Waiting. Again and again. Ugh. Do any of us really like to wait? I mean wait an unusually long time for a something we truly need or selflessly desire?
I think most of us can handle waiting a few minutes in traffic or practicing patience while on hold on a phone call hold. But what about those days that turn to weeks that turn to months for something we truly need to survive?
In my Two Days Longer book, I share the incredible waiting story of a young Utah woman who endured a life-threatening delay. You’ll find the entire story at the beginning of chapter 13, but I will share the highlights here.
Accident Leads to Medical Delays
Briana Lane’s car fishtails on the icy canyon road above Salt Lake City, Utah. In the middle of January in the Wasatch Mountains, a slick spot on the road catches Briana off guard. In the space of a few seconds, her car swerves from side to side and rolls over, launching her through the windshield.
The 22-year-old is rushed to the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City, where she lies in critical condition with bleeding on her brain. To save the young woman’s life, doctors temporarily remove nearly half of Briana’s skull, planning to reattach the bone once the swelling in Brianna’s brain decreases. The piece of her cranium ends up in a hospital freezer—on the other side of town.
Briana is released from the hospital in mid-February, a month before the scheduled skull-restoring surgery. Grateful to be alive, she waits at home for four weeks with a big dent in her head where doctors stitched her scalp together over her unprotected brain. She wears a plastic street-hockey helmet during the day to prevent injury.
Forced to Wait Even Longer
Just bending down causes extreme pain. When she wakes every morning, Briana finds that her brain shifts to one side during the night. But Briana’s medical headache only intensifies when the hospital cancels her operation the night before the planned surgery. Because the uninsured waitress can’t afford to pay for the operation she so desperately needs, the hospital wants to wait to see whether Medicaid will cover the expensive procedure. She is informed that such inquiries routinely take ninety days or more.
So Briana is forced to wait—weeks and weeks, then months and months with part of her skull on ice. Miles from her reach. Her mother, Margaret McKinney, a nurse who works in another part of the medical center, presses the hospital and Medicaid to declare Briana’s case an emergency and figure out afterward who would pay for the procedure.
Hopelessly entangled in red tape, Briana’s mother pleads with the hospital: “We just want what you’ve taken away. Can you just give us back the skull and we’ll go on with our lives?”
After months of merely wanting her skull put back together, Briana contacts a local television station to tell her story. Almost overnight Briana’s surgery is scheduled—for April 30, a date nearly four months after her car accident.
It’s not clear what finally broke the impasse, but Margaret’s insurance provider decides to cover her daughter’s operation and her medical bills of nearly $200,000. Two weeks after the surgery makes Briana whole again, Utah’s Medicaid officials still hadn’t determined whether Briana’s case fit their eligibility requirements.
I find Briana’s medical wait mind-boggling. I’m not sure how I would handle walking around with a portion of my skull on ice while the insurance system gave me the cold shoulder on how to proceed.
You and I may not be waiting four months to be reunited with our cranium, but still we face our own delays and postponements. Waiting just gets tiring at times. Doesn’t it? And yet, when we least expect it, waiting chisels invaluable lessons into our mind and heart. Lessons such as bending and flexing as peace, trust and contentment poke through our crusty layers of impatience.
The Upside of Waiting
Just as Briana experienced in her wait, we can learn to appreciate all the more the people who stand by us through thick and thin. The upside of waiting also opens our eyes to things we often take for granted like our everyday health and stability.
Some would say we need waiting like we need a hole in our head (Briana knows that for sure). I don’t know about you, but the next time I find myself crammed in a gridlock of dawdling circumstances, I’m going to think about Briana. If she can hang in there waiting for a reunion with her skull, I can take a deep breath and dwell on what I dohave instead of what I lack. Thank you, Briana, for modeling how to bend when life dares you to break.