When last I wrote, my 14-year-old daughter was heading into surgery for a third attempt at a bone graft into her hard palate. Having been born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, surgery is a common occurrence.
While we can talk and act as if this type of corrective surgery is “no big deal,” when you stop the foods and fluids at midnight, gown her up the following day in a pre-op room, the chin will inevitably quiver.
To help bolster our spirits, I intended to put out the typical Facebook plea for prayer, but as we headed west, I was hit with the following idea surely hatched in the heavens:
“We know there’s oodles of positive vibes being rocketed into the Universe for her, but what if those thoughts, vibes and prayers were put into action? If interested, do one nice thing for someone today to show you believe in humanity! While Mo is totally healthy . . . we’d all fee better knowing good deeds are on the rise today.”
As we waited for Moira to be taken for surgery, her operation was delayed from 1:30 to eventually 4 p.m. During those hours, I read Moira Facebook updates from friends and family who were doing good work in her honor.
A friend of my husband’s told us that she and her coworkers were volunteering to serve a community meal.
A previous co-worker of mine said she sent “cute cards to two elderly friends who don’t have much family” and added she was working on a gift quilt for a person preparing for a bone marrow transplant.
Then one of her doctors came in to discuss the previous week’s pre-surgery appointment in which x-rays taken showed Moira’s wisdom teeth had come in.
After getting our consent to remove those teeth the doctor proceeded to explain a possible change to the graft plan: rather than open her hip and shave bone from the pelvis, doctors would attempt to harvest bone from her lower jaw.
Not only would that alleviate the need for a second surgical site, but the doctor added jaw bone was more dense then hip bone.
All three of us were pretty excited at the idea of no hip surgery, but nothing was for certain until she went in, and the waiting to do so dragged on so we regaled Moira with more Facebook well-wishes.
There was the friend who treated his co-workers to an afternoon snack of hot wings; n aunt, who herself has suffered much more than most of us, shared she’d seen a friend of hers that day.
This friend was upset so my aunt told her about Moira. “Her problems seemed little compared to precious Moira and her journey endured so bravely,” my aunt wrote. “It certainly helped cheer up my very sad friend.”
Then the nurses came to take her back to surgery. Now that she’s older, I no longer get to accompany her into the O.R. so we gave hugs, kisses and Hi-5’s and kept smiling and laughing with her until she was out of sight.
Both Marty and I felt very confident in the University of Iowa’s dental team, but admittedly it doesn’t get any easier watching our daughter be wheeled away. In typical Moira fashion, however, we could hear her continuous chitter-chatter with the nurses awhile after the gurney disappeared around a corner.
The surgery was estimated to take up to four hours so we headed off for food and enjoyed reading a few more Facebook messages, one from a teacher friend of mine who wrote of giving a picture book to a student. Given Moira’s book-worm nature, she thought Moira would appreciate a book-sharing act of kindness.
This student who received the book has a younger sibling living in another state who has no books at home. My friend helped her student read the picture book aloud to their sibling via the wonders of technology and a little thing like video chat.
Then a message from a running buddy popped up. She wrote of the “very nice man who sometimes panhandles for bus money.” The morning of Moira’s surgery, this friend found herself at a Davenport Walgreen’s near where this gentleman was “so I grabbed him some fruit, protein, some cash and a note of caring.”
Finally, another friend wrote of having books to return to a local library and was inspired to ask the librarian to choose someone who owed a fine they couldn’t pay.
“She immediately chose a young woman who recently lost her mother, got kicked out of the place they had been living (and) lost her car,” my friend shared. The young woman also tried to go back to school, but couldn’t maintain her studies. She’s also been unable to find a job.
The mammoth fine she was unable to pay? $3.70. The librarian asked my friend to write a note to the young woman: “Good luck and God bless you! In honor of Mo.”
She then added, “Of course, I cried the entire way to my next stop. It’s so sad that $3.70 is insurmountable to someone out there AND I’m grateful you asked us to do this today because it’s easy to forget the value of ‘little’ kindnesses.”
After about three and a half hours, Moira’s surgeon met with us and appeared relaxed and pleased with how events played out. He told us her jaw provided enough bone that he could place pieces into the hard palate, but also mill additional bone into a sort of cement he packed around the graft.
But the even better surprise was learning part of her second bone graft five years ago was not a painful waste of time. Enough bone had “taken” that it saved a few teeth from falling out and actually created a bridge between the edges of the cleft, requiring less bone for this graft!
Even as I sit and write, I’m amazed at how different this bone graft has gone compared to the previous two! Moira feels so good that we have to remind her not to run, not to wrestle, not to pester her brother.
The change is so drastic that I have to believe these wonderful, random acts of kindness played a part. That we are blessed to know such caring people who refuse to harden their hearts.
I don’t know how the idea came to me or from where it originated, but one thing’s for certain, it inspired beautiful people to shine their lights into the lives of others.
May we all live so inspired . . .
Originally published 7 June 2014 in The Observer.