Tomorrow Ellis gets admitted into the hospital.
We needed to have another difficult conversation. Alison, the Child Life Specialist at the hospital, coached me on how to delicately facilitate this conversation.
In late July, she had a heart catheterization. That procedure was described to Ellis as a “heart test.” That play session involved a doll that was supposed to be her. This time, the patient was a giraffe that had an “ouchie” on his heart. He came to the hospital for a “heart fix.” To do this, Ellis put the sleeping mask on the giraffe, a blood pressure cuff, medicine straws (IV lines), and band-aids.
When I walked into the consult room after meeting with the anesthesiologist, Ellis was busy taping band-aids on the giraffe and interacting with Alison. They soon wrapped up the session with Ellis removing the sticky band-aids from the giraffe’s legs and arms.
Now that she had a chance to care for the giraffe’s heart ouchie, it was my turn to relate the conversation back to her. I waited for the best time except I could find none. Time was running out, so Saturday afternoon, I asked the kids to have a small chat with me on the couch.
Not knowing how to start the conversation smoothly, I began by restating what they already knew: Ellis has a fragile heart. Both nodded “yes.”
“Well, the doctors say it’s time for her to get a heart fix on Monday,” I said with trepidation.
“Nooooooooooo, I don’t want to go back to Stanford (anything related to the hospital),” replied Ellis, already tearing up. Her strong facade usually keeps her from bursting into tears right away. Instead her lower lips quiver and she looks away.
Elliot got up on his knees like a bunny and wiped his tears on my shirt. His eyes got red and he wanted to know when we were leaving and coming home.
I explained how the doctors are going to fix the ouchie on her heart. I was so thankful that Alison armed me with some pre-written lines on what to say. However, I was surprised that it involved talking about the tubes and wires coming out of her body. Even those specifics were brought up to reiterate the fact that they would make her heart stronger and bigger!
I assured her that doctors and nurses will take very good care of her. Once she feels better, we will move from the 2nd floor (ICU) to the 3rd floor (recovery) where we will be able to eat, play, sleep, have Elliot visit, and even go to the play room and library. Like last time, she can help me pack her favorite things in her suitcase.
Ellis’ cardiologist called me on Friday night to check in. She told me not to be surprised if Ellis gets angry with me after she see wakes up from the surgery. She’ll also be cranky and agitated as a result of the anesthesia. If I were Ellis, I would be livid at me too.
How could you, a person I trust and love, bring me to the hospital for this? If only she knew. That talk is for later.
In the meantime, she’s back to playing with her dinosaurs and Peppa Pig. Both kids have been busy building their imaginary worlds except for the occasional bursts of tears and sadness that she does not want tomorrow to come. I asked her if she was scared. Yes, she is. I asked what scared her. She said “wires.”
I pray that the next few weeks will be uneventful. We just want to do the following three things well: surgery, recovery, and coming back home together.
We got this…sort of.
We will become stronger, braver, and more resilient as a result of this.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.”
Even still, my faith is little. Praying for supernatural strength and that God’s presence will be in our midst and in the operating room guiding the hands of doctors and nurses and everyone involved.