Surgery. It turns out that has been one of Jordan’s greatest fears. Yesterday at 4:50, his greatest fear became reality as he was wheeled into surgery from the safety of the pre-op room. In that tiny room, he and I listened as the anesthesiologist explained all the risks, the surgeon explained the procedure itself, and the nurse explained how she would be in touch with me every step of the way. What started out sounding like a simple procedure, suddenly seemed like a much more serious surgery. At 4:50, I hugged Jordan and kissed him on the forehead and promised that everything would be ok. He smiled meekly back at me and nodded. We said our I love yous and he was wheeled away, out of my sight, leaving me vulnerable and completely out of control.
Because of the compression on Jordan’s trachea and the vessels around his heart, just pumping him with drugs and knocking him out was not the best and safest route. The anesthesiologist needed him to go to sleep more or less on his own and then put him completely under, so he was given some gas and then IV drugs. At 6:15 I got a call from the nurse saying Jordan was successfully anesthetized. His breathing tube and chest tube were in, and surgery had begun. Now the waiting game began.
At 7:16 I received the second phone call. Jordan was doing just fine and the two small incisions had been made and samples of the mass had already been removed and now it was time to work on getting the mass itself out of his body, freeing him from the cause of his pain and trapping him in ICU and the oncology floor. I felt a sense of relief…
…until 7:34 when my phone rang again. The mass was too large, I heard, and his chest had to be opened. Jordan was doing fine, they assured me of that, but knowing his chest was now open made me more than nervous. This had become much more serious. I know surgeries like this are done all the time. But opening his chest was supposed to be a slight possibility. When the anesthesiologist had explained the risks of opening his chest, she had drawn an imaginary line down her chest with her finger. That imaginary line was suddenly Jordan’s reality. And his mother’s fear. It was such a long imaginary line. I used my cheerful telephone voice and said thank you and hung up. I knew he would be fine. I had people assuring me of that. I had to be content in my lack of control.
8:33… The next phone call was to inform me that the surgeon was still removing the mass, that it was more complicated than initially thought, but that Jordan was doing great. No blood had been given and things were progressing well. I texted someone, “Waiting sucks!!” With two explanation points. I could have added a few more.
9:42… The mass was almost out and Jordan was still hanging in there with no problems. They hoped to start closing him up shortly. My text had a tearful emoticon followed by “I have a headache.” My headache seemed very insignificant though. Who really cares about a headache when your son has his chest opened up and is having a mass removed from his body?
10:28… I finally got the phone call letting me know that Jordan was being closed up. What a relief after is such a long process. The surgeon, she told me, would be out to talk with me shortly (remember this is hospital time though). The ICU room was being prepared and my parents and I went upstairs to clear out his room on the oncology floor, as it was the last room available and might be needed. Cancer sucks. That floor should be a floor of completely empty rooms. Kids shouldn’t be having to deal with that horrible disease. Parents shouldn’t be having to worry. I have a lot of friends wanting to take big ugly sticks and put cancer in its place. If only we could…
At 11:50, seven hours after Jordan had been taken down the hall out of my sight, I talked with the surgeon who had taken such great care of him. The teratoma was certainly not the biggest one he had ever removed, but it was one of the more difficult. The next part of the story contradicted what I had heard before. This had likely been growing since birth and was probably the cause of Jordan’s pericarditis last year. It was missed last year during those tests. It had somehow managed to remain hidden, ready to bring Jordan down, collapsing him on the garage floor a week ago today. It It had also likely been compressing his airway for a very long time, so he should notice a big difference in his breathing from here on out. The mass had entangled itself in blood vessels and other “stuff” (medical term for junk in your chest) and it had been quite a task to disentangle it and safely remove it from his body. Jordan was now breathing on his own in ICU. I was breathing easier in the waiting room.
I have felt a wide range of emotions in hearing that the teratoma was there last year as I was in the ER crying and wondering why Jordan’s heart was racing and he was in pain. I have placed blame on myself for not listening to the ER doctor who wanted to admit him. What if they had decided to run more tests and discovered it? What if it wouldn’t have been so entangled and been smaller? What if? I shared my anger with a friend and he reminded me that I cannot change last year, that I needed to keep my spirits high for Jordan, and that my attitude was important. I needed to just let it ride. My response? “Good advice. Probably exactly what I would tell someone in my shoes!” I am not always good at taking my own advice. He was right though and I have been letting it go throughout the night and finding a place of peace.
When I saw Jordan in the ICU I broke down. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed. It was not a pretty picture. My face was covered in tears and, yes, snot! I was so relieved that this ordeal was over and now healing could begin. And for us, it is healing in many ways, not just from surgery. I listened to Jordan moaning in pain and my heart broke. I would have gladly taken his place on the operating table. I would do that for either of my sons without a thought.
This morning Jordan is fairly comfortable. He has a large scar down his chest, about 8 inches long. He has oxygen, chest tubes, IVs, a morphine pump, and pain. His pain is at a 2 or 3. He sleeps off and on. He asked me to take a picture of his chest so he could see it. His reaction was silence and eyes that had that look of fear I had seen prior to surgery. His blood pressure is very low and he is being monitored constantly. I have had to deal with my fair share of nurses in the last five months. These are some of the best. Everything from here on out is going to be easier. This is the worst and now we are on the road to recovery. Recovery from so many things life has thrown at us. We are making the world’s best lemonade out of the lemons we’ve been pummeled with.
While Jordan was on the table, when I heard that his chest was open, I got a text from a friend asking how surgery was going. I chatted and then said, “Know what’s cool? All the docs just got to see what an awesome, tender heart Jordan has! I’ve always known it. But they get to marvel at it!” Jordan does have one of the most tender hearts. I pictured it as glowing back there in the OR, radiating the tender light that he shows in life.
Today I am thankful for my little family of three. Jordan, Brian, Jacqueline. I think we are a pretty awesome trio. We have come through a lot and everything from here on out is going to be fine. We are recovering.
Recovery = Joy