Hospitals love early mornings. It was very early the next morning when the nurse came into the room. We were to carry our very hungry son to the surgical floor. As we went down the elevator I held him close and prayed. This was new territory even for me.
My son Jason had been quite sick as an infant. He was in the hospital several times. Bethany had been critical after her birth. She had seen a heart specialist at 2 years old. However, she required no surgery and her birth defect was outgrown. Our fifth child, the precocious daughter who claimed the road, had also been very sick as an infant. I had slept many nights in the hospital with her as she labored for breath. Nathan and Jason had both had tubes in their ears. I was no stranger to children and hospitals. But this was different.
The future looked very bleak at that moment. The airline ticket that meant single parenthood was still in his possession. There was no word on what he would do. I never remember him even speaking of it. I do not know, but I wonder if that night on the floor in the hospital or the long trip down that elevator with an infant son with a mixed prognosis changed his mind. I don’t even recall what he did with the ticket. I just know he stayed. I am glad he stayed.
We went to the cafeteria and picked at some food. We didn’t talk much. We both were absorbed in our thoughts. My breasts longed for the relief of a hungry son; it would be hours before that relief came. It would be years before the relief would come concerning his eye.
We returned to the room to wait. We sat on the hard chairs provided. My husband dozed. He seems to be able to sleep anywhere if necessary.
The doctor’s resident came in first. In scrubs and masked, he told us that yes, our son did have congenital glaucoma. He said that they were puzzled. They saw a lot of glaucoma but this just wasn’t what they usually saw. They attempted a laser procedure. They weren’t hopeful it would work. It didn’t.
In the recovery room, we saw him. He looked terrible. His arms were splinted up past his elbows. I wondered what had happened to his arms. They use these splints to keep their arms from bending and reaching their face. His eye was bandaged. He cried. Finally, I was allowed to nurse him. It calmed us both. Relief…
Another night on the floor-another night of wondering what the future would hold. In the morning, we would get into our Ford Escort wagon and drive the two hours back to Hannibal. We would take that trip many times over the next year. We would take our son to Tulsa Oklahoma twice as we prayed and wondered about his future.
A month later we were back. This time there was no stop at the McMillan building first. It was straight to the children’s hospital. I would travel alone to St. Louis the day before the exam under anesthesia. I would hold him for the blood work and the pre-op procedures. That afternoon after the dismissal bell had rung at school, my husband would get in his car to St. Louis. A late supper, a night on a cot listening to our son cry with hunger-there was no 2 a.m. feeding in the hospital as he prepared for surgery. Those were very long hard nights.
The next morning we’d take that elevator ride to surgery. We’d hand our infant son off to a masked nurse. Would the laser procedure work this time? Last time it was a failure. The doctors were stumped. They were experts in congenital glaucoma and yet, they had never seen a case like this one.