We arrived at Lurie first thing in the morning. Early commutes into the city usually prove uneventful, and this trip was no exception. Right in to the heart of downtown, easy-peasy. We were given our badges at the front desk. From there we headed up to the 7th floor. It was probably around 6:30 a.m. by the time we were all situated in the pre-op room.
Vitals were checked and things were loaded into the computer. We talked about drug reactions and how she has done post-op for other surgeries. As a parent, I have committed to remembering pretty much everything dealing with any surgery she has ever had. Thankfully, I have a great memory and can recall every major event and most of the mundane doctor's appointments too. If I wasn't great at it, I would probably make a book to take with me. And at some point down the road, when there are too many things to keep track of mentally, I probably will. Our anesthesia team was so very kind. The doctor, who's name I don't remember, was very reassuring. He had recently had a child that was admitted due to seizures due to an infection. As a parent, it's nice to know that your doctor has children and relates a little bit to the anxiety you may feel during a situation like this. But honestly, I wasn't that anxious. I kept telling Ben I knew this is what needed to happen. We had exhausted all other possibilities for repair and her heart had to be repaired. It was a weird thing to not be totally freaked out about this. Because I'm the person that freaks out when the dishwasher is loaded incorrectly (yes, you can load a dishwasher incorrectly).
Once the vitals were done and all of the pre-op questions asked and answered, we waited.
It was a pretty short wait. We cleaned her one more time with some sort of special pre-op wipe, wrapped her in a blanket and headed back toward the surgery area. Once we reached the locked doors, I handed her off to the anesthesia team and they took her away. I did get a little sad at this point; not because I was uncertain of how the procedure would go, but because I knew that when I saw her again she would be forever different.
Ben and I went to the 11th floor to grab some breakfast. I also talked to my sister who had just gotten out of rehab. I fear it may be the last time I ever do talk to her. We finished our food and headed up to the 15th floor to wait on the surgery team to give us updates. The nurse practitioner the day we were waiting was Holly. She just had an ease about the way she delivered our updates. She was professional and compassionate. Again, I could go on and on about the staff. We got hourly updates for the first three hours. And at the hour five mark, her surgeon, Dr. Backer came in. We were told to expect a four to six hour surgery. And here he was right at the five hour mark from the time she went back.
The surgery went as planned. Her atrial septal defect was about 20 millimeters. To give you some perspective, it was roughly the size of a quarter. Dr. Backer expressed his opinion that the catheter closure would have not be successful. Her margins were non-existent and the occluder would have put pressure on her aorta. It was in that very moment that I knew God had very carefully walked us through this journey. Not allowing us to do more harm than good. He said she was waiting in her room and we could go back because she was asking for me. It was odd in the way they said it. Like maybe most kids don't ask for their parents as soon as the breathing tube comes out. But she was very aware and wanted me right there with her. I was happy to oblige.
We spent the next several hours just watching her. There are a lot of tests that happen post-op. Labs every couple of hours. Vitals every hours. Not a lot of sleep on anyone's part. Once Allyn's meds started to wear off from her surgery, things were getting a little tougher. She was restless.
There was a central line and an arterial line. She had a chest tube and was getting oxygen. She also had on a pulseox sensor and a blood pressure cuff. Moving around her was not an easy task. She had a morphine pump and they encouraged us to push the button hourly, but we could push it as frequently as every 8 or 9 minutes.
The one thing I know with certainty now about this sweet child, is that she is a WARRIOR. She wasn't pitiful or weepy. She just wanted us near. But you could sense this girl's fight. Allyn has this thing about her personality; she is adorable. She pulls you in and wraps you up in her charisma. So it was quite the change for us to see that she is also equally strong.
That first night was rough. We were on two hour checks. But checks the first night took about 30 minutes. So by the time we got her back to sleep, and then we got back to sleep, the nurses were back in within the hour. And Allyn wanted me close. I spent part of the night perched on her bed and the rest of the night trying to maintain physical contact with her while dozing in the chair. No easy feat.
But her heart was repaired. Exhaustion couldn't stop us now.