Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Kissing Corner: Part 2

I have never been good at waiting.

I think it's because I'm a worrier. I'm the type of person who lies awake at night thinking up implausible scenarios in my head and outlining what I would do if I was put in those situations. When I'm in the middle of a crisis and I have something to do, then I'm perfectly fine-- but take me away from the action and make me sit on my hands, and I'll drive myself slowly, quietly crazy thinking up everything that could go wrong and feeling totally helpless.

Connor's surgery was supposed to last two hours. It took six.

We had a couple of books to keep us busy, but neither of us could concentrate. We didn't talk to each other. There wasn't anything else to say. We just sat and glanced nervously every five minutes at the phone that was our link to the operating room.

In order to begin the surgery, the doctors had to remove the IV line in Connor's umbilical cord and insert a central line. This line would enable them to quickly administer medication if Connor's heart began to fail, and also to safely keep him under anesthesia for the amount of time needed to conduct the surgery. Connor's veins were so small that they were having difficulty placing the line-- the needle would go right through the vein. After an hour of trying to get the line in place, they were finally able to get it to work, only to have one of their medical students accidentally pull it out when he was helping positioning Connor on the operating room table. They had to start over from scratch.

After two hours they brought in a special IV team, who would attempt to cut down to Connor's jugular vein and insert the central line there. Unfortunately, they chose his left side when they were doing the procedure. We later discovered that Connor is missing his jugular vein on the left side.

Every half an hour or so, someone in the surgical room would call the phone and let us know that nothing had happened yet. Then we would call out to my mother's cell phone and let her know the news. She and Jeremy's mother would then call everyone else to let them know, and we would all go back to waiting.

We had many, many relatives and friends that would have gladly stayed in the waiting room with us, but we had asked to be alone. I think that everyone handles this sort of thing differently. In my case, and I think it was probably the same for Jeremy, I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that the thought of being in a room with other people, even people I loved very very much, was unbearable. I couldn't make small talk, or even eye contact. Every shred of self control I had was needed just to keep breathing. I think if anyone other than Jeremy had been there and tried to comfort me I would have just curled up in a ball in the middle of the floor and subsided into incoherent weeping. After our initial breakdown, we just sat across the room from each other in silence. Anything else would have been too painful.

After four and a half hours they finally managed to insert a central line. Now the surgery could begin.

By this point, Jeremy and I hadn't eaten for almost ten hours. We debated for a little while about whether or not we should go and find something to eat. We were both terrified that we'd leave and Connor would pass away on the operating room table while we were gone. We finally decided that Jer would go and find us something to eat and I would stay in the waiting room.

The cafeteria was on the other side of the hospital, in another building. By this point it was late enough that the normal doors leading to the building were all locked, so Jer had to come back empty handed. A nurse heard us trying to figure out what to do and offered to show us a passageway in the basement to reach the cafeteria. This time, I would go and Jeremy would stay.

The corridor was long and dark, and the cafeteria was mostly closed, but they had a cart of ready-made meals for the nurses and they let me take two. I hurried back down the corridor, which now seemed twice as long, and into the elevator. I walked through the open doors and saw the surgeon sitting in the chair next to Jeremy, their backs to me. The bottom fell out of my world-- the surgery was supposed to last at least another half an hour.

Then Jeremy turned and gave me an exhausted, elated grin, and I knew everything was okay.

Once the problem of the central line had been solved, the surgeon told us, Connor's surgery went like a dream. His heart had absolutely no problems, they had no trouble removing the kidney, and things went much, much faster than they expected. Connor was already being moved to a new room in the Cardiac ICU, and we would be able to see him just as soon as everything was set up.

We called out, told everyone the news, and then raced down to the Cardiac ICU. It was past midnight and we were so tired we were nearly delirious, but somehow hearing it from the surgeon wasn't enough. Before we could leave for the night, we had to see our son.

The receptionist at the desk told us that they were still getting Connor settled, but she'd let us know as soon as they were ready for us. We waited another two hours before we were allowed in-- the nurses forgot to tell the receptionist that they were finished. Finally we were buzzed through at around 2am and stumbled down the corridor towards his room.

He was still asleep, still intubated, swollen beyond all recognition, and covered in tubes and wires, and it didn't matter--he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Our son was alive.


If you are looking for it, here's part one.


Anonymous said...

You are so amazing. Jer and Conner, too. I just wanted to cry as I was reading what you've all went through. Every moment that boy has on this Earth is made more special because he has such awesome parents :-)


Ellen said...

Wow. I did just cry. "The kissing corner" is something I will never forget. I am sorry for what you have been through, and so happy that Connor beat the odds.

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