Sunday, November 19, 2017

Heart is where the Home Is

Things around our house are finally getting back to normal after the Smaller Animal’s surgery.  Make sure you’ve read last week’s update, if you haven’t already.  This will be the final update here, barring anything new and major coming up.  Next week I hope to get back around to entirely-surgery-unrelated topics.

And that’s primarily because there just isn’t much to report.  He’s been to both his regular cardiologist for a standard check-up, and back to the hospital for removal of suture, staple, and steri-strips.1  Everyone who’s seen him agrees that he’s doing amazingly well.  He’s almost completely back to normal, aside from repeated attempts to scratch his chest (which we have to discourage, according to the docs and nurses).  We’ve finally started putting the brakes on lording it over his siblings, and, while they can’t go back to physically trying to kill each other, they’ve pretty much all graduated from the “we’re being nice to you because you might have died” phase and have moved on to the “I’d forgotten how much of a pain in my ass you can be” phase.  Which is actually sort of nice, oddly, in that it represents a return to normalcy.

Of course, he still has to wash his chest with two separate washcloths and can’t allow the shower to spray directly on it.  That keeps up until the scabs finish forming and then fall off.  He also can’t submerge the incision (so no baths or hot tubbing) or put any cream or lotion on it2 until all the pinkish-redness fades completely.  And even then, no riding in the front seat or doing anything that might involve falling or getting hit until a full 8 weeks has passed, which is also when his sibling can go back to tackling him and sitting on him and whatnot, presumably.3

During this healing phase, his skin is being held together by that dissolvable stitch, and his bones are actually held together by a thin wire.  This wire is now a permanent fixture of the Smaller Animal’s body.  It’s not enough to set off metal detectors,4 but we have to notify anyone that wants to give him a CAT scan or MRI in the future that it will produce a blurry area in their readouts.  I believe I reported previously that his elder sibling was pretty jazzed about him now having a bit of a dead person in him.5  The demonspawn had already proclaimed that this made their little brother “undead.”  Now that they know there’s a bit of metal in him as well, they’ve proclaimed this makes him an undead cyborg.  What more can one ask for in a brother?

I suppose this is the point in a life-changing experience where we typically stop and reflect on what we’ve learned.  But I’m not entirely sure what that is, other than how incredibly lucky we are.6  Lucky to live in a major metropolitan area, where it just so happens that one of the best cardiac valve replacement surgeons in the country—if not the entire world—is also living and practicing medicine.  Lucky to have made it 11½ years on a leaky valve, to the point where my kid is nearly 5 feet tall and just over a hundred pounds, which gave him a much better shot at a positive outcome.  Lucky to have a kid who’s put up with all this massive amount of pain and discomfort with hardly any complaining at all.  Lucky to have friends and family who have been very supportive, a job where I could take as much time as I needed, a homeschool group who’s been feeding us for two weeks now so we haven’t had to cook.  All of these things have contributed to this experience being far gentler than we had any right to expect, and I thank all of you folks reading this, all those folks not reading this who nonetheless contributed in some way, and whatever engine runs the universe—be it random, kharmic, or divine—for having this play out as it did.

It’s possible that we were supposed to learn to be kinder to each other with the limited time we have on this earth.  But then I think that lesson was already pretty much in our faces from the time the kid was born, so I’m hesitant to fall back on that old chestnut.  It’s also possible that we were supposed to learn that it pays not to rush into big life decisions, particularly those that are medical in nature, without doing lots of research (which we obviously did, in this case).  Or maybe there’s no lesson at all—maybe Patton Oswalt is right and everything is chaos and we should just be kind.  I’m okay with that too.  It’s just that, if the universe were trying to tell me something, I’d hate to miss it.

At the end of the day, our kid is home, desperately trying to beat Breath of the Wild on his new Nintendo Switch and chilling out by watching the new Punisher series with me.7  He’s sleeping well, which I know because he’s sleeping with me, at least temporarily.  We all feel better if there’s someone next to him in case he has an issue in the middle of the night, and his old sleeping place—the top bunk in the demonspawn’s room—is not really an option right now.  While he was in the hospital, I started reading him a book—the first book in the Wednesday Tales trilogy.8  Now, at night when he goes to bed, I’ve started reading it again, trying to finish it up.  It’s been a long time since he was willing to sit and listen to me read to him.  I hadn’t realized that I missed it.  But I guess I did.  It’s nice.  I’m really enjoying it now.  Not sure that counts as a lesson, but ...

I think I’ll take it.


1 For those who like medical details:  The suture was to close the hole where his chest tube was poking out.  The staple was at the bottom of his dissolvable stitch, and I assume it was just there to keep the stitch from unraveling prematurely.  The steri-strips were basically just little strips of packing tape that were holding the incision closed along with the stitch.

2 Not even neosporin, which is making me crazy.

3 Fun fact: 8 weeks from his surgery date is exactly January 1st.  So I fully expect the day after New Year’s Day to be pretty crazy around here.

4 Currently.  The doctor pointed out that they it’s always possible that they might make more sensitive metal detectors in the future.

5 This would be the cadaveric valve installed as part of the Ross procedure.

6 If you are religiiously inclined, you may wish to substitute “blessed” for “lucky.”  Go ahead.  I won’t stop you.

7 Both highly recommended, by the way.

8 Also highly recommended.  Even more so, really.

No comments:

Post a Comment