Charlie had hernia surgery this week.
It wasn’t the worst, most dangerous surgery a kid could have, but it was still *my* kid getting cut open, y’know?
There are kids who have been diagnosed with cancer, having open heart surgery, getting organ transplants and fighting for every breath they take. My reality is not that, but it might as well have been.
To parents, a knee scrape is a broken leg. A cough is pneumonia. A child’s cry is unbearable.
Charlie had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. It is an operation that is so routine, they slot children in the OR throughout the day and the surgeon completes them one after another.
Still, it’s surgery. You can tell me how it’s “routine” and “easy” all you want, but I can’t get the image of my son hooked up to tubes, and machines lying on a table totally limp. He might as well have been in for something drastically serious, because it looks and feels the same.
When your kid needs to be fixed, you feel like you did something wrong. The piece of you that went into them was a bad piece and you feel responsible.
Here’s what a day in the OR feels like for a parent:
Taking the elevator up to our ward, Batman is bringing smiles to everyone’s faces and Charlie feels like a superhero that can conquer anything.
A successful visit with the pre-assessment nurse sees Charlie rewarded with his choice of stickers.
After changing out of his Batman costume into his “Doctor outfit” (hospital issued surgery scrubs), Charlie is weighed so they know the proportion of meds he’ll need.
Charlie hasn’t eaten since last night. He was allowed fluid up until 7am so, despite loving the train table, whines of “I’m hungry” come out ever few minutes.
Small talk with the nurse. She loves working in the Children’s Hospital. She says the kids are resilient and positive and it’s a fun happy place. Adults complain and are grumpy. I joke that maybe if we had clowns and train tables in adult hospitals it might be different.
Our porter comes to grab us, looks like the surgery slot is open and we are rolled to another waiting room.
Nurses have brought us a box of tissues as there are tears. I am trying to be light and it seems uncaring but if I get sad we will both be puddles so I’m trying to balance it. We know it’s a ‘routine’, but the feeling of being in a surgical holding room is still filled with the unknown.
The doctors come and give us a rundown of what’s going to happen and do a pre-game check to make sure they have the right kid and right surgery. They mark his right leg with an X to identify where his hernia is.
It’s time to say goodbye. This is the hardest part for my wife, I will take him in to the OR. It’s not any easier for me, but I’m keeping it in.
I took Charlie down the hall to the OR. The room was bright and filled with equipment. “I’m going to space?” he asked. I smiled at him and held his hand as they administered the anesthetic. I looked straight ahead at the lead anesthesiologist. I didn’t want to watch him fall limp. I kissed his cheek and then he was out. “We’ll take good care of him” was the last thing I heard as I sighed, took a deep breath, and left the room…
The waiting is the hardest part. Doctors come in and out of the waiting room giving anxious parents the “they did excellent!” updates. And soon enough we get ours too. Along with the update comes a list of post-op instructions, we can’t remember any of them we’re just thrilled our baby is back from his ‘trip to space.’
They have those plastic pucks that you get while you wait for your table at restaurants to let you know when your kid is coming back to the ward. Ours went off and we leapt to our feet. He was still very groggy, and pale but to hold his hand was perfect.
He’s starting to come around and the first thing he asks for is .. .. his older brother. *sigh*
For most of the next hour, Charlie is in and out of napping while the anesthetic wears off. We give him water and apple juice, and by 2p we’re ready to take him home.
Not so fast. The moment we got him vertical, he vomited. All the water and juice came straight back up. We waited 10 more minutes before leaving.
Charlie vomited again in the car on the way home. Thankfully the hospital gave us some trays, and we caught all of it.
When I called the Nurse Help Line at 10p looking for some post op advice (because I couldnt find our instruction sheet which was on the fridge with a magnet), we discovered charlie hadn’t peed since 830a. Apparently not peeing for 12 hrs is a terrible thing. They advised us to take him to the ER immediately. With 5 hour waits at all the hospitals, we called Dr Nana (my mom) who suggested his lack of peeing may have been due to the vomiting. So we’re trying to pump him full of sips right now to see if we can force a void in the next little bit.
Like we were back feeding an infant, we woke at 3am to give him some fluids, Tylenol, and try for a pee. Success. Phew.
The next morning he is wide awake and silly and goofy like nothing ever happened. Kids are resilient, and Charlie is proving all our worrying to have been much ado about nothing.
The entire 24 hour stretch was the perfect metaphor for parenting. The stress, anguish, worry, laughter, tears, fear, and happiness.