Ten years ago today was the scariest day of my life. Waking up my two-year-old daughter at 5:00 am, getting her ready, and heading out the door felt like pure torture. She didn’t understand where we were heading to, even though I had tried to explain it to her. My husband and I drove to the hospital in near silence – both of us handling this extreme fear in our own way. {I wish I knew then what I know now about breathing techniques to calm nerves – it would have been extremely helpful.} I don’t remember too much about arriving, checking in, etc. My first vivid memory is having to hand over my very confused and upset baby to the nurse, who kindly let her take her stuffed animal with her, knowing she was heading into a very serious operation – open heart surgery. They were about to open up my baby’s perfect body, put her on a heart lung machine, and perform a very rare operation fixing two defects in a completely new way – it was beyond agony. My husband and I barely talked for the next 4-5 hours during the operation. I remember eating in the cafeteria at some point, but that’s about all.

When we got the call that she was out of surgery and doing well, the weight became so much easier to bear. All we wanted was to see our sweet angel – and know that she was doing okay. However, the rest of the afternoon, evening, and into the next morning were not an easy patch of time either. She came out of her anesthesia extremely thirsty and full of fighting energy. They tried about five different medications to calm her down (which freaked both of us out so much – questioning what sort of drug concoction were they putting into our two year old?!)… but none of them worked – they only seemed to make her more anxious. She stayed fully alert from that afternoon well into the night – and only dozed a couple times – all the while begging me for water, which I couldn’t give her. We tried letting her suck on a damp sponge so she wouldn’t ingest too much liquid, but even that made her cough – her esophagus was not ready to swallow after having the oxygen tubes down her throat. I just sort of bent over the railing of the hospital bed and laid my head next to hers and patted her where it wouldn’t hurt – telling her I loved her and that everything was going to be okay. I kept telling her she would get water soon. Do you know how hard it is to reason with a two-year-old who is extremely thirsty? It wasn’t an easy task. Somehow we made it through that night.

She was such an amazing trooper during her hospital stay. We played with stuffed animals, took naps, and even walked around the intensive care unit with a little purse and princess phone. I had to be her advocate while in the hospital – realizing that sometimes doctors order tests that are not necessarily needed. I asked them to wait on another bronchoscopy – her fluid from her lungs wasn’t clearing as fast as they wanted. However, they were going to have to put her under anesthesia again for this, and I did not want that to happen if at all possible. It turned out that I was correct – she cleared up on her own. She was potty trained, and the nurses kept wanting her to be in diapers. She wasn’t having it! So we had them bring a little portable potty for next to her bed. This little lady was so much happier. At one point she got tired of the drainage tubes and pulled them out – I never saw a nurse react so fast! Apparently this is very dangerous, since infection could have been a result. Luckily they fixed her up really quickly and we didn’t have any bad effects from that snafu.

Six days later, she and I left the hospital – I had been lucky enough to have been able to stay with her the entire time. They even didn’t fuss about me sleeping next to her in her hospital bed. On the drive home, I realized that a gigantic weight had been lifted from my shoulders… an actual empty spot in my consciousness where the built up fear and anxiety from this impending procedure had been. What a relief to have this behind us now – and all had gone well!

Her recovery was swift. We actually had to try to keep her less active – as she wanted was to play, run around, and be her usual self, almost immediately. I vividly remember her walking around the neighborhood about one or two days after coming home – she wanted to be outside with all the kids – and my neighbors were shocked! This was only a week and a couple days after a major operation!

This experience changed me. I have a strong perfectionist streak in my personality. Going through this health challenge with my child – it brought me to a new perspective on EVERYTHING. I can’t really wrap words around it – even today. I just know I am forever adjusted, and I 100% believe it was in a good way.


A good quote that explained how I felt preparing for and going through with this scary life event: “Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t brave. Being brave means doing what you have to do, no matter how scared you feel.” (from Franklin Goes to the Hospital

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1 Comment

  1. Suzee, I just read this… I remember how scared you were…and as your mama I so wanted to comfort you but none of us knew what was ahead and I had no words, just hugs. Thank you, God, that our precious Eva is such a fighter and that her doctors and nurses were so capable and well prepared!!!
    I remember the day I came over to your house after Eva’s surgery When I rang the doorbell, that little stinker came running to the door to answer, full of energy. I was both amazed and grateful at the same time.

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