On the Sunday evening before Penelope got her G-tube, I gave her a bath, and tucked her into bed, acutely aware that there were big changes ahead, and that this would be the last night of our current routine. I finished folding laundry, and packed up everything we would need for the following day. I set my alarm for 0430, and tried to get some sleep.
Of course, the alarm setting was completely unnecessary. I tossed and turned for a few hours, and slept in bits and pieces. At 0300, I was wide awake. At 0400, I gave up on getting any more rest, and got up for the day. I gave Penelope her last doses of medications, and set up her the last feed via the NG tube. I even gave her one last bath, knowing that she would only get sponge baths for the next two weeks. I dressed her in a simple onesie, and she was ready.
Now, complicating the proceedings that morning was the fact that this was Charlotte’s first morning at camp. We had signed her up awhile ago for a half-day sports camp for the month of July, and we would have to drop her off on the way to the hospital with Penelope. She needed to be at the camp at 0830, and we would need to be leaving the camp by 0915 to make it to the hospital by 1000. Should be plenty of time, right? I marvelled at how well that was going to work out! Mistake.
We decided that Mark would go into the building where the camp was being held with Charlotte, and I would stay in the car with Penelope. So I gave Charlotte a big hug and kiss, and off they went. Pretty much the moment the door closed behind them, Penelope started crying. I let her cry for a few minutes, hoping that she would just go back to sleep. Nope, that was not happening. Luckily, it had stopped pouring rain at that point, so I got out of the car, and took her out of the car seat and held her; swaying, bouncing, and jiggling, trying to soothe her. It sort of worked, eventually- the screaming dulled to a persistent whimper. By now, it was 0850, and I was starting to wonder what was taking so long. I could see Mark through the windows, walking down the hallway, and figured he was headed outside, so I strapped Penelope back into her carseat so we could leave as soon as he got to the car. That persistent whimper immediately turned into wailing. But, no big deal, she would fall asleep as soon as we got driving, which would be any moment now, since I assumed Mark was on his way outside. You have probably already guessed, but, no, he was not on his way outside. Once this became apparent to me, I texted him to find out what was going on. He replied with, “I have no idea. It’s crazy.”
Ugh. Penelope was really flipping out by then, so I got out of the car and into the driver’s seat and began driving in circles around the stadium parking lot. It worked like a charm- she stopped crying immediately and fell asleep. Clearly I should have been doing that for the previous twenty minutes. It’s now 0910. We need to leave soon to make it to the hospital on time. Mark finally emerges from the building, and I hop out so he can take over behind the wheel. We are finally on our way, but I am feeling unsettled by how chaotic the scene was at the camp drop-off. Now, in addition to my worries about Penelope, I was worrying about how Charlotte would fare that morning.
The drive to the hospital was uneventful, and we found parking and headed inside. We met my dad, who had come into the city to see Penelope through her surgery, and we headed up to the 7th floor to register. From here on out, things went smoothly. There were no issues with registration, and once that was settled, we went down to the IGT (Image Guided Therapy) department, where the procedure would take place. Penelope was starting to get fussy again at this point- she was hungry and tired, and she let us know it. The stroller became a vessel for pushing our belongings, as Penelope remained in my arms until the nurse came to take her away.
We were told the surgery would take about an hour, and it was recommended that we go have some lunch. I managed to eat a panini and a smoothie, without really tasting it- I just couldn’t concentrate on food until I knew Penelope was okay. Over this lunch break, I got word from Mark’s stepmom, Pam, aka Nana, that Charlotte had a wonderful morning at camp, playing with all her new friends. I felt so relieved at that- it was tough worrying about both girls, who were in different places and for different reasons. There was one stressor crossed off the list.
After we had eaten, we headed back to the OR waiting room to hear about Penelope. About ten minutes after we got back there, the surgeon appeared, and summoned us into a little room. He told us that everything had gone well- the G-tube was in place, and the team in recovery was waking her up. Once she was awake, we would be able to see her.
It took around another half hour or so before we were told they were ready for us to see her in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit). We were led through some hallways and doors, and then brought to her bedside. My sweet angel was okay. She was very drowsy, laying in a crib. She had an IV in her hand and a new NG tube that would serve as drainage for the next 24 hours. As we came to her, she starting crying and whimpering. I could tell she was in some pain. The nurse gave her another dose of morphine, and the crying stopped. That would be the last dose of morphine she would need. She drifted in and out of consciousness for the next hour. I stayed by her side, holding her little hand. I knew the next few days would be difficult, but I was so relieved that surgery was over and that she was doing well.
You can read part two of this story here– this is turning into too long of an entry to put it all in one post. Thank you to everyone for all the support we have received through this tough time. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again- we are so lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.