So, you can exhale, okay?
This morning, as Ben was being prepped for surgery (vitals being taken, questions being asked by every tech and nurse and doctor available, it seemed), the anesthesiologist came by to introduce herself and ask Ben her list of questions. Do you take any medications? Do you play any sports? Do you have any pain?
When she was done with Ben, she asked Mark and me to join her in the hall. There she proceeded to run through the long list of possible catastrophes that could (but probably won’t) happen. Death. Paralysis. Blindness. BLINDNESS? I had never heard that one before. And it completely rattled me. “Are you okay, Mom?” she asked. Um. No. Not okay. Really NOT okay. Blindness? (Later, Mark said he’d heard that before, but I never had.) Mark explained to her that he’s a numbers guy. When he hears a statistic he goes with the 99%, but I, I go with that 1%. Because, and I’ve said it before, I’m sure, SOMEone is that 1%, why not me? It might be MY kid! “That’s a mother’s job,” she said and I have to agree. Not that it helped.
When we went back into the OR prep room Ben took one look at me and said, eyes narrowed, “What did she tell you?” “Oh, the usual,” we shrugged, holding it together as hard as we could. A moment later he was whisked away into the OR, looking worried, very worried. That boy knows all too well the feeling of handing your life over to the OR doctors. Here’s my life, yeah, put me to sleep. I trust you. Wait. While I’m asleep you’re going to cut me open?
We walked out into the hall. I turned right, away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby nurses’ station, turned a corner and burst into tears. I could hear Mark breathing very hard and slow, the kind of breathing you do to keep from breaking apart at the seams. And then we found each other and hugged.
No amount of practice makes saying goodbye to my child in the OR anteroom easier. But really it’s this surgery that is hard. This surgery just puts his others to shame it’s so big. We've done this so many times, I thought. And every time is so, so hard.
As we walked back to his room I tried wrapping my mind around that fact that it's the last time we're going to go through it. Not to tempt fate, but that seemed like a reassuring idea. I have to admit, I couldn't do it. I couldn't figure out what that even meant.
We returned to Ben’s room (which is a very nice single occupancy room with a vestibule for a dedicated nurse, almost like an ICU room). We got out our phones. We posted to Facebook. We called a few people. Then I sent Mark to Starbucks for a chai latte for me. We both needed to act normal.
The waiting time during surgery is surreal. There is some relief that it’s finally started, especially when the prelude has dragged on. Though there is some relief in those moments that your child is first away, away in some distant place called the Operating Room, it’s only because your child is now undergoing that thing you have been dreading with all your heart and soul. You relax because it has begun, this thing that for so long hung before you, the ax waiting to fall.
Too melodramatic, you say? Well, I say not. My child was there, being laid open with a scalpel. My child was on that operating table being kept alive with machines…breathing for him and monitoring every vital sign he had. I say not too melodramatic because in fact, the truth of what was happening to him was so brutal that I can barely acknowledge it.
When the anesthesiologist told me all the horrible possibilities I barely heard them. How could I listen? When someone says that what they are going to do to your child could leave them dead, paralyzed or blind, how can you give your child over to them without total fear? You either have to live in that denial place for the moment or you have to change your mind. Um, nope. Thanks but no thanks. I changed my mind. You can’t have him. Sorry. Play that game with someone else’s baby.
Maybe someone’s done that, but I have to say, I haven’t. I have taken those possibilities and put them aside a bit. And then pretended like things were just normal for a bit. It’s all you can do.
The waiting was easier today because two dear friends came by, bringing us lunch and goodies. We chatted and laughed and had something to eat. Diane and Marion are two of my oldest friends, the first two girls I met when I was new in junior high. We had a great visit and then Dr. Cho was there, telling us of his success. It was over. Six and a half hours. Done.
I have so much more to tell you, but it will have to wait. It's time for this mama to go to bed.