Friday, August 19, 2011

Life and death and glasses of wine

I'm just getting back from dinner with the team, and I'll tell you right now that I had three glasses of wine. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't drink - for a few reasons.
1 - It's too expensive
2 - I have kids who get up early
3 - I'm a lightweight
4 - I'd rather save my calories

Tonight those top 4 didn't matter. I needed some wine to forget about today. But tonight it's all rushing back, as the wine is wearing off. How do people who work at a children's hospital survive?

I met up with Maria first thing this morning and told her I'd be with her for her entire surgery. She was all smiles, for the most part, and gave me permission to be in her surgery. I walked behind her as she was entering the OR, and watched almost every minute of her surgery.

Here she is being put under.
What I didn't know before today is that the body sometimes fights being put under. She was resisting pretty hard on the table - what I was told was that it was just reflexes. She'd been given the drug to make her forget, and the drug to make her go to sleep.

I stayed. For the entire prep, opening, and the surgery. I watched little Maria's chest being opened, and thought about her mother has her heart was exposed to the world, and I thought of her as her heart was being stopped.

This is for you medical types. Maria had TOF. The doc removed her pericardium and constructed a valve out of it. I watched him make it. I watched him attached it. And I watched as it was full of blood.

Did you ever think I'd be talking like this? I speak heart now. Maybe not completely accurately, but I understand the lingo now.

Maria was in surgery for a very long time. At 2:00 my stomach finally decided for me that I needed to get some lunch. Here it is. No, I did not eat it all. The lunch gals dish up plates for anyone who doesn't make it in by noon.
I have no idea what this was - but I was so hungry that it was delicious.

As they were stitching her up I saw people flying down the hallway, then people flying out of the OR I was in. A child, who has just gotten out of surgery, coded in the room across the hallway from Maria. The stress of Maria's surgery, the stress of seeing a 4 month old's body this morning, the stress of hearing that a child was coding, that stress took me out. I was done. I had all I could take. It was too much.

I'm not medical. I've had no training, no experience, and no exposure at all. And yet I'm thrown into all of this. Life and death and stuff most people never ever see in their lifetime. I don't want to. I want out. I just want to go home and forget this.

I held back the tears. This team of seasoned professionals is not going to see me cry. It's right there. All of the emotion and rage and anger. It's right there, and I'll get it out some day. For now, I need to check on Maria.

When I went back in, her heart was in v-fib. I don't know how to spell that, and I don't know what it means. All I know is that her heart was not starting on its own. The paddles were coming out.



Finally. It's beating.

Did you know that in many countries the family has to provide the blood for surgery? Maria's family had to secure blood before she could ever go under the knife. After the doctor started up her heart, Maria started bleeding. They didn't know where it was coming from. What they did know is that she needed more blood.

Maria and I are blood mates. We're both A-. How does it work that this child needs blood, and I'm a prefect match? There was no question - I would donate for her. While I know that I'm A- I doubted myself and wanted to make absolutely sure I was A- before ever letting my blood enter her system.

As Maria lay bleeding on the table, I went to the lab to donate my blood. First - I was typed to make sure we matched.

There was no question here. Let me give this child my blood.

Terrible news. My iron is too low to donate. What do you mean it's too low? Will something happen to Maria if my iron is low? I don't care what happens to me. I'm not a small person. I can be without this blood. Please take it. Please give it to Maria. Please God, let this child live.

It didn't matter how much I pled my case. They would not take my blood. There was too much concern about ME. 12.3. All I know is that means I can't donate. What does that 0.7 matter?

I made my way back up to the OR. I was absolutely defeated. Until I opened the door. They were closing her up. Surgery was complete. Maria didn't need my blood.

After being stitched up, little Maria was brought into the ICU. I finally got to see this beautiful little girl - with all of her tubes and monitors that don't scare me anymore. She was finally out of surgery after 7 hours.

She didn't stop bleeding. I heard them talking about bringing her back in. A second surgery. Little Maria might be opened up again.

After about 30 minutes it was decided. She was going back in. A second surgery for this little girl with the beautiful smile.

I couldn't think about it. I couldn't go in. I couldn't watch. "Don't get attached." That kept going around and around in my head. Now I understood why. Don't get attached, because not all kids come out of surgery alive.

I did everything I could to distract myself during her second surgery and before I knew it, it was done. Maria was back out. Sweet Maria was back. And she wasn't bleeding as much. Whatever was happening, they got it fixed.

It was time for her mother to finally see her. Nearly 11 hours after watching her baby walk away into surgery, her mother was finally able to see her.

It's beautiful and difficult to watch a mother see her child in the ICU for the first time. Her mother completely broke down. All the tubes. All the blood. It's so hard to see.

After her mother left, I say down beside Maria to just watch her. I just wanted to watch. Her chest going up and down. Her feet which were so pink. Her hands which occasionally started reaching her mouth. I just wanted to watch.

I don't have the happy ending for Maria yet. If she does OK, she may be extubated at some point tonight. I won't know until tomorrow morning.

I won't know until the wine has long worn off.

I just pray that it's nothing but good news tomorrow.

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