“Many parents have gone through this, it’s no big deal.”
That’s what I was thinking to myself, as I sat in the waiting room with Pam at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Tuesday for what seemed like a lifetime.
Our youngest son, Carson, was undergoing several outpatient surgical procedures, each of which was labeled routine by the doctors but combined had been inhibiting normal growth progressions. Consequently, it was a day we dreaded and welcomed at the same time.
Tuesday morning for Carson and Pam started at 4:30 with an early feeding because the latest he could eat before his 3 p.m. surgery was 5 a.m. That long wait alone was a concern, as we worried he would be incredibly hungry and fussy by his surgery.
Likely a result of the activity in the house that morning, Beckett woke up particularly early on surgery day as well. With Pam and Carson downstairs and the gate at the top of the steps inadvertently cracked open, Beckett managed to make his way to our bedroom.
Standing within an inch of my face, Beckett said, "Daddy, wake up, you’re snoring, Daddy." It was 6:02 a.m.
It was going to be a long day, but I could not have imagined how long it was truly going to be at that point.
All of Carson’s “pre-op” procedures went smooth, leaving Pam and I to wait out the surgery together, trying desperately to ease the worries.
What makes the wait particularly difficult is all the activity at the hospital.
As we sat in the waiting room with dozens of people, including a woman waiting on word of her husband who was having open heart surgery and another lady whose husband was undergoing brain surgery, there were several bonding moments, as we all anxiously awaited updates of our loved ones.
The most exciting moments came when the doctors surfaced in their scrubs from the operating rooms. Without delving into the details in this space, there were two surgeons involved with Carson’s four procedures.
Subsequently, after about 90 minutes, one came out and briefed us on her particulars. Good news, she said all went fine.
Forty-five minutes or so later, the other surgeon emerged, reporting all went well, too, and she soon after led us back to him in the recovery area.
This was a moment I will never forget. We walked around the recovering room, pushing Carson’s empty stroller along the way, and my eyes scanned the beds for a head with red hair.
Finally, we found him and it was overwhelming. There was his little body on this big mattress on wheels. He was understandably dazed and confused and expressionless for the most part. It was horrible to see because he was so out of it, but a relief all the same as it meant he was okay.
That image hit me hard, and I still can’t shake it today. I imagine Pam feels the same way about her experience earlier in the day that was much more traumatic. She was with him when the anesthesia was administered. As you can imagine, she emerged from the operating room flushed with tears.
Just to make her feel good, I gave her some company in that sentimental boat.
Although we thought the ordeal was now over, we had no idea what was ahead of us, as Carson had some unfortunate reactions to the anesthesia, including bouts of vomiting and concerns over an increased heart rate. That eventually led us to stay overnight, something we were not expecting, making the situation worse than it should have been.
After a few hours, we finally made our way to a pediatric room with three young babies and their parents, which all seemed to have serious issues they were facing.
It was a shock to the senses, as babies were crying, nurses were scrambling, monitor lights were blinking, machines were beeping and buzzing and parents were stressing (and I was freaking out).
We were told only one of us could stay in the room with Carson that night, and I have no problem admitting Pam is better equipped to deal with a vomiting, sick little boy than I am. Plus, the alternative was me staying in the room with Carson and my wife sleeping in a hospital waiting room all by herself. That wasn’t going to happen.
Nonetheless, that room on that night was a terrible place to be, but we knew taking him home in that condition was not an option.
Later, we talked how you can’t leave Hopkins without feeling fortunate. There are so many people, including many little ones, always there, and many battling serious, life-altering issues of varying severities.
However, that’s not what I was thinking at 4 a.m. on Wednesday when I was curled up in a bright office hallway trying to get some sleep.
Every waiting room I could find in the hospital was full to capacity or just too uncomfortable to bear. One room I tried to sleep in was across from the cafeteria, which apparently is home to a good old fashioned game of craps every night among hospital staff.
Therefore, I went elsewhere, landing eventually in an office hallway a couple floors below Pam and Carson.
While I was curled up on the floor in the fetal position with a pillow and a sheet, I kept telling myself, “many parents have gone through this, it’s no big deal.”
It didn’t really help at that moment.