by Don Raiger, Director of Advancement
On Sunday, November 6, my wife Dawn suffered a seizure. She’s never had seizures in the past, and there was no warning as to its arrival. She was upright and mobile one moment and on the floor and unconscious the next. It’s as jarring an experience as you can imagine. She was taken to the local hospital via ambulance, and upon our arrival in the emergency room, she received a battery of tests including a CT scan, which indicated a possible brain anomaly, and warranted an overnight stay for further testing and observation.
She was brought up to a regular hospital room. She was stable, acting much like herself. I left her at about 11:30 PM to go home and get some sleep. At 2:00 AM, I was awakened by the telephone. Dawn had experienced three separate seizure episodes and was moved to ICU. I went back to the hospital to find Dawn unconscious, but stable after the seizures subsided. From there, it was on to an MRI and more tests.
Later that day, we experienced one of those surreal conversations with the doctor who had reviewed her scans. They had found a “gum ball-sized mass” on her right frontal lobe and had begun consulting with Penn State Hershey as to next steps.
In short, more stark terms, my wife has a brain tumor. It’s most likely benign, but we won’t know for certain until it is removed and analyzed. She’s currently scheduled for surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Monday, 11/21. The prognosis is good – but she still has to have brain surgery.
So why am I telling you all of this? I’m just trying to drive home the fact that on 11/5, everything about our lives was normal. By 11/9 we realized she had a brain tumor, and on 11/21 she’s getting brain surgery. That’s how fast life can change. However, change is inevitable, whether its good or bad, and it’s not the change that matters, but how we react to it. Both Dawn and I very easily could have wasted our time feeling lost and sorry for our situation. We could have simply waited for things to happen – more test results, more referrals, etc. Instead, we took charge and made phone calls, connected with friends and family, made appointments, canceled others and stayed focused on the problem at hand. Friends spoke on our behalf and opened doors that otherwise would have been much harder to open. For instance, there’s no way we’d be in the place we are at Hopkins without a friend and co-worker reaching out to a cousin who reached out to a colleague who reached out to – you get the idea. We’ve had total strangers working on our behalf because of folks who spoke out for us.
It’s strange how something like this can actually rekindle your faith in humanity. Most people you meet are genuinely good, and they want to do the right thing. The best part is that if you give them the chance, they generally do.
If you’ve read this far, God bless you. Some key points I’m trying to make amidst this rambling dissertation:
First, we are not in control, but that’s OK. Despite our best efforts, life will find ways to punch us in the gut or pleasantly surprise us. Control what you can and put yourself in good situations and when life does what it does, adapt accordingly.
Second, accept help. Let people make phone calls, make meals, write references – whatever. No act is completely unselfish. Helping you out makes them feel good, and you could probably use the assistance.
Third, manage your relationships, because if you don’t, there won’t be help from anyone to accept. You never know who is going to step up and make a huge play on your behalf. Respect the folks with whom you share this rock, and they will never cease to surprise you. Do it because it’s the right thing to do – not because you think they can help you. Karma is real (regardless of what you call it), and you get what you give.