Monday, May 23, 2005

Mom's Story, Part Six

Click here to read Part One
Click here to read Part Two
Click here to read Part Three
Click here to read Part Four
Click here to read Part Five

Part Six:

We settled into life as normally as possible, despite regular visits to Children’s Hospital. After many consults, Vicki’s first reconstructive surgery was scheduled when she was two and a half years old. Though we had confidence in our physician’s skill and training, we knew this particular surgical procedure had not been done many times before. We were warned of possible outcomes, including death.

If it had been merely a matter of trying to make Vicki look prettier, we would have hesitated. But this surgery was critical for her future health and well-being. Because her eyes were so widely spaced, she had difficulty focusing. She had no eyelashes, which left her eyes vulnerable to dust and debris. Her malformed nose obstructed her breathing to the point where she could only breathe through her mouth. She had a partial cleft palate, with bones missing in her upper mouth. Her teeth would not grow in properly, she would have difficulty eating, and future problems with her jaw were inevitable. We knew we had no other choice but to agree to the surgery.

The long drive from the suburb in which we lived to the hospital in downtown Philadelphia seemed unusually interminable the morning of Vicki’s surgery. Hers was the first operation scheduled for the day, so we had to be there extremely early. The sun had not yet risen as we sped along the Schuylkill Highway, with Vicki asleep in the back seat. My husband and I were silent, each drowning in our own thoughts. I longed to turn around and go back home. I couldn’t help thinking, what if, at the end of this day, as we drove back along this same highway, it would be with broken hearts because our daughter had not survived?

Once at the hospital, a myriad of papers had to be filled out and signed. Vicki played quietly, oblivious to the pain and fear that awaited her. After a long wait, we were escorted to another area, where we again waited. I attempted to keep Vicki occupied, but I felt like exploding.

An orderly arrived, grinning at Vicki as though he were about to transport her to Disneyland. She innocently placed her tiny hand in his gigantic palm, and together they left the room. I wondered if I would ever see her alive again.

That day was astoundingly long and emotion-laden. We sat in the surgical waiting room, along with other parents, anxiously waiting for word about our child. Nervous conversation helped pass the time as strangers shared the gravest fears of their hearts with one another. Each time a doctor appeared in the doorway, conversation halted. With bated breath, we all waited to hear whose name would be called. We quickly discovered that when a doctor marched into the waiting room and spoke with the parents there, it meant the operation had been successful. But if the doctor paused at the entrance of the waiting room and called the parents out into the hall, it meant bad new.

Many operations that day were of short duration, so parents came and left the waiting area fairly quickly. We spent most of the day talking with a young couple whose little girl was undergoing open-heart surgery. Hospital waiting rooms are sometimes similar to battlefields, in that fear is in the air. Deeply personal issues are freely shared, and friendships fuse quickly. After spending nine or ten hours bonding with this couple, we felt their dread as the doctor appeared in the doorway and called them out to the hall. We briefly hugged and cried together before they left the room. They did not return. Their daughter had died.



Blogger jon said...

After we paid for our kids summer camp picture we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!

4:06 PM  

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