Updated: Aug 14, 2019
**Beep Beep Beep**
I rolled over and turned off the alarm. 5:30am. I always get up early on days where I am nervous about something. I looked over to see if Melanie woke up as well and whispered, “hun, it’s time to get ready.” We hurried to get ourselves ready without saying much to each other. The silence in the car ride to the hospital was only broken by the music on the radio.
We pulled into the parking garage at the hospital just as we had the previous 7 days; but, this time it was different. Melanie and I could feel the weight of the stress on our shoulders. It was as if these past 7 days had aged us 7 years.
The front desk gave us directions on where we should meet Eli before going into surgery and off we went. Melanie and I entered the surgical floor where we were able to see Eli in his giant mechanical baby crib. He was surrounded by the surgeons and medical technicians that would be working throughout the procedure. The only two faces I remember were the surgeon and the anesthesiologist with the most glorious red handlebar mustache I’ve ever seen (and probably the only I’ve ever seen). They briefly gave us one last overview of the full procedure, let us ask final questions, and kiss Eli to say “see ya on the other side, dude.” We were then ushered into another room where we were given a pager that would ping us with updates and then they sent us on our way out of the hospital.
Once back in the car, Melanie and I wondered what we should do to occupy ourselves for the next 8 hours while Eli is in surgery. Naturally, I suggested breakfast burritos; and off we went. We couldn’t keep our minds off of the surgery and kept replaying what they were going to do…
“So he said that they will open his chest, have him on the bypass machine, and fix the aortic arch… Then put him back together and take him off bypass to check the pressures in his heart, right?” I said. “Right”, Melanie confirmed.
After breakfast, we tried to occupy ourselves anyway we could. Costco, grocery shopping, laundry, TV, ANYTHING…
The pager would go off randomly at times with little updates.
“Surgery has now been going 3 hours. Still working”
“Going off bypass soon”
And finally, after 8 hours…
“We are done. Come to the waiting room to speak with the surgeon.”
You bet your sweet “A” that we were at that surgical waiting room in no time. We rushed through the doors and up the floors to the waiting room desk where we were told to wait. And wait we did. FOR – EV – ER.
After Melanie and I had a total of 40 or 50 cookies from the treat basket, our names were called.
We met with Dr. Burch (the surgeon) in a private room where we would discuss the outcome of the surgery. He told us that everything went well. He was able to correct the “pinched” aortic arch and put everything back together. Eli’s pressures in his heart were now lower and things were looking good. Because of this, it wasn’t necessary to continue surgery or plan for any more procedures in the near future. *WHEW* About 50lbs of stress left our soul (out of the 150lbs… there was still a long road ahead).
The surgeon then proceeded to tell us he had to leave Eli’s chest cavity open so that the organs could heal because they were so swollen. With that, he cautioned us that if we visit him, it might be traumatic.
But who is gonna stop two worried parents from seeing their child!?… So down to the CICU we went.
We walked through the familiar hallways and made our way to Eli’s bed. It was almost unbearable… Eli’s body went from a little 7 day old baby to looking like a 2 year old. The surgery had taken such a toll on his body that every part of him was swollen. He had 3 times as many tubes regulating his fluids and a huge white bandage over his chest to keep anyone from seeing right into his heart. I had to usher Melanie and I out of the room shortly after walking in since Melanie was about to faint. Though heartbreaking to witness, we felt some additional hope now that the big day was over.
A couple days passed where we made shorter visits to the hospital in order to give space for the nurses and doctors to watch Eli and to prepare to close his chest. Then three days later, on my birthday, they stitched his ribs together and closed his chest cavity. It was a little birthday present to me to see that things were moving forward. The following day, we heard news that we might be moving up to the rest and recovery floor where we would be discharged soon after!
We were elated at the possibility of finally heading home. But, before they would allow us to go to “the floor”, they ordered one last echocardiogram to check the pressures in his heart.
Echocardiograms weren’t new to us by this point. We’ve seen them performed many times. Melanie and I watched anxiously at the black and grey screen where we could see Eli’s heart pumping. The technician didn’t talk to us much during this “echo” and we sat in silence. After 20 minutes or so had passed since the technician had left to talk with the cardiologist, our doctor stepped into the room.
“Andrew, Melanie, I have some unfortunate news…”
(to be continued…)