Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A New Heart

When you are a kid you are afraid of things, things like the monster in the closet, riding roller coasters, loud noises, clowns, things that at the time seem like really scary stuff.  As an adult we also have fears of things like spiders, flying on planes, driving over bridges, heights, water.  As a mother I have realized that these fears are trivial to me now.  There is no such fear as knowing that your child has a life threatening illness, knowing there is a ticking time bomb inside your child's body just wating to unleash it's terror and fright.
My daughter, my 11 week old daughter had open heart surgery on October 26, 2011 a day that I will never forget as long as I live on this earth. We had to get her there by 6:00 am, a one hour drive to the hospital, I can still feel the way I felt in the passenger side of the car, this sick feeling knowing I had to turn my baby over to doctors, strangers really. They were going to cut her chest open.  I can't even put into words how this horrific moment felt. I stood there sobbing next to my husband as they wheeled her away and she kept looking back at us, as if to say "aren't you coming with me?"  It broke my heart.  The next 8 hours would be the longest period of time in my life.  Nothing I did helped pass the time quickly; magazines, word finds, writing. I felt like I was doing stupid meaningless things just to divert my  attention off of what was really happening, my baby was having surgery.
At around 4:30 that afternoon, out walked a man in scrubs. A very gentle, soft spoken surgeon; our eyes connected from across the room and I could tell by the look on his face that my baby was okay.  He started to tell us about the surgery, and what he did and the holes he had closed in her heart, and then he uttered the words I had been longing to hear all day,  "She doing fine, you can see her in a few minutes."  I wanted to jump up and throw my arms around this man that I barely knew and thank him for saving my baby's life.  I couldn't move, it was like time had stood still, I remember crying like I have never cried in my life, thanking the angels, God, the saints, the heavens, the earth, anyone and everything that was involved in getting my daughter through this battle.
When we walked in the room several minutes later, an image of what appeared to be my daughter laid in a plastic box before us.  There were wires, and tubes and tape and the stench of iodine in the air.  This can't be my little girl, we are in the wrong room I want to say out loud, then I hear the nurse say
"Leah, mommy and daddy are here to see you."
Oh my God, what did they do to my baby, she was swollen, and orange and I couldn't see an inch of her body, there were so many tubes and wires coming out of her. One of the doctors told me to put my finger in her hand, and what happened next I could have never imagined.  She was sleeping, it looked like she was in a coma but when I place my pointer finger in her hand she wrapped all of her tiny fingers around it and squeezed, she knew I was there and I knew from that moment on that she was going to be okay.
The next couple of days were rough.  The breathing tube came out, only to return, due to another scary moment in our lives.  I started feeding her pedialyte one morning and the nurse came in to give her some morphine to manage her pain.  What happened next I can only say was a nightmare.  My baby stopped breathing and turned purple before my eyes.  Doctors and nurses circled her frantically pumping her with air and fluids, I sat on the chair behind them sobbing and praying that my baby was going to be okay.  The breathing tube was back and had to stay for a bit longer. 
Each day we would reach new milestones, as each tube and wire was removed.  On the final day I had my little girl back, all the tubes, wires and IVs were gone and I got to dress her in her own pajamas. What a feeling, slipping her little hands through the sleeves of her own soft, cozy clothes.  This feeling to me meant that we were one step closer to getting her home and living our lives as a real family. 
On November 3, 2011, my girl was sent home with her new and improved heart, "she can do anything other kids can do" said the doctor.  "She can run, ride a bike, jump and play, go to amusent parks, you name it." 
During my daughter's life we are going to face obstacles I am sure, there will always be doctors and cardiologists, and EKG machines and Xrays but my daughter's surgeon gave her a whole new life, a whole new world to be a part of.  Today she is stronger, happier, more content because of him.  How do you say thank you for that, how do you repay someone for giving you the most precious gift in the world, you can't because nothing you can say or do will equal the magnitude of the effect this can have on someone's life, being and outlook on life.
Before this happened to us I didn't believe in miracles,  now I certainly do.  I believe miracles exist in all of us, from the wise and sharp precision to a surgeon's hand, to the kindness of the nurses who cared for my baby as if she were there own.  There are miracles around us everyday, we just have to have the faith and the heart to see them.