These are the things that I remember about the latest Shriners trip.....
~~While eating french fries just after arriving at the hospital, he looked up, and said, "I save you, mommy." I thanked him.
~~There is a play area in the back of the hospital that has swings that look like chairs. I can fit in them and Brody sat on my lap. We swung every day we were there, for at least 20 minutes at a time. The play area overlooks a meadow and mountains and there are hiking trails. It's really beautiful and, as with all mountainous areas, very spiritual.
While on the swing we would sing, (ABCs, Old McDonald Had a Farm), count, or watch the cars and bikes go by up the hill. Or we would be quiet, and listen to the silence that happens halfway up a mountain.
It is on the swing that the day before surgery Brody said to me, a propos of nothing or everything, "We all peoples, mommy. We all peoples."
~~And it is on the swing that, a day later on the morning of his surgery, while holding him with both arms wrapped around him as he laid his head on my shoulder, that I invoked the ancestors.
It's really the only way to describe it. I called them out. I demanded that every relative we ever shared blood with, back until the beginning of time, keep Brody safe.
It started with a prayer to God and the universe to keep Brody safe and make the surgery a success. And then I asked my dad, my brother, and my grandparents, all of whom have passed, to watch over him.
And then I started the invoking. I went back further, to people I don't know but to whom I must be related because, if you think about it, my relatives must have been around hundreds and hundreds of years ago...and I demanded that they pay attention and keep him safe and keep his finger pink. I thought of the nuns and farmers and soldiers and the mothers and fathers, all over Europe and beyond, and I begged and pleaded, quietly so as not to scare Brody.
And do you know that during this 10 minute period of time, Brody - the chattering, loud, silly, curious toddler - said not one word. He heard me, and he was silent.
~~I met with the anesthesiologist the evening before surgery. She asked the usual questions and then said something like, "Anything else?" And I said, "Well, he desats a lot after surgeries." She said, "I saw that in the prior cases we've done on him." I said, "If you just have him wear the nasal canula, he won't desat at all. Then wean him off by the morning after and the pulse ox is still on." What struck me about this was that I was speaking anesthesia.
~~I lied to Brody. The morning of surgery, because he hadn't eaten for 15 hours, he became desperate for milk. He wanted lunch and fries, but his go-to food to ask for was milk. I got so heartsick at denying him food, finally, when he really started sobbing and crying, I told him that yes, he could have milk. But that the milk was all gone, and the nurses were out chasing the cows to get more milk. This made the nurses within hearing laugh, but it quieted Brody.
When he woke up after surgery, almost 9 hours later, the first thing he asked about was whether his cast was yellow. The second thing he asked was, and I quote, "Where da cows? Nurses get da milk?"
~~We shared a room with another boy, Brody's age, who was born without a tibia in his lower leg. When we arrived, he had just had his left leg amputated below the knee. Mostly they kept his leg covered in the blankets, but as the day wore on, he glimpsed his leg. And started screaming and crying, "Where's my leg?!?!?" It was, not surprisingly, as awful and as heartbreaking as it sounds.
In addition to shedding a few tears myself, it was at that moment that I realized what everyone means when they tell us that Brody will be okay because he doesn't know any differently.
~~After the surgery, but before Brody was back in the room, our surgeon sauntered in. I do not use the term "saunter" lightly. He's a good and nice man, but he sauntered. He looked like he had showered, and he was carrying chocolate chip cookies, and eating them. It struck me as arrogant - I would never go into a meeting with a client eating cookies. On the other hand, he was relaxed and jovial. After moving my son's index finger into thumb position.
I learned then that when your child's perfectionist surgeon is relaxed and jovial after surgery, that means the surgery went well.
~~Brody was asked to give hugs and/or kisses to three nurses, in greeting and farewell, two female cook/cashiers, and Francisco, the lone male in the bastion of the cafeteria. Francisco is a 30ish Mexican guy who tries to get everyone to speak Spanish and knows us from every single trip to the hospital. He is, however, a little reluctant to get Brody hugs and kisses. Until the Saturday we left. Francisco was out from behind the grill, and Brody was fascinated by him (I think because he gave him waffles and pancakes) He kept going up to Francisco and talking to him. Finally, Francisco couldn't resist and, while on bended knee with outstretched arms said, "Okay buddy, give me a hug." Brody did, and a kiss.
~~The day after surgery in the morning, we went to see the Child Life person, Carolyn, to look for some cars. Carolyn opened the closet and Brody's eyes got wide when he saw the vaccuum. He proceeded to play with that vaccuum for every single moment: the bathroom in our room, the parent shower on the other end of the floor, while I was in the shower, to the cafeteria, to the play area, to the elevators and back. The nurses and parents kept saying things to him like, "Are you vaccuuming? You should come to my house!" He got confused. He thought he was really going somewhere. I bought him a vaccuum off Craigslist when we got home.
~~Brody shared. My sister in law sent us a bouquet of balloons. Since we couldn't take them on the plane, and they were still floating high, we gave a balloon to the kids who had to stay the weekend. I thought Brody might become enraged at sharing, as usual, but I explained that we couldn't take the balloons on the airplane, and that we should give them to the other kids. So we did. And he went with me, room to room, until they were gone. I think he had more fun than me.
~~At the airport on the way home, I handed the TSA person our boarding passes and my driver's license. Out of the corner of my eye I notice Brody has sat down on the ground. "What are you...." I realize what he's doing. Removing his shoes to go through security. Without any prompting from anyone.
~~This week he has been in school, and when I pick him up, we talk about school and if his day was good. Then he asks me, "How yer day?" One day this week he also asked me, after how was my day, "How yer thumb, mommy?" I guess we ask him about his thumb a lot lately. But it's also evidence of his truly sweet nature. I told him my thumb was good.