Last Wednesday I was not able to leave the north country until almost 6 PM, and didn’t reach Connecticut until 10. Nevertheless, Jon, Amanda, Ami, and Judy (Amanda’s mother) were all still awake. Amanda had organized and packed everything for the hospital stay like a field marshal, and now they were attempting to keep Ami awake and feed her solids until the last moment she could have anything by mouth. Amanda set an alarm for a final nursing at 3 AM.
We rose early Thursday morning, drove to the city, and had checked into the children’s hospital by 7. Judy would mind the fort and the animals at home.
Jon and Amanda were called into the pre-op with Ami, and I settled into the family waiting room to wait. After an hour, they joined me. It was a long, long day. The surgery began at 8:30 AM and was finished slightly after 1 PM. Ami was on the operating table under general anesthesia for almost five hours. She would be in recovery for another two.
It turned out that the non-malignant mass was inside the lower lobe of the lung, not outside, and had numerous large feeder veins. The doctor had had no choice but to remove the entire lobe, and it was difficult, delicate work to close off all the feeders.
Amanda and Jon were finally allowed in to see Ami. She looked like a limp rag doll.
It was nearly 4 PM when we were allowed to go to a private room. The nurse pushed Ami in the rolling crib, Jon and Amanda brought bags and stroller, and I pulled the giant suitcase. As we made our way to the 8th floor, the crib bumped over joints in the flooring and in and out of the elevator. Ami opened her eyes in confusion. She was “on planet Morphine,” Amanda joked, but even then Ami did not cry. Her lips wobbled as if she were trying to smile but was too tired and bewildered.
At last she was in her own room. The surgeon had warned Jon and Amanda it might be a four-day stay. They would stay with her, sleeping in a chair and on a cot beside her. I would drive back and forth to the city to deliver meals cooked by Judy.
Amanda changed Ami into her own clothes (homemade hospital gowns with shoulder snaps) with her own blanket and stuffed toys. The first night she mostly slept off the morphine.
Nursing was difficult and painful for Ami, with the chest tube and so many other wires and monitors, but Amanda managed it. It took both parents to lift Ami out of the crib and keep everything safely untangled.
When awake, at first Ami was so groggy she just wanted to watch Sesame Street. Jon held the screen.
However, by morning when I arrived with coffee, Ami was already looking more like her normal self…
… despite all the wires and tubes.
She had yogurt for breakfast…
… and opened her mouth like an eager baby bird for some mashed black beans.
I would bring Judy to the hospital in the evenings. Judy broke her back this spring and is not yet back to full strength. Ami gave the typical Ami beam of delight when she saw her.
Now Ami was alert enough to be distracted by the television on the wall. The only thing that soothed her was the movie Zootopia. The film played on a loop almost 24/7.
Jon and Amanda may never be able to see it again without a shudder.
Gradually as the days passed Ami was weaned off machines and monitors and IVs, one by one. The most painful, the chest tube, was finally removed Saturday afternoon. Daddy was happy to be able to hold his baby girl again.
All Saturday as we waited for this crucial milestone, I had been working at the house. Judy and I had bought Jon a used basketball hoop early in the summer and I had brought a bag of tools to Connecticut to put it together. The directions said assembly required two people but I had dismissed that. I stood on a ladder all day, sweating in the humidity, then being drenched in a downpour. Judy went out for a couple of hours and returned to exclaim, “Are you still on that ladder?”
When Jon called in the late afternoon to say they were being discharged, I changed into dry clothes and drove into Hartford to pick them up. After things settled down again, I got Jon to help me with the last two steps (lifting the backboard into place does require two people) and we tightened the last bolts just before dark.
I’m not sure why I fixated on the basketball hoop at such a stressful time. Perhaps it was just that it was something tangible I could accomplish when everything else was out of my control.
Ami is home. The scary surgery is now safely in our rear-view mirror. Hooray! Though more complicated than we hoped, it was a complete success. The incisions are healing and she will be checked in a month. The remaining upper lobe of the lung should expand to fill the space in her chest and she is expected to have perfectly normal breathing capacity. We could not ask for more.
Though tense and frightening, this time was also in many ways a blessing. I was able to watch Jon and Amanda as a strong team and as devoted, indefatigable parents. Judy and I had dinners out each night after leaving the hospital and enjoyed long conversations. And I got to know my granddaughter, Ami, who even in these less than ideal circumstances proved to be one of the sunniest babies I’ve ever encountered.
Thank you, God!