Walking into to Arkansas Children’s Hospital at 5:30am for our sons surgery seemed surreal. I looked around at all the other families who had gotten up early, not fed their child breakfast to come and sit and wait on surgery. I wondered what their stories were and why they were there. I was handed a pager and told that it would buzz throughout the day as they needed us. We took a seat to wait, and then we bowed our heads and prayed in the waiting room.
A few minutes would pass and then the pager went off. It was just admissions. It was just paper work. I finished and took a seat again. It wasn’t long before the pager went off again. This time, it was a nurse who needed to start the pre-op process. Weight, length, blood pressure, and so on. Then we were taken back to a room where we would be given more information, changed into a hospital outfit and we would wait some more. Here, in that moment of waiting, I think my nerves really started to rise. I wasn’t a mess yet, which surprised me but I think reality was sinking in. They came in and pricked his foot to get some blood. It was a difficult process. Lots of tears, screaming, fighting and in the end, the sample clotted leaving them no choice but to do it again. My heart sank and I was sick. I watched him in pain already once and didn’t want to see it again. I prayed. The second time was actually no big deal. It was fairly quick and easy with only a few tears.
Doctors and nurses flooded in giving us more information and explaining the process and of course the risks. It was almost time for the surgery to start and I knew it would be happening soon. The wonderful nurse who is the cleft team coordinator was in the room talking with us. She is the one who takes him back to the OR. She always makes me feels so at ease. She was telling me not to worry. She then said “next time you see him he will have a new lip” and I lost it. I cried hard “But I like this lip!” I kissed all over him and squeezed him tight and walked away from our baby.
I know that they do this all the time. I know that this surgery isn’t the scariest surgery. But he is mine. My baby and regardless, It is heart wrenching handing him to someone and walking away, knowing they will put him to sleep, cut, and stitch him. The emotions were high for me.
We were told they would let us know after he was asleep and intubated. It was about 30 minutes in the waiting room but it seemed much longer. When I saw her (the nurse) coming to talk to us, my heart jumped. “He is fine, he is doing great!” Relief! She explained that they had just got everything done and had started the actual surgery. She stayed and visited with us for a while and my mind was eased. We would get updates every hour so we were just waiting for the pager to go off. I was anxious and wanted time to pass quickly. I was able to keep the tears inside while we were waiting.
3 hours after we handed our baby off, they paged us to tell us the doctor was ready to talk to us. He tells us how great it went, a little bit of what to expect when we see him, and some of the care instructions. I was somewhat relieved but he wasn’t awake yet and we hadn’t seen him, so I was still anxious.
Another 30 minute wait in the waiting room, we were paged to recovery. I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions that I would have. He had woken up too quickly (not during the procedure but when they started waking him up), so they had to give him another drug. When we were seeing him he hadn’t fully woken up. He was swollen, red, stitched up, and he looked so sad. The water works were on. When he woke up screaming my heart was breaking and I couldn’t keep it in. I am pretty sure the nurse thought I was nuts. She kept saying “oh he looks so good!” I kept saying “he looked so good before!” I realized that there was some resentment towards her- Does she even know how beautiful this baby boy is? How gorgeous he was when I walked in this morning? She is saying he looks so good and all I can think is my baby looked wonderful before and now he is in pain.
I wasn’t truly prepared for the emotion that would come from his lip being different. I knew the actual procedure would have me nervous and concerned but seeing him look so different was was so difficult.
I would like to say that my emotions calmed and Harvey was just as calm. But the hours that followed were hard. He would just scream and cry. Nothing made it better. They were giving him pain meds and it would help for a little while but he would just frail about and cry. There was a baby bed beside the chair in his room but if I laid him down he screamed even more. I held him the entire time we were there. He wasn’t wanting to eat (who could blame him) so I was pumping milk and trying to feed him with a syringe. But he didn’t like that either. This was so sad to me as well.
I was exhausted from lack of sleep, the heightened emotions, and caring for our baby. Harvey did eventually eat twice the first day. We were able to go home the next day around 10:30am. We were so thankful that he was getting that IV out and all the wires were unhooked. We could go home and care for him in comfort!
We have now been home a little over 24 hours. Harvey has given me a few smiles today which has totally blessed me! Today is much better then yesterday but he is still uncomfortable. He wants to be held and rocked or wants to lay on my chest while I pat his back. His swelling is down and he looks much better. I know with the coming days it will just get better and better.
This experience has opened my eyes to how much kindness I am surrounded by. From the wonderful friends who let our older kids stay with them for 2 nights, to the amazing friend who surprised me and cleaned my ENTIRE house and washed my sheets so I could come home to a clean house, to the friends bringing meals so we don’t have to cook these first few days home with him, the guys who came and took care of all of our animals, to the outpouring of prayers, comments, and encouragement that have come from Instagram, Facebook, text messages and phone calls.
I am so thankful that ACH is such an amazing hospital with an amazing staff. Our experience with the hospital was great! I am happy that this is behind us and we can move forward. I am happy that God is so good and gave us just what we needed when we needed it throughout the entire process.
Here is to Harvey and his new lip!