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.
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!)