges made unusual because of this pandemic.

A friend of mine from early university days is scheduled for serious surgery next week. Because of COVID-19, she has to enter hospital on her own, can’t have visitors during her stay, and has to leave hospital alone. She also lives alone, so she’ll need some support during her recovery at home. As she lives in another province, I can’t help out.

She has put her affairs in order, as the saying goes, and told her grown children where her important documents are. This is a great idea at any time, because you never know what might happen. But no one likes contemplating the possibility of imminent death.

She even told me that if the worst should happen, there won’t be a funeral, because she thinks that atheists shouldn’t have funerals. I disagree with her, because I believe that funerals are meant for the living, those who love the deceased person, so they can celebrate the person’s life and help each other move on.

Her mention of being atheist reminded me that prayer can be comforting even to non-believers. The deep interior call for help that praying can be, can get people through tough times, I’ve found. And I’ve long been fond of one of the most authentic prayers I’ve ever heard of, attributed to Ernest Renan: “Oh God, if there is a God, save my soul if I have a soul.” This prayer can be modified to suit particular needs: “Oh God, if there is a God, give me strength to get through this…” or “…help me now…” or “…I am so afraid, can you lend me courage?” It seems that being able to articulate what you need at the moment, and asking the unknown for it, is soothing. It is all right to be afraid or weak or lonely.

I heard on the news today that thousands of surgeries have been cancelled in Ontario. Imagine needing surgery and being told that the dangers of COVID-19 make it too dangerous. My friend in another province is fortunate to be able to have her surgery now. Because the only thing more taxing than going through surgery and recovery, is having to wait for surgery. It is such a relief to have it successfully behind you and to know that you are on the road to recovery and healing.

This inconvenient and seemingly endless pandemic is taking a toll on so many people personally, professionally and financially. Things that are normally difficult enough, are more of an ordeal now. I hope my friend knows that it is all right to ask for whatever she needs, whenever she needs it, and that there are people and perhaps a great unknown force ready to help, in ways unexpected and unlooked for.

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