Tis the reason for the season!
This article is dedicated to the caregivers of the myelosuppression unit of Vanderbilt University Hospital, especially Karisma Kelley, as well as each doctor, nurse, and essential worker who has made this Christmas season exceptional beyond belief.
2020 has most certainly been a year to remember for each of us; sadly, there have not been very many positive moments to account for; however, as we approach Christmas day, I know everything is going to be okay because the true spirit of Christmas will overcome the dismal shadow that this year has clouded our lives with.
Over the years, the observance of Christmas for the masses has evolved into a season of visiting, decorating, and gift-giving, but for true Christians, Christmas has always been about celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. With everything that has transpired in my personal life over the last 19 days, I have come to realize that Christmas has evolved into a season of celebrating not only his birth but also his teachings.
Three weeks ago today, my dad, uncle, and I started a workday like any other with a cup of coffee and a plan for the day. Sadly, at 74, my dad outworked me, and I am only 50. His energy has always been like that of the energizer bunny, and his endurance has always kept him on the go from daybreak until dark. He has always found a way to keep on going until there was nothing left to accomplish. The next day the story of his life became incredibly altered. He began the day feeling a little bad. As the day progressed, he felt a little worse, and by early evening he was flat out sick. I am most certainly not a doctor, but all of his symptoms pointed to what I thought to be appendicitis. Around 2 a.m., the decision was made to take a trip to the ER in Union City, TN. By 8.a.m, the good news was the symptoms he was showing was not appendicitis; rather, it was from an infection in his bowel. The bad news was that during the tests performed that led to the diagnosis of Colitis, it was discovered that he had AML- Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The progression of his AML was so rapid that he would have only had a few days left if it were not for having to go to the ER. Hours after the preliminary diagnosis in Union City, he was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Hospital, where the diagnosis was confirmed. Since his arrival, the teams of doctors who have planned his treatment course and reacted to every deviation of his changing health with a better plan, the nurses who have executed those plans and kept vigilant to ensure the best possible chance for his recovery, and caregivers who have tended to his every need have been absolutely phenomenal. Each person involved has treated us as family, not simply a patient with a chart. Each of these wonderful people has displayed the truest teachings of Christ in their every thought, word, and deed. Their sense of faith and hope that kept both of us always knowing and believing that he would get better, their tolerance of always being positive even when courses of treatment were not so pleasant, and their charity of soul to continually uplift his spirit every time they entered the room has given me the greatest Christmas gift of all, the 19 days we have spent together in this tiny hospital room.
We have relived a lifetime by telling stories from times gone by as well as making plans of things we would do once we make it home. Even when things were at their worst, his faith in Christ has never wavered, and his endurance to suffer all things to make it back home to normal life and his family and friends have been inspiring, to say the least. I plan to remain with him until his treatment is concluded and he can return home. Of all the gifts I have ever received, the gift of these 19 days, and those yet to come, has been the most extrodianry of all.
For all Christians, the Christmas season is about the spirit of giving, whether it be something you can hold in your hand or something you can feel in your heart. For those of you who don't believe in his existance as the son of God, I hope that you would concede that Jesus was at least a great, wise, and good man whose teachings were about love and forgiveness and that he did nothing contrary to those teachings and did nothing deserving of death. For everyone this is a season to celebrate the loving bonds between family and friends. Social distancing should give you extra cause to pick up the phone or send an email to those friends and family you haven't seen in a while, Please take a moment and contact everyone in your life and tell them what they truly mean to you. If we all practice the same love for others that Jesus displayed for us, we will see the looming shawdow of 2020 disipate and turn into a brighter 2021.
For he is my redeemer, and he has given me a peace that allows me to be tolerant of all things, a love which has allowed me to have and enjoy the close emotional bonds with family and friends, and a happiness that fullfills my life from the experiences derived from that peace and love. I pray that you experience as happy a Christmas as I will and imitate the great poeple here at VUH by practicing the teachings of Jesus Christ of faith, hope, charity and love.