04 May 2009


At 2pm on Monday the 9th of March, Cathal was called to surgery. We were brought down to the surgical reception, the ward nurse carrying his 2 files (he now is on his third) and Cathal’s cardiac liaison nurse following us. Then the hand over, the surgical nurse ran through the check list again with us and the ward nurse.

X-ray- check; Blood tests- check; teddy- check

When every one was satisfied that Cathal did meet all the criteria, and had passed all the tests, we were brought through to theatre. I hope you never have the misfortune to bring a child to surgery in Crumlin, but if it happens, focus on the little signs over the doors, they are fantastic. I know….what an odd thing to notice when you’re going for major heart surgery. There are a few art instillations scattered around the hospital, most people will know the fish tank, which is a submerged Dublin featuring Busaras and Croke Park. The new surgical wing has it’s own instillations. Each door has a sign with something comforting written over it. I can’t remember the exact wording of the signs, but over Recovery it has something along the lines of “In here you wake up all better”. Over one of the anaesthetic rooms: “Were you go for a big sleep”. So among the maze of white corridors there are little snippets to keep your mind off what is about to happen, they keep you some what sane.

We got to the anaesthetic room, and we both gave Cathal a big hug and kiss. He was completely unaware of what was happening….and then the mask went over his mouth, and neither of us will ever forget the look of sheer panic in his eyes. He cried for his Dad, then for his Mammy. He had only started to use Mama and Dada in context, but by God, he was using them in context that day. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live, his eyes were welling up with fear, he didn’t understand, and all we could do was hold on to his hands, helpless. All of a sudden he was asleep, one final hurried kiss and he was whisked off us, the team busy getting to work, against a clock. We were quickly ushered out, the Dad trembling, me sobbing.

K (our liaison nurse) talked to us the whole way out, and explained what the procedure would be from then to surgery. We arranged to meet in a couple of hours. 4pm, and we are waiting for K. She comes over to us, bad news, Cathal is still not in surgery. He is all ready to go, but the little boy before him had some complications, and they are just finishing up. OK….. more waiting.

I am a bit hazy on the events of the day, the times that things happened, all I know is that we met every couple of hours for up dates. In between, we wandered around the hospital, sitting in the lobby, in the canteen, in the coffee shop, outside surgery. Endless waiting.

I can’t even remember what time the surgery ended, or what time the surgeon came to speak to us. All I know is that it was about 10.30 that night that we finally got to see our little boy back in ICU, cold, puffy, but still with us.

The surgery itself was a success. They patched up his Complete AVSD using a type of nylon I believe. They also repaired his Tetralogy of Fallot as best they could, by removing all the excess muscle from the right ventricle and widening the pulmonary artery. They did have to leave in some external pacing wires, he was having some funny heart rhythms before they closed up, mostly because of the right ventricle, but more on that later.

When we got in to see him in ICU, he was on countless drugs, morphine being one, drips, respirator, 3 chest drains, catheter and an external pace maker. In a way, we were lucky that Cathal had already had an operation, only that can prepare you for how your child will look. Of course, this was worse, more of everything…..more intense.

We were told that the next 24-48 hours would be critical, in high sight, surgery was the easiest bit.


Lisamaree said...

I can hardly bear to read about that little body going through all of that; and you had to be there and see him through it. My thoughts were very much with you Mammy through the whole ordeal. Still wishing little healing fairies to be flying around your house.

Anonymous said...

Oh Cathal's Mammy my heart is breaking for what you've all had to go through. We were there and thankfully one year all is well.
I remember the comfort gleamed from the signs in surgery too.
I wish you all nothing but good health, abundant love and that life will never be as difficult again
Ceegee & Co xxxx

Mel said...

Wow. We are so lucky that Luke's heart defect is relatively minor as far as we know. I am so glad Cathal made it through, and here's to his second year, which should be a walk in the park by comparison. What an amazingly strong boy, and family.

Nan P. said...

Every time I went to see Cathal during his stay in Crumlin Hospital, I passed in front the entrance to this surgical unit. And every time I read the following sign over the door: “The sun shines here every day, we promised”. And, some how, every time, it made me feel that little bit better, even on days when Cathal was not doing that well.

On the day of the surgery, Waiting was the worst for me. Waiting for a little snippet of information, Waiting for the tiniest up-date, Waiting for any news at all. Waiting to know how things were progressing for him, but also to know how his parents were doing...

I would not wish this on anyone, not knowing is the worst thing when someone you love is concerned.

Lisamaree said...

This might give you a smile. When Bratty had her first dental surgery, she went into the pre-op area with me and I held her while they gave her the anaesthetic to put her to sleep. She relieved herself copiously all over me. I had to wear scrubs until Mr H could drive over with a change of clothes. it kind of took the stress out of that moment..