Tuesday, March 6, 2012

surgery day the beginning of the end

March 16, 2011.  Surgery day.  I would say the day started early but in reality the previous day had never ended.  I was up all night caring for a sick little man and if there was a time I could put him down I was rechecking things to make sure I was set for the morning.

We were to be at the hospital by 6:30am.  My friend arrived at about 5:45 and Ailish and I were in the bus in and about six.  The weather was snowy and cold and we were leaving in the pitch black.  Before I pulled away I thought to myself that I should take a picture of the moment.

Ailish was so happy that morning.  She was smiling, kicking and threw in a few half giggles and cooing noises.  It was if she knew something big was happening. It involved just her and I and she was excited.  The drive was uneventful.  We listened to the radio, I talked to her about where we were going and what was going to happen.  I told her how much I loved her and how proud I was of her.  I hinted that if all things went well we would surprise them all and be discharged from hospital in five days and not the seven to ten projected.  Because her chair tie downs are at the back of the bus and with the need for the heaters I had to really speak up so Ailish could hear me so from the outside it might have appeared that I was shouting the whole time.

We arrived on time and went up to day surgery where we would be admitted.  Everything went smoothly until the nurse said "you have a copy of the adoption order?"  "Uhh no" I said stunned.  "Oh it says here you would be bringing that in".  For the love of God I thought. "I said there is no need for me to bring in an adoption order. She was adopted at birth, she is eleven years old and unless everyone else here has to prove guardianship of the child they have brought in then it is not necessary for me to prove it.  Her last name is the same as mine and no one has seen her in clinic with anyone else but me".  The nurse understood and in spite of my mounting fear and anxiety I had conveyed my message politely and luckily had not offended her as she would only have been the messenger not the jackass whose idea it was to request such a thing.

The rest was standard admitting stuff.  Vitals were taken, clothes were changed to hospital gown which inevitably has broken snaps, consents were checked etc.  While this was going on the kids were starting to call from home.  I can no longer remember why they were calling but there was at least two calls received.  The nurse then confirms whether I had followed the preoperative protocol.  Antiseptic washes times three?  Check.  Fleet enema?  Whoa! Oh my God!  I was horrified!  I had forgotten to give the enema!  I hadn't even bought one.  I remember being told two weeks prior that I needed to do it but after that it had completely left my mind.  Not only was I frantic about the impact this would have on Ailish's recovery and whether I would have caused her further trauma, I was also embarrassed.  I don't forget things like that!  If I'm told to perform a task for the betterment of the children then I do it.  I don't allow important procedures to slip my mind.  It was too late to give Ailish an enema before surgery as if she did not completely evacuate her bowels and then passed stool during surgery there was risk of contaminating the surgical field allowing a larger margin for infection.  The decision was to go into surgery without the enema.  Score one for me for Mother of the Year.

We waited in the day surgery area where Ailish and I shared a cuddle in a rocking chair.  I sang to her, rubbed her legs, told her what was going to happen again.  I coached her on her recovery and how she was going to sail through it all and though she would have some pain we would take care of it and we would soon be home with her in her own bed.

The anaesthetist met with us as is the norm.  He is a very kind man and diligent physician.  He was going through the chart with me and reviewing the preliminary tests completed over the year.  He was concerned he couldn't locate a report from either the pulmonary doctor and he said he would not put her to sleep until he had seen everything.  He explained that Ailish would enter the operating room and there would be a number of procedures performed before she was anethetised which could take over an hour.  With that he left us to continue rocking.

We were soon taken back to the holding area which is right outside the operating rooms.  Ailish was wheeled in on her stretcher and parked alongside at least six other beds.  There we were met by nurses,  the surgeon etc.  I took Ailish off the stretcher and we cuddled some more while they readied themselves for her.  She was a riot.  She was full of smiles and sounds indicating she was happy.  At this moment life was good from her perspective.

It was time.  I think when I looked at the clock it read 8:20.  I kissed Ailish a million times and told her I loved her a million more.   They wheeled her away.  I was promised that I would be given updates through out the day with the first call to be made at ten.  I watched them take Ailish and I don't think I have ever been quite that terrified.  Certainly I had handed my kids over to surgeons before but never for anything this huge or this invasive.  To hear the surgery described really is enough to make anyone cringe and to think this was being done to my adored one was almost too much to bear.

After Ailish went into surgery I went to the cafeteria for breakfast.  I was exhausted from being up all night and with all the stress of the build up to surgery etc I was done.  I then went up to the family room where thankfully there were few people using so I was able to lay on the couch and sleep.  I don't think I have ever slept in a 'public' place before but there was no stopping me that day.

As promised at ten o'clock I received word that Ailish was not only anethetised but that the first cut had been made.  All was well so far.  She promised to call again at noon.  The surgery was scheduled to go for up to ten hours however I had known kids to not get back to their rooms until twelve.  Basically I ate, slept, cuddled a twin for a new mom while she fed the other and paced the hospital.  Because Ailish was going to ICU there was no room for me to go to and wait for her so I had no real 'home' to go to.

All updates for the remainder of the day were positive.  At around five o'clock I was allowed into the assigned ICU room.  It was empty short of a chair, television and of course the necessary standard equipment for a state of the art intensive care room.  It seemed like forever but within an hour I was told that Ailish was in recovery and would be brought out shortly.  I met with the surgeon and his resident who were both very pleased with how Ailish weathered the surgery.  There were no surprises and from a surgeon's perspective your basic run of the mill spinal correction.  There was nothing but positive said.

Finally Ailish was brought into the room.  She looked as I was told she would.  She had pressure blisters on her forehead and chin and her face was swollen.  This was due to the number of hours she had spent positioned face down.  She was moaning.  I kissed her, told her I loved her and cried to myself about the pain she was in.  I was little comfort to her.  The little experience Ailish had had with medications in the past especially narcotics caused her to be, for lack of a better word, distant.  She was there but not.  She gave no recognition that I was there.  All I could do for her as of course holding her was not an option was to pat her chest.  It was a favourite past time.  If it had been me that had just undergone ten hours of gruelling surgery the last thing that I would want is anyone touching me but the patting offered her the smallest of comfort so I did it.  She was so so unhappy leaving me saddened as well.  Ailish arrived that morning happy and full of life, innocent of the knowledge of what was to befall her.
That wasn't all she didn't know....or so I think of the events that lay ahead.

To be cont

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