The day of Rick’s surgery, I arrived at the hospital at 3:30 a.m. His surgery was scheduled for “first thing,” and I’d been told they planned to take him “downstairs” at 6:30, but often they came much earlier.

Getting access to the hospital at 3:30 a.m. proved to be one of my biggest challenges of the day. The parking garage elevator did not go to the lobby of the Physician’s Pavilion at that time, so I had to hike up through a couple levels of cement.

The door to the Kohler Pavilion up the steps to the 9th floor was locked, so I went back down and across to the Emergency entrance. Got through there okay, went around the corner to the elevators and there sat a security guard, who was about as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

I had to give him my ID, and he wrote down all the information and called to verify my presence… But the hospital did not have Rick listed!

I quickly gave the guard Rick’s room number, floor number, doctor’s name, time of surgery, type of surgery, and I’m feeling panic well up inside me like I’m going to vomit.

He called the nurse’s station on the floor where Rick was, and finally I was allowed to use the elevator. But now I was in a part of the hospital I’d never been in before. I pushed “Floor 9,” knowing that pretty much went everywhere inside the maze of buildings, got there, and took off towards what I hoped was the right wing. It was, I and took a second elevator from 9 to 11, and finally got to Rick at 4:30, a full hour after arriving on campus.

Fortunately I got to stay with him through the completion of his prep, and even downstairs until they wheeled him into the operating room.

Then my wait began. I got to hand it to OHSU for their organized approach in handling the plethora of people waiting to hear news about their loved ones. The operating nurse—Rick’s was Maggie—promised to call me every two hours with a progress report. And on the dot, she did!

A big electronic signboard in the Surgical Waiting Area lists all those in the surgical process by number, to protect anonymity. Color codes are used to tell you where the patient is in the process.

Light blue means pre-surgery check-in. Rick was well past that by the time I got to the waiting room. Green means he’s in the operating room. Most of the next 7 hours, that’s what color showed on the screen. Yellow is surgery is nearing completion. Darkest green, patient is moving to recovery. Lavender: in recovery. For Rick, blue meant back to a room in the Cardio ICU.

During lavender or blue, the doctor comes out to consult with those waiting in a private room. It all works like clockwork.

The plan now is for Rick to be in ICU for a week or so, then another week or so in the regular cardio ward, and then home, with weekly trips to the clinic for several months.

And for all of this, we are extremely grateful.