Thursday, July 2, 2009

Surgery Day!

Hank's surgery was today. What a day! All I can say is that I am not just proud of our boy...I am in awe of him! He never showed one ounce of fear. Not even once!

We rose early to a rainy Thursday... we had to be at the hospital before 6 am, but we let Hank sleep as long as possible, waking him at 5:40 am. He had to fast, so we thought it best to wait until the last minute to get him up and hopefully he wouldn't get hungry before surgery. (It worked, by the way)
At the hospital, we signed the appropriate paperwork and were brought into a surgical waiting room. They told us to have Hank change into a gown, which was adult size and enormous on him! The nurse went hunting for a children's gown and came back with a toddler size gown that would've fit Lucy perfectly but was more like a shirt on Hank! But luckily, she had grabbed another one that fit a little better...but for modesty's sake, we covered him with a blanket!

After Hank changed his clothes, the technician came in and took his vital signs, and weighed him. She checked Hank's bracelet, asked him his birth date and confirmed why we were there. Then she left us to wait for the nurse. The nurse came bustling in and quickly took a seat. She looked at Hank and introduced herself. "Are you Henry?" she asked. Hank said "Yes". "Can you tell me your last name?" He did. And then asked him his birth date. (can you see a pattern?) When she learned that we are from California, she got excited and told us that she loved California, especially San Diego because the climate reminds her of her home country, Israel.
The anesthesiologist was next. He swept in, wearing his green surgical scrubs complete with surgical cap. He quickly introduced himself to the three of us and sat down to talk to Hank. Once again, Hank was asked his name and birth date. The doctor explained to Hank that it was his job to make sure Hank stayed asleep, was breathing comfortably and monitor how he was doing. "See," I reminded Hank, "remember when I told you that there is one doctor, who's sole job is to watch you? THIS is the doctor!" The doctor confirmed what I said and then told Hank he needed to talk to mom and dad. He explained to us that he was going to put Hank under using a mask, and then would insert the appropriate IV's. He also explained that he would be putting a tube down Hank's throat to help him breathe. He said that he would try to have it out by the time Hank went into the ICU, but if Hank wasn't strong enough to breathe on his own, he would need to be on a respirator. I think the color must have drained from my face, because the doctor said, "I just want you to know that it's a possibility!" He also told us that although he didn't expect it, he would do a blood transfusion if he thought Hank needed one. None of what he said was a complete surprise, but still a little startling, to hear all at once. We signed the consent for anesthesia and the doctor set off to prepare for surgery.

Next came the surgical nurse, who again, confirmed Hank's name and birth date. She also confirmed what the surgery was, what side of his face and asked us the name of the procedure. After that, we were visited by the "Fellow", who is the MD working with Dr. Siebert, then the resident, the chaplain and then the anesthesiologist again. It was very busy, but it felt so good to see how careful they are ...making sure that they have the right patient, the right information and the right procedure on the correct side of the body. They came and gave Hank a liquid sedative to relax him and that is when the fun started!

They moved him into the gurney and put up the sides...I didn't know why until the sedative kicked in! He started to get so silly. First he started getting louder and then he got a loopy look on his face. "Whoa have four eyes!" and then..."mom, why are there two of you?" But my favorite is when he said, "Let's get this party started!" and made the rock and roll sign with his hand and used his stuffed animal as an air guitar! Hilarious! He had the giggles and everything.

By the time Dr. Siebert came in, Hank was fully under the influence. Dr. Siebert cracked up and said, "Now we know what Hank will be like in college." (He better not!!) Dr. Siebert grabbed a Sharpie and signed Hank's left temple. "I just initialed your head with permanent ink, Hank! See you in the OR" as he left the room chuckling to himself.

The nurse came in and gave me a white "bunnysuit" to wear into the O.R. As well as the booties and oh-so-stylish surgical hat and a mask. The anesthesiologist and surgical nurse came in, grabbed the gurney and said, "Let's go!" Jeff gave Hank a quick kiss goodbye and the three of us headed to the operating room. Hank was totally mellow and somewhat passed out as we went.

Once in the operating room, I continued to hold Hank's hand as they put monitors on his chest and piled blankets on him to keep him warm. They lifted him from the gurney to the operating table. Seeing him on that narrow table, looking so small and so frail put a lump in my throat. We all talked to Hank as they strapped him to the table and put the anesthesia mask over his nose and mouth. "Just breathe in, Hank, like I told you," said the doctor. I told Hank that he was going to do great and that I loved him. The doctor warned me that sometimes kids twitch as they go under and not to freak out. Sure enough, Hank started twitching. "OK mom, he's basically out. Give him a kiss and leave him to us!"

I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead and left, but as I did I turned around for one last glimpse of him, laying on the operating table surrounded by doctors and nurses, preparing him for the surgery that will change his life. A momentous moment that I never want to forget!
I found Jeff out in the waiting room, settling in for our long day of waiting. Jeff dozed off and on, while I sat holding Hank's stuffed dog, "Scruffy". I sent a text message off to friends and family that Hank was in surgery. 8 o'clock...the clock had started. After three hours of sitting there with no word on how Hank was doing, I went to the nurse's station and inquired. Pretty soon, Pat, Dr. Siebert's nurse practitioner came bounding through the door. "Hi, he's doing great!" she exclaimed. She told us that they just finished harvesting the tissue from Hank's back and were getting ready to to the "under the microscope" stuff, which takes the longest. Pat promised us an update in 2 hours and told us to go eat.
Even though I felt that Hank was in the best hands possible, I still felt relieved hearing that all was going well. Jeff and I set off for the 20 minute walk under rainy skies, to the hotel to pack up some comforts for Hank and overnight bags for the two of us. We took a few moments to jump on the computer and send out an update and then walked back to the hospital.

The next update came through that, "Hank is doing great and we are right on schedule." She told us that the next person to give us an update would be Dr. Siebert himself. And sure enough, at 3:45, just shy of eight hours, Dr. Siebert came through the double surgical doors, with a huge grin on his face! He sat down and gave us a rundown on how the surgery went. He said all went great. That he was able to get tissue for the biopsies that we wanted, that Hank did well, and that he was able to put in the right amount. He said we will need to come back in 6 months for a "revision" and he would fine tune things. His point was that "We are going long term, for the next 70 years, not immediate". I loved that. I can't say enough good things about Dr. Siebert. He spent quite a bit of time with us, explaining things and just having normal conversation too.

We had been told that it would be about half an hour between the surgeon coming out and seeing Hank in the ICU, and that a nurse would come and get us. But Dr. Siebert jumped out of his chair and said, "Let's go see Hank!" Of course, Jeff and I looked like pack mules with our backpacks and duffel bag. We ended up walking up four flights of stairs since the elevators are so incredibly slow at the hospital.

Dr. Siebert had us wait a minute while he went in and checked on Hank. The ICU unit is painted bright yellow and feels like a happy place. Hank's room has 6 beds, with a recliner next to each bed. Dr. Siebert called us in, and we made our way through the room to the bed nearest the window... and there was Hank. He was sitting up in the bed, surrounded by hospital staff, shaking from the anesthesia and whimpering, with tears falling down his cheeks. His little face was as expected, bruised and bloody, with stitches attached to "popcorn", running down his face. He had a drain from cheek to temple and another one from the incision on his back. But even though his face is traumatized, I think he looks great! His face is full again! Hurray!

Jeff and I rushed to his bedside to calm him. We were all relieved to be reunited. After a short time, as the anesthesia wore off, Hank was almost back to his old self. And by two hours after surgery, Hank was giggling at cartoons and playing question games with us.

Because I have a cold, Jeff is staying the night with Hank. I will go back in the morning to relieve him and hopefully I get to stay tomorrow night. In the meantime, we pray that there are no complications and Hank's recovery is smooth.


  1. Amazing!! Thanks so much for the updates through all of this. I sure hope your cold goes away. Way to go Hank!!

  2. Thanks for the update, Terri! I'm am so glad to know he is back to his old self & moving around so much.

    Please tell him how much "Auntie Puffftt" loves him & give him a big hug for me. You have all been on my mind non-stop. I love you all dearly.

    xoxo Susie

  3. Terri,

    Way back in the day, you were aiming to be a journalism major. Your articulate writing hasn't wained. Over the past several months I have become quite the fan of your work. Thank you, for bringing me along on this odyssey.

    Hank is super lucky to have you and your family championing his cause! I hope you have some down time to unwind and chill out soon.

    Big Hugs,

  4. Hope day 2 is a good one with Hank enjoying some jello and icecream !. Happy 4th July , HANK, Terri and Jeff. Great to be able to keep up to date with Hanks progress. XO Noeleen,

  5. What a trooper. Im so happy. Thatta boy Hank!