There have been moments and temporary day-to-day situations I’ve experienced where I thought, I’ll never survive this! It might’ve been an extreme work stress, a family dilemma, a breakup. (Sorry, high school heartbreak, you’ve got nothing on this now!) Still, never until yesterday have I literally questioned whether or not I could make it through all that I knew could and would unfold in a day.
Monday started with unconfirmed final transport plans to get Annie to CHOP. When I got to Children’s they told me we may not be able to go anywhere, since we hadn’t confirmed it all with insurance. All that flashed in my mind was my Annie missing her chance at survival by not making it to Philadelphia in time for Tuesday morning surgery. Thankfully, Annie’s dedicated and caring cardiologist was equally concerned. He made a few quick but direct phone calls, and minutes later approval was granted! Me and Annie’s nurse squealed in unison!
Though the transport was requested, it was far from easy. The team arrived again with their bulky isolette that my tiny Annie was to fill. 30 minutes of cord untangling and rewiring through countless alarms had her nestled in a bed of blankets and me frazzled beyond belief. They quickly wheeled her down busy hospital hallways, while my 4-day postpartum body tried to keep step. But what hurt worse were the awkward stares and whispers from the passersby. Gasp! “There’s a tiny baby in there. Lord, help them.” “Oh girl, I sho’ glad that ain’t my baby.” I stared at the white tiles, blinking back stinging tears.
We made it to the ambulance loading dock. They hoisted Annie roughly into place, and I timidly took my respective seat next to her. No seat a parent should ever have to fill. The sirens roared and off we sped to the Little Rock airport to catch our pilots, impatiently waiting departure. The idea that babies’ heads are to be held carefully and kept from movement must be purely a myth because the jostling and jolting that Annie endured is far from what you read about in What to Expect…The First Month. We then loaded our tiny plane and I found that the bumps had only just begun. 3 1/2 tousled hours later the Philadelphia ground was a glorious sight. There was an ambulance waiting to retrieve us and again, off we sped to another hospital.
The team at CHOP was waiting our arrival. So when we made it to the 6th floor we were welcomed by a hungry mob of information seekers, needle prickers, and wire replacers. Annie squalled with each flip and turn needed for the tests, and I confusedly tried to answer a million questions and think of things to ask as they briefed me on her surgery and where I would sleep and where I would pump and who to call for emergency and my parent badge and oh yes, my social security card to confirm they’d mobbed the right mommy. Phew! I had never been so happy to see Matt when he finally arrived several hours later!
But at the end of an eternal day where I simply breathed constant prayers for God to carry me through, I got to hold my girl!
I rocked her late into the night, singing “He’s got our little baby Annie in His hands…” and told her how special tomorrow would be because God would use her teeny self to show how big and powerful He is.
After a restless night of Matt and I hanging off opposite edges of a twin bed, 4am came early. It was time to begin this day that would change every other day that we know from now on. We held Annie again this morning and prayed for her comfort, our comfort, but even more for God’s presence and glory. The minutes haunted us on the screen above and our time with her grew short. The anesthesiogist came and I passed her once again to someone I knew could care for her better than I- a hard thing to admit as a mother. There were more white tiles to stare at as we strolled down the cold, gray hospital hallways walking Annie to the operating room. One last kiss and she was out of sight. Our hearts broke.
We rode the elevator to the conference room with the surgeon. He gave us the typical talk about what he’d do. And reminded us a side effect of the surgery was death. I think I’d prefer headache? If only it were that easy. Our nurse was to update us as surgery progressed, so we waited watchfully with phones in hand, jumping at every buzz. An hour later came the first update: She handled the anesthesia well, her chest was open, he had begun the work on her aorta. We waited for the next call: The technical work of the surgeon was complete, they were getting Annie off the heart lung machine and reinfusing her with her own blood. And the third call: It was done. Annie was stable and on her way back to her ICU bed. The surgeon was on his way to meet us. He said it went as smoothly as those procedures ever go. Her heart didn’t show swelling or too much bleeding so he was even able to close her chest. A HUGE success!
We finally got to see her after another long hour passed. What a delight! There she still was. But instead of clenching our fingers and pouting her lips she lay still, looking lifeless and sporting a long white patch down her chest and cords draining blood from her heart. But now, she is breathing almost entirely on her own and beginning to wake up. A loud sound startles her and she kicks her leg in disapproval. “Just a few more minutes,” she requests as she drifts back into her medicinally-induced nap.
But she’s there. It’s Annie. Our Annie! And it’s God, our God who is sustaining me minute by minute while my heart feels like it’ll beat out of my chest from the ache of seeing her this way. And we celebrate! The Norwood surgery is behind us! She’s winning her first fight for survival and so am I.
To God be the glory!