Two years ago today we were once again sitting in the surgery waiting room for the 5th time in 5 months. We waited with fear and with hope that everything would be alright. We waited for what seemed to be a lifetime when instead it was only 2 1/2 hours. We were both nervous about this surgery because it wasn’t like all the rest, all her previous surgeries were because it was an emergency or secondary surgeries to put her intestines back together. This surgery was a choice we made for the betterment of Katie’s life and we were both hoping we made the right decision not knowing how it would turn out. Making the decision to have Katie trached and having the g-tube put in was one of the hardest and easiest decisions we ever made for her in the NICU. It all happen so quickly, from noticing how much she was struggling to breath even doing the simplest of tasks to talking to the head nurse to talking to the doctor and saying yes we need to do this before this turns into an emergency. The whole decision making process happened within maybe 12 hours on a Sunday and the surgery was scheduled for the following Tuesday, April 21st 2015. So there we sat in the “kids section” of the waiting room with our two best friends in the world and waited and hoped for the best. The massive relief when her doctor came out and was smiling, I just can’t describe. He explained how the surgery went and how her vitals were and I think he’d understand that I don’t remember a word he said to us. All I knew was gratefulness and relief that she made it through yet another surgery intact.
The nurses brought her back to her room and got her all comfy, even though she was still out cold. I think we all sighed in relief that the surgery was over and her vitals looked great. We left for a bit to get lunch while she was recovering in her room being watched over by the nurses that we both love and trust, amazed we got through this day. We came back later in the night and just watched her sleep, if I remember right she was riding the ventilator (meaning she was letting the vent breath for her completely) but that was completely normal after surgery. So we went home for the night, I called a few times to check in on her, we got some sleep and the next day Mike went to work.
Now this is where my memory is a little bit fuzzy timeline wise. I went and saw Katie for a little bit the next day April 22nd 2015, I didn’t stay long because she was still heavily medicated and to be honest I was mentally and physically exhausted. Mike went to visit her after work and at about 7pm he came home and his face was white as a ghost. Something was wrong. He sat down next to me and we proceeded to have the worst talk possible.
Mike went in to see Katie and all her settings on her vent were topped out, same with her oxygen and she was not doing well at all, they put her on nitrogen because she was so swollen from the surgery and there was nothing more they could do for her, her sats were terrible and the doctor came in to have “the talk” with Mike, that we should prepare ourselves for the worse and that there was a possibility that Katie would not last the night. Mike stayed for as long as he could stand it and came home to tell me what the doctor told him. So I hugged my husband and told him it would be okay even though I had no idea if it would be or not but that’s what you do. I got dressed and put Mike to bed because he had been through enough that day without coming back up to the NICU with me, he asked me repeatedly if I would be okay without him there and I said repeatedly I would be just fine, I just wanted to be with Katie. (Stopping for the moment to say Mike was extremely brave during all this and everyone of us has a breaking point where they need a moment of rest and this was his, this in no way makes him weak this makes him human) Anyhow so I got him to rest and got up to the hospital as quickly as possible because if this was the end I needed and wanted to be with her.
I put all my stuff in the locker’s they provide you and washed my hands to the best of my abilities that way I wouldn’t be carrying in germs that could hurt her or the other babies in the pod worse. I went into her room and moved a chair to sit next to her crib and looked at this tiny person we created looking so fragile that I wanted to die but then the nurse who was on shift came in to talk to me and very shortly after the doctor as well. Almost as soon as Mike left, Katie started getting better. They were able to lower the settings on her oxygen and her vent and took her off the nitrogen and as I sat there for a few hours I got to witness my beautiful innocent daughter come back from the brink. I don’t put much stock in miracles but this was definitely a miracle in my eyes. I went into that room fully expecting to watch another one of our children die way before their time and instead I got to watch a miracle come to life. I stayed with her until 11pm when she was considered stable and came home and woke up Mike to tell him the news and the relief in our bedroom was almost visible. I barely slept that night and I don’t think Mike did either because we were afraid that we’d wake up to something terrible but by the next morning Katie had shocked us all by not only be stable but getting better and better through out the day. The first week or so was pretty scary with her being swollen and having a PICC line in her head but she kept fighting and getting better.
And she kept getting better every day until we were finally told she could come home which is roughly when we rejoined facebook, made our account a joint one so it would be easy for all the nurses, doctors, friends and family be able to find us and keep up with Katie’s progress. What a trip that has been, when you make the decision to pull the trigger to have the trach placed, you are so out of it with fear that you don’t retain half of what they are telling you. I know it was explained that this wouldn’t be a temporary thing or a lifetime thing but to be honest I didn’t properly grasp the road we were going to walk down. But that’s a story for another time but it’s also super long.
I decided to share this because of a few reasons. I feel like not enough of us parents share our stories and I understand why, it’s painful to relive these moments and there were definitely parts of this that I was tearing up through but still I want to spread the word because even though we know we aren’t alone it feels like we are. The only other people that understand are parents that have traveled the same road and we can try to make others understand but I think we all feel like they just don’t get it. My favorite thing I hear a lot is “I don’t know how you do it?” well I just do because I have to not because I’m some super strong person but because she needs me to be strong to keep it together to make sure she’s getting the best possible care, I have to advocate for Katie because if we don’t who will? Secondly maybe this insight into 24 hours of our lives will make you understand us better, why we are quiet, or angry, or jealous of other children or pregnant women, etc. Why one of us delves into video games and the other spends time reading history books just to escape for a moment. This is an event that not only scarred the both of us for life but also altered our personalities. Neither Mike and I are the same people we were before all of Katie’s surgeries and I think this one is the one that really changed us forever. Mostly for the good, some for the bad but as I look over at Katie watching “Sarah and Duck” chewing on her hand, I know in the end no matter how much therapy Mike and I both need, it was worth every single moment of sadness, doubt and fear.