Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Venturing Out

Hope dawned bright and early today as we had our first post-surgical appointment at the surgeon's office. The appointment was with Dr. Siebert's nurse, Lisa, and our expectations were high, since we were told the drain in Hank's back would be coming out and maybe some sutures as well. Hank dressed in one of the many button-down shirts we were given from Hank's cousins (and his cousin's cousins!) specifically for this trip. He chose a bright yellow Hawaiian number, threw on a pair of jeans and off we went. We caught a cab up to Park Avenue for our appointment.

Once in the office, we were shown into the examination room to wait for nurse Lisa. A few minutes later, an energetic woman with a nice smile and easy personality, came in. She introduced herself as Lisa and quickly examined Hank. Instantly putting us at ease with her great sense of humor and contagious laugh, she asked Hank if he would like her to take the "popcorn" sutures off. "Oh please...more than anything!" She looked at his file and saw that he had surgery just five days ago, and said "Let me call Dr. Siebert first." After talking to Dr. Siebert she told us that we would have to wait until Thursday, when Dr. Seibert could do it himself. We were all disappointed, but don't want to rush it either. (OK, Hank wants to rush it...)

Lisa put lidocaine or some other numbing cream on Hank's upper eyelid, so she could remove the stitches without causing pain for Hank. While waiting for it to take effect, she went ahead and examined the incision and drain on his back. She told Hank that she could take the drain out for him. "Will it hurt?" he asked. "No, you'll just feel it tugging," Lisa replied. She cut the stitches holding the tube in place and gently pulled out the tube. Just like that, the hated "pipe" was removed! Jeff and I breathed a sigh of relief. Lisa was funny and I could see that Hank took an instant liking to her. He joked around with her and I was surprised that he was talking to her like she were one of his pals. Where did the boy who is usually very reserved in doctor's offices go? Has this experience changed him? I wonder...
She then deftly removed the stitches in the upper eyelid of Hank's left eye. Quick and easy...that's how I describe it. She was done before Hank even had time to complain. And then Lisa took the time to trim the popcorn sutures that were bothering him, and clip the suture ends that were poking him in the neck. She cleaned up the stitches and even cleaned out the blood that was still in his ear. I couldn't believe how much better he looked!

We confirmed our Thursday morning appointment with Dr. Siebert...to get the rest of Hank's stitches out!! As we headed out the door, Hank said, "OK, let's head back to the apartment!" Jeff and I started walking down Park Avenue. "Alright, but let's just get a little fresh air first," I replied. Hank has been either in the hospital or in the apartment since last Thursday! That's five days with barely any fresh air. So we continued walking, taking a left on 66th Street and heading toward Central Park. Knowing that Hank is self-conscious with how he looks right now, especially with the bright yellow sutures on his face, I held my breath and hoped he wouldn't demand to go "home" to the apartment.

We walked a few blocks, and as we crossed the street, he looked around and said, "Hey, we're at Central Park! Hey Dad! Want to see the zoo?" Jeff said he would and any worries about his looks forgotten, Hank happily led the way. We had a great time at the zoo, even though we were there a week ago. This was a different experience with Hank leading the way. "I own this place," he told us, striding towards the penguin exhibit. Hank joyfully took us from animal to animal. "Look at this, Dad!" he would exclaim, pointing to his favorite, the "Kea" bird. "Check out the penguins" he directed, taking us into the observation room. My heart soared, seeing the confidence pouring back into him.
We took a break, grabbed some ice cream and sat down under a covered walkway, as the rain started to fall. A group sat next to us with two young boys around Hank's age. I saw the older one shyly stealing glances at Hank's face. I felt the protective prickle of a mama bear on the back of my neck. And then I instantly relaxed. These sweet little boys were curious, but they weren't obvious. I don't know if Hank noticed, so I said to the one boy, "It's OK, you can ask him about his face." The boys' mother looked over and smiled at us, "Did you have surgery, honey," she asked. Hank told her he did. "Why? What happened?" Hank looked at her and said, "I have PRS and I had surgery to fix it." She looked at me inquiringly and I gave her the quick rundown. And that was that. We then talked about the rain, that they are from New Jersey and rarely come to the city, we're from California...normal things. Hank's face was not even an issue.

As the rain cleared, we finished up at the zoo, seeing a red panda, sea lions, polar bears, rainforest birds and (shudder) reptiles and bats. Hank loved it and was the perfect little tour guide.

We stopped and looked at the map of Central Park and saw there is a "Chess and Checkers" house. After playing checkers and chess with Jeff yesterday, Hank is now obsessed with checkers. And so, we of course started in the direction of the Chess and Checkers house. While walking along, Hank spotted a balloon vendor. He admired the way she twisted the balloons into different shapes. The woman looked at Hank..."You look like you've had a tough time, sweetheart. I think you need a sword." She quickly made him a sword. "Oh, and you need a belt to carry your sword. It'll keep your hands free for ice cream." And she tied and orange balloon belt around his waist. I put a dollar into the bucket, thanking the woman and Hank skipped after Jeff to show him his new weapon.

We saw beautiful scenery as we walked along. We found the memorial to "Balto" the sled dog and Hank climbed on top for a photo. (which HE asked for...) We found the "Mall" which has a beautiful tree covered
walkway and statues of poets and authors.

OK, I'll admit it...we were lost. But luckily we found another map and made our way to the "Dairy Visitor Center" and the "Chess and Checkers" house beyond. We made our way up the steps and found ourselves outside a pavilion of sorts. There was a building with a trellis-covered patio surrounding it. All along the edges of the patio were stone tables, with benches and checker boards inlaid in the stone tables.
We went inside and inquired about borrowing some checkers. They took our name, looked at our ID's and we "checked"out some checkers. Hank and Jeff played the first game, which Jeff ended up winning. It was starting to get cool and tiny sprinkles were making their way to earth. I thought we were done, but Hank had other ideas.
Perceiving me as a push-over, he said, "I want to play mom." OK, I was getting really hungry and just wanted to go eat, but Hank seemed almost cocky in his attitude, thinking he would dominate me in a game of checkers.... And so I relented...and we played a nice game of checkers...or was it? Regardless, I won. Hank was incensed. How could this be? MOM beat me? And so he demanded a rematch. But it was raining, and we were hungry...but he insisted...and I folded... And then I swept the floor with him! "Mom! You are supposed to take it easy on me!" he told me. "Why?" I asked. "This is how you learn and now you have a goal...to beat me!" That appeased him, but he did let me know that I would have to play again back at the apartment. And I will say...he is not an easy opponent! I was shocked at how good he is...and so I know it won't be too long before he is beating the socks off me! Hope he gives me a few years to feel superior though...

We continued our walk through Central Park, in search of "Sheep Meadow Cafe". We walked by the huge fields called, "Sheep Meadow" because up until 1934, sheep grazed there. But as usual we got lost, and found ourselves at a really nice restaurant. We walked around to the front...."Tavern on the Green." Whoops! A little too fancy for us at the moment. Hank said he was tired, so we let him hail us a cab and headed back down to the apartment to get something to eat and just relax.

There were flowers, balloons and stuffed animals waiting for him. Deliveries from home. Hank was thrilled. His face lit up as he looked at the cards... Grandma and his aunts, uncles and cousins. What a special treat! We tied the balloons to his bed, and he is able to admire them even when he lays down.

I am grateful for today. Although Jeff's allergies are bothering him, he seemed to be better. I am
grateful that today Hank wanted to be outside. That he either didn't notice people looking at him or he just doesn't care what people think.

I have always thought Hank was cute. But now I see him in a new light. I am amazed by how courageous and fearless he is. As I watched him endure the glances and the whispers as he walked by, I saw Hank not as the cute mild-mannered little child I always thought him to be, but rather the beautiful boy with the heart of a lion, that he has become.


  1. He truly is a fearless lion! We are so proud of him & can't wait to see him when he gets home!

  2. So great to see him in good spirits, he looks really good with the nurse - your right I think all this PRS will be a distant memory (we will pray for that end). I love his shirt! He looks pretty handsome in it, almost a little too grown up for a little guy. =]

  3. Hi Hank! It is Julianna from school. I miss you and can't wait to see you. I hope you feel better and have a good day.
    Julianna Restuccia

  4. Dear Hank,
    I hope you're feeling ok. I really miss you. You are my best friend. I hope we can have a sleepover soon. You are the bravest kid I ever met. I hope you feel better soon. I'm praying for you

    Anthony Mariano

  5. Hi, Hank, Terri, & Jeff,
    Hank, you don't know me, but my daughter also has PRS. She has not had the surgery that you have had, and we are so proud of you. My daughter is a little worried about the surgery, and you are giving her courage because you are so brave. What do you think about all of this? I bet it is fun to be in New York. The zoo sounds super fun. I don't know what a kea bird is, but I am going to find out! We live in Oregon, and in about a week we are going to fly on a plane to see Dr. Siebert. It might be around the time you will leave New York. My daughter, Denise, and I, both wish you all the best. Keep enjoying New York and getting better!