22 March, 2008

DORV before and after

When people engage me about Samuel's first surgery, we eventually get around to what the surgery meant or how hard it was for us. It was a fairly different event for Rowena than it was for me.

Up to the point of surgery, Samuel had had a couple of catheterizations. Each of those was fairly difficult for me because I recall the doctor's words that there was a bit of risk with the procedure. They could poke holes in the heart, blood could clot at the end of the catheter, break off and cause a stroke, etc. That scared me.

He of course came through each of them fine and the doctors learned what they needed to know when they needed to know. This helped them determine the extent of his heart's ability as well as the opportunity they would have to do something about it.

The doctors finally decided that the time was "right" to operate on him. We were initially told that he may need up to seven surgeries on his heart, fairly early on in his life. One of the procedures they mentioned was a Glenn / Fontan. This was due to the fact that his left ventricle was "small-ish". This would have left him with a single chambered heart. Imagine if that had been the case, now with his current diagnosis. That only occurred to me this morning!

In the end, Samuel grew well and his heart growth kept up with him. That meant that a simple repair or what I would call a re-structuring of the heart by adding a patch, was the plan they felt was all that was required.

It was finally surgery day. I requested that my brother, Jorge, come for moral support and he agreed. That morning, we took Samuel to the hospital and gowned him up. As we were waiting in the room for someone to come get him, I asked my bro to take a "before" picture of his chest - it would be the last time his perfect little body would ever be so. It's a little washed-out, but, you 'get the picture'. :)

At any rate, the anesthesiologist came into the room to get him. I don't remember his face but he was a kind chap who was clearly comfortable with young kids. Jorge and Rowena both gave him a kiss as I held him. I then gave him a hug and a kiss and handed him over.

We left the room and headed to the car. I remember immediately feeling relief. We had gotten him to that day, the day of repair, alive and healthy. Healthy meaning that he didn't have a cold, there was no reason to postpone the surgery.

We drove to downtown Palo Alto for breakfast, all of us rather quiet. As we sat in a booth and looked over the menu, my brother looked at me and said, "I don't know how you did that." I said, "what?" "Handed him over and not just break down. I was crying in the car all the way here." said Jorge. I told him, "I'm relieved. I'm just glad because he is where he needs to be. They are going to fix his heart."

And that is what they did.

Samuel was back home in about 4 days. Young kids heal really fast. Here is is, with his newly minted scar six days after the surgery:
I'll post up a newer picture of his scar as it has "aged" over 15 years in the coming weeks.

What's funny about Samuel is how he talks about his heart. Over the years, we have had to help him bathe, or put lotion on his skin. When we do, on occasion, he will take my or Rowena's face in his hands, look us straight in the eye and say, "you'll always be in my heart." When he does this, I always say to myself, and sometimes right to him, "Yes. Yes I will."

Finally, as I was talking with him one day about his upcoming surgery, I was reiterating that the surgery was to fix a problem with his heart. I went to great pains to double back and explain to him, that his heart that loves, his heart that cares about people and us, is *perfect*, and that nothing was ever needed to fix that. I didn't see any confusion on his face.

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