First things first, Charlotte came through her surgery beautifully. The surgeon told us that they encountered no surprises or complications and he was very pleased with the surgery. The surgery took about 1 hour. The repairs went well. The best news may be that they doctors closed Charlotte’s chest–sometimes in truncus arteriosus repairs they need to leave the chest open because the heart swells so much. We are delighted that they won’t have to do any further procedures, barring complications. After she left the operating room, it took another hour or so for the surgeons to close her up and another 4 or so hours for them to get her all set up in recovery. Then we were finally able to see our little honey.
Charlotte is fully wired—she is attached to a ventilator that is keeping her respiration at a steady, healthy 30 breaths/minute. She has 2 chest tubes, a main line through which her multiple medications are being administered continually, a Foley cath, and IVs set up on the back of her hands “just in case.” The RN who received her walked us through all the medications, the machines, etc., but by then we were on information overload. We can tell you that part of the delay in allowing us to see her had to do with adjusting her meds to get her respiration, breathing, etc. stabilized. It was a bit startling to see her hooked to so many wires and tubes, not moving, with her chest steadily rising and falling at right rate for a 7 day old. But, the nurses and nurse practitioners had prepared us for this, so it wasn’t nearly as frightening as it might have been.
What’s next? They’ll keep her fully immobilized and asleep for a few days. Slowly, they’ll wean her off each machine and most of her medications. When she is wireless, she’ll be moved to a regular room on the cardiac ward. She’ll come home to us when she’s wireless, on oral medications, and can eat on her own. Barring any post-op complications, that will be in 2-4 weeks.
As you can imagine, this has been the longest day of our lives. We got to the hospital very early to hold Charlotte for as long as we could. After the cardiovascular team finished conference, the surgical team called for her. As we walked her into the surgical area, there seemed to be 20-30 people gowned and ready to work on her. We were able to go as far as the pre-op holding pen where the nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists, and finally, Dr. Mavroudis himself, came down to tell us about the preparation and operation. They were all so kind to us—we’re continually grateful to be at Children’s Memorial. It seems like while they put kids’ first, they treat the whole family as the patient.
The most difficult single moment was when the team took Charlotte down the hall and we had to take another hall to the waiting room. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of watching Charlotte head off to a surgery we’ve been dreading since February. We felt an overwhelming relief and joy the surgeon walked towards us, several hours earlier than we expected him.
Charlotte is 7 days old tonight. It’s been a blurry week and it is just sinking in that I, too, am a recovering surgical patient. (Did we tell you we ended up with emergency c-section at the end?) I’m guessing I’ll spend a lot of time sleeping in the next few days, visiting Charlotte for small periods rather than for hours on end. Philippe has been nothing short of wonderful tending to both his girls.
The first hurdle is cleared and now we want to get her healthy enough to come home to us. While there will be more operations, this was the most complicated and the scariest. And while there will most likely be difficult moments to come, these were the hardest, worst moments either of us have ever experienced. We both feel like we aged at least 10 years. I never really believed I was a “grown up” until now.