Snowflakes, big fluffy ones. They are a mixed blessing when you’re driving an African friend to the hospital during early morning rush hour. On one hand, you describe the beauty and wonder of it all: each flake has six points, no two the same…. On the other hand, traffic grinds to a halt and you are compelled to look at your watch every three minutes. We actually would have made it to the hospital on time, that is, until I stupidly turned onto the wrong entrance ramp. This was a most unfortunate detour, for the particular section of route 294 on which we were driving goes a full 11 miles without any exit ramp. In Catholic theology they have a name for this experience. It’s called “purgatory.” So what did Elton do? He encouraged me. Wait a minute. I’m supposed to be encouraging him. This became the first of many times I’d see Elton’s wide smile and bright African eyes in the midst what most people would call downright depressing circumstances.
Our time at Rush hospital was dizzying due to the sheer size of its facilities and complex nature of our visit. After visiting Dr. Valentino’s office (our beloved hematologist) we rolled down to see Dr. Verma, Elton’s surgeon. We then went to visit Dr. Pie (who happens to be Dr. Verma’s wife). Not only do Drs. Verma and Pie have the distinction of being the best looking Indian couple practicing medicine today, they are both exceedingly kind. I have to admit, I sometimes struggle with what I perceive to be the aloofness of hospital physicians. I find that they can so objectify patients that personhood is seemingly ignored. Thankfully, this is not true of Elton’s doctors. Their interest in Elton was personal, warm, attentive and manifestly genuine. Following are a few photos from the experience.
When we finally arrived home, Elton was tired. I made him a latte and we attempted to call his family in Zimbabwe. On Sunday I had purchased an African calling card. Its name, displayed prominently at the top, is “Mr. Africa,” complete with Safari photos. It looked a bit cheesy, but the Indian guy at the convenience store assured me (imagine Indian accent) “Yes, it is Mr. Africa; he will get you there…” Well, I think that a rhino must have mauled Mr. Africa because after 20 tries the call still didn’t get through. We’re hoping that Emma will visit us tomorrow with a better option.
Shortly before dinner my three boys arrived home. This was their first time with Elton apart from a quick hello upon his arrival. It is an ideal scenario: my boys have a captive audience and Elton gets to watch three ridiculous kids try to outdo one another for his attention. The comical highlight came when Elton watched Angela and me do our Billy Blanks Tai-Bo exercise routine. I told him ahead of time, “You’re going to see a black man with enormous muscles mimicked by a bunch of white wannabes. As you watch Angela and me join this ridiculous routine, please don’t hesitate to laugh. We deserve it.” Elton expressed his agreement by cracking up.
Tomorrow morning I plan to take Elton to my pastoral staff meeting so that all of the pastors can pray for him. I expect that he will capture their hearts as he has done to ours and to everyone else he’s met thus far. Stay tuned.