october 15th, 2012 (part 2)

Every Thursday I look back at a specific day and time that was spent with my daughter Matilda as she waited for, received, and recovered from a liver transplant. She was in the hospital for 72 days and we remained in NYC until she turned four months old.

October 15th, 2012 - part 2

My heart was pounding as I raced through the halls, trying to get back to the PICU as fast as I could. My breath began to shorten and my eyes filled with tears. A dozen questions circled round and round my head. Would they make a mistake thinking she was a different patient? Would they check the stats I gave them or would they just estimate her weight, etc.? Would they risk something small not understanding the severity of her illness? Would I ever see Matilda again?

One of the benefits of living in a hospital is that you are always surrounded by people and social norms encouraged strength. I got to an elevator. It was small and full of people. Despite what I was feeling on the inside, I was required to take a deep breath and pull myself together. I did not have the energy to explain the circumstance to a stranger, if asked. My goal was to get back to Muriel. She would take care of everything, for that I was sure.

Tyler was waiting, coffee in hand, chatting with all the nurses. I began laughing. The kind of laughing that instantly tells people that an event just shook a screw or two loose. I explained everything and before my story was over I had a dozen doctors and nurses standing around me. I can still hear Muriel's voice saying "nah" in disapproval of the surgeon's brash behavior. And when all was said, she took my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, "He is going to feel like the biggest jerk when he looks at Matilda's perfect little neck and doesn't see a thing, you wait. He is going to feel foolish." I was so mad and so worked up. But Muriel was right. He would look and see, he would feel dumb, then he would get the job done, and bring her back to me. He was the best in the hospital at putting lines in babies. It would all be fine.

I drank my coffee, I brushed my teeth, I ate food sent from a friend. And before we knew it, Matilda was back. She was breathing on her own, wide awake, and simply perfect. Following her was the entire team. The surgeon himself came up to apologize, face to face. He was genuine. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to explain that the baby from across the hall was the one he worked on the night that she came, but of course he couldn't say a word. But I knew, we all figured it out. I nodded and thanked him for bringing Matilda back safely. He explained that he could not access the type of vein needed for a picc line, not even under microscope, but that he placed a broviac in her chest that would be a really good long-term solution. He did feel like a jerk. It was written all over his face, and everyone knew. But I honestly forgave him. I appreciated that he came up to apologize and the way he kept telling everyone how beautiful Matilda was melted my heart. She was so beautiful despite her illness and I loved hearing it.

The afternoon was joyful. I held Matilda while Tyler opened a bundle of mail. And there, amidst kind words of sympathy and hope from friends and family was a treasure. They were letters from third graders that made us laugh so hard we cried. A classmate from college, who I had not spoken with in years, had his class write letters to cheer us up. And it worked. I loved that Michael did something small (although very time consuming I am sure) that made a big impact. I wish I had a recording of Tyler reading the letters. It was too funny and he had the entire PICU staff leaning in the room for a listen. We kept them and would bring them out whenever the atmosphere needed to be lightened.

It was the perfect reprieve to what turned out to be a very long night and an even longer week full of headaches.

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