If you missed Part One to the story, you can read it here.
As I panicked in the car, my brain went a million miles a minute. “What if he dies? Renata will never forgive herself! Why did I insist on giving him a bath! This is all my fault!”
My mom dropped me off at Rady’s ER and I ran up to the receptionist and they quickly ushered me to the back. Simon’s ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, but the surgical team had already gathered and I was introduced to the hospital social worker. She was very kind and compassionate and asked me what happened. I relayed the details of that night. Throughout the night, she asked me about three more times, I assume to make sure there wasn’t any abuse involved.
When Simon’s ambulance arrived, they quickly wheeled him away to surgery and we followed the social worker to the waiting room. Because it was midnight by this time, the entire hospital was absolutely empty and incredibly quiet. My best friend Katie’s parents, Joni & Dave Hall, showed up to support us. They ended up staying the entire night and were incredibly supportive.
Dr. Meltzer, the neurosurgeon, came into the waiting room on his way to scrub in. He had just looked at the CT scans from Palomar and told us that it appeared that Simon cracked part of his temporal lobe when he fell and that bone knicked an artery in his head which was causing massive bleeding. Dr. Meltzer’s first objective was to stop the bleeding. Then, we would focus on getting Simon to survive the night. We told him that we were praying for him during surgery and he thanked us and continued into the OR.
For the next four hours, we waited to hear the results of the surgery. It’s interesting how one reacts when the life of a child hangs in the balance. My husband, who initially reacted in anger because of fear now shut down and slept (granted it was after midnight). I was exhausted, but could not sleep. I cried and prayed the same prayer over and over for God to guide the hands of the surgeon, for Simon’s life to be spared and for him to regain his normal mental and physical abilities. Because I work in special education in speech therapy, I have a knowledge of the brain and it’s functions. I think that that knowledge made it harder because I knew what could happen. I feared that Simon would not be able to walk or talk or would have decreased mental functioning. Honestly I feared this more than his not surviving the night. And then I prayed to God to relieve me of that fear of the unknown and trust Him for what may come.
A nurse came out before Dr. Meltzer and talked with us. She said the surgery went well and he was able to stop the bleeding. Then she spoke with me and allowed me to cry with her. She told me how her son has been disabled since birth and he leads a fairly normal life, including graduating school and moving out on his own. I’m not sure if this calmed my fears or enhanced them, but I was comforted by this kind woman, who, in a way, understood what I was going through.
The nurse told Jesse and me that the doctor would meet separately with us (I believe this is hospital policy to not violate privacy regulations). So, we went into a conference room. I can’t tell you how strange and quiet the hospital was. It was totally empty, except for a janitor and we were left in that tiny area to wait on the outcome of our son’s surgery. After awhile, Dr. Meltzer came in and stated that the surgery went as well as expected and continued to tell us how many times Simon was “almost to God”. He then emphasized again that we were going to try to “get him through the night” and see how he does in the morning. He also told us that the next 24 hours were crucial with an increased possibility for a stroke. Simon had lost more than half of his blood, but since he never bled out, it was all in his tiny head, causing intense pressure on his brain. Because they had to release this blood, Simon received two blood transfusions and the doctor removed part of his skull (they refer to it as a “bone flap”) to release pressure on Simon’s brain and allow his brain to move back into place as it decreased swelling.
After this conference, we went out to the waiting room and shared the news with my parents and the Halls. Then the nurse escorted us to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where they had taken Simon. We were allowed to see him briefly before they ushered us out of the room and continued with his post-op and hook-up to the machines that would help sustain him through the night.
We had to go to the PICU waiting room and by this point, there was nothing left for us to do, but finally get some sleep. We hugged our amazing supporters before they left and then crashed on the plastic, hard couches. It’s amazing how quickly I crashed and how oblivious I was because I fell asleep halfway on a love seat with my legs draped over a coffee table, not noticing that right next to me was a full-length couch.
After a few hours rest, we made our way to Simon’s room. He was in an induced coma and intubated to help him breathe. His head was wrapped in a bandage and his sweet little face was black and blue, bruising caused by the pressure from the intense bleeding. We sat in his room, cried and stroked his hand. His vitals were stable and he was moving and twitching by himself. All of these things were good signs that he was recovering.
Later that day, they took Simon out of the PICU to get another CT scan. Sue Shepard, who is a cardiac surgery nurse at Rady’s and also practically family, came by to see us. She walked with me in the hall when they took him to get the scan. I remember sitting on the window ledge and bawling my eyes out as I waited. I cried because of the unknown and the possibility that my precious, strong-willed son would never return to me the same. I wept so much that day that I honestly wondered how my body was still producing tears.
The waiting that day was awful and this will go down in history as one of the longest days of my life. The CT scan results were read by Dr. Meltzer and he told us that he was happy with the results. He also said, “Simon isn’t out of the woods yet, but I am cautiously optimistic”. He was also able to differentiate the white and gray matter and that Simon’s brain had adjusted back to it’s original positioning. Because of this positive news, we were able to take a break and go get lunch. When we returned though, Simon’s blood pressure had elevated, his heart rate was high and he had a fever. We prayed very specific prayers for God to lower his temperature and slow his hear rate. I also prayed that we could be a witness to the nurses and doctors around us.
Simon continued to be heavily medicated, but the medical staff was trying to slowly wean him back to consciousness. The nurses told us that they were encouraged because Simon would move slightly when they messed with his intubation. Our hospital social worker had informed us of the Ronald MacDonald house across the street and in an effort to clear our heads, I insisted to Jesse that we should go take a shower, even though the thought of leaving Simon’s side was heart breaking. The house provided us with products for bathing and towels. We also were given a free meal. As hectic as things were at that moment, it was nice to be able to sit under the stars and eat with my husband, away from the chaos of the hospital. We returned to the hospital and I bunkered down in Simon’s room for the night. Although I did not end up sleeping very well because of the noise of the computers and constant motion of PICU, the nearness to Simon was nice.
To be continued next Monday. Thanks for reading.