Before Sam’ surgery people kept asking me, “Are you nervous?” And my answer was always, “No, not really.”
And that’s the truth. All the way up to and throughout the surgery I was not nervous or worried or scared or any of the the other things that maybe I should have been feeling.
I’ve had a year to prepare. Ever since we saw Sam’s picture for the first time, we knew this day was coming. It kind of loomed over us like a dark cloud for so long that it was almost a relief that we were moving forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I really didn’t want Sam to be scared or in pain. I wanted to protect my sweet boy from all of that.
But as far as me be nervous, I just wasn’t. I was calm, collected and ready. And I think that was a really good place to be. I felt that I could devote 100% of myself to Sam and not have to worry about any of my own emotions.
On the day of surgery, we had to arrive at the hospital at 7:00. That’s AM. That meant that everyone had to be up, dressed and ready to leave by 6:15 AM. Oh, joy. We have trouble making it out of the house by 10AM most days!
Somehow we managed to have everyone and everything in the car by said time and we were off to the hospital. As soon as we arrived we were brought directly to Sam’s room where we were instructed to get him in a hospital gown.
Over the next half hour, various nurses came in to check different things. Blood pressure, temperature, blood gases, etc. Finally one nurse came in and told us that Sam’s surgery was the surgeon’s second surgery of the day so we should expect it to start at 11AM. What the heck? Why did we have to be there at o’dark thirty if the surgery didn’t begin until 11AM?
We had a lot of time to kill, so we took pictures. Did you have any doubts?
The surgeon visited us briefly and told us that he had been studying all of the pictures we had sent of Sam’s previous surgery in China. He believed that they attempted a complete repair of his lip and nose, but got half way through and were unsure how to finish. The surgery was stopped and he was simply sewn back up at that point an no further work was done. His recovery pictures were also very telling and Sam had some obvious tissue loss in his lip. That, along with the scarring from the original surgery were going to complicate things for this surgery.
This was not particularly encouraging news, but at this point you must simply play the cards you are dealt. Our surgeon is nationally recognized in the area of cleft repair so we knew that Sam could not be in better hands. We felt confident that things would turn out fine.
Looking back, we probably should have been freaking out, but we weren’t. Our feeling has always been that we loved Sam’s little face. We loved his cleft, we loved his smile, we loved how his his happy, gentle little soul shined through his entire face. Fixing it to 100% perfection never mattered to us. I may to him some day, but it has never mattered to us.
The anesthesiologist also came by and told us that an hour prior to surgery, the nurse would bring Sam some medication that would make him drowsy and relaxed. He also explained about his IV and other aspects of the surgery. Once again, we felt confident in the team that was taking care of our precious boy.
Around 10 AM, a expected, the nurse came in with Sam’s happy medication in anticipation of an 11AM surgery. Except that’s not what happened because at 10:15 they came in to get Sam for surgery. That’s only 15 minutes with the happy juice coursing through his little veins! That’s not enough time!
The staff let me carry Sam all the way down to surgery, which was a good thing. Right before Sam had to enter the room, we had a few minutes for our final cuddles. This is where I got a little misty.
This was going to be the last time that I saw this face. The face I fell in love with. The face I stared at for 10 months as we paper chased our way to China. The face that I first touched when they placed Dang Qiao into my arms for the first time. The face that I tucked into bed every night for the past two months. The face that I kissed 100 times a day. The face that could smile bigger than anyone else in the world.
As hard as it was, I kissed that face for the last time, handed him to a nurse and then watched him cry and reach for me as they carried him through the doors of the operating room.Just stab me in the heart, why don’t ya. See, I knew he didn’t have the happy juice in him for long enough.
At least I knew that anesthesia kills your short term memory and he wouldn’t remember me leaving him in someone else’s arms. Helps him, doesn’t help me. I have those little outstretched arms and tear-streamed face burned into my memory forever. Sigh.
The surgery lasted about 3 hours--about an hour longer than estimated, but once again, we were calm. When the doctor came out he said that Sam’s repair was a success. He was able to work around scar tissue, reattach muscles and close his lip and nose successfully. He also told us we had a lot of additional surgeries ahead of us, which we already knew. Sigh again.
Just as the doctor was finishing, an OR nurse came and got me. My boy was awake and was asking for me! When I arrived in post op he was crying and reaching for me, but as soon as I held him, he quieted right down.
My reaction when I first saw Sam was that his mouth was so small! And he looked so different. But that’s about all I had time to think because Sam buried his head in my chest and fell asleep.
Sam’s vitals were strong so his time in post op was brief. Soon we were back in his room, cuddling in a rocking chair.I know that in this picture I look happy at such a serious moment. But you see, I am at that age where your skin loses all of its muscle tone and if you don’t smile your face relaxes into a frown.
Humorous side note…when Sam went into surgery he had a bib on because he drools. A lot. When they returned the bib to me after surgery it came sealed in a biohazard bag. Yep, they got that right. One look at a used bib and you definitely think biohazard!
Sam slept in my lap most of the afternoon. By evening my bum was more than a little sore from sitting in the hard rocker. Because Sam doesn’t sleep in a crib I requested that a bed be brought in for him. The wonderful nurses had a bed in our room in less than a minute. They were angels. True angels.
Tony and Molly left to get dinner. I ordered Sam some things off the hospital menu. I requested a lot of different stuff because I wasn’t sure what he would want. Guess what? The human garbage disposal ate everything I ordered for him: 2 pieces of French toast, 2 containers of yogurt, and an entire plate of scrambled eggs with cheese.
And that’s pretty much the way the rest of Sam’s recovery went. He was a soldier. He faced every obstacle head on. The only pain medication that he needed was just plain, off the shelf Tylenol. Seriously. He didn’t complain a bit about the arm restraints or about the nurses continually poking and prodding at him to check his vitals.
Sam and I stayed the night in the hospital while Tony and Molly returned home for the evening. Things got a little boring, so I whipped out my camera. Again.
First thing in the morning, Sam inhaled 2 pancakes, 2 yogurts, and another big plate of eggs. The doctor watched him eat and laughed. He also discharged us just 24 hours after our arrival! Woo hoo!
And just so you can see the pictures close together, here they are one more time.
Now I wonder if that plastic surgeon can do anything about my saggy, droopy frowny face.