Tuesday was by far the toughest day I have experienced as a parent. Nothing even comes close. It was surgery day for Gus and we had to be in at the Royal Children’s Hospital at 7am. It was a long, long wait. 6 hours in fact. Gus was hungry (he’d had to fast) and cranky, and over being stuck in the same place for so long. I felt his pain, but I didn’t cry.
At 1pm we were called in to the pre-operative room where Gus was given some panadol and a sedative which took effect almost immediately, making him woozy and very smiley. We changed him out of his pjs and into the hospital gown, a little gown, for a little guy. I then popped on my booties and carried him through to theatre. The hall seemed to go on forever, but it took just a minute to get there. I lay him down on the table and they placed the gas mask on his mouth and nose, and in seconds he was out. I kissed my darling and was asked to leave. But I didn’t cry.
The surgery took 45 minutes and then we had the gruelling wait to see him in recovery. The surgeon told us that his neck had been full of scar tissue and he’d managed to get it all out, it was the perfect result.
Half an hour later and we were allowed in. Our little man was still sound asleep, peaceful, dreaming of Vegemite sandwiches, Curious George and Yo Gabba Gabba, no doubt. That peace wouldn’t last long.
Gus woke and was hysterical. He thrashed around in my arms, and threw himself about. I was terrified he’d hurt himself, so I clung on tight. I wanted to cry, but I swallowed it back down.
Then the orthotist and physio came to fit his neck brace and Gus became even more distraught and inconsolable. He pulled at it, and screamed. His eyes begging me to take it off. But I couldn’t.
This went on for nearly an hour, my husband thankfully looking after Eddie, because all of my focus had to go into getting Gus back down to earth and calm. All my usual tricks bounced off him and smashed to the floor, I felt useless and helpless.
Then when all else had failed, a kind nurse offered Gus some jelly. That cup of orange jelly brought my Gussy back. He demanded to feed himself, sitting up on his own and scooping the goop into his mouth, navigating his way around the thick neckbrace. My heart ached as I watched him, desperate to help, but knowing that he had to figure this out.
Once he’d had something to eat, and had his vitals checked, we were allowed to head home. When we got Gus in the car, he even managed a smile. Our brave little boy.
At home he had his vegemite sandwich and some watermelon, his meal of choice, then we got him ready for bed. I carried my soldier in and placed him in his cot, his fingers wrapped around mine, not daring to let go. I stroked his head and told him how proud we were of him, what a star he’d been, and how everything would be ok, as he drifted off to sleep, his hand slowly losing grip on mine.
I crept out, shut his door, and tip toed into the loungeroom to my husband….and I cried, and cried, and cried. I cried for what he’d been through, I cried for what he was going to go through, I cried out of fear for how he would handle the 6 weeks of a neck brace and months of physio, I cried for how much I love him and how amazing he is.
In fact, amazing doesn’t even begin to describe how well he has handled this entire situation. I am in awe of my beautiful little boy. He is frustrated, that’s a given, he is two after all, but in this short time he has adapted to the change already, laughing and playing and forgetting he has a big chunk of padding around his neck and a great big incision underneath it.
Tuesday was my hardest day as a parent, but I am a better person for it, with my son teaching me just how resilient we are capable of being.
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