Sunday, November 12, 2017

Heart Homecoming

Well, I’m a bit tuckered out tonight, but I have time for a quick update on the Smaller Animal’s surgery.

We brought him into Children’s Hospital at 7am on Monday; they took him back for surgery around 9:15am.  By that point he was already doped up and feeling pretty happy.  By 1pm he was back in ICU, his Ross Procedure a great success.  His surgeon stopped by to let us know that all had gone well, but it was a very short conversation—Dr. Starnes is a man of few words.  The patient was, as expected, very groggy for most of the rest of that day, although he could recognize us and answer questions ... well, yes or no questions, at least: they didn’t take out his breathing tube until around 1am.  By the next morning he was sitting up and playing his new Switch; by dinner, he was already up to eating meatballs and peas.  After dinner, they removed the chest tube—it was the only time that he would cry (or even complain) while in the ICU.

On Wednesday he started doing walks around the floor.  That night, they finally removed his dressing and we got to see his cool new Frankenstein scar.  By Thursday morning, they were prepping him to go home.  A little after noon, we left the hospital.  (This, by the way, was more than a day earlier than we were told was the absolute minimum stay he could expect.  Which is pretty positive, overall.)

Life at home was a little better than in the ICU, as you might imagine.  He had his familiar food around him, no one was telling him he couldn’t eat bread because it’s made with milk and his stupid parents made the mistake of mentioning he’s lactose-intolerant (for the record: lactose intolerant does not mean you can’t consume anything that’s been waved near a cow), and everyone was falling over themselves to do things for him.  He got to sit on the reclining couch and he didn’t even have to put the legs up (or down) himself.  We finished up the new season of Stranger Things in 2 or 3 marathon sessions.  The Lasix (a diuretic) they had him on was killing us, because it made him need to pee every 15 minutes (if not more often), and getting up and down off the sofa when your breastbone has been cracked in half and jammed back together and wrapped up with a wire is not so easy.  But it wasn’t so bad, and he never complained, or even asked for more pain meds.

Which brings us to today.  Early this morning he developed a headache that was so bad it made him cry—and, remember, this was only the second time he had cried since his surgery, and the first time was when they pulled a big tube out of his chest and cinched up the skin around the hole by just yanking the sutures taut.  So it was obviously pretty bad.  Then he started complaining of nausea, and then the barfing commenced.  Needless to say, we took him back to the hospital.  Now, in general, going to the emergency room with a sick kid is a pointless exercise that consumes hours upon hours of your life and, in the end, your kid just gets better on their own and the doctors do absolutely nothing you couldn’t have done yourself.  I would love to tell you that it’s different when you have a kid that just had heart surgery under a week ago, but unfortunately that would be a lie.  But, on the plus side, they took another chest X-ray, which indicated that all the fluid is out of his lungs, which means he can get off the Lasix, which was probably the source of the problem all along.  Guess what happens when you’re peeing every 5 to 15 minutes?  You get dehydrated.  Know what the symptoms of dehydration are?  Major headaches and barfing.  So I guess that was something we couldn’t do at home after all.

Anyhow, the upshot is that, tonight, he’s been more animated than I’ve seen him in quite a while.  (Because, you know, even in the days before the surgery, the nerves and stress meant that he was a bit more subdued than usual.)  But tonight he was joking around with his siblings, doing a lot more things on his own, actually excited about eating for a change ... actually showing some signs that this whole ripping-him-open-and-putting-him-back-together thing might have left him better off than before.  Which we’re all pretty excited about, obviously.

So, it’s been quite an ordeal, and a very stressful week where none of us got much sleep—and the sleep we did get was absolutely terrible: I’ll probably have to go to the chiropractor every day next week to unkink all the joints that I’ve ruined from sleeping at the hospital—but I think the end is in sight.  We would like to thank our doctors—Dr. Starnes, who did the operation; Dr. Leong, his regular cardiologist; and Dr. Wong, a partner of Dr. Leong’s who visited him in the hospital several times and had the final say on getting him out so quickly—and our nurses—Kristen, Nicole, Natalie, Amber, and Sofya—and Leon, our respiratory tech who got his breathing tube out so he could talk again.  And we’d like to thank all of our friends and family who sent us their positive energy, in whatever method they were most comfortable doing.  Plus a big shout-out to our homeschooling group, who’s been feeding us since we got home by dropping off food every day so we don’t have to think about cooking.  All of you have been a great help and have made it much easier to get through this.

Looking forward to happier days ahead.

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