11.15.2011

Lessons From the ICU

Tom Petty said it best--the waiting is the hardest part.

Here I sit, a full week after Lil' Bit's open-heart surgery, and we still don't know when we'll go home. With her first birthday coming this weekend, and Thanksgiving next week, I am more than ready to be home. But, as with most things related to Lil' Bit, I am not the one in control; she is. Surgery went extremely well and she was on track to go home yesterday. However, over the weekend she couldn't keep anything down, including the meds she needed to keep her heart pressures in line. So, she's still in ICU, while they try and get those pressures in line.

 Making matters worse is that Lil' Bit isn't drinking much of anything (she is a great eater though). This is, ironically, a problem of my own making. She never took to drinking juice or water, and I never saw much reason to force her since she ate well and drank lots of milk. I had managed to pump enough to almost make it to her first birthday. Sadly, I didn't quite make it; we ran out--just before surgery. So, Lil' Bit wakes up at the hospital and all there is to drink is stuff she's never had before. It never occurred to me that my pumping & freezing plan would have such a major flaw. On the plus side, she's making progress with whole milk, and today she drank strawberry Pediasure, so they won't have to stuff it down a feeding tube. Still, if we ever needed more evidence that's she a stubborn one, this is it.

Not surprisingly, I can't control the doctors, or Lil' Bit's response to the meds, or make her eat, or make her nap.  So, I am really struggling. Xanax has become my new best friend. It really helps keep the edge off. Text and Facebook support, calls from my mom, and my in-laws' continued presence all help too. Still, there are days I am ready to cry, scream, or both, at the drop of a hat.

The waiting isn't fruitless, though. In waiting and learning the stories of other families, I am grateful that Lil' Bit is otherwise healthy. So far, she has had 6 roommates. Among them, an asthamatic; another cardiac patient who had surgery the day after, but has already been released; and two neuro patients--one 7 years old, and one 5 months old who has already had 4 surgeries. Elsewhere in the ICU are cardiac patients only months old, babies with RSV and whooping cough, a baby with double pneumonia and MRSA, and myriad other conditions. But, severity and longevity in ICU don't matter. What I discovered is that I am now a member of the club. Because all of these parents get it. Whether their child is in for a day, a month, or longer, they have all felt the tedium of waiting. They have all gotten tired of doctors and labs and tubes attached to their children. They all know that they cannot bear to eat another bite of Subway, Wendy's, Quiznos, or Biggby. And yet, we all cheer when someone graduates to go home. And we all grieve when a child is lost. And we all support one another as we wait. This support is sometimes all it takes to get through one minute, and then another, and another, until you look up and, finally, it's your turn to go home. It is an amazing experience of grace and love and community, and I am humbled to be a part of it.

 But, in case you were wondering, it doesn't make waiting any easier.

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