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Cherry ChapStick, Resilience and Non-Hoopla

By February 17, 2010How To, Myth or Reality, News

I had another post planned for today, but I feel totally compelled to write about our surgery experience – and yes, it does have something to do with writing, because it has something to do with life – and life seeps into everything. And by everything, I mean everything.

So, for those of you that don’t know, my four year-old daughter had surgery yesterday. Not a heart transplant, mind you, they just removed her adenoids and put tubes in her ears. But, she did have general anesthesia and a lovely anti-nausea and narcotics cocktail.

Things you see in hospitals

She did great. First, she was thrilled to have her moms to herself this morning. But, then we got to the hospital. I saw an elderly (to be honest, half-dead looking) woman being gurney-ed by and I tried to distract Sophie, but to no avail. She maneuvered and watched and absorbed…and I think that was the moment when she started to cling to me with all she had.

And then, a scary looking nurse who looked like she hadn’t eaten anything but Mary Kay products since 1984 took us into the changing room and poured her cold demeanor all around us like lighter fluid on an arson’s target. Soph started to cry shriek and wouldn’t let us undress her. Not even the kitties on her teeny, tiny scrubs could get her to budge. Promises of popsicles and ice cream finally did.

More TV references

The worst part for me was seeing Sophie’s fear and hearing her cry. I had weird Ally McBeal type visions of throwing my baby to the wolves. How could I voluntarily put her in a scary and painful situation? Oh, yeah. Because she was already in a painful situation and this would help. So, I mommed up and put on just about the sexiest moon suit you’ve ever seen so that I could go into the OR with Sophie until she was soundly drugged sleeping.

Mystical ChapStick

And then, the nurse did something so magically enthralling – my head is still spinning. Pay close attention because I can’t figure out what her trick was…so maybe you can: She showed Soph the little mask that she’d wear while she was getting gassed (What?! That’s essentially what was going to happen!) and then, wait for it, she took out a tube of cherry flavored ChapStick. She smeared red goo all over the inside of the clear mask and handed it to Sophie who instantly put it over her nose and mouth and delighted in sniffing fake cherry, talking to all of us through the mask and trying to look down at it with cross eyes.

I carried her into the OR, mask still voluntarily glued to her face. We met the nurses and I put her on the bed. Mind you, she’s still holding the mask securely on. The anesthesiologist attached the hose and suddenly she’s acknowledging that it might not smell quite as good now. Sophie keeps the mask on. Then he tells her that it might make her laugh, this new smell in the mask. So I start singing, “I love to laugh’ from Mary Poppins (because my plan when they told me that they were going to start and my baby was freaking out was to sing to her – like I was sung to 4 years and 3 months ago – the last time Sophie and I were in an operating room together).

But they hadn’t given me any warning. I was joining this program already in progress.

There was one moment when, I imagine, the room began to swirl around her that Sophie’s eyes widened and she pushed herself towards me (mask still firmly affixed by her own hand) and called out ‘Ma J!'(that would be my name according to my children) in a fairly concerned and scared voice. And I kept singing and stroking her hair and smiling into her eyes, until they closed.

And she’s out

At which point I burst into tears and begged the nurses to take care of my baby. They said they would – one remarking that they didn’t want the responsibility of hurting her in anyway. I think this was a joke, but it was a strange one. Right?

Forty minutes later, while we refused to think about anything but the Olympics on TV in the waiting room, they called us back in. We could hear her crying from the hall. She was PISSED. And confused and totally disoriented. She wanted my water, she wanted the IV out, she wanted to go home, she wanted – and this is an educated guess – to feel normal and not so damn uncomfortable.

Finally, the nurse narcotized her via the IV in what I can only imagine is akin to what they do to belligerent mental patients. Soph fell sound asleep for 45 minutes and woke up covering her ears because for the first time in about two years, her ears were no longer filled with fluid and she could hear. At that point, she sat up and told us – quite lucidly – that she had been very crabby before, but then had taken a big nap and now felt all better.

That resilience I was talking about

We threw her in the car and took off. By the time we got to the ferry, she seemed completely normal. By the time we got off the ferry she had consumed a bag of carrots, a bunch of fruit and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…and she wanted more. By the time we got home she was jumping up and down with her brother and hugging her dogs and bossing everyone around. She had two huge plates of veggie stirfry and rice for dinner.

The hospital bracelet around her ankle was literally the only sign of her morning’s activity.

So, that’s the story, but what’re the lessons? What did we learn?

1. Well, cherry ChapStick has magical powers. I think we can all agree to that.

2. My kid kicks ass. (Come on, like you weren’t thinking that too?)

3. Resilience is awesome to watch. And it comes easily when one is full of gumption and surrounded by love.

4. But, the most important lesson was this: Practice Non-Hoopla. In other words, Don’t make a big deal out of things. Can you imagine if, when we went into the OR, they had told her what they were going to do, and said things like, ‘you might feel dizzy’ or ‘here it comes!’ or ‘we’re going to start now!’ Instead it was all very matter of fact, no frills, no alarms, no danger signs. It just sort of happened – no muss and no fuss. It was brilliant.

I’m thinking hard about how to apply this lesson to life, to my business as a copywriter, to my writing – and I’m going to break it down tomorrow…so stay tuned…

(Oh, and thanks to those of you that sent kind words and messages…your support was so, so appreciated!)

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Ron Miller says:

    She’s one brave girl and sounds like she’s very much her mother’s daughter (and yes, that’s a compliment by the way). As one who recently experienced my own surgical procedure (er, adventure), I learned that it’s best to keep it all a surprise. If you knew what you were up against before you went in, you probably wouldn’t have gone (and you needed to go). She’s all the better for it now, but wow, that process is one you’re just better off learning about after the fact. Kudos to Sophie. That girl is something special.
    .-= Ron Miller´s last blog ..Wired iPad App Looks Sweet =-.

  • Susan Gibbs says:

    So relieved! I worried about that tiny, precious girl all day. Great post, Julie!
    .-= Susan Gibbs´s last blog ..Almost Kidding Time?!? =-.

  • Dina Lyons says:

    So glad she is okay, and also really glad that the seemingly mean-cold nurse came through with a fun way for your daughter to accept that mask. And BTW you were brave too, hope you gave yourself some ice cream for a reward?

  • Joanne Sardini says:

    Great to hear that everything went so well! You’re right – your kid does kick some serious ass! This is a good reminder to me to go at life with enthusiasm and focus on the fun stuff instead of dwelling on the not so fun. Your little girl was so focused on getting back to the fun of her life that she had no time for feeling sorry for herself or dwelling on the situation. She just got up and moved on to the fun – thanks for the lesson Sophie!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thanks, Dina. I should say – the cherry chapstick nurse was a different woman from the mean nurse. And, nope, no ice cream. Seeing Sophie okay and happy filled every need, want, craving and desire I had!!!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Joanne – you’re totally right. That’s exactly what she did! Thanks for seeing it that way…

  • Laura says:

    Great story, and great advice. Children can be so complex and so simple. I’m glad all went well.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Wondering Wednesday =-.

  • Bert Jackson says:

    Julie, I’m learning to love your stories. Personal without being tepid. Very happy to hear the kidlet came through with flying (cherry) colors. A big lesson in all this for me is that a thing or event has no power except that power we give it. That applies all over the spectrum, doesn’t it.

    Thanks for sharing…

  • Julie Roads says:

    …and I’m learning to love your comments, Bert! Thanks for being here…and chiming in.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Kids truly are resilient. It always amazes me. Glad she’s ok and that the ordeal is over.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Oddest Communication Advice You’ll Ever Read =-.

  • Sarah Good says:

    Great story! I had the vision so clear in my head while reading that I had tears running down my face for both of you. Glad you busted through all that hospital energy with love. I will forever think of you girls when I see or use cherry chap stick. Kids (and grown- ups) are so gosh darn resilient! Sophie and Ma J you ROCK!

  • Andi says:

    Yay for tough girls! I hope the surgery makes her feel a lot better! Maybe we should have put some cherry chapstick under your nose??
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Valentine’s 2010 =-.

  • Isao says:

    A great story of triumph and also a highly entertaining one. I believe this is how all of us should tell lessons in our lives. Yes your daughter kick-ass.
    .-= Isao´s last blog ..Does quote make a person look smart, or the other way around? =-.

  • --Deb says:

    So glad everything went okay, and that Sophie toughed it out to get back to the stuff that makes living fun, no muss, no fuss about ears and sore throats. Yay!! (And, really, you DO deserve some ice cream, too…)
    .-= –Deb´s last blog ..Great Subscription Offer =-.

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Love the Cherry Chapstick.

    By the time my then 4-year-old had her tonsils and adenoids removed and new tubes put in her ears, she’d spent so much time with our wonderful ENT that she just put her arms around his neck and let him carry her back into the OR. I still send that man a Christmas card.

    Glad she’s well. It’s amazing when kids can suddenly hear again!
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Weekly parent for VD: musings on marriage =-.

  • Todd Jordan says:

    Great share! Loved your points at the end.
    Sometimes ‘just do it’ works better than any fancy plan ever can.
    I’m at the stage in my life when I again appreciate matter of fact handling by those whom I need to trust for the next two hours of my life.

    ((hugs)) <- for your kiddo.
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..Time Magazine Sports Illustrated iPad Future =-.

  • Glad to hear she’s ok.
    .-= Mark Sherrick´s last blog ..Choose My Adventure =-.

  • Kids are continuously amazing. I am glad she did so well and you too! It is great when hospital staff doesn’t mess around and yank you all over. Just tell us what you want to do, and do it and be done with it. I remember being able to hear and smell like it was brand new after I had the same procedure. She will never be the same!
    .-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..Digging for and Dusting Off Post Ideas =-.

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