Editor’s Column: A Comforting Connection

As I sat nervously tapping my foot and distractedly skimming the lines of Water for Elephants, my lucky Colgate shirt provided me with a necessary security blanket in the hospital waiting room. Despite the t-shirt which I had superstitiously dubbed as my rabbit’s foot, the day was more about Colgate than I cared to admit. I was no stranger to the idea of the Colgate Connection–I had spent the last year experiencing the alumni pride firsthand. While the gesture of complete strangers yelling out “Go ‘Gate!” or “Class of ’73” on the street in response to my t-shirt or bumper-sticker were by themselves fantastic gestures, I never imagined that the Colgate Connection would literally hold my father’s life in its hands.

When I moved home this May, my hopes of a carefree summer quickly evaporated when I heard my father utter the words “mitral valve prolapse.” Though my medical knowledge was basically limited to surgical jargon I had picked up from Grey’s Anatomy episodes, the prospect of heart surgery needed no translation. My family immediately oriented itself around finding the best possible cardiothoracic surgeon for the job, with my father ultimately settling on someone extremely qualified and highly recommended in our area. When my mother first glanced at the surgeon’s information on paper, it was not his impressive qualifications but his last name that caught her attention. After having attended several of the local send-off parties for Colgate the previous summer, my mom seemed to think that the surgeon my father had chosen was in fact the same man who had graciously welcomed us into his home and fed us delicious hors d’oeuvres. While I was uncertain of the theory, I decided to attend my father’s next cardiac consultation and meet the surgeon firsthand. As the doctor walked out to greet my dad, his enthusiastic response to my Colgate t-shirt confirmed the crazy coincidence: the man whose hand I had originally shaken as an alumnus and host was now going to be taking a #10 blade to my father.

Though the day of the surgery was undoubtedly nerve-racking, I was filled with a certain sense of assurance knowing that a Colgate graduate was handling the operation. For one thing, I knew that any surgeon who had studied in his undergraduate years at Colgate would have the same determination and dedication that I frequently see demonstrated among my peers. I also was confident that the doctor would have the stamina to successfully complete the four-hour long surgery, after having had such exerting practice walking up and down college hill in the past. If nothing else, I assured my mother that my father’s surgical charts would be unparalleled in accuracy and grammatical correctness, as I would expect nothing less from a graduate of Colgate’s rigorous liberal arts curriculum. When a nurse finally called us into a waiting room to meet with the surgeon, my fists balled nervously around my maroon and white shirt as I waited for the news. In retrospect, I vaguely remember the feeling of overwhelming relief that came with the words “He’s fine” and “Everything went well,” but mostly I just remember the surgeon’s friendly post-operative inquiries into where I would be living on campus this upcoming year. In such a stressful moment for my family, the Colgate Connection was proving a strong anchor in more ways that I could imagine.

After arriving at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. for the surgery, my father finally woke up around 8:30 p.m., ironically making the entire ordeal a 13-hour experience. While I had formerly just digested all the Admissions staff’s excitement about the number 13 as a necessary palette cleanser for a Chipwich, my father’s surgery turned me into a full-fledged triskaidekaphiliac. Although I could only muster a “thank you” upon hearing the good news from the surgeon, I’m sure he understands how grateful I am. Now I have my dad only a phone call away during his recovery to listen to my complaints about my stress level or my terrible dinners at Frank. When I first met with the surgeon, I jokingly warned him that I needed my dad in top shape post-surgery so that I would have help moving into my dorm this upcoming year. However, now almost three months after my initial comment, I know I will never be more thankful or excited than when my father comes up at the end of the semester to help me carry my boxes home.