We spent over seven hours at The Hospital for Sick Children today, with our middle son, who had day surgery. We are home now, kids are tucked in bed and asleep and I’m sitting here with a glass of wine, trying to unwind and reflect on the day. So many of you rallied with us online, so I thought I’d share with you some thoughts I had as we walked through today.
Our son has had a growth on the side of his head, by his ear, for the past two and a half years. When we first noticed it, we took him into the doctor and they said it was just a reactive lymph node, probably reacting to something like a bug bite or even a cold, and to rest assured, that it would go away in three to six months. Well over two years later, it had almost doubled in size (about the size of a small green olive), was now vascular in appearance and not showing any signs of going away on its own.
We’ve continued to keep track of it and then about a year ago, when I realized how big it had gotten, I wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on with it.
So about SIX ultrasounds later (two specialized at the kids hospital), lots of blood work, various doctor appointments including three with surgeons, we decided last November that it was time to remove it.
My words exactly were “I’ll be damned if we don’t do anything about it and in three years we find out that it’s turned into something BAD and we could have prevented it.” Although somewhat extreme (am I the only mother who goes to the extreme scenarios in my mind in regards to my kids??), the surgeon seemed to agree that it was wise to be safe rather than sorry and find out exactly what it was.
The odd thing about all of this is that three weeks ago, the bump randomly changed in shape, size and location. This was so weird, considering it hadn’t changed in two plus years, other than get bigger.
After talking with the surgeon’s office, we agreed to move ahead as planned and that the surgeon would re-evaluate on the spot. This meant there was a chance that after more than 20 hours of no eating, with four of those hours having nothing to drink for my son, finding childcare for my other two kids, spending most of the day at the hospital (including paying for parking, lunch, snacks and dinner), we could have been told to go home at the last minute.
The surgeon did a quick consult with an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist right there on the spot in pre-op to determine if they should still try and remove it. The ENT actually thought that it was an infection that never went away and advised that it be removed right away, that he go on antibiotics and that they send it off for further testing to rule out anything ‘significant’.
Was it an infection? A swollen lymph node? A simple cyst? Would it be benign? Would it need extra testing? All of these were unknowns prior to the surgery.
Well the GREAT news about all of this, is that in the end, it turned out to be nothing more than a cyst! What a relief! No infection, no swollen lymph nodes, ultimately no need for worry nor further treatment!
I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when the surgeon excitedly told us the news. I’ve wondered about this growth for more than half of my son’s life. Wondering if it was nothing and worried that it could be something.
While we sat there completely relieved that not only the bump was gone but also that he had made it through surgery (I was seriously stressed about the general anesthetic), another family in the waiting room was receiving VERY different news.
Heartbreaking news. Gut wrenching news. Life altering news.
What exactly happened to them I do not know. They were ushered into a smaller conference room adjoining the general waiting area by a few NICU nurses and within a matter of seconds, the screams, cries and deep guttural groans could be heard and felt by almost everyone in the waiting room. You could feel the tension rise in the waiting room as all of us still had children in surgery and were all sitting there, hoping and praying that everyone would be ok. But for this one family, life would never be the same. And for the next 20 minutes, we all felt their real and deep pain. It almost became too difficult to bare sitting there and listening to them…as I kept imagining what if that were ME in that room, with those doctors?! What if I had not just received GOOD news about my son? What if the surgeon had come bearing bad news?
I longed for two things in that moment: to go see my son, who was still sleeping in recovery and to go and hug this family and cry with them.
I don’t know this couple’s situation at all. I don’t even know their names. I had barely been sitting in the waiting room for 10 minutes when they were brought into the other room to hear the news of their child. I don’t know if their child (who I later found out was a girl, as I saw them walk past me, carrying pink blankets) was born sick. Or if she had a life threatening situation. Or if maybe this was a total freak accident that they didn’t see coming. Either way, it was clear to all of us in the waiting room, that whatever had just transpired, had completely changed their lives forever. None of us wished to be in their shoes, but many of us just sat there in silence and cried along with them.
I realized today, that a hospital for sick children is really not a place where you want to just hang out for any reason. You see a lot of hard things there. And while Sick Kids is an incredible hospital, with world leading doctors and surgeons, the handful of times I’ve been there now in the last year, I’ve been reminded of how fragile life is. How every day that you have with your children is such a gift. TRUST ME…MANY days, I fail at recognizing this. I don’t give them enough of my attention or when I do, I loose my cool in 10 seconds flat. Life can get in the way and the day in and day out routines of our busy schedules can blind us to the treasure that lay within these gifts that are our children.
My son’s surgery today was very minor, in the grand scheme of things. But in those seven hours that I spent by his side, prepping him for surgery, watching him be taken away by the OR team, not being in full control of what was happening to him and then being by his side as he woke up…all while listening to this one family’s sheer agony over loosing their small child, I was reminded to never take my days for granted with my kids.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I can’t predict the future. I pray that my kids are healthy and that they live a long and happy life. My heart longs for nothing more than to grow old, watching my kids grow into their own with careers and spouses and children. But I’m not guaranteed any of that. I’m sure that family had those same dreams for their daughter.
All I know is today. Is right now. In this moment. My kids are alive. They are well and I’m going to cherish it. If there’s one thing that a hospital waiting room in a kids hospital will teach you is how to cherish your kids like you never have before.