After my brief 10 minutes with Eli, the nurses cleared me from the NICU. After I left, they prepped him for transfer over to the Children’s Hospital that was adjacent to the building where Eli was delivered. In the other room, Melanie was still recovering from, you know, birthing a human. But she was doing well.
We tried anything to pass the time… hours passed as we played card games with our parents, ate food, or slept. It had been nearly 6 or 7 hours after the birth and Melanie still hadn’t been able to see Eli…
The door to our room opened.
The Life Flight team had brought Eli into our room for a quick visit before transferring him to his new home where he’d be for a month or so. Tears of joy, sadness, and anxiety filled the room. We all had prayers in our hearts for little Elijah’s life.
Before I walked with the EMT’s to take Eli over to the Children’s hospital, my father-in-law, my dad, and I gave my son a religious blessing. During that blessing, it was impossible not to feel the love of God fill the room as I blessed my son that he would be OK and come out of this trial stronger than ever…
The walk to the connecting children’s hospital seemed like an eternity. Screeching wheels of the cart. Hurried, hushed voices of the EMT’s. Darkness of the halls. It was almost unbearable. When we reached the room in the CICU (cardiac intensive care unit), I watched helplessly as my son was strapped to countless tubes and wires in his “new home.” I kissed Eli on the forehead and left to meet back with Melanie as the medical teams began to continue their tests and assessment of my son’s heart condition.
Later that evening, Melanie and I were able to head back down to meet with Eli and hear the latest news from the doctors. Mind you, this Children’s Hospital was also a “teaching” hospital with student doctors. Guess who gave us the update on our son…
With little to no bedside manner (before even being able to hold Eli), the young doctor proceeded to drop the biggest nuclear bomb on a new set of parents that you could. Let me paraphrase: “Your son’s condition is worse than we had anticipated and the likelihood of him having any sort of life isn’t looking good.”
We left the room moments later to head back to Melanie’s recovery room. That night, we cried together for what seemed like hours. Praying for comfort and strength to keep moving forward.
The next day, we went to see Eli as soon as we woke up. We made it just before the senior cardiologists made their “rounds” to each of the rooms. When the doctors came in, the nurse on duty went through the stats and we all waited while the doctors conversed among each other. Before they left, the senior-most cardiologist (a man in his sixties) came over to us and reassured us that everything was going to be OK. Our first little answered prayer; but, the continuation of one of the worst weeks we have had as parents.
Each passing day was full of new faces, new medications, new machines, and new tests. The constant beeping of medical monitors from down the hall tear at your soul. The louder and quicker the beeps, the more serious the problem. **beep. Beep. BEEP.**
After a couple days of being in the hospital and sharing a twin mattress between the two of us, we had to get home. I was able to convince Melanie that going home was for our own mental health so we wouldn’t end up like the poor mother we see walking down the hall in scrubs (since she ran out of clothes a month ago).
The drive home was heartbreaking. Leaving our son wasn’t easy. But we knew that he was with some of the best nurses around. When we finally pulled up to our town home and walked through the front door, Melanie broke down. For years she had imagined coming home from the hospital for the first time with her baby in her arms. This moment was far from that dream. I headed upstairs behind her and we prayed ourselves to sleep in tears.
The week drew on even longer as the doctors continuously changed their story about Eli’s condition. One day things were looking good. Then next, they “weren’t sure” (aka things were looking bad). A few days before the surgery date, the doctors performed a mini procedure in the “cath lab” where they put a catheter into Elijah’s heart up the femoral artery in his leg to get as accurate of a reading on the pressures in the heart as they could. Nothing. Just more “data.”
Melanie and I often would say to each other, “it would just be best if they didn’t update us at all.” Our hopes and fears were on a constant roller coaster. Communicating with each other kept us together. Yet, we were almost ready to give up hope, until we met our surgeon.
Dr. Burch was in every which way a stoic. Nothing could phase this dude. He met with us the night before Eli’s surgery to tell us exactly what he was going to do. (FINALLY! Some clarity and direction!) The way he spoke was so direct we just nodded our heads and agreed. This man knew what he was doing. Paraphrasing, he said, “all of the doctors around here will speculate and theorize till the end of the earth on what we should do for your son. But in the end, I am the one making the decisions and I am responsible for the outcome. Also, I’m a baller. And I’m gonna fix this kid.”
At 7am the next day, we sent Eli in for surgery…
(To be continued…)