Well, we made it to Reception J on time and managed to arrive with a fasting, but not uncomfortable Jacinta.
It's always better to have sisters there before surgery because you can giggle and have fun rather than sit there worried.
One good thing about having done it all before is that you have pretty good prediction on how long it will all take and when you'll be going in. The first time she had heart surgery I thought 7am meant a 7am op - or thereabouts. Ha! Not so much. More like 8.30. It's handy to know that when you have to keep kids entertained.
So we took family photo with Jacinta and me gowned up to the nines. Then I took her through. It was when we were in the theatre that she saw the warming thingy on the bed, looked around and got her bearings that it all got real.
With a shake of the head that clearly said,"uh-uh" she indicated that she knows how this goes. To her credit, when I said,"yes, we have to", she settled on my lap watching Peppa Pig on my phone and let them put the gas mask on. One thing has changed, they used to flavour the gas with strawberry or chocolate topping. Now they use lip balm - grape in this instance, on the anaesthetists's recommendation.
We went off to fill in the time. Apparently orange pancakes are now a thing and The Secret Life of Pets is too scary for some children. I wound up with more than one extra on my beanbag in the cinema downstairs. Water tastes good with lemon, strawberry and cucumber infusion. The surgeon called as we were finishing lunch. Now he had said he would finish sometime early afternoon. He always SAYS that, but then I either get a call saying it will be another few hours, or I don' t get a call til late afternoon, because it was tricky and it's not perfect bit it will be ok.
I admit, when the phone rang at 1:26pm, I freaked out a bit. I was expecting to have to kill a few more hours, and an early phone call could not be good news.
But it was! The surgeon said it was easier than expected and the result was perfect. This means that the membrane should not grow back again. For context, I have never before heard the surgeon say the word 'perfect' without the word 'not' in front of it. I think he also said the word 'pleased'. These are not words he throws around with gay abandon.
She got back to ICU by about 3:30 which is the earliest ever and they started talking about waking her up that night, which never happens. This is how other people do cardiac surgery!
By the time I came in the next morning she was awake enough to see me and they had 'extubated' her. (Taken out the breathing tube) She wasn't super happy about life, but hey, she had just had her chest ripped open and bones broken and wired back together. That's fair enough! I did notice however that she didn't want to be touched or looked at, which is what happened the last time she had Fentanyl. She was given it this time too.
Then things happened very quickly. They said she could go to the ward that day. We were waiting, not on her recovery, but on a bed in the ward. The first thing she told me was that she was thirsty, and she drank at least a cup of cordial (you go with whatever goes down in some scenarios) in about 2 minutes. After a few hours she had come out of the Fentanyl grumps and was eating food. She scratched at her chest a lot. She pulled out her oxygen prongs. Lucky she didn't need them anymore.
This was in stark contrast to her first ever surgery, where they gave her a day off and just let her rest. Both previous times she was still well under sedation at this point. Now she was up and about. We found a good spot that was comfortable, with me on the bed under her. I'm not sure how usual this is in Intensive Care, judging by the surprised and amused looks we got from passers-by and visiting doctors.
We went to the ward that evening and despite her disagreement with changing spaces, she just got better. Every few hours they took things out. By the Thursday they had taken out her pacing wires and drains. This had never been done with her up and about, and it was one of the most harrowing things I've ever had to participate in. She was fasting for a very long time, because they wanted to use heavy sedation, and this meant she went in hungry and thirsty to do a thing which scared the hell out of her. Then for the rest of the afternoon while she wanted to sleep she was made (by me) to go downstairs and do a chest X-ray (because we had to).
By the end of all this, we just wanted to go home. She was over being touched, she had pulled out her NG tube which meant oral meds from then on, she disliked almost everyone who came into the room. Another room change meant we were in the low maintenance section but she did not agree with changing rooms again. Thankfully a Skype call to home meant she could relax again.
And then, on the Friday, they sent us home. I think I was packed before the doctors even came around. It's interesting, the more we do hospital, the less we feel the need to be there. I remember the first time she went home I was a little nervous about how safe it was for us to be looking after her so soon after surgery (two weeks). Now, I am so over the nights spent in hospital, where the nurses pretty much have to do obs overnight, which almost always results in broken sleep for everyone, that I would rather look after her four days post-surgery by myself at home.
I know that she will sleep better, will feel happier, and will have the food and drink she's used to plus the Peppa Pig DVD and whatever else she feels like doing to hand. You just get better faster at home. Everyone who knows hospitals agrees that if you don't need to be in hospital, it's better not to be there. I did have some messages from friends saying 'don't rush home, make sure you rest', but the chances of rest are so much higher at home.
And you can drive to the mountains at your leisure and visit the Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.....