Shortly after Max was scheduled for his surgery, I got a cute little postcard in the mail from Primary Children's Hospital. It had happy pictures of kids on it and cheerfully proclaimed "Come to our pre-surgery class!" Who knew there was such a thing? Basically, it was a orientation to surgery- a way to talk with the kids who were going to have surgery so that they would know what to expect. Now of course Max isn't old enough to know or to care about hospital procedures and protocols, but being that his mother is a nervous wreck about the surgery and has more questions than a three year old typically asks in a day, I decided to take advantage of the class. Although his surgery is a little more than three weeks away, its Spring Break and I have no lessons, and this was probably the only afternoon available between now and the surgery date when I could make it down to the hospital yet again.
There's something ominous about a class full of parents and children about to undergo surgery. There were four families there, and we instantly started chatting about our kids in a way reminiscent of inmates: "So, what are you in for?" And although no one would admit it, we were all mentally sizing each other up, placing ourselves and our kids in a worst to best sort of way. There was the woman who was in with her four year old son who needed a hernia repair who would be in and out the same day. Then there was the woman whose daughter was having a scar revised after she was hit by a car and drageed for 100 feet, leaving a huge gash on her head. When it was my turn, I explained that Max was having a skull revision. (The technical name for his surgery is a "cranial vault reconstruction with a frontal orbital advancement." Doesn't that sound intimidating?) The other two women were horrified that a little baby would have to go through such an extensive surgery. I was having a little pity party for myself and my little boy when the woman in the corner told us that her 12 year old was having brain surgery. Her daughter was having seizures, and they were going to open up her skull and attach EEG electrodes to her brain. The girl would then be put on strict bedrest for weeks in the hospital while the doctors provoked seizures and mapped them in her brain to find where they were coming from. then after everything was sufficiently mapped and figured out, they would remove and repair the part of her brain that was causing the seizures. Gulp. After I heard that, I realized that I was thankful for what I had been given.
Being in a children's hospital is a surreal experience. They showed a cutsie video to prep the kids for what they were going to experience. It was completely focused on the fun things: "Look! You get to ride to the Operating Room in a wagon!" or, "Oh, there's pictures on the ceiling!" and "Oh, your mask that gives you medicine smells like bubble gum!" All the while I'm thinking, "That's where they're going to take my baby." and "That's where I get to wait for hours and hours and pace holes in the floor while I wonder if everything is going okay." ond, "That's the great big IV they're going to put in his little tiny body."
In all seriousness, I'm betting that as hospitals go, Primary Children's is a great place to be. With the exception of the radiology department (and that's a whole different post full of ranting!) we have had mostly good experiences there. Everyone has been very kind and they do seem very attuned to the needs of the children. But there's something about walking the halls of the hospital with the "Child Life Specialist," and hearing her describe all the perks of the hospital as if I'm a potential recruit touring a college campus that makes me want to turn and run the other way. I'm glad for the little things like that they have a huge playroom; I'm glad they give free zoo passes to families of kids in the hospital. I'm glad for the bigger things like that they have breast pumps and breastmilk storage facilities that they bring to every room; I'm glad that they bend over backwards to provide accomodations for parents. And I'm very glad that I have a laptop and they have wireless internet access. But seriously, I can't be the only parent that wishes that I could be put to sleep when my baby is and wake up when he's completely recovered, can I?