The boy is home.

It a remarkable turn of events my son is home 8 days after surgery. The contrast with his September surgical and post-operation experience is stark: what too 5-7 days in September (removal of most IVs and draining tubes, catheter, getting up to walk and use the loo, diminishing of painkillers on demand) now happened in just 2-3 days. His final drain was removed on Sunday and his final IV yesterday. His last chest X-ray was clear. He was then discharged last night. I am truly staggered at the contrast in recoveries and it is only now that we realise how close we came to a disaster last spring.

So four surgeries (two open chest) in 5.5. months later, we now have a basis for hope. Although his energy levels are still low–he feel asleep in the car during the hour+ drive from the city to our homestead, something that he has not done since he was five–the colour is back in his skin and he is already talking about going back to school. We will ease him into that with a visit on Friday, but it looks like the worst is over. He has a few tears in his left lung where it adhered to his inner chest wall when deflated, and his phrenic nerve may have been nicked during the procedure to remove the cystic mass enveloping it, but his diaphragm is working, his lung is inflating and both the tears and nerve should heal in time. Again, the whole process has been a study in contrasts.

It was interesting to see people from all walks of life in the wards. Some clearly have had a rough go of it. I found it refreshing that even though the rules specified just two visitors per patient at a time, the nurses were relaxed about extended family visitors circulating through. The general ward has a steel drum and xylophone available for anyone to use, and because the weekend was brilliant the instruments were moved out to a big veranda overlooking the helicopter pad. The kid in the next room had abut 25 members of his whanau out there lounging under makeshift tents made from bedsheets (the sun was blazing), playing music on the instruments and basically offering not only support to the child patient but also to his parents. In that sense it reminded me of Irish or Italian (my heritage) wakes–attendees are not only there for the departed, but for those that they leave behind. In this case the child is the priority and alive, but the family support extends well beyond the bedridden. When it comes to family values, let’s just say that some folk know how to walk the walk.

Needless to say we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Starship staff. During the seven day stay my son was in the heart ward, the general surgery ward, the paediatric ICU as well as the cardiac operating theatre and recovery room. Every step along the way the doctors, nurses, counsellors, psychologists and ward orderlies were there to help. That even extended to a multidisciplinary effort to help the kid deal with his fear of the very painful removal of the deep drains at the bottom of his mainline scar and in between his left side ribs. Between the anaesthetists, surgeons and play specialists, he had a much better experience this time around and emerged as a free boy unencumbered by his tubes or the drip trolley.

As a bonus my son spent the last three days in a single room opening onto that wide veranda overlooking the helicopter pad. He not only got to watch the choppers come and go, which allowed us to discuss the various models involved and to speculate on the patients and how crews worked in difficult circumstances for the betterment of others. But he also got to play the xylophone and make friends with some resident pigeons on the veranda, two of which he named “Bob” and “Uncle.” I am a bird fancier and the kid has followed in my footsteps in that regard, plus we have birds at home, so he quickly became buddies with the feathered residents, to the point that he was feeding them out of hand and they were perching on his arm by the time he left. To be honest, the best use of hospital food turned out to be when taming the resident birds.

We have all come out the experience much wiser in many regards, and completely thankful for the skills and compassion of others. I extend that thanks to all of you who offered your support as well. Now back to normalcy!

5 thoughts on “The boy is home.

  1. That is truly incredible news, Pablo! I am so happy for you all. What an extraordinary effort all the medical staff have put in for this wonderful outcome for your son. It gives hope and encouragement to all of us to know that we have medical professionals here in Ao/NZ who can work miracles when needed, even though we hear the stories about the difficulties our health system is in.

    Thank you for letting us know and for keeping us all up to date on how things have progressed throughout your family’s ordeal. I hope you’ll be able soon to have a proper family celebration. You all deserve it.

    My very best wishes,

    Di Trower

  2. So pleased for you and your family, enjoy your time together.
    Barbara Matthews

  3. So happy for you and your family. Enjoy your time together.
    Barbara Matthews

  4. So pleased to hear Pablo.
    I echo Di’s thoughts too about the medical professionals here in NZ.
    And love to hear about the birds. = Freedom :-)

    I remember that freedom, almost elation, when I came out of hospital after the successful treatment of my condition, which had been uncertain, debilitating, for 6 months or more. I remember walking with my dog, a black labrador, my best friend! and my partner (2nd best lol) – not very far, admittedly, on the sports fields local to our house – the openness, expansiveness, fresh air … with the best company and my support. Something one never forgets.

    Blessings always (ok so I know you’re an atheist, but you’ll have to put up with that – because so often some kind of belief is all there is …. and I’m sure you know, that often atheists are more in alignment with God, the Lord of the Universe, or whatever you like to call IT – than professed believers …. )

    Enough. Take care. Thanks for the good news!

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