~This ended up being far lengthier than I intended. I understand if you don't read it all. I needed to write this out, for me.
Today is the seventh anniversary of Zachy's heart being fixed.
It was on this day, seven years ago, that we were thrust into the world of open heart surgery.
I remember most of that day, as if it were yesterday. A few things are hazy, but for the most part, it's etched in my mind.
I've never written about this, and decided it was time. Some images may be disturbing to some people, but he's my baby, and he is beautiful.
August 5, 2003, I was induced. Our fourth baby was coming. Our fourth boy. What a joyous occasion! Labor was fast and very painful. I had decided to go with no epidural, and he was sunny side up. When it came time to push, it hurt so bad, I couldn't stop pushing. He was born in four short minutes, and his face would later show the evidence of this. I was told that he didn't actually come face up, but that he came face first, so his nose came out first..no molding of his head, no wonder it hurt so bad.
When he was born, they plopped him on my belly. He was lifeless. I couldn't look at him. All I could do was ask, over and over, "what's wrong with my baby?" The midwife insisted that he was fine, perfect even. After what felt like an eternity (in reality, it was one minute) he let out a cry. A puny, little cry. They whisked him off to be cleaned up and weighed.
We were then allowed to hold him, and the kids and grandparents came in to meet the newest edition to the family.
What I saw, and what others saw, were drastically different. I saw a perfect beautiful baby. The first words out of my mom's mouth were, "he's black". I was so irritated by that comment. Little did I know that my step dad had turned around and left the room. Unbeknownst to me, an argument between him and the nurses was taking place in the hallway outside. He was insisting that they call the doctor, now. They were telling him they knew how to do their jobs and that he was fine, no need for the pediatrician to come. They told him she would be there when she did her rounds. He wouldn't stand for it. After much insistence, they finally called the pediatrician.
When she got there, they took him away, assuring us that they would bring him right back, after they examined him and bathed him.
The next thing we knew, the doctor was talking to us, telling us that his oxygen levels were low and he was on oxygen. They told us he was probably just born too fast and his lungs were still wet. They'd wean him off the oxygen over time.
This was not to be, and before we knew it, we were being blown a terrible blow.
Our baby had a heart defect, and would be transferring to a different hospital.
I was in such shock and so naive, that I asked them how we would get him to the hospital an hour away in our car, with oxygen. They informed me that the helicopter was on it's way. That's when it hit me that this was serious. Much more serious than I wanted to admit.
This all took place August 7. By the time we got to the other hospital, they had him settled in his room in the PICU, and we were greeted by many doctors. They took us in a room to explain to us that Zachary's pulmonary veins hadn't connected right, and that the only option was open heart surgery. They told us that TAPVR occurs in 1 in 15,000 babies. They also told us that he had a 95% chance of survival.
Most people would be thrilled with those odds, but we had just hit something that had a .0015% chance of happening..so 5% seemed huge.
That night, they wanted to put a line in his belly button. They told us it would take about a half an hour. Three hours went by, and when we saw him again, he was intubated. We weren't expecting to see him on a vent. That was hard. Really, really hard.
August 8 came. Surgery day. I will never forget riding in the elevator with him, and kissing him goodbye in the hallway. What a horrible thing. I was trying not to break down and cry, but all I could think about was that this could be the last time I saw my baby alive.
The surgery was to take six hours.
I remember the waiting room so clearly. I remember it being filled with people. My mom and step dad were there, and Matt's parents. Some people from some one's church came to sit. I have no idea who they were, and kept thinking I didn't have it in me to be sociable with people I didn't know. I purposely kept my distance from them. They could pray with my in laws, but I needed them to leave me alone.
Being in the waiting room, was somewhat like being in a fish tank...everything around me was hazy. All the sounds were muffled. And yet, it was all so clear.
At some point, my step dad asked me what I was scared about. I said I was afraid of him dying. He informed me that if he did, we would get through, and to not be scared. I didn't believe him and thought it was a horrible thing to say. I know now, he was just trying to help.
There was a time that I went to the PICU to pump. I rode in the elevator, carrying my "personal belongings" bag that held my pump pieces. There was a lady on the elevator who looked at me excitedly and said, "are you here for the reason I think you're here???" I don't know how I didn't cry. I just quietly told her no. When I got to the PICU the cardiologist expressed his concern about me. He told me I had to sleep, I had to take care of me, or I would end up being readmitted to the hospital. I hadn't left Zachy's side. People wanted me to leave the hospital, but home was 2 hours away. They talked about the Ronald McDonald House. I insisted I had to stay at the hospital to be able to pump. My mind was so set on him not getting formula, only breast milk, when the time came. It was the only thing I felt like I could control. The hospital ended up giving us a cot, and I slept on the cot in the family waiting room in the PICU, and Matt slept on the couch. Some nights, he went home, but I never left. As a side note, I wasn't able to do this with Natalie, and going home without a baby every night was so incredibly difficult.
When I returned from pumping, an elderly lady met me in the hall. She asked me if I had a baby having heart surgery. I told her yes, and she proceeded to tell me that her husband was supposed to have had the first surgery of the morning, but he was pushed back for a very sick little baby. She told us she was thinking of us, and wished us the best.
Somehow, everyone in the waiting room must have known we had a baby in surgery. They all stared, often.
After only four and a half hours, the cardiologist came into the waiting room. A hush fell on the room. You could almost see everyone leaning towards us as the cardiologist spoke to us.
Zachy was out of surgery. And he was doing great.
We were finally reunited with our baby. Mother's eyes are amazing, because when we saw him, I never focused on all the tubes coming out of him. I saw past it all, to my precious baby. People always commented on how many IVs and wires and tubes he had, but I just didn't see it.
The one thing I have no recollection of from that day, is where my other kids were. I'm thinking maybe with Matt's grandparents. I have pictures of my mom holding Collin over Zachy, saying goodbye. At some point, they were there. Did they stay the whole time? I really don't think so. But in all honesty, I don't know. Neither does Matt.
The following days would be a blur. I never left, for fear that something would go wrong, and I wouldn't be there. Matt had to go to work, we were so poor at the time, there was no paid time off. I would miss him fiercely on those days.
One week later, we got to bring our baby home. He had no complications while in the hospital.
He not only survived, but thrived.
By the time he was four, he had developed sick sinus syndrome, and would need a pacemaker. His future holds surgeries for the rest of his life. But that's a different story, for another time.
We know what we have. We know what a gift we were given, and how precious life is. There is not a single day that the thought doesn't go through my head of what could have so easily been. I thank God every day for blessing us with this amazing boy, and all our kids for that matter. We truly are blessed.
Please excuse the quality of the phots, they are either scans of pictures, or pictures of pictures. No digital camera back then!
Being weighed, after birth. Notice, no crying. He really never cried very much.
This was right after he was born..well after they got him to cry.
His poor face was so swollen from being delivered so quickly. He couldn't even open his eyes, and his face was completely purple from the bruising.
Getting ready to go for a ride in the helicopter.
This is what we were greeted with after they told us they wanted to put a line in his belly button. He ended up intubated.
The morning of surgery. In all of these pictures, we are smiling. I think we were at a place of trying so hard not to break down, so we laughed instead.
Right after surgery. I was certain he would end up bald, because for days all I could touch was his head. I would just sit and rub his head, I will never forget the feel of that baby fuzz.
Another pic from right after surgery.
On his birthday...surviving..and THRIVING!! Love you, Zachy!