Our daughter’s diagnosis, surgery and road to recovery: Surgery

And so S-Day came around.

We had to be at the hospital at 06H00 to start checking Kid3 in, which meant a very early morning for everyone in our home. HB had to take us first, and then still had to take Kid1 to school.

We left home at around 05H30, the kids still sleepy and not really understanding the need to leave home before the sun comes up.

Thankfully I prepared breakfast for the boys to have on the go because it would be too early for them to eat (they’d be hungry again within an hour) and no one was allowed to eat in front of Kid3.

No drinking or eating was allowed from 20H00 the previous night, and it just wouldn’t be fair on her if everyone ate while she couldn’t. She was only scheduled for surgery at 08H00, so it was going to be a long morning before she finally got a chance to eat something.

Luckily, because of her age and the no-eating rule, the specialist put her on top of his list so that she could eat as soon as she was out of the theater and we could head home sooner.

Again, I was relieved that I had filled out all the necessary forms before the time (even though I couldn’t send them through) because it saved us time to not sit in the cold waiting room. The admission staff could just input all the details in their system without needing to delay the process.

Waiting in the ward for the nurse to do more paperwork.

Once we were ‘checked in’, we were escorted to the paediatric ward; where everything was cozy and colourful.

There was still a ton of paperwork to fill out with the nurse on duty, and all Kid3 could talk about was hungry she was. Guys, I felt for her! She’d only get to eat something around 09H00, and that would also depend on how she would be feeling afterwards.

I marked almost all the items on the breakfast menu, though – whatever she didn’t finish, I’d finish.

The white band bothered her, because… well, it wasn’t pink.

After meeting with the anaesthesiologist to discuss what will be happening pre-op, I started feeling the anxiety creep up, more than what I was already experiencing. HB had been with Kid2 with his emergency surgery and I remember him telling me how Kid2 screamed and thrashed around when they had to put the mask on his face to let him sleep.

That was what was making me anxious. As an adult, I understand why it’s done but a two year old has no compherension around it.

Kid3 and I spent the remainder of the waiting time sitting on the window sill, watching cars coming in and out of the parking lot. In fact, because we were there so early, we caught a glimpse of the sunrise earlier.

It was time to get her dressed in her gown as they were almost ready to send the porter to take us to the operating rooms.

After wrestling for a good 10 minutes, accompanied by a hell of a screaming session, the head nurse told me to not bother with the gown as it wasn’t actually necessary for her to wear one.

Finally, the porter was called and we headed for the theater rooms.

The surgery was scheduled for 08H00, and the time came and went and were waiting. My anxiety spiking with her restlessness. The nurses dressed me up in scrubs and we waited again.

At around 08H20, they finally took us through. I’ve never been inside the standard operating rooms. With Kid2, I had a cesarean but those rooms are situated at obstetrics and all the rooms are close together. This time, it felt like we were walking for a long time. I mean, a really long time. The whole walk was probably not even five minutes, but walking behind the porter with the bed, the nurse next to me explaining where the recovery room was and what protocols would be followed during and post-op, it felt like we would never reach the destination.

When we entered the operating room, everyone was already there and we were greeted very warmly by the whole team.

I already had tears streaming, which started as soon as we were called in. I couldn’t stop them. Even though it wasn’t a complicated surgery, this was my child going in for surgery. My nerves were shot.

My mind was such a blank at this point that the specialist actually had to instruct me do move, “You can put your bag here, it’s okay. There’s the chair. Are you okay? Don’t worry, she’s in good hands. She’ll be out before you know it. While we’re busy, go have some coffee.”

Like a robot, I obeyed, thankful that there was some direction and detail given. The anaesthesiologist again explained the procedure he was responsible for and then told me how to hold her down so he could successfully apply the mask to her face.

As soon as I tightened my arms around her, the assistant nurse held her feet and the anaesthesiologist put the mask over her nose and mouth, she was screaming, wiggling and kicking with everything she had in her. She was crying, I was crying. She managed to look me right in the eye, and although it might not have been so, the look she gave me was one of betrayal. As in, how can you allow this to be done to me?

You know it has to be done. You know this, but you still feel like shit. You never want to put your child in a situation where they feel anxious or under distress. Even though this was what needed to be done in her case, your heart still breaks seeing your child like that.

What felt like minutes was actually seconds before she lay limp in my arms and I placed her on the operating table. She was snoring and I refused to leave until the anesthesiologist assured me that it was completely normal.

Seeing her lying there, her head resting on an oversized pillow, limp, was another stab at my heart. While I probably wouldn’t have handled it well, I would’ve given anything to stay in the room during the procedure. I was escorted out, shown where I needed to wait for her, was told that in case she was very difficult while in the recovery room, I would be called in to assist, and then I watched the heavy glass doors slide shut.

I called HB to give him an update of what was going on. In the corridor, another nurse informed me that I was wearing the mask upside down and then asked me where I needed to be. Confused, I looked down and realised I was still dressed in scrubs. It was kind of funny.

I had enough time to get undressed in the ward, get myself a cappuccino (early morning meant I skipped coffee), get back to the waiting room and call my dad to let him know how the morning had been so far.

Then I heard it.

Maaaamaaaa.” Then silence. “Maamaaaaaa.” Silence. “Maaamaaaaa.

I believe that no matter where you are or how crowded the place is, you will know your child’s voice.

Even through the thick door, and further down a corridor, I knew that Kid3 was waking up from surgery. All and all, it was 30 minutes later.

The door finally slid open and the porter wheeled her out. The specialist’s assistant accompanied them and let me know that everything went well, they had already signed her out and when she was feeling up to it we could go home (although we needed to stay at least two hours to monitor her vitals and responses).

I was only allowed to pick her up when we were back in the ward to comfort her, and although I was holding her tightly in my arms, she was still disorientated, looking around the room and calling out to me.

The kitchen staff brought her breakfast soon after (thank goodness – for both our sakes!), but she wasn’t interested in anything at that point.

She settled not long after and fell asleep, a normal reaction to the anaesthetic. The head nurse said that a good two hour sleep would do Kid3 well after surgery and to leave her to rest and start with recovery.

Two hours passed by quickly, and she still didn’t want to wake up. Finally shw started waking up and it was like another child was sitting in front of us. Kid3 was giggly and chatty, and when I asked if she was ready to eat, she happily settled down (with help) to eat her breakfast.

Not long after she was done stuffing her face (so did I with the leftovers), I signed her out of the paediatric ward and we went home.

Part three (Recovery) to follow

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