Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Day Before His Surgery

Shane and Calvin snuggling in the ICU the day before Calvin's surgery

Rocking our son, I spend as much time as possible with him before his surgery.

We had gotten an early morning visit from Dr. S to let us know that Calvin would be having his surgery tomorrow. He told us that we would be meeting with the surgeon, Dr. C, sometime later on that day. Calvin's condition had improved so much that he was off everything, no CPAP, no NG tube, nothing but a monitor on his little foot making sure his oxygen saturation stayed good. We spent the entire day going back and forth between our room and the ICU. During an afternoon visit when both Shane and I went down together having left Georgia at the nurses' station, I arrived in time for Calvin's feed. His ICU nurse Wendy was just about to give him a bottle and she asked me if I would like to do it. Immediately I said yes and Shane grabbed me a rocking chair to sit in while Wendy handed me my son and the bottle. Calvin drank ferociously, his appetite brought a smile to my face. He didn't look frail or sick at all. He was a hungry, alert boy, gazing at me the whole time I fed him. We didn't stop looking at each other and I couldn't stop smiling at my beautiful son. I had a tremendous amount of hope that everything would be alright. After Calvin's feed, I tried with no avail to get him to burp. I rubbed his back, patted it, put him right up to my shoulder but no burp. Shane also tried and he is the expert burper in the family but he couldn't get a burp either. When Wendy came to check on us, we mentioned that Calvin hadn't burped and she took him from me and began thumping quite strongly on his little back. I was horrified and worried she was hurting him but a second later Calvin gave us the biggest burp ever and in moments was snuggled back in my arms. I rocked him and rocked him, telling him he had to be strong for us, that he had to fight because we needed him here with us. The whole time I held him, he gazed silently into my eyes. All too soon, it was time for Shane to take me back upstairs to feed Georgia so I left, telling Calvin I'd be back to see him later.

Eyes wide open, this time with Calvin was so memorable because he was awake almost the whole time.

Happy snuggles with our boy.

Shane spent much of the day with our son. He felt it was important for Calvin to know we were there for him and that he was loved so very much. Shane spent much of that day holding our son, playing music for him on his Blackberry, telling him how much he was loved and kissing him. He would come back up to the room for awhile to check on Georgia and I but he was restless when he was apart from Calvin and the ICU kept silently calling him back.

About seven o'clock that night, we got a message to come to the ICU together to meet the surgeon, Dr. C. We left Georgia in care of the nurses in Fir, the locked down ward for drug addicted mothers, the only ward with a fulltime nursery. They knew of our situation and were quite willing to watch Georgia whenever we had to go down to visit Calvin. As we walked into the ICU, we were greeted by Dr. C who led us to a small private room. I was a bit taken back looking at him, for some reason, I had expected Dr. C to be older. He looked to be about my age, like someone I could have gone to high school with and had the most charming smile and demeanor. Instantly, I felt comfortable with him. He explained what Calvin's surgery would entail, fixing the hole in his heart, connecting a bovine artery to one of the valves and putting in a plastic conduit from the heart to the lungs. Dr. C explained that the Truncus operation was one of his "favorites" because of it's complexity. He explained Calvin would be put on ice, to lower his body temperature and give them more time to work with his heart stopped. He told us to expect that Calvin's chest would be left open to prevent the heart from hitting the ribs during swelling and that he would have basically a clear bandage over his open wound. When it was all over, they would restart his heart. At that point I asked what happened if his heart didn't restart and Dr. C said, "Well then we go to ECMO which is a form of life support that we don't like to use much, it reduces his odds of surviving if he needs to be placed on it, but basically it's the last hope." He also told us that the surgery would take about eight hours and that Calvin would need alot of blood products. "Truncus patients bleed, and not just from their chests, from everywhere," he said. Suddenly I was terrified. It was nine o'clock at night and my baby was having surgery at seven o'clock the next morning. As we got up to go, Dr. C walked over to Calvin's bed with us and looked down at him and said, "He sure is cute". I looked at Dr. C and said, "Take good care of him please." I had tears in my eyes as he said, "I will, I promise." I looked back at him and said, "I trust you." Dr. C then told us he would see us in the morning and bid us a goodnight.

Suddenly I felt the urge to pray. I'm not an overly religious person but at this particular moment, I needed to pray and I needed the whole family to pray with me. I asked the ICU nurse to call the hospital chaplain and ask him to come and pray for my son. When she called, he was at home an hour away and he asked if he could come down in the morning and do it. I answered no, because Calvin's surgery was starting at seven and the family wouldn't be at the hospital at that time. The chaplain agreed to come and within the hour, Shane, Lorelei, Greg, Trisha, and Shane's parents, Karen and Garry were down in the ICU at Calvin's bedside. We all held hands in a circle as I held Calvin in my arms and the chaplain prayed for Calvin to have a safe surgery. It was an extremely powerful moment and I could feel the love in the room for my son. Shortly after the prayer ended, Shane's parents left to take Lorelei back to the house to go to bed. Shane wanted to spend some more time with Calvin, so he asked Greg to stay with me and Georgia in the room. That way, I too could come down and see Calvin knowing that Greg and Trisha were looking after Georgia.

Shane came back to the room around three am to have a little nap. I had dozed on and off with Greg there keeping me company (Trisha had eventually left around one am), and after feeding and changing Georgia, I decided to go down to the ICU to spend some more time with my son before his surgery. Somehow, I managed to wheel myself downstairs and I spent the next hour and a half just rocking my son and telling him how scared I was and how much I loved him. As I was getting ready to go upstairs, tears streaming down my cheeks, I again told him to fight, to be strong, that I needed him to get better. Calvin was looking at me with his big blue eyes and suddenly he winked at me. It was like he understood what I had just said to him. With one last kiss before I went back upstairs, I told him again and again how much I loved him and that I would see him before his surgery.

Shane was awake and very subdued when I got back into the room. He said he needed to be with his son and that he would be back for me before the surgery time so that we could walk Calvin to the operating room. With a kiss I watched him go and as I lay down to get another hour of sleep or so before it was time to go back again, I started to cry. I was so scared. I had never been this scared in my life.


  1. Margaret - such precious, precious photos and a very powerful post.

    Still thinking of you and sending tons of hugs, strength, and ladybugs :) your way.


  2. Those eyes - Margaret do you remember those beautiful eyes? Akul's eyes are my treasure. I remember and hope always will remember how he looked at me. I am sure Calvin's eyes were the mirrors of his pure and beautiful soul too. He let you gaze into them and into himself. Hugssssssssss

  3. Margaret, I read your post and thought: yes, that is exactly how it was for us, too. I love you.

  4. I am thinking of you so much this week, Margaret. Your writing shows so much pain yet so much love and so much beauty.
    Hugs your way.

  5. Thank you for sharing so we can remember Calvin's precious time on earth with you, Margaret. (((Hugs)))

  6. Your story makes me cry with each chapter. Calvin was amazing...

  7. your love for Calvin is so evident in these pictures and in your writing.

  8. i'm crying reading your story. i wish i could reach through the screen and hug you. i wish so badly that Calvin was still here with you.