Thursday, August 23, 2007

Child's Play

My son had surgery on Monday. After getting his seventh ear infection since he was born, there was no choice left: Little Leab would be getting tubes.

This made me nervous to no end.

If you are unfamiliar with the procedure, it goes like this: doctors make a small incision inside the ear and then push small tubes in so ear can drain easier.

Now, I understand the need for him to have it as it will make him feel better, but I was nervous. This was the parent in me.

What if the doctor, who told us over and over again that this was nothing more than a "routine" surgery, screwed up. How can a surgery be routine? What does that say about our bodies and our mindsets that having a foreign object placed into our body is considered routine?

How would my son react to the anesthetic? What if he was allergic?

Worst of all, however, was the nagging feeling of possible death. Of course, it was just a quick cut in the ear, but what if the allergic reaction was severe?

The dark in my bedroom allowed these demons to enter into my brain and rob me of my sleep.

If you've never taken someone for surgery, it works something like this:
You are required to get that person (be it child or adult) to the place the surgery will take place (usually a hospital) an hour before the actual procedure. Once the person is checked in, they will go to a room where they will change into surgical clothes (be in hospital pajamas or gown). Once changed, the waiting begins.

My son was no different. Instead of an hour, his surgery (scheduled for 12:45) took place at 1:35, we waited longer. He played and walked around and tried to befriend the other kids who were waiting for their surgeries. Here again you could see that the kids were just happy to be able to play, but the parents were all nervous, or tired, or just plain scared. Once woman brought her ten year old daughter for her ninth surgery since she was born. The mother said she cried every time her daughter fell asleep.

After talking with doctors about what will happen, the surgery will occur. In the case of very small children, like my son, the parents will actually hold the child (if possible) to get them to sleep. It is here that I saw an image that is burned into my soul.

My wife held my son on her lap, and the anesthesiologist placed the mask on my son's mouth. If you've never had anesthesia, it works by numbing the body first and then slowing you down until you sleep (thus why you have a heart and oxygen monitor). My son did not cry as he was used to his nebulizer, but you could see his eyes trying to figure out what the hell was going on as the gas rushed into his lungs. First, his whole body went limp, then his eyes slowly shut. He lay there unable to move and totally unconscious.

I truly know now what it would like if my son died. His body totally lifeless (in this case he chested barely moved).

My wife placed his limp body on a gurney, and we were told to say goodbye.

Much like when my father had his bypass surgery, I could not get these morbid thoughts out of my head. I did not hum the song about the worms this time. Instead I kept hearing my father in my head saying, "It is truly a horrible feeling to have a bury a child. Your grandmother had to bury two of them, and it destroyed her."

I had images of the funeral, of the flower arrangements even. It was horrible.

I know I overreacted. He was in surgery for only ten minutes, while his mother and I waited in room that looked like Hugh Hefner's living room. Still, I had been grappling with this idea of surgery since it was decided upon. I wanted to keep my son from this, but I failed. It was out of control, but I still felt guilt from having to put him through this.

As we waited in this room, there was a monitor above the TV that showed you where the patient was (going in, during surgery, coming out, etc.) It was like watching a sporting event in some ways. Very odd. As soon as the surgery was over, the doctor came in and said, "It was child's play. I've done so many of these, I could have operated in my sleep."

So, we've arrived, checked in, waited, had anesthesia, and waited again. Now comes the hardest part of the whole thing: coming out of it.

My son has a temper. It's not surprising as his father and his grandfather both have tempers. I have been fortunate to find ways to calm my temper, but there are times when it builds and I explode. I've never hit someone in anger (or at least not first...and my siblings don't count....). As my wife and I made our way to the room Little Leab was in, we could hear him screaming at the top of his lungs. He was mad.

This is where his mother and I disagree. She thinks his screaming had to do with coming out of the anesthesia and not having control of his body. I think he was pissed that he woke up somewhere without his parents around and had some woman he didn't know trying to get him to drink and telling him to be quiet.

After ten minutes of yelling at us about the situation, the nurse came to us and said, "You know, sometimes people, children especially, recover better in familiar surroundings. Perhaps your son would do better at home. Of course, I'm not trying to rush you out, but he seems like he doesn't like it here." Don't be fooled. This is code. What she was really saying was, "Your kid won't stop screaming, and he's freaking out the other patients that are trying to rest. Get him out of here or we'll kill him."

We left, and the second we hit the air outside the hospital, my son started to calm down. My wife attributed it to him finally getting the anesthesia out of his system. I think it's because he was out of the hospital. This is, after all, the grandson of the man who tried to be the first triple bypass outpatient.

Three days on, my son seems to be happy. He hates the drops that have to be put in his ears (4 drops, twice a day, for 10 days), but he seems to be happier than before the surgery. His balance is much better as well.

Maybe I'm just a worry wart. I don't know. I just know that the image of my son totally limp in my wife's arms will probably haunt my nightmares for a while.

Of course, what do I know? I'm an insomniac who doesn't really dream anymore. I could be wrong.


Arthur Willoughby said...

I hope he gets better, Leab. This has to be very hard on you guys.

Cat said...

I also hope Little Leab is all good now! And I think that your feelings were normal. When something is happening to your child, there is NO routine surgery. I think we all over worry about our children.

But then again, I know less than you do, so take that for what it is worth!

Evan Lee said...

yikes. My little man is scheduled to go to an audiologist on tuesday..He might need to get tubes. I'm glad you wrote this so I know what to expect.

I would sob like a little girl if I had to watch him go under, and they told me and my wife to 'say goodbye'. Ouch.