On Tuesday morning (October 27th), James had a cranial vault reconstruction. What this means is, two surgeons (neurosurgeon/Dr. Pittman and plastic surgeon/Dr. Liau) made an incision in his scalp, then cut and reshaped his skull. As James’s mother, this absolutely and completely terrified me to my very core.
We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM and checked in. Mom and dad were already there, which made it easier for me, but still not easy. Everyone at the desk was so kind and understanding when I was crying too hard to speak. About an hour or so later, Vince and I were called to take James up to pre-op. I’ve never shaken so hard in my life. We changed his little diaper and put a sweet baby hospital gown on him, then played for a long time on the gurney and in the rocking chair. He chewed on the rainbow hedgehog my sweet friend Sarah got for him and rolled all around, growling and talking–the best sounds in the world.
While we were in this room waiting, surgical residents for Dr. Pittman, Dr. Liau, and Dr. Van Wyn (his anesthesiologist) came by to talk to us and meet James (they all commented on his big smile, since it was nearly 8 and he hadn’t eaten since 12:30 the night before), and then Dr. Wyk and Dr. Liau also came by to talk to us. Everyone who came in to talk with us was so nice and gentle with this fragile momma.
Finally, a nurse came by. They gave James some Versed, so he wouldn’t remember being separated from us and wouldn’t remember the mask they’d put on him so he’d fall asleep. The nurse who took him cried when I did, and somehow, that made me feel a little better. She was a momma, too, and knew how hard it would be for me to let go of him when the time came. A little empathy goes a long way.
And then, I had to hand my baby boy over to this exceptionally kind nurse. That was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. My Aunt Linda told me before I had James that I would know when I was ready to be a mom when my arms felt empty. And she was right. We started trying for James because my arms needed a baby in them. But I’ve never felt such emptiness as I did when I handed him over to that nurse, no matter how wonderful she was.
Letting go of James left me with a deep, aching pain. I can barely describe it. It was like someone had ripped my heart out, only so much worse. Vince put his arms around me and walked me back to surgery waiting, and I felt like I was dying inside.
We waited for a while for surgery to actually begin. Once it did, I had another meltdown. It was finally real–they were going to cut into his scalp and skull and rearrange his skull. I knew, in the long run, this was what was best for him, but I also was terrified. They gave us a little beeper that told us when the surgery started, when the first doctor was through, and when to meet his surgeon for a post-op consultation. Two hours after that initial text, mom and I were sitting in Consultation 4 waiting for Dr. Liau.
Dr. Liau is a rockstar. He brought me a little baggy with some of the hair they shaved off (they only shaved a single strip, not all of it!) and told us he did great! He didn’t even need a blood transfusion, which was a major possibility. Our estimated date for leaving the hospital was Saturday the 31st.
We spent the rest of Tuesday, all of Wednesday, and part of Thursday in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) with some of the kindest, sweetest, most wonderful nurses. One nurse in particular, Katherine, was James’s favorite. Every time he saw her, he lit up with the biggest smile. She was with us two days and I am so grateful for her, and all the others, who took such good care of him and us while we were there. Thursday afternoon we finally got transferred to a room on the floor. (It would have been sooner, but construction is going on and a lot of rooms aren’t available that normally would be.) Our room was blue with a big light up turtle on the ceiling, which James LOVED. The staff in this wing was just as wonderful as the staff in the PICU. The nurses and techs who we saw were just so incredibly nice to us, it blew my mind.
We got to come home today (Friday) a whole day earlier than the EARLIEST predicted day. I’m so grateful for our early release, and James seems pretty happy to be home with his mommy and daddy and kitties. (We pick Juno up from her puppy hotel tomorrow, then we’ll all be back together!)
This has been the most emotionally draining, scariest, biggest weeks of my life. I’m so thankful for the doctors, nurses, and techs at UK Children’s Hospital. I’m so thankful for our pediatrician, Dr. Brown, and my momma, for catching this for us. And I’m so thankful the surgery part is OVER.
If it weren’t for Vince staying in the PICU with James the first night, mom staying with James in his room on the floor the third night (and helping me every step of the way), and daddy picking us up today at the hospital (because Vince was still at work) I would have been/would be even more of a wreck than I already was/am. My family is amazing. And SO many people have reached out to see what we needed, to share some love, to give loving, wonderful advice, that I just don’t know where to start with my thank you list. I wish I could bake every single one of you a dozen cookies! (Nothing says love like cookies.) Thank you all for everything!
We appreciate all of your thoughts and love and prayers so incredibly much! James is feeling better so soon thanks to the love and prayer he’s felt all around him this week. I can’t wait until he’s all healed up, and back to his normal self, but I’m so grateful for the way he is today! Thank you, all! ❤