Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do You Remember When You Left Me? When Siblings Have Surgery.

It was an innocent conversation on the way to church on Easter Sunday.  My mom, Tommy, Joey and I were in one car while my dad and Tom were in the other car. My mom casually mentioned, "This drive reminds me of going with you to the hospital." And it does. It's the same way we went for ultrasound after ultrasound as well as the births of both boys. It's funny when you visit a place what memories are stirred up by the different landmarks.

As I am starting to learn more and more, Tommy was listening much more closely to this conversation than we realized. Lately we are noticing that he hears everything. He comments on some things, but definitely hears everything. 

From the backseat pops up a little voice, "Mommy, I want to go to the hospital for Joey's next surgery. I want to go to all of his surgeries. I want to go to every one of them." I sucked in a deep breath. 

"Do you remember when you and Daddy left me for a long time when Joey had surgery?" he asks without a trace of guilt or anger or reproach in his voice. He is just speaking the facts.

Do I remember? Oh, do I remember? It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life (other than fire-fighting training in Officer Indoctrination School--that was pretty hard and scary--I have a LOT of respect for firefighters). I remember that almost two years ago we had to figure out how we were going to manage an out of state heart surgery for Joey and what we were going to do with our 2 1/2-year-old (Tommy) while we were up at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Heart Center. 

We went back and forth. Back and forth. Take him. Leave him at home. We didn't know what to do. We knew that it would be intense and would need a lot of concentration and energy to take care of Joey and be there for him pre-surgery and post-surgery. We knew that a hospital isn't the best place to have a 2 1/2-year-old. We didn't know how long we would be there. We didn't know how well Joey would do. We honestly didn't really know anything. I read every blog I could find and tried to be as "prepared" as possible, but at the end of the day, we just didn't know.

So I respond, "Honey, I remember we had to leave you at home when Joey had his heart surgery, but that was because little kids were not allowed in the hospital and there were a lot of wires and machines." It was the best I could come up with on the fly.

"But, Mom. I'm a big kid now. And I won't touch anything. I promise," Tommy says from his car seat looking earnestly into the rear view mirror trying to catch my eye and trying to get me to see his side. 

I think back to the 9 days we were apart. One of the hardest times our family has ever been through. Leaving one child behind at home to be with our other child while he had heart surgery in a different city and state. We had never been gone that long from Tommy- ever. The days were long, the nights were long, the process was long. It was beyond exhausting. Sleep-deprived, sunshine deprived, sanity deprived we went outside once in those 9 days. I vowed that Joey would always have one of us by his side so he wouldn't be scared. 

We knew Tommy would be okay. We ultimately decided that it would be best to have him stay in his familiar environment at home instead of cooped up in a hotel. We knew he and Lolo would do great. Luckily we had Lolo, Miss Kelly, Miss Shannon and other friends and family who all hung out with Tommy and distracted him while Mommy, Daddy and Joey were gone. The minute we checked into the "Med Inn" we knew we had made the right decision. Joey's pre-op day consisted of nine hours of appointments and an almost cancellation of his surgery because his blood work. 

It was brutally hard not to be together during those 9 days. I had not realized how much I rely on little Tommy to bring sunshine and levity to our lives. To provide our comic relief and joy when things get too serious (like Joey's most recent blood work-- we go back again in 2 weeks to have it re-checked). 

He has never really mentioned that time before. It is a sign of so much. A sign of how much more he understands. A sign that Joey's "adventures" affect Tommy as much as they affect us. As sign that we need to be mindful and continue to respect his role and his need to understand what is going on in our little family.

He wasn't going to let the conversation go until he had my word that he could go to all of Joey's surgeries. 

"Tommy. Of course you can come with us. But, it might be very early in the morning and it might be very boring while we sit there."

"I don't care, Mom. I want to go. I want to go to all of them. I don't want you to leave me again," he replied.

Hot tears stinging my eyes I couldn't look over at my mom because I knew I would lose it, so I just looked in the rear view mirror and nodded, "Ok, Tommy. You can go."

I try to do this with therapy and different appointments, but it seems that the time has come to bring Tommy to one of Joey's surgeries. His next surgery will be another eye surgery. His third in ten months. Not nearly as invasive as his heart surgery and also out-patient. Should be a good opportunity to bring Tommy along and help satisfy his curiosity. 

We have been trying to protect him for so long and will continue to try to do so, but I also want him to know that we hear him and we respect his desire to be a part of it. We respect their love for each other. Their brotherhood. Their bond. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment! We read every comment!