I’ve never been a huge John Lennon fan, but as I get older, the more I see the wisdom of his words. This past week, while I was busy making plans, “life” happened to me and my family.
My youngest son, Daniel, complained of a tummy ache on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, he was vomiting and lethargic, but he still did not have a fever. Initially, I thought he had the flu or maybe it was something he ate. Wednesday morning was greeted with more vomiting and the decision to see the pediatrician. Daniel’s dad called me later that day; I needed to head to the hospital.
As I sat with him in the emergency room, my heart and mind were racing. He looked so frail, so pathetic, so feverish; what could be taking so long? Daniel was in so much pain that he couldn’t even speak. There were many children waiting to see the doctor, some with coughs and others with various undisclosed ailments, but none of them looked as ill as my Daniel. I wanted to stand up and tell the admitting nurse that my kid needed to be bumped to the front of the line; he was obviously the sickest! My rational mind took over and I waited impatiently until my son was called.
Within moments of seeing the nurse, it was determined that his fever, abdominal pains and over malaise could be contributed to appendicitis. Daniel was whisked into a pre-operation room where fluids were started intravenously. Poor Daniel was flushed with fever and was in obvious pain. When asked on a scale of zero to ten where his pain level was registering, he feebly held up eight fingers. My heart sank.
The pediatric surgeon visited shortly afterward and explained Daniel’s plight and the doctor’s course of action. The doctor explained that the appendix is shaped like a finger and is attached to the abdomen. For whatever reason, there can be an obstruction which causes the appendix to inflame. Since the appendix is an organ we don’t necessarily “need”, it must be removed to alleviate the problem. So that was it; surgery for my eight year old as soon as the operating room had an open spot. The surgeon spent the next few minutes to go over the procedure and to assure Daniel that everything would turn out fine. Daniel smiled weakly and gave a thumbs up.
As his parent, the waiting was the hardest part. The call came in that Daniel would have his surgery at 8:45. By 6:30, his sisters Kayla and Shannon showed up to support and encourage him. Two years earlier, Kayla had her appendix removed, so she comforted her brother in a way no one else could.
During the entire waiting process and through all of the pain he was experiencing, Daniel stayed strong. My little guy, the one who writhes in pain when he bumps his leg, didn’t shed a tear during the whole ordeal. His strength encouraged and calmed me.
When it came time to wheel upstairs to the second floor, Daniel wearily asked for his favorite stuffed animal, Pup, that his sisters had brought from home. He was prepped for surgery and the procedure was once again reiterated to the whole family. To lighten the mood, the surgeon told Daniel that the operation would not stop him from a career as an underwear model. As Daniel prepared to go, we silently said a prayer, kissed him gently on the head and all told him how much we loved him. Then he was wheeled away to the operating room.
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That’s when I lost it.
I absolutely dissolved into tears as my mind went to every extreme. He was alone and scared and I couldn’t be there with him. What if the unspeakable happened; how could I live without him? I understand now why my mom made “deals” with God.
After the longest hour and half of my life, we were ushered into the post-operating room where Daniel was just waking up from the anesthesia. His coloring was already returning and he looked decidedly better. Poor little guy was groggy and his throat hurt from the breathing tube that had just been removed.
Room 513 looked like a small slice of heaven after the evening’s ordeal. The nurses attempted to make Daniel as comfortable as they could in this foreign environment. His IV flowed with antibotic and morphine as he slept with “Pup” by his side.
Daniel was one sick little boy. He ate exclusively by IV and would vomit and have diahrrea as the toxins coursed through his body. We learned that his was not a regular appendicitis; his had ruptured. From the nurse’s explantation, an appendix can rupture with small “pin prick” size holes that let the toxins slowly leak into the system. The hole in Daniel’s appendix was more like a tear; as a matter of fact, his appendix had turned gangernous. To ensure my little man did not contract an infection, he was kept on intravenous antibotics. His fever was intermitten and he was obviously uncomfortable, but he never complained.
I had several epiphanies the week we spent in the hospital. I realized that “important” tasks like mounting laundry piles and necessary oil changes just weren’t as pressing as they once were. That while plans can be made, there are no guarantees that those plans will come to fruition. Lastly, I learned that even the worst of situations can have a “silver lining”: I got to spend an entire week in one room with my child. We discovered a new favorite game (“Flippin Frogs”), we read books, took walks around the hospital for exercise and I even helped him shower. He was very tentative about letting me help him in the shower at first, since he is getting an age where modesty is factor, but he finally felt relaxed enough to let me assist him. We had an opportunity to bond, even more than ever before.
For that excruciating week, nothing else matter. I didn’t stress about bills, instead I watched the hospital’s helicopter take off and land out my son’s window. And although I know how hot out it is in Arizona during the month of June, I honestly couldn’t tell what the weather was like from inside the hospital room. It just didn’t matter. I watched “Sponge Bob” and played Chutes and Ladders and held my son’s hand while the nurses changed his IV.
Daniel is finally home and has graduated to solid foods again. His sense of humor has returned and he is slowly inching his way back to “normalcy”. A smile flashed across Daniel’s face as our dogs welcomed him home. It confirmed for me that no matter how difficult and scary it can be to be a parent, it’s also the most amazing experience of my life. Just watching him laugh and smile again was such a simple pleasure, but it meant so much. While I despised the pain and suffering my baby had to endure, I was genuinely grateful for the time we were able to spend together. I let go of the “little things” that have a tendancy to plague my life on a regular basis. When Daniel finally fell asleep in my bed that night, my inclination was to continually hold him and kiss him, even if meant waking him up. My parental instincts stopped my selfish ones.
As my family slipped back into our normal routine, my daughter, Shannon, continued her worship of all things Justin Bieber. While Daniel was in the hospital, she picked up his CD and in typical teenage fashion, played it non-stop. Initially it was annoying hearing the same Bieber songs over and over, especially when I was trying to get Daniel some rest. Then I realized that Shannon’s loud music was a part of his every day life. As Bieber’s song wafted from Shannon’s room, I listened as I tucked Daniel into his own bed for the first time in a week. Much like John Lennon’s sage lyrics were once lost on me, so were the simplicity of Justin Bieber’s. Daniel looked up at me and smiled. The essence of parenthood was summed up by Bieber’s simplistic words:
“You smile, I smile.”