More than two years ago I discovered I was struggling with some hearing loss in my left ear. At first I thought it was merely the result of a bad cold. But when the problem seemed to persist I went for further tests. An MRI showed that a growth of foreign cells had developed around my auditory nerve. The doctor identified it as vestibular schwannoma — a benign tumour that forms and continues to grow over time, but about which little is known otherwise. The doctors told me that removing it would probably not save my hearing in that ear but it would prevent damage to other sensitive nerves — facial muscles, tear ducts, and balance.
Specialists have been monitoring this development over the last couple of years to see what kind of growth is taking place. They concluded that it was showing signs of growth and should be removed. But since there was no real urgency to do it quickly and it would put me out of my work for a month or so, we put it off until this month. Surgery ended up being scheduled for Tuesday, May 29th at the Vancouver General Hospital. Having never experienced any significant surgery earlier in my life I was apprehensive alright — especially when my surgeon had earlier on described all the things that could go wrong. But I lived through it, got out of the hospital rather quickly (less than four days in all), and am now enjoying my recovering time at home.
All in all, this surgery experience turned out to be an emotional and spiritual hi-light for me. As the date began to near, I was impressed with a sense of God’s providence in timing and logistics. Carolyn was able to accompany me for the whole week so we drove down together from Prince George on Sunday in time for the pre-op appointment on Monday. It turned out that it worked best for her to stay with family members (instead of down-town) who were amazing in providing hospitality and transportation so she could be with me. It was so good to have family members around for visits and encouragement.
The surgery itself involved about seven hours of delicate micro-work involving a craniotomy and the detail of removing the foreign tissue from my auditory nerve area. This was followed by three hours of recovery and a night and another half-day in the intensive neuro-surgical unit before step-down and release. During this whole time, I estimate that about fifty people with various degrees of training and professional ability attended to my needs in a personal way in one way or another. Besides three surgeons, a couple of anesthesiologists, and a number of doctors in training, there was also the excellent nursing and support staff. I have a new appreciation for how important team-work is in such a large and important enterprise. Their professional commitment and expertise was outstanding. (And of course I am asking myself if it should be any less in the church — the greatest enterprise of all!)
Maybe it was the after-effect of the anesthetic or the leg-massage equipment they gave me, but as I came out of recovery I had the most amazing sense of God’s peace and goodness. I was surprised by my incredible feeling of rest and lack of pain. And despite the hourly nursing wake-ups and checks, this tranquility continued on through most of that first night — actually through most of my time in the hospital. I was also buoyed no-doubt by the positive words from the nursing staff about my progress.
I also had timely and reassuring visits from my surgeons and soon it was evident that I could be released. I came into hospital early Tuesday morning and by Friday morning the staff was preparing me for my departure in the afternoon. The timing for my release was perfect because it worked out well for our daughter to come with my wife to pick me up and take us back to my brother and his wife’s home where we enjoyed their hospitality before starting our way home on Saturday. Carolyn drove us the short drive to Kamloops on Saturday afternoon. We had a good evening and rest and continued on in excellent driving conditions to Prince George on Sunday arriving an hour earlier than we expected — just in time to pick up our dog from the neighbours, and have supper.
Though going into this, I had a measure of angst about how it all was going to work out, in the end it turned out to be eight full days of the most amazing sense of God’s presence and providence. As I rested during recovery I thought about how God wants us to rest in Him at all times — just as He instructs us in John 15, for example. Over and over again, I couldn’t help but feel a huge amount of thanksgiving and praise for God’s goodness and grace in this experience. My reading on Sunday morning in Psalm 115:1 summed up so well how I felt about this time — Not to us, O Lord, but to you goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
I am also conscious in a new way about the significance of prayer in these circumstances. Many people had prayed and I knew were praying during surgery as well. It was nice to be able to communicate with everyone on Facebook about what I was going through and to be assured of the prayers of so many by that means — one dear friend-couple even coming to visit me before I left the hospital. This whole experience has shown me again that God is trustworthy to help us in situations that are new, scary, and even dangerous. And I know in a new way that He longs for us to trust Him like this all the time.
I don’t have my hearing back (yet!) but I am very thankful for the prevention of other complications over time. God is good.