Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Surgery


When my son was born, we learned that he had what’s termed an undescended testicle. The doctors said if it didn't come down on it's own by age one, it would need to be surgically pulled down and clamped. My husband and I continued to monitor him and eventually brought him to a handful of pediatric urologists to get opinions. All said they didn't think we needed to do anything about it. When there were no visible changes, we brought him in to see two more doctors. They both agreed he needed surgery. At this point he was three, and because we didn't have such great insurance at the time, we waited until we had a better health plan. We were racing with the clock though because the older a child is, the harder going through surgery is.

We met his surgeon, and liked her right away. She was matter of fact but warm at the same time. She spoke to him respectfully and answered every question I had. We told him as little as we had to, and waited as long as we could before bringing it up. We explained that he was going to the doctor -- he asked if he was getting a shot. I explained that she was going to fix something that needed to be fixed from when he was a baby. We told him he  would go to sleep and when he woke up it would be over. I explained to him that he wouldn't be able to eat anything that day but that when he woke up he could eat whatever he wanted. I also told him he could watch a lot of TV and movies when it was over. He seemed pleased with that, but didn't want to have to go to sleep at the hospital.

The time of his surgery was at 1pm and so he could drink clear liquids two hours before. He hadn't eaten since the night before and when we got to the hospital we were informed that they were behind and they wouldn't go in until 3pm, so with as much distraction as we could muster up, we waited. When they finally came in about a half and hour before to prep him, my husband and I were eager to get this thing over with. They gave him "happy juice" to relax him before being anesthetized. Within a few minutes our son was loopy. He smiled, laughed and kept telling me that I had so many eyes. When my husband and I told him we loved him so much, he asked if we love him more than his sister. When we said we loved both of them so much, he said "but me a little bit more right?" We were laughing with him, but also kind of freaked out at the intensity of this drug he was on. They had explained to us that we would be able to walk him all the way down to the operating room, but then we would have to say goodbye.

My husband said when they told him that, he wasn't thrilled. I just figured that was the last time they could have all of our outside germs near him, and wanted him to be as safe as possible. Once in the operating room, he would be fully anesthetized and perhaps I was better off not seeing that. That part was what I was most concerned about. Handing over my healthy child and having them slow his heart rate and put him into an unconscious state. The questions they asked about family history, and reactions to anesthesia didn't provide me much comfort either. My husband and I wondered what would drive someone to want to go to medical school to be the doctor who puts people to sleep and then wakes them up again. That is some serious business right there. 

When it came time to wheel him down the hall I thought I was prepared. I smiled down at him, stroked his hair, and assured him he would be okay. He innocently looked back up at me and smiled. When they stopped at the end of the hall and asked us to say goodbye, I lost it. I swallowed back as many tears as I could so that he wouldn't see. As I gave him his final kiss and turned around the tears streamed down my face. The next few moments were similar to only a few experiences in my life. My ride to the hospital when I was in labor, everyone outside is having coffee or meeting a friend, while I am in the most intense pain of my life. Or when I was hiking Runyon canyon on September 11th and heard in about the World Trade Center in my headphones, but everyone around me continued hiking in oblivion while I staggered down the mountain in shock. Or when someone you love dies, and you are carrying the heavy weight of loss around while others seem to be capable of staying joyful, light and optimistic. As we walked away from him, my heart sank. The world hadn't fallen apart, but it felt like it to me. 

Within a few minutes we got a call from the doctor saying she had found something else when they began, and that the tubes leading to his testicles had never closed on their own. She wanted our permission to fix that as well. She said if we didn't do it now we would have to come back again some other time. It made no sense to have to come back, so we signed off. What was supposed to be 90 minutes tuned into over two hours of surgery, and what was supposed to be one possibly two incisions, turned into three. It was a long and difficult day for our boy, but when they told us he was in the recovery room, I finally truly exhaled. He was tired, and not fully awake, but he was okay, and it was over.


This surgery is fairly routine, and not uncommon in little boys. Our doctor had done two others like it that very day. I found this all to be very reassuring. I also knew that we had done was not a procedure to save my child's life. There were cancer risks for not doing it, but it was preventative. As I went through this day I often thought about the children who spend months in and out of the hospital, those who have had countless surgeries, or battle a terminal illness. My heart goes out to their parents who watch hours go by during their kids surgery and pray that when the doctor rolls them out that there will be some good news. Now as I go about my day, I count my blessings, and feel like I am keeping my eyes out for someone who might be suffering. Not because I can help them, although, I wish I could, but because perhaps I can connect with them and let them know I understand. It is never a question of IF we will all suffer in life, it is a question of when. If everyone could learn that, perhaps then we could be a bit more sensitive. Speaking of sensitive, my boy's road to recovery was a few tough days of being afraid to stand up, but once he took a few steps again it was hard to get him to stop. So grateful!





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