I wasn't wrong. It was stressful. It was difficult. It was not an experience I would like to do over.
But here we are again. And it just does not get easier. I am struck by the fact that no matter how many times you experience your child being wheeled into the operating room, the sense of powerlessness that overcomes you never goes away.
Baby O had a very simple, short outpatient surgery on his hand for an issue that is not all that uncommon in children. It was a relatively positive experience-everything went according to plan, he did not have much pain and the whole ordeal was over by mid-afternoon. He was on the mend.
Five days post surgery, I noticed some redness and swelling around the incision and stitches. I made a call to the surgeon's office and we went in that very day to have someone look at it. They seemed to think it was a reaction to the dissolvable sutures, prescribed some antibiotics and sent us home. I was more than satisfied and expected the pain he was having to subside by the end of the day. By late afternoon, things seemed to be worse. I called the surgeon's nurse. I called our pediatrician. They both had the same response. Wait at least 24 hours for the antibiotics to work. Their answer appeased me for a bit and I waited until morning.
After a difficult night, Baby O would scream in pain if something even remotely brushed his hand. The swelling and redness had now spread up his arm and I was worried. I waited until 8 o'clock that next morning to call the surgeon's office once more only to get the same answer as before-wait. Wait 24 hours.
I couldn't do it. I called again. And again. Finally, I asked for an e-mail address so I could send pictures of his hand. Within ten minutes of clicking on 'send', I got a call, "The doctor would like to examine your son's hand. Can you be here in 20 minutes?"
I admit to feeling vindicated, right and had an I told you so chip on my shoulder from the moment we walked into that examination room. I felt I had won the battle and fully expected to receive a different antibiotic.
But once again, I was unprepared. Just plain unprepared to hear that the infection was bad enough to need surgery as soon as possible. Chip on my shoulder gone, the wind knocked out of us both, Daddy O and I went through the motions and did what had to be done.
I have never felt so adult in all my life. There is nothing fun about checking into a hospital and putting on a happy face while your insides are churning. There is nothing fun about trying to explain to a three year old what is about to happen. There were times when I didn't know if I was making the right decision or not and in hindsight would do some things differently, but I just didn't know.
Baby O's first day and night were difficult. He has never been the type to do anything half way and fought the nursing staff every bit of the way. It took two separate armies of hospital staff to get an IV in his arm. The first attempt was a disaster and left him and myself in tears. The second attempt was ultimately successful, but equally as traumatic.
The surgery went well and the doctor tended to the full extent of his infection. It was quite extensive but had been caught in time and had not spread to the bone or ligament where the initial surgery had been. Although
things were looking up, Baby O would need to return to the OR each day to clean out the incisions that had been made to drain the infection.
In our wildest dreams, we never imagined this would be anything more than a few days, but a few days turned into ten full days in the hospital. Daddy O and I split duties, him staying with Baby O most of the time and me commuting back and forth.
Day 2-Waiting to go back into the OR.
Day 2-Getting ready to be wheeled into the 'big room'.
Day 2-Daddy O and Newbie O passing the time during surgery.
By day three, commuting got the best of me and Boy O, Newbie O and myself were able to stay in the Ronald McDonald House just across the parking lot for a few days. It was wonderful to be able to stay at the hospital for longer periods of time and take that walk across the parking lot at the end of the day instead of driving through traffic and spending an hour and a half in the car.
I didn't take any pictures that weekend, just making sure the kids were happy, had regular meals and were somewhat entertained took all of our energy and time. But I will say this about our brief stay at the Ronald McDonald House: It was a truly wonderful thing. After trying to keep things as normal and routine as possible for Boy O for a few days, I realized that it wasn't necessarily the daily routine that kept things going. The glue that keeps things normal for us is us. We really needed to be our unit again and it just wasn't working driving there and back each day. The Ronald McDonald House was how we were able to keep our family together during this crazy time. Words cannot express how grateful I am that a place such as this exists for families that live more than 25 miles away from the hospital.
DAY 6-This is a children's hospital and there are quite a few things around to entertain the kiddos. In addition to library, play room and boatloads of child life specialists at our beck and call, the 'ball thing' (as the kids referred to it)-was a great way to pass the time.
DAY 7-The bandage is getting smaller, fingers are no longer swollen and he even has a new splint to protect his thumb. He's also looking mighty sharp out of his hospital scrubs.
DAY 8-This is the day I took over for Daddy O and spent the night with Baby O and Newbie O. We were so lucky-the child life specialists visited Baby O every day to play with him. This was the day they brought in a painting project for him to do. Not the best idea in my opinion for a kid who needed to keep his bandage clean, but he sure had fun.
This is the picture I took right before bedtime. Newbie O got the pack-n-play, I got the pull out couch and Baby O got the roomy hospital bed. I was pleasantly surprised that both of them slept quite well with all the vital checks, antibiotics and pain relievers given at 11 pm and 3 am....oh and the person who came in at 10:30 pm to empty the garbage. That one kind of puzzled me.
Day 10-Waiting for the paperwork to be released. Baby O was so spoiled. The child life specialist left her Ipad in the room for him to play with. Poor girl, in addition to playing games, he managed to take several pictures of himself and override the language to Japanese.
And finally....out of the double doors and heading home.
I would not wish this experience on anyone. Ten days of seeing our baby go through hell. Ten days of walking around like a zombie, ten days of putting our trust in the doctors and nurses to take care of our son, ten days of the most terrifying emotional roller coaster ride I have ever been on.
I have however come away from this ordeal with quite a bit of clarity. I feel lucky, fortunate and ever so grateful on a daily basis. I have renewed appreciation for everything that I have. I feel silly that I ever felt down in the postpartem dumps...silly that I complained about not having time for myself, silly that I complained about my lack of sleep and silly in general because after seeing parents carrying around their precious child whose head had been shaved only to reveal the stitches from ear to ear, I realized that their journey was nowhere near over and it would be a long time before they would ever walk away from the hospital. I can only begin to imagine what they must be going through.
I will say it over again, but the kindness and generosity from complete strangers astounded me. I met so many volunteers who spent their time making meals at the Ronald McDonald house, people who brought their dogs into the hospital so children could pet them (they brought smiles to all of their faces), even an older gentleman who spent his free time making and delivering get well cards to young patients from his wheel chair. It all makes a difference. They make a difference. And it isn't small. And I will remember it and pay it forward every chance I get.