Breen is now home in Pocatello, with a repaired hernia, sleeping in his crib.
We rented a house near the hospital in SLC so that Grandpa and Nora could join us.
Erin, Breen, and I went to the hospital early in the morning on Tuesday, checked in, and met with the surgeon.
He said he would send a scope down through the bellybutton to look at the hernia…
“But you took away his belly button with the reconnection surgery”
He checked Breen’s stomach to confirm that there was no belly button available for scoping. I reminded him that he also found a lot of scar tissue in there during the reconnection surgery, and he remarked that significant scar tissue would be another reason not to go in through where-the-belly-button-should-be. He would just go in through the groin.
I asked him about Breen’s former side hernia. The one that used to be a hernia and maybe isn’t anymore. He felt it, and thought that maybe he should check into it. I told him that they had an ultrasound done on it up at Portneuf.
He called Portneuf, discussed it with their radiologist, and decided that he would go in there as well to repair it after all. It should only add 20 minutes to the surgery.
All in all, he was looking at 60–70 minutes.
The anesthesia doctor popped in. Breen was to be put under, given a local blocker for his waist down, and intubated for surgery. He mentioned that they would do all they could to give Breen’s lungs the pressure they needed, but anesthesia would cause some atelectasis, which is the partial collapse of the alveoli of the lung. He wasn’t too concerned with such a short surgery though.
Breen was an absolute delight during this consultation! Smiling, laughing, telling jokes, he was in total control of the room. We handed Breen to the anesthesiologist who carried him away from us, through double doors, and down the hallway where we couldn’t follow. Breen was smiling over his shoulder as he went out of sight
One of the worst moments as a parent is when your child is very young, and the pediatrician is about to give them a vaccine shot. You’re looking at your wee cherub playing and smiling on the doctor’s table, totally oblivious as to what awaits them. You know what awaits them, as you see the nurse unsheathe a needle or two or three, but there’s your clueless beautiful baby babbling away.
Then they get poked with the needle(s), and your baby is out of their mind instantly, screaming at the top of their lungs in pain and fear. And you pick them up and kiss them and bop around a bit until they calm down.
Sending your pleasant smiling son to an intubated surgery was like that feeling times a million.
They took him back around 9:40am. Erin and I are in the waiting room, waiting. Erin’s reading poetry and mindfully walking, I’m wasting internet on twitter and reddit. (Why yes I would like to watch a five minute video of a rally car driver in the 1980s on silent! Thank you very much!…. Oh my! That is a complicated omelette to make!)
Now it’s 10:30. Now it’s 10:40. Now it’s 11am. Phone Call from the hospital. It’s the OR nurse, he says Breen is doing well, but the surgery ended up being more complicated than originally thought, and that it would take some time longer.
How much time?
I don’t want to say, perhaps another hour.
Is it the scar tissue?
Yes, and it’s just more complicated than we thought.
Now it’s 11:02. Now it’s 11:07. Now it’s 11:12. Now it’s 11:07 again somehow…
Our heads pop up like prairie dogs every time someone rounds the corner to the waiting room, especially if they’re wearing scrubs. It’s never our surgeon, never our cat.
More often than not, these not-our-surgeons sit next to the parents and talk about how the surgery went, right there in the waiting room for everyone to hear. One time, a surgeon came out and asked if the parents would follow them to the private consultation room. I looked into the room later, it’s the same chairs as the normal waiting room with more tissue boxes on the tables. As I paced, drank too much coffee, and wasted internet (but did not smoke dear reader), I kept hoping that our surgeon wouldn’t ask if we wanted to go to the private consultation room.
Around noon, maybe later, the surgeon comes out. “Do you mind if we just talk out here” yesthat’dbefine!
Breen was doing well.
The surgeon said there were two big issues with the surgery (some intense details below):
- A loop of bowel had gotten permanently stuck outside of the hernia sack, and scar tissue had grown and fused around it. The bowel was thankfully healthy, but it took him some time to cut (he also used the word scrape) away the scar tissue to free the bowel so he could put it back to where it needed to go.
- His inguinal hernia had persisted for so long, that the bowel had stretched out that area of his body so much that the hernia wall was paper thin. He was able to repair it, but felt less than stellar about repairing something that was so stretched out. He fears that Breen stands a more likely chance of re-herniating than a normal repair because as that stretched out part comes back together, his stitches might become compromised as they contort. He said this wasn’t likely, but that Breen is at an increased risk for re-herniation down the road.
Also, because of both of these complications, he had to get really close to Breen’s genitals, and actually had to cut out his right testicle to put off to the side so he could get in there and repair the hernia. (*shudder*). He said that went well and he doesn’t anticipate any future complications from that maneuver, but there is a scar there and would cause more discomfort in the short term recovery.
He said that this is why the surgery took so long, that this was one of the tougher hernia repairs he ever had to do in his career.
It was never gonna be simple with Breen.
We asked if Breen was still intubated, and the surgeon said he didn’t know, as he left Breen intubated after he finished the surgery. They’d likely call soon to let us know.
Thank you Dr. Thank you again for operating on our son. (the forth time?!?!)
12:20… 12:22… 12:27… it was agony…12:40… 12:42…12:51…
1pm, call from the recovery nurse.
Was Breen extuabted?
Yes, and back on .5 liters, breathing great. But they had to keep him to monitor him. Why? His heart rate was a little high, but he is being held by a respiratory tech now and seems calm. We’ll let you know when we can release him to post-op.
We’re thrilled he’s been extubated so quickly, scared about the heart rate, and incensed that Erin can’t hold rather than an RT.
1:05… 1:07… 1:12… talkative guy who’s son is getting surgery is hovering looking for someone to chat with… (“Hey man! Sorry your Chiefs lost! I’m a 49ers fan myself…) 1:21… 1:24… Woman next to us unmasks to talk to a family member as if they wouldn’t be able to hear her if she had a mask on in a hospital… 1:28… 1:35… 1:32… Employee from the check-in desk comes over to ask the woman to please put her mask on, she picks up a bag of chocolate chips and says she eating, she proceeds to eat one chocolate chip per minute as she continues to chat… 1:40 … 1:38… Erin and I walk over to the window to look at some folks welding oxygen tanks from a container… 1:42…
Phone call from recovery nurse at 1:45. His heart rate was still high… how high? 200… so we gave him an EKG to see if something was wrong, it looked fine so we gave him fentanyl to calm down. Now I have to monitor him for 15 minutes after giving him narcotics, then you can see him…
1:48… 1:51… 1:52… Back to the welding guys… 1:55.. We see our surgeon come back out to the waiting room, why would he want to talk to us again? But he goes to another set of parents to tell them that their kids’ surgery went great. Dude knocked out a second surgery before we were able to see Breen! 1:58… 1:53…
2:04pm, phone call from recovery nurse! we’re taking him to Post-Op, meet us by the door.
And then our beautiful strong boy, in a huge rolling hospital crib, comes out majestically from recover to post-op. Eyes open, taking it in.
Breen was awake but fussy. We got some fluids into him, Erin held him. He eventually regained his appetite and downed a whole bottle. Then ate some carrots.
He napped, had trouble getting out of his anesthesia stupor. Eventually came back to himself, smiled, and even laughed weakly. He got stronger, hungrier, and more alert as the day progressed. Breathing beautifully, our brave powerful boy.
Two dear NPs from the NICU stopped by our room for hugs, gifts, and collective astonishment. It was incredible to see them. Breen kept offering his pacifier to one of them, always the perfect gentleman.
Nora was being brilliantly cared for by Grandpa all day. Erin went home that evening to be with our girl, I pulled the chair apart into a bed to stay the night with Breen. It was the same contraption that they had at Portneuf’s Labor and Delivery ward, where I stayed so many nights after Erin’s water broke and before Breen was born. It was strange to sleep in that chair/bed again, like a portal to another time, another hospital, another calamity.
Breen slept beautifully, waking up for an hour and change in the middle of the night for a bottle and some eye contact. Slept again from 4:30–7. Good kid.
He still winced a bit in the morning as you moved him, but he was even more himself, more jolly, more talkative, more laughing, more curious as the morning wore on. What a remarkable baby, how resilient is this guy after such a rough surgery?!
Erin came in the morning, and we gathered up our things to be discharged. She had been curating an impressive number of text threads to tell our NICU folk that we were in the building. We stopped by the NICU after discharge some of Breen’s old clothes and were greeted by a mob of smiles, hugs, tears, and joy. NPs, social workers, therapists, primary nurses, receptionists, and even a fellow NICU parent all came to adore him. He was gingerly passed from neck to heart to shoulder to arm. It was overwhelming. These incredible people, his village of care.
Two other dear primary nurses who were off shift waited for us in the downstairs lobby, so we dove in for more hugs and joy. Another nurse stopped by. A fellow NICU mom and friend. Breen soaked up the love, gave back some life force of his own, and Erin and I beamed with gratitude and happiness.
The drive back up to Pocatello was fortunately uneventful as Breen mostly slept. Nora drove with Grandpa, and unfortunately got sick. Grandpa dealt with it like a champion with good humor, care, and cleaning products. Thank you Grandpa.
And now Breen sleeps. We’ll ride him out on some light pain relief (tylenol and ibuprofen), and see how he does these next few days. He’s a strong lad, a resilient boy, and so so brave.
And now his hernia has been repaired, the bowels rest where they should.
And we fueled up on the love and support of his caretakers, his aunites, our friends. Some of the most wonderful people on earth.
And we enter his second year of life. A de-nicutized baby who looks to crawl and explore, communicate and eat, and share with us in life. And so we join him.