Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Looking Back ~ Timothy's First Surgery

One of the more fun parts of packing is finding things you forgot you had. I wrote this paper when I was in college about 20 years ago. I really enjoyed this writing class.  It was very therapeutic for me to process through writing all I had been through in the two years prior. It amazes me that we are approaching the 22nd anniversary of my son's open heart surgery.  Coincidentally, our closing date on our new home is October 26 which was the day of his first pacemaker surgery in 1990. His open heart surgery is the same date as my husband's birthday.

I stood and watched as the nurse carried away the little boy.  He was just six months old and was oblivious of the trauma he was about to undergo.  He smiled at me and put out his hand.  I could do nothing but pray that I would see him again. 

As he and the nurse went out of sight around the corner, another nurse asked me to sign one more round of hospital release forms.  I did and was quietly directed to the pediatric intensive care waiting room. The next four hours were to be grueling hours in which I would experience much doubt. Had I made the right decision?  Was he big enough to survive major surgery? Should I have waited two more weeks until he was a few ounces bigger?  The doctors had said his chances were good.  Open heart surgery was done every day on children all over America they told me.  That may have been the case, but we were talking about my child who was barely more than nine pounds and had spent the first six months of his life drifting in and out of congestive heart failure.  He had always been a shade of grayish blue.  My greatest fear was that he would suffer a stroke.  The doctors feared that as well.

During those hours I never felt more alone.  My parents were there to support me, but they could do little to reassure my fears.  I ended up snapping at them and saying things I didn't mean.  They understood my abrupt manner and tried unsuccessfully to speed up the time with jokes and funny stories.  It did not work.

Finally, the surgeon's assistant came in and told me that my son was doing well.  He would be arriving on the floor in just a few minutes.  I went out in the hall in the hopes of getting a glimpse of him as he went by.  What I saw was a tiny body with at least twenty tubes and hundreds of pounds of machinery coming out from every part of him.  He was surrounded by six people from the operating room, one of which shoved me back in the room and told me that someone would speak to me when they got the chance.  I was too scared to even feel anger at my dismissal.

An hour later I stood by his bed.  The two nurses assigned to him worked fervently to keep up with his needs.  I had been told I could touch him but they had neglected to tell me where.  Every part of his body was covered with bandages and tubes.  I finally settled on caressing his forehead and assuring him that I was there and that everything would be all right.  As I said this, I realized that the difficult times had just begun.  A new feeling was surfacing as well.  My brain was telling me to run.  That seemed almost silly.  I was, after all, experienced at dealing with hospitals and crises.  I had stayed with him 24 hours a day during his previous hospitalizations, learned how to feed him by putting a tube down his nose, and even dealt with him coding on several occasions.  All of those things seemed like small feats now.  Beep Beep went an alarm and adjustments were quickly made.  Watching the nurses and doctors work was like sitting in on an operation.  The atmosphere was tense, and it was almost impossible to stay in the room for more than a few minutes without feeling like I was being smothered.  As the hours went slowly by, more IVs were added to his already pin-pricked body and residents came in to have a look at the amazing baby.  You see, when he went into surgery they planned on fixing two holes and some pulmonary stenosis.  However, once inside him, they found that he also had other things that needed to be corrected.  Since they did not discover this until they were half way through surgery, they had to do it all in one surgery.  Usually, it would have taken two or three. 

Timothy was kept in a drug-induced coma for seven days.  His heart never began beating properly again so an external pacemaker did the work.  On the tenth day of being on the critical care list, the doctor came to his room to talk to me.  Although, his heart now beat at twenty beats a minute, they had little hope that it would ever return to full speed.  They would have to take him back into surgery.  Since it was a Friday and he was "in critical condition but stable" it would be in his best interest to go back into surgery immediately for a pacemaker implantation.  It was, after all, better to do it now rather than wait for him to become "in critical condition and unstable."

Less than an hour later, my baby was led away into surgery again and I once again hoped and prayed that God had another miracle for my little one and me...

UPDATE: As we wait for the most recent pacemaker surgery (which will be sometime in the next few months), I am reminded that he has been through much worse.  This next surgery should be a walk in the park in comparison.

Blessings, Dawn


  1. Oh mY!! Words cannot express what I'm feeling right now. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

  2. I have taken some time to catch up on your blog ( after being away from blogging for a season) You write so well! Your story of your dear oldest child is heart wrenching. Praying with you on his upcoming surgery.
    Boomer is so big! Oh my! Such a good " big brother" to the older dog.
    We are dogless for a time. Waiting for the right dog to come along.