I was bagging a few groceries at Publix today when a wave of exhaustion washed over me. As I held out a box of Pop Tarts over the scanner, I found myself in a daze staring down at my shoes. When I snapped out of my momentary coma, I realized my boots were splattered in an orangish substance. I drew in a deep breath and shook my head in exasperation. My puke covered shoes pretty much summed up my day; a day that refused to go my way.
Earlier that morning (as in 2:00AM earlier) my wife, Patience, woke up violently ill in our Atlanta hotel room. Her sudden sickness came out of nowhere, and kept her up the rest of the morning. This was no ordinary stomach bug. This was something diabolical. (We later discovered it was food poisoning.) It wasn’t until 5:30 that morning that I realized I was going to be bringing our son, Wesley, to the hospital alone. We called the front desk of the hotel and found out about the late check out, so Patience could rest while Wesley and I were gone. I threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth, dressed Wesley, and quickly made my way to the parking garage where we left our car overnight.
I need to mention now the urgency of our appointment in Atlanta. We had been waiting four months to get Wesley in with a glaucoma specialist at Emory Hospital. Wesley’s doctor here in Chattanooga was worried about the potential of glaucoma, and said we needed to get him checked as soon as we could. With such a long wait, I was afraid if we missed this procedure we would have to wait another four months. That is precious time wasted when you are potentially losing vision. All that to say, I was anxious about the appointment before the day had even begun.
I decided to leave the stroller in the room, which, looking back was a stupid choice. It was dark and raining. The streets of Atlanta were empty as I practically drug Wesley behind me to get to the parking garage. We were running about ten minutes late, and I was starting to freak out. I picked up Wesley and began to run down the road. I am sure this looked like I had abducted an Asian boy and was making my getaway, but I didn’t care. My heart nearly stopped when I rounded the corner and saw our parking garage… locked up.
“No!” I growled.
I put Wesley down as I began to assess the situation. We walked around the entire garage and there was no entry anywhere to be found. On top of that, there was no personnel, and no phone number to call. I kicked the sidewalk in frustration, as I called Patience.
“I’m locked out!” I stated dramatically.
“Locked out of where?” she replied in a throaty whisper.
“I can’t get into our garage!”
“Okay, well just calm down. I am sure there is a number…”
“There’s no number! There’s no person! What am I supposed to do?”
As soon as I spoke the words, a car pulled into the garage. I ran towards it like a crazed lunatic. Thankfully I had Wesley with me, which knocked down my creepiness factor by a few notches. The man explained I needed my entry card to swipe and the door would open. He warned me that I would not be able to get in without it.
I clenched my jaw. Patience had the card. I called her as I began to make my way back to the hotel. I explained to her the situation, and she began looking for the card in her purse.
“I don’t have it,” she said, “It must be in the car.”
“I can’t get to the car!” I said in utter defeat.
By this time I was all the way back to the hotel. I turned around and began to make the trek back to the garage. All the while I am lugging a thirty-six pound Korean on my waist. I was sweating under my rain jacket like I was training for a marathon.
“I am just going to wait here. Maybe someone will show up.”
I paced the sidewalk in the dark, like a mad man; checking the time on my phone every ten seconds. A few minutes later a car pulled up to the garage, and the metal door began to rise. I stormed into the parking garage like a mom into Walmart on Black Friday. I finally got to the car. The only problem… there was no card to be found. I tore the car apart looking for the card, when my phone rang.
“I found the card,” Patience said in a somber whisper.
“Well, I’m trapped in this garage now, so what am I going to do?” I asked in anger.
“I’ll run it to you,” she replied.
And so my sick wife ran three blocks to slip me an access card through the metal grating of the car garage. By the time I made it out of the Fort Knox of garages, it was 6:00AM… the time we were supposed to be checking in at the hospital. My heart was racing as I screeched out onto the streets of downtown Atlanta. I followed the GPS, and tried my best to abide by most traffic laws. Twenty minutes later we pulled into another parking garage at Emory. I snatched Wesley from his car seat and ran into the main entrance of the hospital.
“I need to find Children’s,” I said out of breath.
“You’ll need to pull out of this garage and drive down the road. It will be on your right,” the woman said with a smile.
Trying my best not to lose my mind I asked, “Can I not walk from here?”
“Oh, no… it’s too far to walk.”
So I picked up Wesley once again and ran back to the car. And guess what’s not there when I reach into my jacket pocket? The card! The access card is gone! I pulled out my wallet, emptied all my pockets…nowhere! I pulled the car apart again… nothing! All the while I am screaming, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
That’s when I hear a soft little voice come from the back seat.
“You okay, Daddy?” Wesley said concerned.
I guess he had never seen Daddy have a complete meltdown before.
“Yes, Wesley. Daddy will be okay when we get to the doctor,” I said through clenched teeth.
“Daddy, okay,” he repeated.
After ten minutes with no luck finding the card, I laid my head on the steering wheel. I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. I pulled out of the parking spot and drove twenty five feet toward the exit gate, where a smiling man waited next to his booth. I explained my situation, and he explained I would have to pay twenty four dollars to exit without a ticket.
“I don’t care at this point, I just need to get to Children’s before my son misses his appointment,” I said as patiently as I could muster.
“Well, you can walk there from here,” he said with a smile, as he pointed me towards a building about a half of mile in the distance.
I parked my car and ran in the rain once again with Wesley in my arms. As I entered Children’s at Egerton, I began to feel better about the so-far terrible day I was having. Thankfully, our forty-five minute tardiness did not affect Wesley from having his procedure. We were greeted by the friendly staff at Emory and everything went smoothly for the rest of our time at Emory; though I did have pay the twenty four bucks.
I will write separately about Wesley’s medical condition, but in summary, the doctors confirmed that he has advanced glaucoma in his left eye. Wesley came out of anesthesia crying, and was glad to see me. Everything at Emory went so quickly, we were able to get back to the hotel before 10:00 AM.
Patience was still in bed, and we tried to lay Wesley down as well, but the anesthesia had him drunkenly bouncing off the walls. I finally picked him up out of the bed, and brought him to look out of the window. The Ferris wheel at Centennial Park was rotating in the distance. I pointed it out to him, and he pretended as if he could see it. That is when he turned around and began to quietly throw up without any warning. I was able to get him to the tile near the bathroom, but the damage was done.
I looked at Patience and said, “Let’s get out of here before one of us gets struck by lightning.”
We made our way back slowly to Chattanooga, stopping along the way to vomit and run to the bathroom. Suffice it to say, I was ready to kiss the front step of my porch when we were finally able to exit our puke-smelling SUV.
Despite all that went wrong today, I am grateful for mostly positive news about Wesley’s eyes. I am thankful for family and friends praying for us and encouraging us every step of the way. I even had one friend surprise me by dropping off an album I have been wanting in our mailbox. The golden sun was shining behind the dark rain clouds as I found the gift in the mail, and I was reminded that even on the cloudiest of days the sun can still pierce through.
We have a long way to go with Wesley’s vision. I am sure there will be plenty of more anxious nights to come, and maybe even some more frantic mornings. So I am going to wipe the puke off of my boots and take it one step at a time.