Monday, November 12, 2018

And a hug around the neck


Thursday, Ben had the procedure to remove the cyst on the side of his neck. Thank you so much for all the good vibes, prayers and virtual hugs. He sailed through just fine and was back to his usual happy self when he woke up Friday morning. I'm still recovering.

Having a child undergo any medical procedure is scary, but it can feel even more intense when you have another child who's been through serious trauma: hospital PTSD is real. For me, the hardest part of the entire ordeal was holding it together for Ben and not seeming anxious. It's been nearly sixteen years since Max was born, and I was surprised by how potent the PTSD still is.

We were at the hospital—the one where Ben was born—at 8:00 a.m, for the MRI; they needed to do a scan to pinpoint the exact location and size of the cyst. We signed the papers. Turns out a machine part was broken, and so we waited. Poor Ben hadn't eaten since the evening before, and he kept asking for snacks. Then he got upset when we had to put the hospital pj's on. I cuddled with him and sang the first song that came to mind: 

I love you
A bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck....

And I totally choked up "neck." Because oh, his sweet little neck with the lump in it. Because I was worried about the anesthesia and the procedure and him being in pain and all of it. I rubbed my eyes so Ben couldn't see my tears and I kept singing. Finally, the anesthesiologist arrived to give Ben a sedative so he wouldn't freak out about the anesthesia mask or even remember any of it. "It's like having two glasses of wine," she said. Too bad there was no such drugs for me. (I am planning to patent Mommy & Me Valium.)

Within a few minutes, Ben was woozy and very happy. As I carried him into the MRI room he murmured, "Is my bump gone?" When I laid his head down on the table, he looked downright giddy. The doctor and I sang the ABC song to him and he was out. 

"Mom, you have to leave now," the anesthesiologist said, firmly. I forced myself to walk out of the room and I burst into tears. I didn't just see Ben lying there on the MRI table. I saw Max lying in my arms in a hospital bed the day after he was born and turning blue. I saw Max lying in an incubator in the NICU, unconscious, with tubes hooked up everywhere. I saw Max lying in a hospital bed after he'd had a grand mal seizure at age 15 months. I saw Max lying on a gurney at age 8, knocked out so he could get Botox injections to loosen up his hands. 

I didn't want to sit in the waiting room with hordes of other anxious people, so Dave and I found a couple of seats in a hallway and we settled in. Two hours later, we found out that Ben was headed into surgery. I distracted myself with Facebook and magazines and I non-distracted myself by repeatedly asking Dave what he thought was going on in the OR. A patient manager came by to say everything was going well, and when I got all teary I explained that we had an older child with disabilities who'd been through a lot when he was born. She nodded. "You never know what people have been through," she said.

The surgery took an hour and a half. A nurse told us Ben was awake but woozy and out of it. I asked if I could hold him, and she went to check. We called Max and Sabrina, who were with our sitter, to tell them Ben was OK. The nurse came back to bring me to the OR. Ben was all riled up: he was wailing and trying to stand. But he was attached to an IV and they were worried he'd rip it out, so they gave him a little more sedative. I sat on the gurney, holding him. When he woke he was again agitated, but a little less so. Finally, he calmed down. I gave him some apple juice. He nodded off.

I'd been hoping we could go home that day, but the doctor wanted Ben there overnight in case he needed pain meds. They wheeled us to a room. Ben's left hand was wrapped in gauze so he couldn't rip out the catheter and he kept trying to unravel it. I gave him the lollipop I'd promised him, and he fell asleep sucking it. Dave brought us dinner then went home. The smell of the room was getting to me—hospitals always have that distinct odor—and I tried to distract myself by thinking back to our stay there after Ben was born and how baby-like he still looked when he slept. 

Ben didn't seem to be in pain when he woke up. He touched his neck. "I have a new bump!" he said, and I told him it was going to get better soon. The doctor stopped by. He said the cyst had extended from the front of Ben's neck to the back, and that he'd injected the drugs in two different spots. He pointed to the red pin pricks. It will take eight weeks before the swelling completely goes down, and we'll see if the cyst is completely gone. The doctor said we may not know for sure until Ben has a cold. If a lump appears, part of the cyst remains and we'll need to go through another round. 

Ben ate a bunch of saltines. I gave him some healing Nerds—the boy loves his candy. He watched Paw Patrol on his iPad. A monitor started beep-beep-beeping because he'd kicked off the wire on his toe for his vitals, and when no staffer showed up I went over to the nurse's station, pointed out that it was going off and said that someone needed to be on top of that. (See: hospital PTSD.) We wandered around the ward. Ben studied the list of names of kids in the pediatric ICU to find his. He told me that the "M" in "M/F" next to each name stood for "Mommy."

We had a restless night. But in the morning, Ben woke up smiling. He ate well from the smorgasbord on the breakfast tray. We played peek-a-boo with the room-dividing curtain. And then, we were released and we took a bus to Aunt Judy's house, downed snacks and took a four-hour nap. Max and Sabrina fell over themselves giving him kisses when they came to pick him up. 

The swelling on his neck is going down every day. This weekend Dave and I chilled with the kids and saw Bohemian Rhapsody on Saturday night (singing that in a movie theater is pretty cathartic). I did a bunch of yard work, my go-to form of therapy. Ben was a trouper, and I'm praying he doesn't have to go through this again. For now, I am so relieved it's over.



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