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Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Isabel's surgery - Change of plans

Isabel did not have her surgery today…

James and I arrived early this morning and filled out all the paperwork. We waited at Day Surgery ready to take on the day. I brought my personal writings/documentations of Isabel’s story to-date as well as any letter I had received that greatly impacted my life. I brought my Pépère’s old rosary in honour of my father’s father, I thought of my darling Mémère, I brought the memory of Grandma Kay’s hand holding tightly to mine before she passed away only days before my emergency C-section and my silent plea for her to watch over my unborn, and I smiled in memory of our feisty Nana Burgess who left us only months ago, “The Great-great”. I remembered Uncle Mike holding Isabel so delicately only months before the Saskatchewan River claimed his life, I thought of Aunt Dorothy’s smile, and I honored all those whom we loved and who have passed before us.

I felt like Izzy was ready for this, that we were ready, that I was ready. We had an army of prayers from the living and loved ones in Heaven who no doubt earned SOME brownie points with The Big Guy and who would be watching over this process. Surely we were ready for anything that happened.

“I’m sorry to say this, but there are no available beds in the Intensive Care Unit and Dr. Hancock (the surgeon) will not do this surgery for Isabel unless she can be monitored in the ICU over the next 24 hours. She is performing an emergency surgery at the moment and will let us know for sure what is happening before noon.”

I turned to James and said, “Gee, when I was feeling like this wasn’t even happening today, I didn’t think it ACTUALLY wasn’t happening today!” I felt so frustrated… the emotional prep time involved, the time off work, coordinating daycare/school/transportation details, the pre-op appointments, the anxiety, the insomnia… We were going to have to do this all over again?????

The nurse came back an hour and half later to say that the surgery was cancelled for today because a baby boy came into emergency needing a serious operation. In fact, I just got off the phone with Dr. Hancock’s office and I asked about the little boy (4 hours later). She said they were still in the Operating Room. Suddenly, I don’t feel angry or frustrated anymore. Let us pray that he will be okay.

So we will try this all over again on Friday June 3, 2005 at 12:00 pm. After the calls I had to make to get her daycare workers in place for tomorrow, Friday and next week along with her Educational Assistant in the classroom and transportation to and from… Good grief, I’m ready for a long nap.

But despite my frustration and exhaustion, I am grateful that this was not one of those incidents where Isabel was the one rushed into emergency again. I am grateful that she was prepared for today and am confident that she will only get stronger until June 3rd. I am prayerful for the little boy whose life will change after today and hope they take good care of him in the ICU.

To my co-workers who were ready to take on my workload this week so that I could be there for Isabel, thank you. I will see you tomorrow, except for you Debbie… unless I drive out to Brandon tomorrow which I’m not so I’ll just leave you more singing messages and ask for more things to do... NOT!

To my family who were ready to take on visiting shifts to ensure that Isabel would never be alone, God bless you. You are always there in the front lines with us and never forget what a gift of comfort that is.

To all of you who prayed, may God bless and keep you always, and may He remember the way you gave of your heart so freely and willingly for the sake of our little Isabel. So let’s brace ourselves and do this all over again next month… I will practice the art of brevity in the meantime and will hopefully only send you a SMALL novel prior to her surgery. (God bless you all for your patience!).

Isabel's surgery tomorrow

I can feel the uproar of prayer beginning already…

After a series of several events this evening, I am ready to sit down and invite you to join with me in reflection, in anticipation of tomorrow’s events and in prayer.

I just came home from an evening’s presentation on “charitable donations” at a Golf Country Club and was greeted with Mélina’s bright smile. “Guess what, Mom… I was feeling really sad and scared at school today about Izzy’s surgery tomorrow and I started to sniffle a little bit. I went to the front of the class and told everyone what would happen to Izzy tomorrow and why she needed this help, like you know, how she isn’t growing and she can’t eat or talk or walk and stuff. I told them that she would probably be coming out of the hospital on her Birthday, so guess what the class worked on? We all made ‘get well soon’ and ‘Happy Birthday’ cards for Izzy. Look at all of them!” And there on the kitchen table was a mountain of handmade cards for our little Izzy. What a phenomenal big sister, what an unconditional individual, what a blessed being… my Mélina.

Earlier, at this Country Club dinner & presentation hosted by TD Waterhouse (I am always nervous at these things because I can never figure out which fork is used when, and what do you mean I can’t lick my plate clean!) I got to sit at a table with 5 well-dressed, well-mannered business men. As the evening progressed, the conversation went from psychiatric wards to how quickly women are being discharged from hospitals after birth (I’m really not sure how one topic led to the next). Surprisingly, birthing stories from these men were shared ranging from “not being allowed in the room in those days and waiting in the waiting room also known as “the bar”, to being present at their own grandson’s birth, to offering their overdue next door neighbor a plunger to ‘help things along’ (I never did ask if he got his plunger back…). In a room full of professionals, we laughed the most. I eventually was led back to my own experience with Isabel and shared with them the story of the woman who shared my hospital room after Izzy was born.

It was only hours after the surgery and I was in so much pain from the C-section and shaking with fear of the unexpected. How was my little Isabel? Was everything okay? When would I see her? Is it harmful to her that I am not near? Will she live? These whirlwind of thoughts were interrupted by a tiny cry and nurses bringing in their newest patient to the bed next to mine… a young woman with her brand new baby girl. I smiled for you can never see a newborn without smiling, but the ache in my heart longed to hear the sounds of my baby and not knowing if I ever would.

“Your baby girl is very beautiful.” “Thanks. I didn’t even want to have a baby. I don’t know anything about them.” The ache was growing. The baby sneezed and the woman panicked “Oh my God! I think she’s choking or something!” “Don’t worry, that was just a sneeze.” It took some time to settle the mother each time her baby sneezed, but eventually the conversation grew and I discovered that she didn’t even want to try breastfeeding. Through mild prompting, she shared that she didn’t think she would be able to make enough milk. I shared whatever wisdom I had in this area (shared antibodies, changed nutritional content to meet baby’s needs, supply and demand, etc…). She listened attentively and then asked “So where is your baby?”

I couldn’t help the tears.

I told her the story of Isabel Faith and shared my fears. She listened so attentively and with such empathy. She finally said, “Don’t worry, we both have little Taurus’ and that means they are stubborn as bulls. Your little girl will be just fine.”

That night, baby Marina was having a hard time settling and I could tell that the mother was exhausted. To my surprise, she’d even tried breastfeeding! I asked her if I could hold Marina so she could sleep. She was more than happy.

When I say God’s Will is undeniable, it is because I have been too blessed to be blind to His gifts. The moment I rocked little Marina in my arms and sang to her just as I would have had Isabel been in my arms at that moment, Marina settled and fell into sleep. I did not take my eyes from her for several hours and I did not even notice the abdominal pains anymore. It felt like a little gift from God, a message to say “I cannot give you your flesh and blood to hold tonight, but you can hold another.”

On the mother’s final day, family visitors and grandparents came by. Marina sneezed again and they all panicked, just as the mother had only days before. She settled their minds and said, “Don’t worry, it’s just a sneeze.” A curtain separated us at that moment, so no one saw my big smile.

Before she left, the mother came to my bedside and said “thank you”. “What on earth for?” “In hearing about your little Isabel and how she fights to live, I realize how lucky I am to have my Marina. Thank you for teaching me how to care for her. I will think of your Isabel every May 17th and pray that she is well. Maybe our little Taurus’ will play together someday.”

Maybe they will.

And so Isabel touched her first life simply for having chosen to live. And choose to live, she did.

I’ll never forget that panicked moment. The numbing pressure in my abdomen as the doctors worked on getting Isabel out of me as fast as possible. They warned me that there would be no sounds from her, she was far too premature. All I heard was “my God, that’s small” and my heart began to race and tears filled my eyes but I could feel her little determination. And there it was… three little cries as though a little lamb entered the room. I remember looking at James and smiling. “She wants to live. She will be okay.”

She wants to live. She has fought to live for nearly six years to the day now. Who do you know who chooses life, who fights for the privilege of life? How many times have you felt like giving up?

Isabel wants to live. Isabel fights to live. Isabel will be okay until it is her time to go.

When logic creeps into my mind, so does the fear about the risks involved with tomorrow’s surgery. Izzy has had a rough couple of weeks leading up to it. She was severely congested due to vomiting and having aspirated into her lungs again. The doctors warned that the surgery would have to be postponed if it did not clear in time. But tonight, her lungs are clear. Tomorrow, she will be ready.

Twelve noon, she will be put under and the skilled surgeons of Children’s Hospital will begin to work on her little body for the next three delicate hours. And your prayers will be there with her.

Because of her delicate lungs, they will not be providing a pain killer (narcotic) via intravenous. Isabel will have an epidural for several days. With a needle being in the spine, there is risk of damage and the fact that they will need to keep it in longer than usual will increase her risk of infection, but the alternative would be to risk her breathing becoming too shallowed…

I wish so much I could be in that operating room with her. I remember demanding to hold her during her eye laser treatment when she was only 3 months old and singing to her as the ophthalmologist did things to her eyes that left me feeling nauseous in retrospect. I want her to know I am nearby. I want her to feel my presence. I want to be right there… just in case.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Before I left that table tonight, my co-worker asked the businessmen to pray for Isabel Faith and tomorrow’s surgery. They each shook my hand and assured me that prayers would find her tomorrow along with many from others who would soon learn of Isabel Faith.

Bless you all in your fight to live and to discover the way you reach others. Clearly you have done something to have reached me and I am glad to have you join me in this journey. I will try to update you all tomorrow evening (depending on Isabel’s state).

Love always,Rita