Of course I'm thinking, "it's an omen!" We shouldn't be doing his surgery today! But I guess bad ju-ju or not, we were going through with it. The surgeon has a timeline, and by hell or high water, he was keeping it. So Tadd made a few phone calls, made sure we were allowed to arrive late, and we were given the OK to still come. Dammit.
Costco was phenomenal. We explained our circumstances, and they opened up an extra bay, got us in immediately and had us out of there in under 30 minutes. It ended up being sort of nice that we arrived late because Walt hadn't had formula since midnight, and nothing but Pedialyte from then until 10am. It was easier to hold him off without having to sit in the waiting room an extra half an hour.
My dad insisted on being there for the surgery, and while I hadn't expected him to, I'm so grateful he was. He met us up on the 3rd floor, and he and Tadd's parents took a seat outside the registration waiting room while we went in.
Both Tadd and I had been too nervous to eat much, but Tadd couldn't bear much longer without food, so while we waited with our buzzer, he ran down to the cafeteria to grab something. I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was seen, and within just a few moments I had gone over all the necessary paperwork with the registrar and was back out in the hallway waiting for the nurse to take us back.
Once again, a short wait time. In fact, Tadd hadn't even made his way back up to our floor before the nurse called me back. I was taken into an exam room and instructed to strip him down to a clean diaper. After doing so, he was weighed, and shocked me with his 11 lb 3 oz frame. I was convinced he'd been working too hard while eating to put on much weight, but he had gained nearly 2 lbs in the last couple weeks.
The nurse took his vitals and gave me his surgical gown to change into, which I had grand plans of stealing, of course. Tadd had arrived by then, and we waited a few moments for another nurse to come in and answer any questions we might have. Shortly after she left, Walt's surgeon came in and described what he would be doing, and answered any more questions we had. After all of that, we were led into the OR waiting room where we spoke with the anaesthesiologist and her resident. They explained that they'd be putting him under by first placing a gas mask over his face, and once he was out they would place the IV in his foot, and intubate him to keep the gas flowing to keep him under. This had been something I was very nervous about, and they were able to greatly put me at ease.
Walt had been a dream through all of this. He didn't wake up until I took him out of his car seat to be weighed, and then fell back asleep in my arms after I dressed him. My sister's MIL crocheted him a beautiful blanket that I dubbed his "surgery blanket" (and by golly, I'll make him cuddle with that thing up until his last surgery no matter the age. 15, 18 or what have you), and I had slept with it the night before, hoping it would offer him some comfort. He was bundled in that blanket from the time he was out of his car seat until he was on the operating table.
When it was time to head back to the OR, Tadd and I shakily followed the anaesthesiologists to the doors of the operating rooms, and handed him over. I expected to fall apart at this point, but actually kept my cool until I glanced over at Tadd and saw him sort of break down. The walk down the hallway to our parents felt like slow motion, and my heart had never pounded so hard.
The next 45 minutes were spent sitting in the family waiting room shooting the breeze with our parents, and for me, anxiously shaking my legs, a trait I picked up from my dad.
The surgery was quick, so before long we were told Dr. Morales, the surgeon, would be over to talk with us, and to please move to the consultation room to chat. We waited a few minutes, just long enough for me to swipe a box of Cars crayons to give to Sam.
Dr. Morales came in and explained what had been done in the OR. The palatal prosthesis Dr. Yamoshiro had made was pinned into place over his cleft palate to somewhat give him a "fake roof of his mouth", my words, not his. There would be two hooks in his gumline where a chain ran across, as well as a wire with a bulb on the end dipping down from the appliance and back up into his nose to center his nose and give it a little stretch over the next few months. He told us he likes to tighten the appliance for three months, then I told him we already scheduled his next surgery for two months from now and he said there's a chance we'll keep that one, but if he feels he can move his gap even more then he'd like to reschedule for June. He told us he can usually close up the cleft 50-60%.
He told us Walt was wearing arm restraints or "no-no's", and that it was very important to keep those on unless highly supervised because if he were to get his finger up in his mouth and hooked on the chain, by infant reflex, he would rip it right out.
Feeding was discussed, and we were instructed to continue using the same bottle and nipple and not to change anything. We asked him the best way to feed him now since we had been placing the nipple up into the cleft which allowed him to make somewhat of a seal on it, and he told us that he probably should've gone over that the first appointment because we probably made the cleft bigger by doing that. Parent fail!
After all questions were answered, we were sent back into the waiting room and in a few minutes one parent was called back into the post-op room. Instinctively I got up to go, taking his special bottle with Pedialyte still in it, and Tadd was just fine with letting me go, so I headed down the hallway.
It didn't take me long once entering the room to figure out that the infant cries I heard were that of my baby's. The recovery room was lined with beds and nurses at each bed with what seemed like dozens of monitors hooked up to each patient. In what felt like a blurred haze, with focus only on Walt's bed, I rushed to his side.
The anaesthesiologist was holding in his binki (which Dr. Morales told us we had to put an end to for good), trying to calm his crying, and told me I could take her place and try to feed him. He was a mess of wires and no-no's but I did my best with his poor sore mouth, to give him a little fluid. The anaesthesiologist left a minute later informing me everything went great and Walt did so well.
The nurse that was left with us told me I could pick him up and move over to a chair and try to feed him. He was still screaming, and she determined that he wasn't just hungry but in a lot of pain, so she gave him a dose of Fentanyl, which is fast-acting, but not long-lasting. In a couple minutes he calmed down enough to doze off, and had no interest in his bottle, which we had squirted Tylenol into to hopefully get some other sort of pain management into him, and I was able to squeeze in a little here and there.
The Fentanyl had calmed him down a little too much, and soon his oxygen began to drop. She handed me an oxygen mask to hold near his face, and I sat there with my eyes nearly fixated on his oxygen level, and placing the mask by his face off and on when it dropped into the low 90's and below.
At one point, he dropped down into the 70's, high 60's, and the monitors started to beep, rather than blip. The nurse called out the code, and began rushing over to me from the other side of his bed. Once I'd placed the mask over his face for a few seconds, his oxygen spiked again and she called off extra help. I imagine that if a person was still alive after having his head chopped off, they would have felt how I did. Every ounce of blood draining from my face, and a rush of a cold sensation. It was horrid.
We stayed a little longer than usual in the post-op room because of his oxygen, and I just sat there monitoring that, taking pictures to text to Tadd, and snuggling my sad baby. Once the nurse felt he was stable, she wheeled the bed while I held Walt, into a recovery room where another nurse took over.
Tadd was allowed to come in then, so I notified him and he showed up moments later. We took turns holding him off and on for awhile, and fed him his Tylenol-bottle through a syringe, until he instructed me to go get some food. I went out and got my dad to come see Walt before he had to take off for work, and then led him back out, and Tadd's parents in before I went down to the cafeteria.
After getting some food and a Diet Coke, which didn't help my anxiety shakes much, I came back up to the waiting room until the nurse was ready to discharge us. I was still nervous about his oxygen so the nurse let us sit there a little while longer until I felt confident enough to leave. Tadd asked for a few more pairs of no-no's and while she looked for them he jokingly said if she couldn't find any he'd just tape tongue depressors to his arms, and make him wear a football helmet. She did NOT find that funny.
Since the Fentanyl had worn off long ago, and the Tylenol was still kicking in, Walt was crying a little and clearly uncomfortable. I asked if I could just leave him in his surgical pants, and slip his gown over his arms before placing him in his carseat, and she said that would be just fine, so we walked out of there with that gown without feeling like thieves!
While waiting for the valet Tadd grabbed a few giant syringes from the pharmacy to feed Walt, since he now had to kind of chomp down on the nipple of his bottle to eat, and his gums were incredibly sore, we figured he'd have a tough time eating. I was actually able to feed him a tiny bit from his bottle on the ride home after picking up Samson, which was comforting, and we only fed him with the syringe for less than a day.
With a steady regimen of Tylenol for the first 5 or 6 days, and administering nearly 24 hour cuddles, there weren't many screaming episodes, and we were able to keep Walt fairly comfortable. My mom stayed with us Sunday and Monday night and took the graveyard shift with feedings and medicine so Tadd and I could rejuvenate.
I have actually been quite surprised with how well I've dealt with this surgery and recovery. There have been no tears, and mostly just a gotta-do-this attitude. However, I anticipate his next surgery, the lip and nose repair, being very hard on me. I am smitten with his little face just as it is, and extremely nervous and somewhat panicked about seeing a different little face. Just the thought of it right now causes my stomach to leap into my throat. But...what choice do we have? For nutritional reasons alone, this has to be done. Heaven help us.