12 June 2008

Chapter 5: The Day Before the Operation

Saturday the 19th of April, I got to the hospital at about 9.30, the usual time. I had to leave the Dad behind, because he was too tired to get out of bed and wasn't ready. When I got to Cathal's room, he had the green tube back in his nose with the oxygen turned up very high. The blow bag and mask was also by his face. He was on a drip again and I noticed that there were extra medications in needle form by his bed. His nurse for the day (who's name I have shamefully forgotten) followed me in within seconds. She explained that Cathal had had a very serious spell at around 6 that morning. They had had to give him extra beta blockers directly into his blood through his cannula and they were keeping a very close eye on him. He was much worse. I rang the Dad in tears and he arrived in minutes armed with extra clothes and scratch mittens to keep his hands warm (they were freezing, even in the heat of the room).

At about 11, we went to the cafe for a bit of breakfast in a daze. When we got back to the room, we found out he had had yet another spell in our absence. The doctor came in to speak to us and explained that they were giving him the extra beta blockers each time this happened, and this seemed to be helping, his oxygen levels would come straight back up. We went to lunch around 1.30, got back to the room at 2 and he had yet another spell, while we were there. I'll never forget the feeling of complete helplessness as the red numbers kept dropping, and I could do nothing to raise them. All of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity in the room as nurses were coming in to check, putting him back on fluids, checking and double checking the product codes and dates on everything they were putting into his system. The doctor in the meantime was ringing the consultant on call to check if they should continue giving him the beta blocker or go straight to morphine. The tone in the room had rapidly changed. This was serious. I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to leave the room. I just stood in the corridor with my face in my hands crying uncontrollably. The Dad wrapped me up in his arms, and then a nurse brought us down to the parents room.

We sat and waited, tears still streaming down my face. As I've said before, I cried for three days solid, from the day before to the next. The ward nurse finally came down to talk to us (it seemed like an age, but was probably only a few minutes). She told us that they were still looking after him, the consultant had said to stick with the beta blockers. What she told us next will stick in my head for the rest of my life. They were going to move the crash cart up to his room and leave it outside, just in case......

His life was now in danger, well he moved up the waiting list fairly quickly that day. He wasn't critical any more, he was emergency. After about 10 minutes, I sent the Dad up to the room to check on him, "come and get me if he's ok". The Dad never came back, so I cautiously made my way up that long corridor and stood outside his room looking in. The Dad was holding him.
"Is he ok?"
I could not have gone back in if he wasn't.
"Yes he is"...

I think I held my little boy for the rest of the afternoon, clung to him more like it. The nurses were telling us that the surgeon on call had been phoned and he would operate the following morning. They promised that they would get Cathal into ICU that night before their shift ended. They were true to their word. At around 6 that evening, while I was in the middle of feeding him, they got the call, a bed was available. Some one had been kicked out to make way for him. The anaesthetist came to speak to us, they were going to sedate him tonight and get him ready for surgery now for the following morning. So off Cathal went, a bit angry at having been disturbed in the middle of his dinner, followed by nurses and a tank of oxygen. We didn't get to hold his hand as he was put to sleep, or reassure him. That was taken away from us, there was no time.

We were told that it would take a few hours before we could see him in ICU. So we packed up his stuff, said goodbye to the nurses and went home. Luckily, the frenchies (my aunt and cousins) and Nan P were at our house and they had dinner ready. So we ate with them and when they left to go home, we went back to see Cathal. It was about 8.30 that night.

He was in the far left hand corner of ICU. He was stripped of all his clothes. He was in an open incubator that kept him very warm and toastie. He had lines in his neck so that drugs could be administered straight into his system. He was on a ventilator to control his breathing and oxygen saturation levels. He had a blood pressure monitor directly inserted in a vain in his hand. He had a cannula and a catheter. He was all ready for the next days operation.

His nurse assured us that he was comfortable and that he couldn't feel anything. He also told us that the top of Cathal's right lung had collapsed. No wonder he was having trouble during the day. We didn't stay long. You can't stay more than 30-40 minutes in ICU, it's too hard. He was in the best of hands. Each patient there has their own nurse. There is also another 3/4 nurses floating around and a couple of doctors. It's a busy place. Readings of all the monitors, drips and medication dispensers are taken every 30 minutes. Alarms go off all the time, but they are very pleasant alarms, like chiming of bells almost. Cathal's nurse told us that we could bring in blankets, socks, anything we wanted for him.

Surgery would be around 9 the next morning.


Nick McGivney said...

This is tough stuff, and we've had our own tough stuff, but not this tough. It's a strange type of twilight world when you have a sick baby. The rest of the world stops mattering so much, and only those directly involved actually register on your mind. Cathal looks great in the pics. Aren't you all lucky to have found each other? I'm linking to you - if you don't mind!


Cathal's Mammy said...

Link Away Nick!!! I have you already linked (with out your permission...and Hammie too)