This is the fourth post to fill in the details on what happened with Andrew’s emergency lung surgery last month. You can read the introductory post here.
The plane touched down at Love Field in Dallas, and then we took another ambulance to Children’s Medical Center. We arrived at the hospital and quickly made our way to ICU, where a room had already been prepared for him. His medical team was awaiting our arrival, and fortunately the RN EMT had briefed me ahead of time that he would be surrounded by doctors and nurses at once, so I wasn’t too overwhelmed. Still, it was quite surreal to step back in the ICU room and see tiny Andrew laying in his bed, surrounded by nurses and doctors being briefed on his condition by the EMTs. They were moving fast. X-rays were taken by a portable machine and pictures of his lungs were instantly displayed on equipment in his room so that everyone would know what they were dealing with.
I was asked to sit and a surgeon, a fellow, and then an anesthesiologist took turns discussing his surgery with me and asking me to sign papers giving my permission for surgery. They would go in between his ribs, doing a thoracotomy, and then a lobectomy would be performed on his left lung. The left lung has two lobes or halves, while the right lung has three lobes. His top left lobe was the one with lobar emphysema, so it would be removed completely. Then a chest tube would be inserted. The remaining bottom lung would leak air and fluids until it healed, so the chest tube would drain all of this air and fluid.
When the surgeon described all of it, I was shocked. The entire top half of his left lung? Removed? All of it?!? But it was the only option.
The surgeon’s primary concern was that surgery would go smoothly and his bottom left lung would not be compromised in anyway, so that it would grow back well. Yep, that’s correct. It will grow back. I was floored at this knowledge. I had no idea that lungs could do such things. In fact, if you google “lung grows back” or “lung tissue regerates,” most information will say that it does not. Because it does not. For adults. Children are entirely different, and will regenerate lung tissue and alvioli until the age of 8. I asked the surgeon if my son would have a “normal” life (whatever normal looks like). She said absolutely. He would have two healthy lungs and complete use of them, without breathing issues. She said “I’m not saying he’s going to be an olympic runner, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.” Her words were a comfort to this mama’s heart.
After my permission was given and the medical team had finished assessing him, they were ready to do surgery. I put my hands on my baby boy, prayed aloud for him, kissed his little forehead, and they whisked him away for surgery.
Once he left, I couldn’t help but lose it a little in the hallway, which made some of the nurses and hospital employees nervous, and some went on a quest for a counselor or chaplain. I’m more inclined to think that if I didn’t cry at that point, I would’ve needed a counselor. I also knew that I had our pastors’ phone numbers in my cell, so I could easily talk to someone if I wanted, but one of our pastors was on his way to Dallas with Damian. Yes, I had to wait by myself during surgery, but it wasn’t as hard as I would’ve thought. I wasn’t alone; I had the Lord. Friends and family also called constantly, which was another way God provided comfort. Andrew was on so many prayer lists during the entire ordeal, and many people are still praying for him now as he recovers.
Surgery would take a few hours, during which I prayed, talked with various friends and family, and pumped. Seriously. Protecting my milk supply became a high priority for me, because it seemed like the only thing I could possibly do for my child at that point. I put myself on a pumping schedule and stuck with it until Andrew was able to nurse again.
Every hour, a nurse would call me and give me an update on Andrew’s surgery. Each time, all was well. At this point, I was running on pure adrenaline. It was Thursday, and I hadn’t slept since Tuesday night, when I’d only gotten about 3 hours of sleep due to caring for sick kids. Every once in a while, the magnitude of the situation would hit me. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me that the huge hospital I was in had essentially shut down for my baby’s surgery. And like on the plane, I had the feeling that if we could just get through this, the next few hours of surgery, then everything would be OK. It was frightening at times, but overall, I felt peace and comfort.
I also kept thinking that our baby doesn’t have cancer or even something like cerebral palsay or a heart defect. While this was a scary and dangeous situation, the Lord had given us a medical crisis that was totally fixable. How amazing! I feel like David: “Who am I, Soveriegn Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)
Once surgery was over, I met with the surgeon. She said everything went perfectly, and no surprises came up at all. She described recovery and reiterated again that his left lung would grow back completely. I still can’t believe that God made our bodies to do this. We truly are wonderfully made.