A little over a month ago, Ron and I headed back into downtown Grand Rapids with Hannah to face surgery day. I’d been a nervous wreck for a while beforehand – but never so much as that morning. Hannah had chosen to go into school for a half-day, since her surgery wasn’t until the afternoon. I’d gone through her packed bag yet again, made sure we had everything we wanted to bring (yet again), and attempted to sit down and either a) work, b) read, c) knit or d) do anything other than pace the house watching the clock, but I was too distracted and worried about what the day would bring.
The most difficult part was the not knowing – both the surgeon and the plastic surgeon had told us that it was possible that enough tissue would be taken from the area in her knee where the tumor had been that they would need to do a ‘muscle flap’ (taking a portion of a redundant calf muscle and folding it across the top of the knee to replace lost tissue) and skin graft to close the incision, but until they actually got in there, they couldn’t say for sure. So we knew that Hannah would be in the hospital at least overnight, and possible for 4-5 days – but we didn’t know for sure. And that was driving the planner in me crazy since we had to tentatively plan for the longer stay, even as we hoped that the shorter one was all that would be necessary.
Hannah was in good spirits during the pre-op portion, even when the iv was inserted. They couldn’t get a good vein in her left hand, so ended up putting it in her right – something I would have protested if I’d realized then exactly how long that iv would remain in. The surgeons both stopped by to check on us, as did the anesthesiologist and then Hannah was taken back.
Ron and I hung out in the waiting room for the several hours that we knew the surgery could take. I knitted, read, and worried. After about an hour, the surgeon came out to say that his portion was done – and although they’d attempted to close the incision on its own, they’d been unable to – so the muscle flap and skin graft would be necessary and would take a few more hours to complete. He did feel good about the tissue removal, having seen no obvious signs of any tumor cells in her knee.
Although this wasn’t the outcome we’d hoped for – at least it helped to finally know what we would be dealing with over the next weeks. Surgery day was April 17th – a Thursday, and when the plastic surgeon came out and spoke to us once he was done, he estimated that Hannah should be able to go home on Monday if all went well with the graft.
That first night in the hospital was the most difficult. Hannah was groggy and in pain at first. We got settled into her room on the 9th floor of the hospital and I stayed the night with her there. Ron headed home to be with Abbi and Becca and to get them off to school the next morning. His aunt had come and stayed with them that afternoon and evening, which was a huge help.
Hannah was awake a lot of that first night, since she’d slept so much of the day away during and after surgery. She watched movie after movie – something that would become a theme over the next several days of enforced bed rest. They did not want her bending or moving her right leg at all, so she was unable to leave the bed for any reason. Everyone was impressed with her attitude and resilience – even the nurses. I mean it’s not every 10-year-old who deals with a bedpan easily with no complaints whatsoever. And she simply let me or the nurses know when she needed more pain medication, with no tears or fuss at all.
Those days in the hospital were hard ones – trying to keep Hannah occupied when she couldn’t leave the bed, and had an iv in her dominant hand which made writing or reading difficult was a challenge. She’s a picky eater to begin with so subsisted mostly on yogurt, pudding, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – and slushies. By the time she was finally released on Monday (4 days post-surgery), her hair was a knotted mess since it hadn’t been washed (or brushed even) since the morning of her surgery. And her right leg was entombed in a heavy foam and velcro brace to keep the knee completely immobilized. She went home in a wheelchair, with crutches on-hand once she got stronger and more steady on her feet.
More to come later – there’s a lot to catch up on!