ventral hernias and very nice things

We arrived at the hospital to check in for TJ’s surgery at 6:30 AM and there was already a line to check in. There was something about standing in that line that made me so sad. This thought washed over me: we are all sick. We are here because we are sick. That man’s sick. That woman’s sick. But then TJ announced to everyone around us: I NEED TO GO POTTY! and I didn’t have time to wallow in the sad reasons that all brought us there.

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So I turned to the man and woman behind me–the woman was bald with a tight scarf wrapped around her head and she wore the most awesome death metal shirt–and asked if they could hold our spot in line because my kid needed the potty. If they didn’t already hear his trumpet call or see his hand-on-crotch dance. And they said of course they would do that.

That was the first of many nice things that happened to us during our time at the hospital. It was a dramatically different stay than our last one six months ago. This time we were only there for three days, not nineteen. I wasn’t crying every day. I wasn’t crying in the elevator, then later in the hospital lobby Starbucks line, then again crying into my coffee. I wasn’t crying in the hospital chapel. Or again at the vending machine when I ordered the worst coffee from Wolfgang Puck. Do not order vending machine coffee. You will cry, but for different reasons.

This time, I cried when the surgeon came in after everything was done and said that the surgery went great, that he was all done. She was the same surgeon that performed TJ’s emergency surgery in September. She knew what we had gone through, how TJ had fought so hard to get better and to see her again, telling us that my baby was fine made me weep some ugly but happy tears.

His surgery went great. His ventral hernia is fixed. His stomach is no longer extremely distended. He had to have a drain to remove some fluid, but his follow-up appointment removed it and now we have the terrible burden of telling/reminding/yelling/scolding a four-year-old that if he does more than walking, his stitches will rip open. He has six weeks of taking it easy, something I wished the doctor would recommend for my couch-loving ass. Oh sorry, I can’t actually do anything right now because it would impede my recovery, soooooo can you get that remote control over there? And since you’re up, can you refill this Diet Coke? And get my phone charger because I was playing Plants v. Zombies 2: It’s About Time too much. It would be heaven.

But TJ isn’t a loafing lazy kid like his mother. He wants to run at the park or down the Target aisle. He wants to swim and kick and tumble and jump and be tossed onto the bed and charge at me so I can lift him up and toss him again. So that’s what we have ahead of us.

some notes:

1. I think my favorite people in the waiting room are the women who bring all their makeup and get what Maria Bamford calls “balls to the wall pretty.” I loved watching how they spread their makeup on the seats next to them and then got to work: foundation, blush, mascara, eyelash curlers, etc. What a perfect way to distract yourself during the interminable wait for your loved one. Get super dolled up and then when your loved one is ready to see you, you will be a stunning vision. Not like me, greeting my kid with mascara down my face like I’m trying out to be a Juggalo.

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2. There was no cell phone reception in the pediatric waiting room. The nurse walked in halfway during the surgery and said everything was going well and that she had tried to call me but it went to voicemail and I said, yeah, because there’s no cell phone reception in here. And she nodded and said, yeah. What do you mean yeah! I wanted to yell back. You knew I wouldn’t get the call, so you called anyway? Why didn’t you just come here, the waiting room, where you told me to wait? GAAHH!

3. TJ was on a clear liquid diet right after his surgery, but the doctor changed it to a regular diet. However, the hospital cafeteria didn’t get the update so when I called to order food for TJ and tried to add on an extra order to his for myself (DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT) the woman on the line immediately said, “Sorry, it says the patient is on a liquid diet,” so I mumbled a “JK LOL I meant one Sprite!” and stuttered and as I hung up, said loudly so she could hear even though it was really to excuse my hungry hippo mouth, “Sorry TJ! I guess no Mediterranean plate for you!”

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4. Some nurses are saints and some are not my favorite. The last nurse was not my favorite. She spoke to TJ in a baby voice and would make him pay attention to her even though he did not care at all about what band aid she was going to use. Even though nursing is an incredibly hard job and I am still thankful for the care, she did frustrate me incredibly on the last day. That morning our surgeon had said that TJ needed to eat and drink and we could go home. So by 3:30 PM I called the nurse to ask if the surgeon was returning and she said no. So I asked who makes the call for us to leave? She repeated what the surgeon had said, TJ needed to have a good lunch and drink fluids, which he had done. AT LUNCHTIME. So then she started on this backpedaling, “oh shit I forgot they were here, so let me be super attentive now!” explanation of everything we had to do when we got home even though she couldn’t answer when we had to give him Tylenol. “Just read the instructions on the box!” OKAY THEN.

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5. I stopped by the hospital Starbucks to pick up a slice of lemon loaf for Nathan. The barista said, “Oh you can have it for free. It just has a small crack in it, but it’s perfectly fine.” I wanted to weep in this man’s arms. He didn’t know that I was there to make my one son feel included because my other son was a patient. He didn’t know that I just walked to the grocery store and the paper bag I was holding had the strawberries because TJ was finally hungry and that’s all he wanted. This man was just being kind and I thanked him. I wish I had asked his name.

TL; DR: TJ did great. We are great. We are thankful. Thank you.

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Team TJ: still recruiting members

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Hi friends, I need your positive vibes, good thoughts, prayers, etc. for my son, TJ. He’s going back in for surgery this Thursday morning to fix a ventral hernia. His stomach is distended because the muscles never healed after his emergency appendix surgery last September. He feels no pain or discomfort and will proudly lift up his shirt to showcase what a fine belly he has. The surgeon has told us that this isn’t the emergency we faced last fall and because he’s so young, he’ll heal quickly. The surgery will take about two hours and if everything goes well, we could go home the next day. He’ll have to take it easy (no running, biking, wrestling, etc) for a month and a half until his incision heals which is not an easy instruction for a four-year-old boy. It’s been six months since my son fought for his life and we spent 19 days in the hospital so I’m feeling a little raw, my mommy heart heavy with nerves and worry despite what people say. I know it’s going to be okay but if you could join Team TJ, we would really appreciate it.

Thank you.

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