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"The Lobby"

By Chris Fuzie, Ed.D.

Having survived 28 years in law enforcement, I am jaded, opinionated, a curmudgeon, and can't hear other people when they whisper!  That’s right…too many sirens, alarms, motorcycle engines, gunshots, and my hearing is going…but that is the least of my problems!  After having surgery to remove the tumor from my bladder, and two more trips to the E/R because of complications from that surgery, I was away from home and suffered another complication which put me in the hospital out of town for another week.  I was literally living with a catheter and I was very depressed and expected that this was how I was going to be for the rest of my life. 
I went to see a bladder cancer specialist at UCSF.  We got to the office about an hour early because we didn't know what traffic would be like from Modesto.  We checked in and the waiting room was completely full so we (my wife, her sister, and I) went down to the building's lobby to wait.  I was carrying my catheter-bag in a shopping bag hoping that nobody would look and point and laugh, etc.  We entered the lobby and there were 5 chairs, one occupied by a middle-aged woman who looked almost like a traveler, and another chair occupied by her bags.  We sat in the three remaining chairs and began the wait. 
While waiting for the appointment, and because we had gotten there so early, my wife and her sister wanted to get some coffee, except they were worried about leaving me alone, so they were discussing whether one or both should go to the nearby coffee house.  I assured both that I was completely capable of “sitting here all by myself.”  That's when the lady spoke up and said she would "stay with me, to make sure I was O.K."  We all snickered at the "joke" and then they went to get coffee, also offering to get some for the lady which she declined. 
After they left, I spoke with the woman for a few minutes and she said that her father had been treated at the hospital and that the people here were the best.  She and I talked about how she had worried before coming to the hospital, but that she is very happy with the treatment and the way they worked with the families.   During our talk, I had to ask her to repeat herself a few times because I have hearing problems and can't hear people whispering or certain sounds due to hearing loss from job-related injuries.  She not only repeated herself, but she made sure I understood what was said.  We talked for about 15 minutes.
When my wife and sister-in-law returned, they had their coffee and I told them that I was still fine...that the woman had made sure I didn't run off.  They thanked her and she said she needed to leave, but couldn't yet.  When my wife asked her why, she said she spent all her money getting there to see her dad, but didn't have enough to pay for the parking, or gas to get back home, and she was waiting for a relative to come home so she could borrow some money.  I immediately went into "cop-mode" and started thinking, "SCAM!"...but without hesitation, my wife offered her enough money to pay for parking and gas.  The woman at first refused, but then reluctantly accepted. 
As she collected her things, the woman came over to my wife, took the money, and thanked her, then came over to me, gave me a hug and whispered to me, "You're going to be fine."  Not only did I hear her say it, even though I can't hear whispering anymore, it was crystal clear and the sound felt as though her voice was coming from inside my own head.  Not only did I hear her, with her words I immediately felt a sense of peace and security, and knew that things would work out.  I could feel the tension in my body flow away from me. 
I am not a religious person and I don't know how to explain it, but I am sure that was no chance happening, and knew that I had just been given a very powerful gift from a total stranger.  I feel guilty now for going into "cop-mode" and seeing her story about the money as a scam.  Now I feel that the woman was put there specifically to not only "stay with me, to make sure I was O.K.," but moreover to give me some reassurance and hope that things will get better.   Every time we go to UCSF, I think about that meeting and the sense of peace I had with just her words, and I know that there is a better life to come, even though I am jaded, opinionated, a curmudgeon, and can't hear other people when they whisper!

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