• The first night post-op

    After Dr. Peeler left the waiting room – Jeff and I hugged and cried. This time because it was relief. We knew she wasn’t out of the woods yet, but the first major step – the surgery – was successful. Dr. Peeler had felt very good about the surgery and this made us feel much more confident (at least I did). We packed up our belongings and headed back upstairs to the CVICU to the family waiting room. We had to wait there for them to finish getting Morgan stabilized and “hooked up” to everything in her room

    I was pretty anxious to see her. I had spent some time online to try and prepare myself for the image of what she will look like. Of course, as sad as it was to see babies with tubes and wires everywhere, they were not my baby… that places a whole new dimension on the weight of the event.

    “Smith family?” A nurse came in to get us. My stomach jumped into my throat… I’m so nervous… I want to see her though!

    We were informed by the team that Morgan would be kept sedated for the first 24+ hours. She would slowly come out of anesthesia over that time but they will be giving her another drug to keep her pretty relaxed and sleepy. As the anesthesia wears off over the next 12 hours or so she will start to show signs of waking but they will manage her pain/etc by watching her vitals. This is the part that scared me the most. I don’t want my newborn baby to be in any pain…

    Through the double doors and into the CVICU we walked. Down the long corridor and to the left we went. Room 6 was her room. We did not yet go inside, the team was at the large desk (sort of like “mission control”…) where monitors lined up and showed stats of all patients in the unit.

    The consensus by all was “she did beautifully”. This was great news. I loved that news. There were still several people fussing over Morgan so we talked with Dr. Herlong, the cardiologist, for a few minutes.

    “Mom & Dad – you can come in”.

    I looked in the room – wow…

    Unbelievable…

    It’s like something out of a movie. There was little Morgan – barely 9 lbs and being supported by an entourage of equipment, medications and staff. She laid in an incubator bassinette and had tubes and wires coming out of her from everywhere. There were over a dozen medical pumps that administered medications through her lines. There was a ventilator machine (surprisingly small – for some reason I thought they were much larger!) which was attached to her breathing tube that was installed through her nose. She had long gauze bandage that stretched from her collar bone down to the middle of her chest. That may not seem large but on a newborn it’s pretty huge.

    Surprisingly, I didn’t cry. I was pretty shocked that I didn’t, because I was sad to see her like this. But I was just so happy that she survived the surgery – so between both extremes it’s like my brain had no idea how to react.

    Morgan, right after surgery. She was still under anesthesia. It was a shocking image for us as parents.

    Morgan, right after surgery. She was still under anesthesia. It was a shocking image for us as parents.

    Stephanie, Morgan’s nurse, started to tell us about all the “stuff” she was hooked up to.

    She has a monitor, which is an adhesive, on her forehead which measures her NEARS (I couldn’t understand, exactly, what this was – but apparently it is a stat they use in surgery). She has her breathing tube – which they were able to intubate her nasally, which is the preferred method for babies to help reduce the likelihood of them developing an oral aversion after surgery. The line coming out of her neck is a central line that is installed directly to the heart. She has her incision from surgery. She has two chest tubes to drain fluid from the body to prevent infection. She has an arterial line in her right arm – it’s essentially an IV installed into an artery – not a vein – in order to draw blood when needed. They can also administer medication through this line. She has her PICC line (this one she received in the NICU) which they can administer medication through. She had another central line through her groin where they measure blood pressure accurately and consistently. She has a Foley catheter and a rectal temperature sensor as well. There were sensors attached to her to measure heart rate, oxygen levels and respiratory rate as well.

    Overwhelming….

    Pumps were beeping… the monitor was beeping.. and each beep would lead me to believe something was wrong. It was constant. Stephanie was moving ALL the time – adjusting dosages, refilling syringes, Injecting some meds, taking blood,monitoring the stats… she was responsible for maintaining the delicate balance of life for our sweet baby. Watching her, I gained a whole new respect for nurses. This was a constant dance for her.

    This entire experience was a whole new level of medicine for us. You know, intellectually, that nurses and doctors save lives. But until you experience it first hand I believe that creates a more profound impact on that understanding.

    Dr. Peeler arrives and checks Morgan’s statistics. Everyone in the room stops talking. Not sure why – maybe out of respect? He quietly talks with Stephanie about where he’d like to see her statistics. He nods at us and says “looking good” and heads out of the room.

    Over the next few hours, Doctors, nurses and other staff floated in and out to tend to the specific areas they were responsible for. The whole time, Stephanie was on her feet answering the demanding sounds of monitors and pumps that needed her attention. It took a few hours, but Morgan stabilized slowly and the beeps and alarms settled down and were less frequent.

    I had decided the night before that I would be staying the night at the hospital to be near Morgan for when she starts to wake and to make sure someone was immediately available if needed. Jeff left the hospital to pick up the other kids from grandma and grandpa’s house and I stayed. I’m very glad I did because around 9:30 pm Morgan started to wake.

    The waking up process was heart wrenching. This is something that no one can prepare you for. Every once in a while she would move and start to breathe over the ventilator because she was crying. The ventilator machine would start to alarm and when you saw her little face crying – but no sound coming out – it was terrible. I would jump up and try to soothe her. I wanted so bad to pick her up and comfort her, but obviously that wasn’t an option. She was miserable. I was assured that she was being kept comfortable with the sedative and the fentanyl but it was hard to believe that when she looked like she was suffering. Each time this would happen I would cry. I wanted so bad to take this from her. I wanted to take away the experience, the pain, the suffering. It was too much for such a small child to go through. What an introduction to the world!!

    “It’s not always like this Morgan…. it will all be over soon. Then you can come home and be loved on all day long, and life will be good”.

    I thought about how she was going to have to go through this again. It could be a year…. two years…. we don’t know. But this isn’t her last surgery. In fact, she may need several. I will have to see my baby like this over and over. I was so sad for her.

    Midnight rolled around and I kept falling asleep in the rocking chair. “Why don’t you get a few hours of sleep – I will be here with her”. Rachael, her nurse, was very sweet. She was getting after me about how swollen my feet were. I was still aching pretty bad from child birth and my legs and feet were severely swollen. My ailments were pretty pathetic in the larger picture – but she was right, I needed to get a few hours sleep.

    Stephanie had requested a family sleep room for me so I didn’t have to sleep in the recliner. I headed out to the room and got ready for bed. This hospital was amazing. They really do what they can to keep families together through their experiences. It’s unfortunate to have to be in the situation, but they really do what they can to ease the pain and support parents.

    I settled into bed and, surprisingly, fell asleep…. I was apparently exhausted….

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