A Broken Heart Heals Fast
This was it. They unplugged my baby from all of the wires he had been connected to for months and put him in my arms. A part of me wanted to just clutch him tightly and run right out of there. I wished that I could just take him home, but we weren’t there yet. He needed open heart surgery. For the first time I got to hold my baby “wirelessly.” I held him in my arms carefully but walked briskly down the hall towards the OR. It was the longest walk of my life. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. When we got to the double doors I held him tighter and kissed his forehead. My husband bent down and kissed him too. Then, I reluctantly handed him over to the nurse. I kept my composure momentarily but as the nurse disappeared behind the doors with my son, the weight of it all took its toll. I collapsed on the floor sobbing loudly. My husband held me tight with tears streaming down his face as well. After a few minutes we drew strength from God and each other and managed to pick ourselves up. We headed to the waiting area to join our family.
Two weeks earlier my son had been transferred from the NICU at the hospital where he was born. His little heart began to show signs of trouble and he was having spells of low oxygen saturation. The day that we were transferred will forever be etched in my mind. Six large men in what looked like space suits, entered the NICU in military style. They were carrying a specialized transportation incubator that could have passed for a rocket ship. The severity of the scene not only startled me but all of the other parents who were present at the time. They looked on in shock, some with tears in their eyes. Whatever was happening could not be good and it is scary for any parent to see even if it isn’t happening to your own child.
As we walked through the hospital visitors gasped at the sight of this tiny baby being carried away in this grave looking device by this group of men. I followed behind teary eyed. They took us out the door and through the parking lot to a waiting helicopter. Someday my little boy will know that he had his first helicopter ride with mommy when he was just two months old.
Throughout the surgery we got periodic updates, all was going well. Midway through we learned that they would not be able to completely repair his heart that day as expected. He would need another open heart surgery later on. This felt like a knife. I couldn’t imagine going through this again but for now I needed to focus on what was happening that day. Finally, after four nail-biting hours it was over and he would be coming out soon. We waited nervously in the hallway to see him go by. It felt like it took forever but finally they came wheeling him down the hallway. He was covered up and we could only see his little face. They let us have a brief moment to look at him before taking him to post op. We were told that we would be able to see him in about thirty minutes.
We felt so relieved that all went well and we sat in the waiting room anxiously. I couldn’t wait to see him again and tell him how much I love him. Thirty minutes turned to an hour and we were still waiting. My husband went to inquire and was told that they were still working and needed a little more time. Another hour passed and we began to get nervous. Was something happening that we weren’t aware of? We again attempted to get back to his room with no luck. Then two doctors came out to the waiting room to talk to us. They closed the door behind them and my heart sank to the floor. Their faces looked grave as they explained that our son was bleeding and they had not been able to get it under control. The situation was very delicate and we needed to just be patient, they were doing all they could to save his life. I think I lost my mind in that moment. I have never been the same.
I couldn’t even cry, the tears wouldn’t come out. I began praying hard and simultaneously calling our son’s cardiologist who was on vacation. I had spoken to her the night before and she said the surgery was going to be a slam dunk. Why was this happening? I needed someone to explain it to me. I needed someone to tell me that it was going to be okay. My mind was racing and my heart was broken. I clasped my faith tightly like an invisible cross and prayed that my son’s life would be spared. After what seemed like an eternity we were finally allowed to go see him. I wish someone had prepared me for what I would see.
Doctors and surgeons see these things everyday. For them it’s normal, routine even. But nothing can prepare a parent for the sight of their child after an open heart surgery. Since our baby was still so tiny they had to leave his little chest open to prevent the blood from drowning his lungs. He was bloated, bloody and still on a ventilator. Tubes inserted in his chest were draining fluids and blood. Various medications were being delivered to him through IVs and pumps. It was a shocking, terrifying and traumatic sight, something I can never “unsee.” I wanted to stay there with him, but it was hard to sit there and watch him like that. I remembered him kicking his feet and playing with my hair happily, just hours before the surgery. I wondered if he would ever be like that again.
For days we watched him struggle. He was still on the ventilator and his little lung was collapsed. Our immediate family came to visit and they too were traumatized by the sight of him. On the fourth night I left the hospital in tears, saddened at the sight of seeing my son fight for his life. I cried and prayed all night. When I returned the next day I was amazed. God had blessed us once again. My son was off of the ventilator and breathing on his own for the first time in his life! From birth he needed oxygen support, but that day he was laying before me with no wires, cables or tubes coming out of his nose. I cried tears of happiness and was so excited to feed him his first bottle post surgery. He drank it all like the champion that he is! He grew stronger and stronger everyday and after just 2 weeks it was time for him to come home with us. I was ecstatic but nervous. After all of our briefings and lessons on administering medicine and infant CPR we buckled him into the car seat and said goodbye to hospital life, for a while at least. It was the happiest day of my life! It was time to put it all behind us and move on with our “new” life.
Since then we have been enjoying watching our tiny baby boy grow into the wonderful little person that he is. Though we are still awaiting his second surgery, I pray everyday that he won’t ever need it. Our “new” life has been amazing, but it has not been easy. Caring for a child like him at home brings its own challenges, fears and anxieties, but that’s another story! As for me I learned that miracles are possible and the human soul’s will to survive can be stronger than any physical capacity. I saw it in my son then and I still see it now. I also learned that my faith in God can give me the strength to get through any trial in life. You just need to ask and believe.
© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.