Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day 2: 31 for 21: A Lifetime of Happy Heart Days

I missed an important 8th anniversary this week.  One that gets harder and harder to remember every year, as it gets pushed further and further into the past.  I still pay homage to it, albeit a bit later every year, and it is still something present in some way, even as a tiny, brief flicker of a thought when Samantha is changing her clothes and the wide white snake of scar tissue plunging down her breastbone becomes visible for a moment.  But really, it's something that's just there, now.  And, when I stop to think more carefully about it, to realize its implications, I am eternally thankful for its presence.

Today I thought I'd go back in time a bit today - to an anniversary when the memory was not so distant, 4 years post-surgery.  The post is old, but the sentiment will always remain.


4 years ago today, I handed my sleepy, happily cooing, probably very hungry, nearly 4-month old girl over to two nurses and a gurney. We’d gotten up at the crack of dawn from our lumpy bed at Ronald McDonald House (a truly amazing place!) and headed over to CHOP (an even MORE truly amazing place!) where we waited for what seemed like hours in a room that was way too cold to justify the teeny tiny lightweight cotton hospital gown they made us put on her. I had asked for and received some towels or receiving blankets to put over her to protect her from a chill, ignoring my own chilly discomfort.

Just hours before, as we were getting her ready for bed, Samantha decided to grace us with her very first all-out belly laugh. Imagine the guilt we felt at that, knowing that it could be a very long time before we would see that again. Maybe somewhere in that baby brain of hers she would forever associate happy laughter with the pain and discomfort of impending surgery. The mind is a complicated thing, after all.

Our surgeon met with us briefly in his office to explain what he would do and what we could expect. Then he left us to trade his 3-piece suit for scrubs, a mask and gloves, his uniform for the delicate procedure ahead. I kept looking at his hands, thinking about how they would soon hold my daughter’s life in them. But we trusted him implicitly. He is, after all, one of the best in the world. Can’t do much better than that.

Then we waited. There wasn’t any wringing of hands or pacing – we knew we could only. just. wait. Ate breakfast, wandered the halls a bit, anything to keep busy. We got word from a nurse after only two hours that the surgery was over and the surgeon would come see us shortly. He said everything went very well, that Samantha was successfully taken off all of the machines, including her breathing tube. It wasn’t until more recently, when I’ve read the blogs and heard the stories of people whose children had to be weaned from that tube to breathe on their own, that I realized what a huge thing that was. Again, I was fascinated by the surgeon’s hands and what they had just done and what they had just held.

4 days later we came home with an oxygen tank that we were able to shed in just a few weeks. Again, it wasn’t until more recently that I realized what a HUGE thing it was, too, that we were able to come home so quickly. A perfect repair, with a slight residual murmur. No need for future repairs, no long-term medication, no restrictions on activity. Just our baby.

I’ve been seeing a lot of Happy Heart Days in the last week or so, announced via blog and Facebook. I love that so many people have this miraculous event to celebrate, to look back on as part of the distant past. To me it’s more of an early Thanksgiving. Thankful for my healthy girl, thankful for that joyful belly laugh that we hear every day.

1 comment:

CourtneyLConnolly said...

Even after hearing you tell the story in person, I still can't imagine handing over a "sleepy, happily cooing, probably very hungry, nearly 4-month old girl over to two nurses and a gurney." Beautiful post, beautiful family, and BEAUTIFUL sammi! <3