Over a year has passed since Holden’s Cranial Vault Remodeling surgery and Tuesday we had his one-year post-operative follow-up appointments in Dallas. The purpose of the day was to find out whether Holden would need to have his next skull surgery now or if we could put it off for a few more years.
Until the night before Holden’s appointments, I hadn’t realized the amount of anxiety I had been internalizing surrounding this day. That night I slept restlessly as I experienced nightmare after nightmare involving tracheostomies and evil doctors. When I woke up in the morning, my eyes were blood red and my nerves were blazing.
Holden’s first appointment was an MRI, so we trudged over to Medical City in the early dawn to get our day started. Holden needed to be sedated for this procedure because any amount of movement ruins the results of an MRI. It would be nearly impossible for any toddler to remain still for the 40-minute long procedure without being anesthetized.
When the anesthesiologist placed the mask over Holden’s nose and mouth to deliver an inhaled sedative, my son went insane. He screamed in raging terror and used his whole body to fight off Sam and the nurse who were trying to hold him steady. The entire time, my face was next to Holden’s, kissing him and trying to comfort him. Then, in what felt like one second, it all stopped and he went limp and his eyes rolled back in his head. It was horrifying and my anxiety level soared. I kissed his cheek and walked out of the room, tears welling up in my eyes.
Since the actual MRI took 40 minutes, I expected to be back with Holden about an hour after he had been sedated. Fifteen minutes past the hour mark there was no word from the MRI room and I convinced myself something had gone wrong. I started to panic. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I started pacing. Sam went and found a nurse to check in on Holden. The nurse said he was fine and that it was just taking him awhile to come out of the anesthesia. I sobbed with relief.
When the nurse came to get us I darted down the hall to my son. Holden was irate and screaming “My Daddy! My Daddy!” I swept him up just in time for him to rip the IV out of his own hand and spew blood across the room. I was so relieved to hold him that I barely noticed.
The next hour of our morning was split between Media – where they take pictures of Holden’s head to track its growth – and Anthropology – where they also track Holden’s skull growth by taking physical measurements of his head and face. Throughout this part of our day, Sam again had to physically restrain Holden while various techs and I tried to distract him with toys and funny faces.
Finally, it was time to meet with the craniofacial surgeon. As the doctor escorted us to his office, my nerves were raging. Less than a minute into his examination of Holden, the doctor asked us, “Do you think this bump on his head has gotten bigger?”
Sam and I both answered,“Yes.”
“I think I’m going to need to operate on him again soon,” he said in a disappointed voice. “On his MRI, I saw a slight increase in pressure on his optic nerves. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I saw the enlargement of the bump on his head. I’m sorry.”
And suddenly, my anxiety ceased and I went numb. There was no more anticipating. We now had our answer. I proceeded to shift into autopilot and went into patient-advocate-mode as Sam and I discussed the upcoming operation with the doctor. Meanwhile, Holden happily destroyed a table of toys in the corner.
On the car ride home, Sam and I barely spoke a word. After dealing with all of the morning’s anxiety, I was physically depleted and didn’t have the energy to talk.
Holden was so unusually quiet in the backseat, that I eventually turned to check on him. He looked so sweet sitting there, staring out the window, watching the world go by. I smiled at him.
In that moment I knew that even though we had hit a literal “bump in the road,” that all of this – the stress, the struggles, the surgery – all of this was just part of the journey to give our precious boy a happy, healthy life. So, as a family, we will ease over this bump and keep moving forward.