Under the knife

I have a friend whose little boy is having eye surgery today. He told me that he is pretending to be brave, for his son, for his wife and for the other kids. Even though you know that this is a standard procedure that the surgeon has done a thousand times, it’s your little child under his knife and that is scary.

One of my kids had a similar surgery. He had a lazy eye which we tried to fix with covering his good eye for hours daily with an eye patch, to force the lazy eye to work. After a year there was some improvement, but not enough. So the doctor decided the best avenue to improve his sight was to move one of the muscles in his eye. He calmly explained the procedure and the recovery. We all agreed it was the best option. My son was 3 or 4 at the time – not really old enough to be scared.

They let us stay with him until they had to put him under. He rode a tricycle into the operating room wearing a little hospital gown over his dinosaur underwear, chattering away to the nurse. Didn’t even look back. This was our first experience with any of the kids having surgery. I wanted to run after the surgeon and ask if I could sit in. I wanted him to know how special this child was to us. That he wasn’t just any other patient. That he needed the best the surgeon could give, the best care the nurses could provide. They needed to know he was loved. I guess that was the mommy in me or the control freak. Or both. Probably just as well that they don’t let the parents go back there.

The surgery didn’t take long, and we were called into the recovery room.

That for me was even harder than sitting in the waiting room willing the phone to ring to say the surgery was over. Our little boy was lying on a gurney with a tube in his arm, sleeping peacefully with a dressing over his eye. They told us not to try to wake him, that he would wake up on his own. He looked so tiny and vulnerable. The surgeon told us the surgery went great, couldn’t have been better. All I could see though, was my little boy, so small and quiet. And so still. He didn’t move. My little dynamo was temporarily stopped. It was rare to see him so immobile, even in sleep. My chest felt a little tight, I felt a little guilt at putting him through this surgery. I willed him to stir, to wake up, to call for me, to need me. The longer it took, the more I felt like I was going to panic.

He started to wake up, and I stroked his forehead, his arm, while shushing him as he started to cry. He didn’t know where he was, and was momentarily frightened. He saw Ima, and was calm. It took a little while for the wooziness to wear off, but within a half hour he was himself again. They soon removed the IV. Within an hour we were taking him home. It was as if nothing had happened. The hardest part was keeping him from bouncing around too much for the next few days. He showed no ill effects from the surgery.

It took me a couple of days to recover. My mind kept flashing back to how still he was. But after a while I saw just how OK he really was, and time showed us that it had been the right move.

In the years since we have gone through a few surgeries on different kids, the most serious being Squiggy’s appendectomy at the age of 8. You learn to trust the surgeons. You learn that the outcome of these operations is in God’s hands, and stressing about what could go wrong is not helpful. Sometimes, like the appendectomy, surgery isn’t even a choice and you don’t really have time to think it through. But God continues to guide the surgeon’s hands and to comfort you while your child is in the surgeon’s care. Your heart will always bear the memory of the way that child lies still until they wake up, and there will always be a fear that something could go wrong, but the risks are infinitesimal.

Dear friend, I understand your fear. It is scary. But your son is in safe hands. I look forward to hearing from you that he is out of surgery and healing well. Refuah Shleimah.

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One response to “Under the knife

  1. yeah, 1 of my kids had the eye muscle surgery for lazy eye as a 1 year old. it was scary initially to put her under the knife but BH it was the best thing we could have ever done. b/f the surgery she used to tilt her head sideways in order to see clearly which looked somewhat cute but was not going to look cute if she were to go thru life tilting her head all the time. it was amazing though b/c immediately after the surgery, she started to hold her head straight & did not tilt her head anymore b/c she didn’t need to. it was a no-brainer to have her go thru that surgery which in the scheme of things was relatively minor b/c it was so worthwhile. of course, no one wants to put their kid under the knife if they don’t have a good reason but if it is medically warranted then it pays to go for it b/c G-d willing the child will be better off in the long run. of course, there sometimes are complications from minor surgeries & there are risks with anesthesia but if it is medically warranted, you need to put your faith in G-d that it will turn out ok & also in the hands of the surgeon who is
    G-d’s messenger & that is all that one could do as a parent…hatzlacha to your friend & i hope the surgery will go smoothly & painlessly.

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