Tag Archives: surgery

Don’t Go And Get Coffee While Your Child Is In Surgery

5 Mar

If you can’t laugh at yourself, nothing else seems very funny. -me

As soon as the nurse’s walked out of the doorway carrying Oli, I began to cry. Some of the tears were shed from fear. That irrational fear that I would never see her again. Fear that the audiologist would walk back into the room and tell me that her hearing on the right was lost. Fear that she felt alone and scared. Some of the tears were shed because I was just sad because she is so young and has been through so much. No child should have to go through the things that Oli has had to go through. And the rest of the tears were shed because I am a mother. What mother wouldn’t cry if her child has surgery? What mother doesn’t cry when their child has anything that she can’t fix herself?

I waited in the pre-op room until the ENT came back to talk to me about his recommendations for putting tubes in her ears. He walked back into the room about 20 minutes later.

“She does not need tubes in her ears again at this time. They were perfectly clear. No sign of infection and no fluid. I was surprised. I’ll keep a close eye on them and we’ll see if they stay clear.”

I was surprised too! Usually when she has a runny nose and goopy eyes (which is did that morning) she also has fluid in her ears. I thanked him for his time and gathered my things to go wait in the surgery waiting room until they called me for the results of the hearing screen.

I walked back out to sit in those very uncomfortable waiting room chairs. Who designs these waiting rooms? It’s like they said, “What kind of chairs should we put in here? We know that these parents are nervous, afraid, and will be unable to sit still while they wait for hours for their child to get out of surgery. You know what would be the best idea for chairs in here? Hard, plastic ones with a thin vinyl covering with just enough padding to avoid bruising and corporate complaints. Why make this process any easier by providing sufficient butt comfort? Oh… and let’s put a few gazillion gallon fish tanks in here. Who isn’t comforted by Nemo and Dory? And make sure to build the cafeteria at least 5 miles from here. It’ll give them something to do.”

“Sounds like a great idea Bob! I have one more! Make sure the person at the information desk is at least 100 years old, has no idea where anything is located and can’t work the computer or the phone. Parents will think that’s hilarious and won’t be at all frustrated or annoyed.”

Before the ENT left the room and sent me to this wonderful waiting area he said that the audiologist would come find me in the waiting room sometime between 1 hour and next Tuesday to tell me the results of the ABR. They gave me this little blue pager that was supposed to light up and vibrate when Oli was done. I had to keep it with me just in case they couldn’t get a hold of me by my cell phone. I really wanted to go get a cup of coffee, but I hated the thought leaving the waiting room. What if the little blue pager only works within a certain distance from the surgery area? I doubted it would work 5 miles away and in an underground cave-like area, which is where the cafeteria was located. I seriously doubted that my cell phone would work there either. My cell phone only works half the time, above ground in my apartment.

I spent the next 10 minutes having an inner debate about coffee.

Did I really need it? My butt was really starting to hurt already. Maybe a little stroll would take my mind off imaginary surgical catastrophe situations. No, I can’t go. What if Oli needs me? What if the pager and the cell phone fail and something happens that requires the one thing that no nurse, doctor, tech, therapists, specialist, aide, helper, or 100 year old woman can help with. What if it can only be fixed by my immediate action or Oli will die? I don’t need coffee that bad. Wait…that would never happen. Oli’s fine and in good hands. I will only be gone a little while.

I decide to make a go of it and fast-walked my way out of the waiting room. My pager and cell phone were clutched tightly in one hand. A few weeks later I stumbled back into the waiting room, pager and cell phone non-vibrating, lit, or ringing. I sat down and glanced at the brown card attached to the pager. It was directions on how to use the pager. Aaaaa….I had been in enough restaurants (pre-children) to know how to use one. I didn’t bother reading the card when they gave me the thing. I read it now.

________Do not place pager and cell phone in direct contact. The pager may not work properly if this happens._____________

What?!

I was holding onto them both in the same hand!

Oh My God!! Something terrible has happened and I was GETTING F****** COFFEE IN EGYPT!!

I rushed the old lady at the information desk.

“My daughter Oli is in surgery. I went to go get coffee and I had my cell phone and the pager on me, but I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to put them in the same place because I didn’t read the card because, you know, I thought I knew how to work one, but then I got back and I read the little card and now I think you probably definitely tried to get a hold of me but my cell phone doesn’t work very well and of course the pager didn’t work because I had it in THE SAME FLIPPIN’ HAND AS MY CELL PHONE, STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE I HAVE LOST MY MIND AND TELL ME MY DAUGHTER IS OKAY!!”

Of course I didn’t really say any of this. They might not let me take Oli home with me. I steadied my trembling hands, took a deep breath, and said “Can you tell me if Oliana is out of surgery yet?”

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Is She Afraid?

4 Mar

I can only imagine that preparing a typical child for surgery is difficult for any mother. Trying to explain something about hospitals, doctors, sleepy medicine, discomfort, and recovery time to a 5 year old must be like trying to explain Japanese to someone who has never heard of Japan.

I have never had to do it. Oli is the only one of my children, so far, (I have a sneaky suspicion that Ginger will one day break something doing her karate, dance, acrobats off the furniture) that has spent any significant amount of time in the hospital.

This last October, Kekoa fell off of his bike and required a few stitches. However minor it seemed to everyone else, it was traumatic for him. He was really scared on the drive there. He wanted to know exactly what they would do, exactly how much it would hurt, and exactly who would be fixing him. He wanted to know what would happen if they couldn’t fix his cut? What would happen if it hurt too bad? (Worst case scenarios. I wonder where he gets this?) He needed all of the information and was not so thrilled about trusting someone he didn’t know to make him better. Up to that point, I had always done that.

“Why can’t you just fix it mommy?” He asked me that multiple times on the drive there. I told him that the cut was just a little too deep for mommy to fix. I talked to him about the nurses and the hospital room where it would happen. I told him that they would put some numbing medicine on it and that it probably wouldn’t hurt too badly. I told him that I would be right there with him the whole time.

Despite all of these conversations and words of comfort, he was really scared and nervous. Until we met a boy a little bit older than him in the ER waiting room that had gotten stitches a few months before. He told Kekoa all about it and assured him that it was no big deal and that it didn’t hurt. He immediately looked at me with relief in his eyes and said “See mom. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.”

I could only smile and thank that little boy for providing the comfort for my child that I just couldn’t seem to give him.

As I walked Oli into that same hospital on Friday morning I wished that someone could provide Oli with that. Despite talking to her in the waiting room, telling her we were there to see a doctor, and explaining what we were doing step by step, I still wondered if she felt afraid. It’s hard to explain a concept like surgery to Oli. I don’t know any other way besides just talking about it like I talked about stitches to Kekoa. When the nurse took her temperature, her blood pressure, listened to her heart and then had her change into a hospital gown, I just talked her through it.

But does she understand what is happening? Does she think we are at her pediatrician’s office, her neurologist, or another specialist? Does she notice that a hospital smells different than a physician’s office? Does she think that someone is going to hurt her eyes? The last time she had surgery she had an implant put in her eye. This was a painful surgery. Does she think that I am doing this to her? She’s always pretty mad afterwards. What does she think when I hand her off to a stranger and don’t go with her? Is she scared? Does she think that I’m not there for her?

I don’t know. It worries me more and more as she gets older. I think that she understands a lot and I talk to her like she does. The nurse did give her a sedative before they took her back. I’m sure it helps because I assume that she is scared just like any other child would be.

A child life specialist came into her room before the procedure and asked what would help her not to be afraid. I just said “Talk to her. Talk. Talk. Talk. Tell her everything. Tell her your name. Tell her before you touch her and tell her exactly what you are doing before she goes to sleep.” I told this to everyone who walked into her room that morning. Both the doctors, 4 different nurses, the audiologist, the student audiologist, and the child life specialist.

When it was time to take her back to the operating room she was fairly sedated and had a glazed look on her face. I gave her a kiss, told her that I loved her and that I would be there when she woke up. I handed my precious girl to the OR nurse who carried her away and prayed that God would go with her. I prayed that she understood what was happening and that she wasn’t scared. I prayed that they would quickly get her off to sleep so that if she was scared, she wasn’t for very long.

This not knowing…not knowing what she is feeling…is the absolute hardest part of being Oli’s mom. It’s so hard not knowing just what she understands.

My Old Lady, Gertrude

28 Feb

Tomorrow Oli has surgery…again. Every time she has to go through this I think, “For sure this is the last time. Surely she won’t need anything else done.” I think it Every. Single. Time. And then we have to do something else. Something comes up that only can be done under anesthesia.

Tomorrow’s surgery is no big deal. I know that it’s no big deal. They will not be cutting into her. Many, many people have gone through MUCH worse with their children. I know that too. Oli will only be having an ABR (hearing screen) done and possibly tubes put back in her ears.

But…I am terrified.

I have this wicked old lady, Gertrude that lives in my mind. (Wait….stay with me here.) She likes to whisper nasty, horrifying things in my ear. Remember worst-case-scenario-girl from previous blog posts? The one who is sure the power will fail during Oli’s surgery and her arm will end up falling off? Gertrude tells me these things. “Yoo-Hoo! Shaaannoooon! What if the anesthesiologist is a drug addict and gives her WAY too much medication and she never wakes up?” This is not all that far-fetched. When I had my tonsils out as a child my doctor was an addict and really did give me too much anti-nausea medication. Fortunately it was just that and not too much sedation. (A few years after my surgery he ended up giving a pregnant mommy too much sedation and sadly, she died.) I just couldn’t control my tongue for hours after surgery.

What?

Yes it was very, very bizarre. It would pull back towards my throat and then hang out like a dog. On the drive home my mom kept saying “Shannon. Stop that! It’s not funny.” I told her I couldn’t help it. After I finally convinced her that I wasn’t doing it on purpose she got kind of freaked out. (Hello! Her child had lost all voluntary control of her tongue!) She called the hospital and after looking at my chart the nurse realized that during surgery, I had been given WAY too much medication. The sticking out tongue thing eventually went away after a few hours. Thank God!! What if I had to live the rest of my life like that? What if I still had no control of my tongue? Has that ever happened before? I should Google ‘permanent loss of voluntary tongue control’.

Then I start thinking, what if that happens to Oli?

No. I probably shouldn’t Google it. I don’t want to know.

I’m just nervous. Nervous, nervous, nervous.

I’m scared because they will be putting her to sleep (obviously that alone provides a whole crap load of things for that old lady to work with), but I’m also scared of the hearing screen results. What if it’s NOT just fluid in her ears? What if that doesn’t explain why her eardrum isn’t moving? What if it’s something congenital? What if she’s NEVER been able to hear well out of that ear? I’ve spent her whole life providing a lot of information auditorily. What if I’ve been doing it all wrong? It would definitely explain a lot if it turns out that she really isn’t hearing well.

No matter what, I have to try and ignore the millions of bad scenarios that are racing through my head. (Shut up Gertrude!) I have to put aside my own fear and step up for Oli. And I have to just keep moving forward whatever the results of that test show.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” -Denis Waitley

Total Mommy Meltdown

17 Feb

“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”

― Stephen King

Finally after what seemed like hours of waiting in those little blue plastic chairs and watching cartoons on the Disney channel in the kids play room, the nurse called my name from the doorway.

“You can go back and see your daughter now. She’s awake, but we just got her into the recovery room. Normally I wait to bring families back until the kids have been there a little while, but since you work here I made an exception.”

I thanked her profusely for letting me go back early, but then was wishing she had waited a little bit longer as I rounded the corner and could hear Oli screaming at the top of her lungs from the end of the room.

I quickened my pace to get to her bedside and then looked at the recovery room nurse as she straightened out cords and tried to get her connected to the monitors.

“Aren’t you going to give her some pain medication?” I ask the obvious question when ones child has had surgery and then is screaming like they are still slicing off some major body part.

“Yes I’ll get her something in a minute.”

In a minute? Can’t you hear her pain? This purple color is not the normal hue of my daughter’s face.

I know what it’s like to be the nurse and have anxious parents breathing down my neck, but come on lady. I understand that you are busy and it is obviously important that you straighten out these cords (for some reason unknown to me), but give her something. I think she might be dying.

She finally untangles the last knot in the stream of medical cords and saunters off to get Oli pain medication.

By the time she came back I don’t think I had ever seen Oli quite the color that her face was now. I had no idea, until that moment, that human skin could turn that color. Her face had a kind of red, purplish tint that only the truly pissed off baby can become.

Now I am quite familiar with it. Now I know that when Oli turns that color I better get the hell out of her way in about 10 seconds because she may spontaneously combust. Or try to bite, scratch or beat me to death. Good thing my peanut is only 40lbs soaking wet and has yet to actually hurt me. ( She is usually very sweet. I promise… Except when she’s not. )

The nurse gave her some medicine and Oli eventually quieted down and went to sleep.

“This is normal. Sometimes children have that kind of reaction to the anesthesia. She should be better after a little while.” The obsessive compulsive nurse tells me.

“Okay.” I am thinking yes, I realize that, but it does not give me any comfort because I am watching my baby have a total and complete meltdown and therefore am well on my way to total meltdown phase myself. Watching her scream louder than I have ever heard her scream does not in any way feel “normal” to me.

However, thank you for trying to reassure me.

I don’t feel any better.

Please Don’t Let Her Arm Fall Off

16 Feb

“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

Fortunately because my two small children were in the car with us that cold day in January it ensured that my husband’s enthusiasm for an adventure took a back seat. We made it to Oli’s surgery appointment unscathed, unstuck and virtually un-traumatized.

It was scary riding with a driver who was unfamiliar driving in the snow on gravel roads in the middle of the desert, but Seth was cautious. We got to the hospital 2 hours late to her appointment. I had gotten a hold of the surgeon when we realized that we were going to be late and she told us to go ahead and come whenever we could.

They prepped Oli for surgery and the nurses whisked my baby girl off to the operating room shortly afterwards. We were assured that Oli was in good hands and were sent to the waiting room.

I had never been the parent of a patient before Oli was born. One time I had to take Kekoa to the ER when he was 4 months old because of a high fever. We were only there long enough to make sure he didn’t have an infection and then left.

This was nothing like that.

I knew they were going to be cutting into my baby, however minor the operation was.

THEY WERE GOING TO CUT INTO MY BABY!!!

I had been involved in lots of surgeries with babies before Oli, but none was my child. My heart went out to all of the parents who had sat in those little plastic chairs before me.The parents that I myself, had sent to the waiting room when I was the nurse on duty the day of their child’s surgery. Many times I spoke the exact same words spoken to me that morning, “She’s in good hands. Everything will be fine.”

Of course there are no guarantees. I knew that. I was terrified.

The few hours it took to perform the operation and get Oli into the recovery area were some of the longest hours of my life. Oli has had a few other surgeries since then and it never gets any easier.

Remember I am a worst-case-scenario girl.

I worry about everything from a complete power failure when my girl is still on the ventilator and unconscious down to worrying that the nurse didn’t properly swab her IV port before injecting medication into it and subsequently she gets a terrible bacterial infection and her arm falls off.

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It’s awful!

Luckily none of those things has ever happened.

I want to trust people taking care of Oli. I really do. Most of me has to or else I would drive myself crazy, but this is my baby girl. I can’t trust them completely. I don’t think any mother ever does.

Moms worry about our children the moment we realize we are having them. It’s not any more difficult, I don’t think, when you have a child with special needs. We are just given more opportunities to worry. And we are given more opportunities to trust people and have a little faith in them. Sometimes they let you down, but most of the time they don’t.

Most of the time my imagination is far worse than reality.

Good thing!! Otherwise my girl would defiantly be missing a few limbs by now.

Getting Rid Of The Reflux

14 Feb

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

― Angela Schwindt

Finally when Oli was 7 months old we made the decision to surgically fix her GI reflux.

I could no longer watch her struggle to keep her food down. Despite thickening her formula, a strict regimen of reflux medication and eating baby food, the reflux was not improving.

We had to wait several months before making this decision because she didn’t fit into her GI doctors normal category of surgical patients. She was still gaining weight, growing, was at that time still sleeping, and was not screaming most hours of the day. The exact opposite of most of his patients.

He kept putting off the idea of surgical intervention until one day when I brought Oli in for her monthly check up.

“How is she doing?” He asks quietly. He was a tall, gentle, soft spoken man with an awkward personality.

“Well not to good. This cannot be normal.” I tell him. Frustrated with her lack of response to his treatments, my goal today is to show him how miserable it was for her. I laid Oli face down on the crisp, white exam paper.

“Now just watch.” I say as I encourage Oli to lift her head. This was an ongoing struggle for her because of her lack of visual motivation,. But also because every time she exerted any abdominal force whatever was in her stomach seemed to become pressurized and shot out her nose. As he is looking down at Oli she performs right on cue. A thick stream of chunky old milk, tinted green from her lunch comes out her nose.

“This happens every single time I put her on her tummy. You have to do something.”

“Yes okay. I guess it’s time to look into surgery.” He relents.

“Great. I know a pediatric general surgeon who I’m comfortable with. I’d like him to perform the surgery because I know he won’t put in a G-tube unless she absolutely needs it. I don’t think she needs one and he agrees.”

A few weeks later Oli had the surgery. She did not need the G-tube. I was happy that I had found a doctor willing to listen to me and not just put one in, as was the general practice.

One week after the surgery she began sitting up and was finally comfortable lying on her tummy.

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