Five years ago, twin sister and I were alone in the City of Angels, having flown to Los Angeles for Gayle to have a surgical procedure at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
It's a really long and unbelievable story, just leading up to the day of her surgery, September 16, 2008. The arrival of Hurricane Ike is only part of that story, and I won't detail it all here, but I can't let this day pass without offering thanks to God, and thanks to the skilled hands of a physician, Dr. Gerald Berke, for giving Gayle back her life.
Below is a page from my journal the night before her surgery:
Monday, September 15, 2008
Here I sit at the Hotel Angelino in Los Angeles with my dear twin sister, Gayle. She and I have traveled alone to the City of Angels. It is the night before her throat surgery and we’re both feeling a bit anxious, as can be expected.
Tomorrow, she will undergo a complex procedure at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. This procedure is to treat the symptoms of spasmodic dysphonia—a throat condition she has struggled with for the past 10 years.
Her surgeon, Dr. Gerald Berke, has devoted his career to this disease and pioneered the procedure she will have tomorrow. It’s a long way to travel for surgery, but if Gayle can be freed from the symptoms of this terrible condition, it will be well worth it.
As we sat in his office this afternoon, Gayle thanked Dr. Berke for the contribution he has made to those with spasmodic dysphonia. She said, “This is such a terrible thing to have happen to you. It robs you of so much of your life.”
Dr. Berke said, “It robs you of your identity.” Gayle thought a minute, then echoed his words. "That is so true," she said. "It robs you of your identity.”
With a quiet confidence, Dr. Berke took her hands in his and said, “Well, today is the last day.”
It was such a simple statement, but his words gave me chills. Gayle has longed for this day for many years and I have shared her hopes for a solution.
Tomorrow is a new beginning for Gayle, and I’ll be there to welcome her into it.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity, and thank you for leading Gayle to Dr. Berke. I pray that you will guide his hands tomorrow and that the surgery will be a great success. Bring Gayle safely through this procedure, and let her recovery be sure and swift. In your precious name, Jesus, I ask these favors.
Just re-reading my journal from that night, I recall how agonizing it was for me to watch as my “identical half” had to go through this difficult and stressful experience. I wanted to take her place. I wanted to endure the suffering for her, to undergo the surgery that came with risks and no guarantees.
But I had to sit back and wait, and wait, and wait. I tried to stay busy during the 4.5 hours of surgery, and I walked from one end of that big hospital to the other, waiting for the phone call saying, “All is well. She did great. She’s in recovery. You can see her soon.”
As I look at these photos from our week in Los Angeles, I think of the moving words of George Eliot:
What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life—to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.
It's a blessing to reflect on those difficult days and be able to say that Gayle’s surgery was a great success, and her results have been outstanding. To God be the glory!