Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the same but different

Dear Em,
It was kind of weird going on vacation the week before you had surgery. On the one hand it kept my mind off what was ahead & we were glad you enjoyed a full week in the pool & ocean (after this surgery, you have to go a week without submerging your head in water). The thought of what was ahead would creep into my mind without warning, & I would struggle to push the thoughts to the back of my head & just enjoy the week. My mind just kept saying "something could go wrong...very wrong."

I tried to tell myself it wasn't a big deal. We had already gone through the process of getting tubes in your ears. Yes, this time it was a little more involved. This time your adenoids would also be removed, but everyone makes that procedure sound absolutely common. At least that's what I kept telling myself.

Our trip helped with one thing: sleep. We returned from our trip late the night before your procedure. Once I fell asleep that night, I slept soundly until waking up (which was probably 30 minutes later than I should have). I rushed around the house getting ready. You didn't even ask for food or drink. We had prepared you for not being able to have anything that morning. I told you that popsicles would be waiting for you at the end of your appointment, & you seemed just fine about it. I didn't have breakfast either. It was a solidarity thing. If you couldn't eat, I wouldn't eat either.

We were running late. Nonnie came with us this time, & she loaded you into the car while I speed brushed my teeth. We all got into the car & realized we had forgotten Lamby in the house. I literally sprinted into the house to get her & bring her back to you in the car. It was close, but we just made our appointment time. I checked in & filled out the needed paperwork. This time they gave you your hospital bracelet at check-in. I once again struck by the kindness of the staff at the ENT Center of Rhode Island. The receptionist gave you multiple pages of stickers to decorate your ID bracelet with. She never rushed you as you looked through each page of options, & it put a smile on your face to be able to decorate your bracelet with the decided upon pink heart stickers. Then the receptionist pointed us to the waiting rooms, letting us know that the Disney channel was on in one & channel 10 in the other (it really is the little things they do sometimes that make a big difference).

After we watched a few minutes of the Disney Channel your name was called, & we went back to the familiar room that was divided into sections with curtains. We were veterans of this place. I knew there they would get your vitals, we would change your clothes, & I would talk to the doctors before heading to the operating room. I think it started to seem familiar to you too. Just like last time, this is where you started to whimper. You refused to put on the hospital gown, hat, & socks. You had worked with us up until then, but this was the last straw for you. Asking you to take off your flowy & fashionable dress & replace it with a drab hospital gown (not even in one of your favorite colors), for you, it was just too much.

Maybe it was actually that you were understanding what was ahead too, but it was the clothing you refused. I told you the gown was to protect your clothes from getting popsicle on them later on. You didn't really budge. I showed you the clothing I would be putting on as well. You didn't care. I promised you we could watch Lilo & Stitch 2 (your new favorite movie), & you finally agreed (while whimpering) to put the new clothes on. The have portable DVD players & movies & TV shows for the kids to watch while waiting, & I had come prepared this time with a case of all your favorite movies. I was proud of myself. I had this.

The anesthesiologist came in to talk to us, & that's when it sunk in that this experience was going to be different than our last. He let me know that this time you would be under anesthesia for longer & would need an IV & breathing tube. I wasn't really prepared for that. You also had two surgeons instead of one (one of them repaired a slit in your left earlobe while the other put in tubes & removed adenoids), & I talked to them both. They told me this time it was going to take about an hour. An hour?! Last time it was barely fifteen minutes, & each second felt like a very painful eternity. How was I going to survive an hour?

You were checked out. You would look up when someone tried to talk to you, give them an evil eye, & go back to watching your movie. I felt like you were saying, "listen, I'm playing along. I'm wearing this awful outfit, but I don't have to like it." At least you were crying.

Then it was time. The same Lynne as last time came to escort us to the operating room. I didn't look at the sign on the door this time. I didn't need my knees to go weak when I saw it. When the doors opened, I found the chair next to the operating table, & already knew that chair was for me. I sat in the chair without being guided to it this time, & held you & Lamby in my lap. The doctor read off your name on your bracelet & the chart & announced what the procedures would be.

Then they brought out the mask. This time it didn't smell like cherries. It was over your face, but I could smell it in my nostrils & again feared I would pass out. I couldn't see your face, but I nuzzled my face into the back of your head & gave you kisses. We talked about your favorite songs & the RedSox. They told me your eyes were getting heavy, & I knew soon I would have to let you go. I helped them place you on the operating table, & they reminded me to give you one last kiss (it's really so kind that they do that).

I didn't realize I was crying until then. I felt the tears tumbling out of my eyes & tried to blink them back. The nurse who escorted me out turned to me and said, "You did a really great job. Did you see how calm she was through that whole experience? That was because of you & the fact you were able to keep it together & not fall apart in front of her. It's much harder for the kids when the parents fall apart. You did a really great job." I will always remember her kindness. I was ready to fall apart. I was ready to absolutely fall apart in helplessness. Those few kind words let me know that I had made a difference for you, & that made a big difference for me.

I walked quickly to find the bathroom, locked the door behind me, & let myself fall apart there. Just for a moment. Then I joined your Nonnie in the waiting room. She tried to distract me with magazines & pictures of home decor. I felt restless. It's true what they say about once you have a child, your heart forever lives outside your body. My heart was in the operating room. I kept turning my head to look for the face of your surgeons, jealous of the other parents who breathed a sigh of relief as their names were called. It did take the whole hour, but finally both surgeons had come out to talk to me. They both said everything had gone well. Now I just had to wait for them to call me to join you in recovery, & those moments of waiting dragged on the slowest. I knew you needed me & I needed you.

As we walked toward the double doors, I heard crying & coughing. I briefly thought, "that can't be Emma. She wasn't coughing or crying last time." It was in the recovery room that the reality of the difference between last time & this time set in. Your eyes were closed, but it was you crying & coughing & thrashing around. Your hand was wrapped up in bandages. Your face was swollen & red welts covered it. A nurse was holding your hands down to keep you from pulling at your ear. "What is wrong with her hand,"I asked in a panic referring to the bandage on it. "Oh, it's just a little blood from rubbing her nose," the nurse told me. It didn't really answer my question of why there was a bandage on it, but then I realized there was a IV coming out of it. I didn't know what to do. This was not how you looked the last time. I buried my face in your hair, blinked back tears, & told you I was there & I loved you. Still you thrashed around.

They told me I could hold you in a moment. They were waiting for a chair to open up for us to sit in, but I didn't need a chair. I scooped you up into my arms & you buried your cheek into my chest. You were mine, & you needed your Mommy. You cried & rubbed your nose into my chest. I sang you some of your favorite songs: Sweet Caroline, Brown Eyed Girl, & Hakuna Matata. A chair opened up, & they escorted us to it. I continued to sing to you & began to feel you calm in my arms. A nurse came by & asked me to keep doing exactly what I was doing. Soon you were sleeping in my arms.

That's when something totally unexpected happened. I started to feel myself black out. When I first felt the dizziness after looking at your stitches, I just tried to take deep breaths hoping it would go away. Then my vision started to go back. "Hey Mom, I'm going to pass out. Do you think you could ask someone for some apple juice?" My poor mom was already panicked from seeing you. I had told her you would be out of it, but I couldn't prepare her for how you looked. This was totally different from last time. My mom asked the nurse for some juice & thinking it was for you, the nurse asked us to wait a moment so she could check your vitals first.

Then the nurse looked at my face. I guess all the color had drained from it. All of a sudden I had everyone rushing around me. There were nurses getting me apple juice & cookies, lifting up my feet, checking my blood pressure & heart rate, & getting me a ice pack. I felt so ridiculous. They should have been rushing around you. I was so embarrassed & annoyed with my body. My blood pressure had dropped dangerously low, & a nurse monitored me until it went back up. "Did you eat breakfast this morning," one nurse asked me. I explained that I didn't feel right eating if you couldn't. The nurse shook her head at me. "That explains it. This happens to at least one mom every week. You have to eat. How can you be there for her if you don't?" So much for solidarity.

"Are you too warm with her in your arms," one of the nurses asked me. I started to panic. There was no way they were going to take you out of my arms. I would die before I let them do that. I told her I was fine & soon I was. Everything started to settle down. My blood pressure returned to a normal range, & you slept nuzzled into my chest. They all went back to monitoring you instead of me (except for your Nonnie who monitored us both...poor Nonnie).

This time it was procedure to spend an hour & a half in recovery instead of thirty minutes. When I first heard this, I thought it would be a waste of time. You bounced back so quickly last time. Within five minutes you were asking for posicles. I soon realized we would need every moment of the hour & a half this time around...maybe more. You snored as you slept in my arms, & rubbed your nose back & forth across my chest. I think you would have burrowed yourself inside of me if you could have. We asked you if you wanted a popsicle or juice & you shook your head. I asked you if you wanted to watch a movie, & you shook your head. When you finally agreed to a popsicle, you took only a couple bites before refusing it again.

As you slept in my arms we noticed more the burst blood vessels all over your face. Your face was so swollen, & you had what looked like raspberry birthmarks in a few spots surrounding your hair line. We were assured again & again that it was normal. You had been coughing fiercely right after the procedures & sometimes that will cause the blood vessels to burst. The swelling in your face they attributed to the IV that was still filling you with fluid. I worried over every little thing that looked out of place while we let you sleep in my arms for more than a half hour.

Before they would let you leave, you had to show us you could walk to the bathroom & go potty. This was a bigger challenge than I originally thought it would be. You didn't want to be anywhere except cuddled into my chest. Anytime we asked you to try, you whimpered & I didn't have the heart to force the matter. Thank goodness for the nurses at the ENT Center who are stronger than myself. One of them gently but firmly helped you out of my arms & put your feet on the floor. We held your hands as we walked you to the bathroom & let you go potty.

You perked up with the promise of Dels. Once we promised you that, you were ready to get dressed & leave You told all the nurses that you were going to get Dels when we left. You were happy to discard the hospital gown, & put your dress back on. After one final vital check, I held you in my arms & we walked out together.

We picked up your prescriptions from the pharmacy. You'll need ear drops twice a day, antibiotics twice a day, ointment for the stitches on your ear throughout the day, & tylenol for the pain. The recovery is more involved this time around, & you're clearly in more pain.

After some Dels for you & some food for Nonnie & I, we headed home. We put your favorite movie on in my room, & the three of us got into bed to watch it. I soon felt my eyelids get heavy. You, on the other hand, were ready to play & jump & climb & dance. And just like that, things felt normal again.

You're not completely recovered yet, but I can breathe a huge sigh of relief that the truly hard part (for you & for me) is over. As much as we are so very thankful for the kindness & superb care you we received at the ENT Center, I hope no one takes offense when I say I hope we never have to return. Let's hope the second time is the charm & we head into our future ear infection free.

I love you so,

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