Friday, March 09, 2012

Eight Years Post-Transplant!

Dear Anthony,

Eight years ago today, I sat with Daddy in pre-op, waiting for them to start his IVs and give him some medicine to make him relax. He was nervous and quiet, until they gave him the medicine. Then he was silly and pretty funny. You were upstairs in your ICU room with Nana, Grandpa, and Maw Maw. Paw Paw had already left Baton Rouge to make the 14-hour drive straight to Omaha.

Once Daddy was in surgery, I came up to your room. Everyone was just sitting and waiting. No one was talking, no one was smiling. Everyone was so scared, lost in their own thoughts.

When they came to tell us it was time, the nurses let me carry you to the same waiting area I had sat in with Daddy just five hours before. A doctor came in, and wrote his initials and a smiley face on your stomach to show where the first incision would be made. I remember that it was cold in that waiting area, and you were just in a diaper with a blanket wrapped around you.

Sitting and waiting for news was torture. Maw Maw and I played cards, tried to read magazines, and talked to Paw Paw on the phone. I have to be honest and say that I don’t remember much of what Nana and Grandpa did. Every time the phone rang in the waiting room, my heart would stop. If it was for us, all they would say was, “We’re moving right along. Mark is doing well. We’re starting on Anthony.” or, “Anthony is doing fine.” We didn’t get much news. It was frustrating.

Once the doctors came out to tell us how everything went, I didn’t care to hear what they had to say beyond, “Mark and Anthony are fine.” I just wanted to see you and Daddy. I got to peek in on you before they let me see Daddy. You looked so tiny in the big hospital bed, hooked up to all of these machines: one to breathe for you, one to go to the bathroom for you, one to give you medicine, one to empty your stomach, one to monitor your heart and pulse…and so many, many more. And there, in the middle of it all was my tiny three-month-old baby. I was a little scared, but mostly a lot happy. You had made it through surgery.

When I got to see Daddy, his first question was, “How is Anthony?” He was mostly still asleep, and hardly able to talk. He kept drifting in and out, falling asleep while talking. But he was awake enough to ask how you were and to smile when I said you were fine.

The next morning, the day after your transplant, we arrived to find a few doctors in your room. They were all puzzling over something, and muttering to each other. It turns out you were tired of having a machine do your breathing for you. So they took out the breathing tube and let you breathe on your own. You managed it like a champion. They still wouldn’t let me hold you, but I was able to sit next to your bed and hold your hand, stroke your head, and talk to you. You didn’t wake up much that first day, except to cry when you started to hurt. The nurses were always there, ready to help take your pain away with medicine, and so you were able to sleep a lot.

Two days after your transplant I got to hold you for the first time as a HEALTHY BABY. I rocked you and cried, and laughed and cried. Then Paw Paw had his turn. I remember that it was just me and Paw Paw there with you, and he was holding you and looking at you and all I could think was that this was perfect. This was all OK. Later that day Daddy was allowed to come see you, and he was able to hold you with some help. He still hurt a lot, too, and so we stacked pillows in his lap and placed you on the pillows. I think even some of the nurses cried.

And so now it’s eight years later. You will get on the bus today and hardly give a thought to all you went through as a baby. It doesn’t ever occur to you that you have been through more in your short life than most adults will ever have to endure. Your transplant doesn’t define who you are; it is just another piece in the amazing person you are. I will serve lunch at your school later today and watch you with your friends, laughing and joking like any other normal kid would do. And that word “normal” is the key word. That is what the transplant team told me: “We transplant these kids so they’ll have a normal life. Be sure to let Anthony be normal.” I think we’ve achieved that goal.



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