Sunday, February 9, 2014

Little N's First Year, Part 6: The Surgery is Done

August 19th came. No phone calls from Debbie, the surgery coordinator. Only one phone call, actually. From the hospital, to confirm the surgery, for 7 am the next morning. We had to arrive by 5:45 am. No solids after midnight. Only water or clear liquids up until 4 am.

Little N, by that time, was sleeping through the night, so we woke him shortly before leaving at 5 am. We got there by 5:45, and were given a buzzer, the kind you get at a restaurant. We were buzzed back to a hospital staffer who had some papers to sign, the first of many. He sent us up to the waiting area where many other families were. After waiting about 15 minutes, a nurse called us back to a holding area lined with hospital beds, divided by curtains. I instantly remembered this room: J-babe was here a few years ago after getting an MRI/EEG. This was the room where they prepped patients for surgery or procedures.

Little N still couldn't eat, but we kept him as happy as we could. We had to change him into a tiny hospital gown. Nurses rushed back and forth, asking questions, admiring his red hair and blue eyes. At the end of this long holding room, there were hospital doors. The kind that swing open quickly--no doorknobs. I could see dozens of doctors walking the hallway behind those doors. I searched for Dr. Martin. We were told that there had been times where a patient was in the holding room, and then found out Dr. Martin had to be sent to perform another surgery. The closer it got to 7 am, the more concerned I became. This can't happen to us. We've already been canceled twice. The surgery will happen today. It will.

The anesthesiologist came first, to explain the procedure. Then the ENT came. Then a doctor wanting us to try using Tylenol as a pain reliever after the surgery to see if it would be comparable to what they usually use for pain (which I didn't even know yet). There was such a rush of people, that I somehow agreed to the study by this doctor, not knowing what I got myself into, but thinking it must all be part of the process. What I began to realize in that holding room is just how much the doctors WITHhold from you before the surgery. All we "knew" is that Little N would recover fairly quickly and be drinking the bottle within a few hours. I assumed the repair would involve simply sewing the cleft together down the middle of his palate. We would soon discover much more about the procedure...

One by one the patients around us were wheeled away. I found myself getting very emotional as each one left. They gave a light sedative to Little N, and within a few minutes, our wriggly, squirmy baby lay still on the hospital bed, eyes open, looking very calm.

And then Dr. Martin arrived! He went over the procedure again, and reassured us that it would not take more than an hour, and that Little N would bounce back within a few hours after the surgery, as most of his patients did. Routine for him, brand new to us. He told us to go downstairs to the surgery waiting area and when they were done, he would come talk to us. And away they went, with our Little N. Instead of tearing up, I felt at peace. I knew everything would be okay.
Down in the waiting room, there was a large screen, much like an airport terminal, with lots of numbers and symbols. We were given a certain number for Little N to watch on the screen. The symbols represented what stage the surgery was in: prepping for surgery, surgery in process, surgery complete. So as the minutes ticked by we could watch the progress. Sitting across the room was a very large group of people or family, looking very distraught. From what I could tell, one of their children was in surgery and hanging on to dear life. I began to feel even more grateful that ours was just a routine surgery, and even thought of the times we had been cancelled over the summer. Life or death was certainly more important than routine.
An hour passed, and the surgery was still in process. And then another half hour. We tried to reassure ourselves, remembering that he did have a wide cleft, after all. Finally, at almost 2 hours, the screen showed "surgery complete." Dr. Martin came out with a few others to report on the surgery. He said it went very well, but took longer because of how wide the cleft was (we were right). He had to use some collagen to fill in some of the palate. But Little N was doing well and was in the recovery room. He said we could see him right away. So off we went, to see our little baby boy, made new through a surgery. But I was not prepared for what I saw...

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