On Hospital Time

My fifteen year old son Joel had surgery yesterday. He had a repair done on his chest to correct a condition known as pectus excavatum. This isn’t an uncommon condition, but generally it is more often repaired for cosmetic reasons. Joel’s was corrected because it was actually affecting his heart function.

The surgery, similar to open-heart surgery, was not an easy one. His sternum was cut away from his ribs, and then repositioned with wires to make room for his heart to beat correctly and continue to grow until he reaches his full adult size. As expected, he will be in the hospital for several days while we wait for his chest tube to be removed. Room 630 of the local medical center will be my home for the better portion of this week, as I camp out with him during these long days of recovery.

Post-op first night, my boy all doped up on pain meds but still wanted to check out the latest sports updates. (Photo shared with Joel's permission)
Post-op first night, my boy all doped up on pain meds but still wanted to check out the latest sports updates. (Photo shared with Joel’s permission)

After just 24 hours, I’m already reminded of some lessons I learned when my husband Jon spent most of the first four months of our marriage lying around in hospitals.

1.  Hospitals are not restful or relaxing.

As Bobby Lewis used to sing, “I didn’t sleep at all last night!  …Tossin’ and turnin’, turning’ and tossing’, a tossin’ and turning’ all night!

The door to Joel’s room was practically revolving, as nurses walked in and out every hour on the hour, checking blood pressure and temperature, looking at the incision, doling out pain medications, and taking chest x-rays. Of course, my bedding options weren’t the great, just a tiny little cot with a hard mattress.

About 4:30 am, the nurse came in and as she left whispered, “I won’t bother you any more tonight.

“Great!” I thought. “Now I can get some good rest before the 7 am shift change.”  And I did … sleeping hard until 6 am, when the door cracked open and in walked our friendly nurse.

Good morning! Time to get up, Joel. We need to move you into the chair. Doctor’s orders.

So much for getting good rest while in the hospital.  After I spent most of the morning yawning, I crawled into Joel’s empty hospital bed for a two hour nap. Not a single nurse bothered us during that period of time.

No doubt we will discover that our room once again is equipped with a revolving door between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. I think Joel and I will both be glad to see our own beds at the end of the week.

2. Hospital time is not at all like regular time.

Mostly, the days of my life seem to speed along in a blur, racing by so quickly I never feel like I have enough time to do everything I need or want to do.

Not so at the hospital.

The hands on the clock seem to move slower here. Minutes and hours are no longer useful measures of the passage of time. Instead, time is measured from one dose of medication to the next, the space between visits or phone calls from family or friends, the delivery of meals, or the last time the nurse popped in to check on vitals. The clock on the wall does me no good.

It’s been barely 24 hours since I settled into this room with my son, and somehow I it feels as if we have been cooped up in this room for a week. Yesterday, when I arrived at the hospital, I was a cognizant adult, aware of the time and place. Yet, barely a day later, I am already dependent upon the white board hanging on the wall to remind me of the day of the week and the date on the calendar. Without it, I would be lost in time.

In my bags, I brought along several new books, crossword puzzles, my laptop, note on a writing idea that’s been brewing in my mind for nearly a year now. I’ve got many forms of entertainment and I’ve got time. What I don’t have is motivation. My brain feels numb and unable to process correctly, as if not only has time slowed down but now I also think in slow motion.

Yet, I’m treasuring these moments with my boy. He’s growing up so quickly, nearly a man. At six feet tall, he is already man-sized. And now I get a week of him all to myself … to connect and bond with my son as we prepare to enter into these last remaining years of his childhood.

Despite the odd feelings, I’m trying to embrace these hospital days, for this time will pass me by as well. On truth about time, whether it’s regular time or hospital time, is that once it has passed, you can never get it back again.

3. If you want to feel blessed, go visit a hospital.

This morning, a perky nurse helped Joel take his first walk post-surgery. She taught him how to stand, using his legs to lift his body instead of pushing with his arms. Joel popped right up, not struggling at all.

“Wow! That’s amazing!” his nurse laughed. “I’m used to older patients who no longer have the leg strength they need to stand up so easily. You are going to be our star patient!”

We don’t have to look far to find someone else whose situation is bleaker than ours. Joel is definitely the youngest, healthiest patient on the cardiac floor of the large medical center where he is hospitalized. All around us are the family of cancer patients, trauma victims, and those who are suffering from far greater situations than we have ever been through before. While I certainly feel grateful for the blessing of health, it’s a hard reminder of what so many people endure daily and how smiles and kind words and sincere offers of prayers can be encouraging during trying times.

Thanks so much to all who have prayed. Joel is doing remarkably well and the pain is very well-managed. We are hoping to be back at home on Thursday, perhaps Friday if things take a little longer.

Operation: Not Just a Game Anymore

operation

Operation.

Whenever someone says that word, I tend to think of the board game. Maybe you had one when you were a kid. Perhaps you currently have one hanging out in your game closet.

My brother and sister and I used to play Operation when we were kids. Of course, it didn’t take long for us to lose half of the pieces. When the batteries wore out, I think my parents claimed we didn’t have the correct-sized batteries to replace them … which meant that the operating doctor was on the honor system for admitting when he or she had messed up.

I was never very good at this operating game. I tried so hard to pull out the tiny bones, but my hands were always too shaky.

For a brief time in my younger life, I thought perhaps I might like to be a doctor or a nurse. After all, I liked biology class. Then I realized I was not a blood person. I don’t even do well with tiny scraps. I have fainted at the sight of my own blood several times.

Between Operation (the board game) and the problem with blood, I soon figured out that I was not cut out to be employed in the medical field.

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I’ve had two operations in my life. Three, if you count my wisdom teeth being removed under sedation, but since that was at the dentist’s office and not in a hospital I don’t normally include it among my actual surgeries.

The first operation was a tonsillectomy when I was not quite four years old. I have a lot of strange, strange memories about that event. For example, I remember the nurse telling me she would look like a frog when she came to get me for my surgery. All night long I wondered how she was going to turn into a frog. I was surprised to see the next morning that she still looked rather human to me. I suppose she thought the green mask covering her face made her appear frog-like. I actually can remember waking up in the recovery room, as well as feeling a little miffed that I didn’t get to count all the way to ten before I fell asleep for the operation.

My second surgery was just two years ago. I had my gall bladder removed. Oddly enough, I don’t recall much about that operation. The one thing I do remember is that just prior to putting me completely under sedation, the anesthesiologist asked me if I liked the music selection. Already feeling a little inhibited from the happy cocktail I had taken half an hour earlier, I told him that I didn’t really like his music choices at all. The man laughed and said, “Well, I don’t guess that matters much at all.”  That’s really the last thing I can actually remember before waking up at home in my bed two days later.

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Two of my five children (Nathan and Megan) have had their tonsils and adenoids removed. Nathan has had five sets of ear tubes, and a tympanoplasty (ear drum patch), as well.

None of them has ever had a surgery that has required an overnight stay in the hospital. Even my own gall bladder surgery was out-patient.

All of that is about to change.

On May 4th, my son Joel will be having major surgery to correct a chest deformity, pectus excavatum. While many people have this deformity and choose to have it surgically corrected, most of the time it is purely for cosmetic reasons. For Joel, this is not the case. His sternum sinks so deeply into his chest cavity that it is now compressing on his heart and pushing it to one side. He simply doesn’t have room in his chest for normal heart and lung function.

A surgery is definitely necessary. But it won’t be the out-patient variety. Joel will be going through something very similar to open-heart surgery, except the operation isn’t on the heart. His chest cavity will be opened. He sternum cut way from the ribs and repositioned with wires. He will need to be hospitalized for 3-5 days before coming home, and then it will be 4-6 months before his has a full recovery.

This is a really big and scary sort of operation.

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Sometimes God surprises us, even in the middle of difficult and trying circumstances. That has definitely been the case regarding Joel’s surgery.

Four years ago, Jon was dying from a heart infection. Dr. Tedesco was the many doctors God used to save Jon’s life. He surgically removed the infected mitral valve and gave him a brand-new teflon mechanical valve. I’ve been forever grateful to God for sending Dr. Tedesco to be a part of Jon’s medical team.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Joel’s surgeon would also be Dr. Tedesco. It was almost as if I could feel God put His arms around me and say, “No need to worry over this one, Paige. I’ve got it too.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not worrying. I am. I’m the mom. I still see my 6′ (and still growing) boy as my baby. But, even I have to admit that there is peace in the middle of the unknown.

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Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. ~Psalm 30:2

Jon & I humbly ask if you would remember Joel in your prayers.

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BaptistGirlConfessionThis post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.