During my nursing career, I have sent lots of patients to surgery. Various types of surgeries–working as a nurse you get to see all types of surgeries, patients, recoveries, etc. I am no stranger to all that is involved in pre-op preparations of a patient. Working nightshift, I was often required to get patients ready for those early morning 6 am O.R. calls. Scrubs, skin preps, pre-op meds, none of it seemed that big of a deal to me. It was my job. And I loved it.
The worst part of it, the part that always tore at my heart a little, was seeing the patient off to surgery, and being present when they said their goodbyes to family. It seems there is always so much uncertainty, nervousness, fear, and worry in those goodbyes. Even when the patient & family were as well-prepared as possible, I would often find myself with a little lump in the back of my throat when they gave those last hugs as we wheeled off down the hallway.
I have since learned, those goodbyes are 100 times worse when it’s your child.
On Wednesday morning (at 6 am nonetheless!) we were at Vanderbilt in the pre-op department, waiting for Zoe’s eye surgery. For almost a year now, we’ve had her in glasses (super cute ones, at that!), hoping to avoid surgery. You see, surgery can work wonders, but I know all too well that it doesn’t always work, and sometimes you open up a whole other can of something you didn’t want to start with. So I try to avoid those operating rooms at all costs.
So, we’ve done glasses, and occupational therapy, to try to improve hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. Zoe has progressed leaps & bounds, but her eye crossing did not. The fear in continuing to prolong surgery was that eventually her brain would get tired of trying to make her eyes work together, and would shut off vision to one eye (ambylopia). So we had to weigh the risk of developing that (about 60% or so), with the risks of undergoing surgery to straighten her eyes. No, this surgery was not simply for cosmetic purposes (although we got some GREAT results!) 🙂
As we sat in the pre-op holding room, being visited by all the members of Zoe’s team that day-anesthesia, opthalmology, O.R. nurse, I decided I have a new respect for those who work in surgery at children’s hospitals. If I get choked up sending a willing ADULT patient off to surgery who is fully aware of the risks & benefits, how much worse would it be if I spent my day sending off newborns, babies, & toddlers to surgery, who have no clue what’s going on and just know they are not with momma or daddy?
Knowing that this procedure was very minor in the realm of surgeries, and considering what we’ve been through in the past, I choked back that huge lump in my throat and handed my baby over the surgeon, who promised “I’ll take good care of her.” We decided against pre-medicating with Versed to reduce separation anxiety, because she was handling it pretty well & I didn’t want anything to delay her waking up in PACU.
While she was in surgery, John camped out in the waiting room while I hurried downstairs to get us something to eat. Once my baby goes off to surgery, everything else in the world becomes minor in comparison and I sort of wander off into a haze not really caring about much else until she is back safe in my arms. I probably cut people off in the elevator line, in the cafeteria area I apparently did not box my order up correctly, because the checkout lady specifically pointed out to me that “…the strawberries need to be in a separate box so they can be weighed.” I am not an angry person, but at that point I wanted to grab her and give her a good shake & make sure she knew that MY baby was in surgery at that very moment, so I could care less how I box my strawberries because my mind is a million miles away.
Thankfully, I restrained myself, made it back upstairs to that awful 3rd floor waiting that I have seen now three times since Zoe’s birth. Her surgery was short-within 30 minutes or so they announced “Lovell Family,” & I bolted out of the waiting room as fast as possible.
Zoe was awake once we got to her, crying of course. She fell asleep pretty much the minute I got ahold of her, and from that point it seemed the nurses were all but pushing us out the door. Zoe had very little pain afterward, her biggest issue was wanting to rub her eyes (understandably) and so we were given arm splints for her to wear if needed to keep from rubbing.
Since we’ve been home, we have noticed a major difference in her eyes already. They are straight for one thing, but it seems even her hand-eye coordination is more steady, focused, and accurate. She bounced back almost immediately–by the time we got home from Nashville she was talking in the backseat, doing her fake cough to get us to say “Oh my goodness!”, and playing with her arm splints. I was amazed.
I am thankful for surgeons who have an ability I don’t want & will never have–the ability to operate on children. I’m thankful for nurses who can choke back those lumps in their throats and take babies from their parents’ arms and place them on an O.R. table. I’m thankful that my baby was born today, and not 20 or 30 years ago when she wouldn’t have the opportunities she has now to grow up & be successful.
I’m thankful that the Lord gives us strength to hand our baby over to a surgeon, and that I’ve been able to do it three times now. I pray it is the last, although I also pray for the grace to accept what may come, and the wisdom to know what to do about it.
But for today, we are home, we are happy & healthy, and my baby’s eyes are straight 🙂