Monday, April 9, 2012

Too much surgery

I wrote this blog while I was in the waiting room at the hospital this morning.

Veronica is having surgery to repair her right eardrum this morning. I’m sitting in the waiting area by myself trying to sneak half of a ham on rye. I’m not supposed to eat in the waiting area, but I’m scared they will need to find me and I won’t be here. But I also know I need to eat a little something so I can take care of Veronica for the rest of the day.

I never eat before my children have surgery. I feel like if they can’t eat or drink anything, then I shouldn’t either. I do make an exception for a cup of coffee since I know that I will get a killer migraine if I forgo caffeine preventing me from taking care of my children post-op.

It's nice to see her happy
It should be no surprise that Veronica has serious anxiety about having surgery—even a small procedure like the one she is having now. I’ve lost count of the number of surgeries she has had. If I had to guess, I would say about 12 or 13? And the old saying “practice makes perfect” doesn’t seem to apply to surgery—they get harder and harder for her every time.

We arrived at the hospital this morning and did the usual check in and they showed us to our room. The nurse came in to check Veronica’s vitals and go over paperwork and medical history. While I was telling the nurse that Veronica was not on heart medication and that she didn’t have a history of high blood pressure, I noticed my little girl had her head in her hands and she was crying.

“Veronica, what’s the matter?” I asked. She looked up at me and said, “You’re gonna kill me!” The nurse looked at me strangely. “What are you talking about?” I began to panic. I thought Veronica said, “They are gonna kill me.” I thought she was freaking out about the surgery. I thought, “Oh boy, they’re going to have to call psych down here for a consult.”

She took a deep breath and said, “You’re gonna kill me. I put drops in my ears so that I wouldn’t have to have surgery this morning.” Then she covered her face again and started crying.

The nurse didn’t understand what Veronica said. But I did. I could feel my face getting red. I was furious. “Veronica, stop talking and don’t say another word.”

The nurse began to look worried, “Is everything okay?” he asked. “Yes, it’s fine,” I said. “She just has really bad anxiety about having surgery.” The nurse said he understood, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was concerned Veronica was going to make his morning rough.

“Do you think we could get her something for the anxiety?” I asked. He left the room and said he would see what he could find.

I was so mad at Veronica that I didn’t know what to say. I was scared that I would say the wrong thing. Actually, I knew I would say the wrong thing. She was scared and about to have surgery, but what she had done was so unbelievable that I couldn’t let it slide as “typical kid stuff.”

“What were you thinking?” I asked.

She wiped away her tears. “I don’t know. I just thought if my eardrum was wet then they would have to do the surgery a few days from now instead of this morning.”

“Well, luckily the drops you used won’t affect your eardrum,” I said. “And you have no idea how much having surgery affects us all. I’ve spent several days filling out paperwork, prepaying surgery fees, and arranging my schedule. Not to mention that Robby has put everything on hold this week to help me take care of you. Do you ever think of anyone else besides yourself?” I could feel the anger boiling up. “I just can’t believe you would pull this shit on me! What were you thinking?”

And there it was—the question with the obvious answer—what were you thinking? And the answer is “I don’t know.” And for me, it’s an acceptable answer.

I can’t imagine what is going on inside her head. I don’t know what it is like for her. I know what it is like for me—I’m desperately trying to help her and she is freaking out and trying to sabotage the surgery. She did something similar before her last surgery in August when she broke her knee.

One the way to the hospital for her knee surgery, she started screaming at the top of her lungs while she was sitting in the back of the van. We were about 5 minutes away, and she hatched the plan to make herself so upset she would give herself a scratchy throat and fever so that they would have to cancel the surgery.

I thought I was going to lose my shit hardcore in the parking lot of the hospital. I was by myself and dragging this little girl out of my van and trying to force her into her wheelchair. She was hitting me and screaming, “Don’t do this to me! Please, Mommy, take me home! I don’t want surgery! If you do this to me, then I will hate you forever!”

I’m ashamed to say that it took everything inside me to not slap her in the face in an attempt to settle her down. I broke down and said, “Veronica, I will give you anything you want if you will please stop screaming and just let them do this surgery. If you don’t have it then you will never be able to walk again.”

She immediately stopped crying and said, “I’ll take 100 bucks.” I felt completely manipulated. “I’m not giving you 100 bucks,” I said. “Then I’m not doing the surgery,” she stated. “What about a video game?” I asked. I couldn’t believe these words were coming out of my mouth. I had never thought I would bribe my children. “I want the SIMs game,” she said. “Fine, I’ll call your aunt and have her get it and you can have it when we get home.”

The bribery worked for a bit and she stopped screaming long enough for the nurse to check us in and take her vitals. She did manage to give herself a fever, but it wasn’t high enough to cancel the surgery.

So, here I am again. Trying to figure out what to do about those damn eardrops. My first response was to be mad. Once I got over being mad, I began to question myself. “I should have realized she was anxious about the surgery and listened to her better when she started getting upset last night about the surgery,” I thought to myself. I just told her that it was a simple surgery and that everything would be just fine. She even told me that she was fine with the surgery.

This is the procedure she had done...
repair hole in eardrum (let's hope it worked)
My main focus right now is making sure she recovers without infection and that this surgery works. We had this exact same surgery a few years ago and it didn’t work. I don’t want a repeat of that. I also can’t even force myself to be mad at her right now. I understand that she is scared. And no matter what, she is my little girl and it is my job to protect her from bad things. On some level, I feel like I have failed her.

But does that mean I just ignore the bigger picture here? It’s not the eardrops—it’s the manipulation. Sure she’s just a scared child who made a dumb decision, but is there more that I don’t see here? I overlooked so many obvious problems in my marriage and I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to always be that person that people say, “How did you not know there was something seriously wrong?”

When do you stop beating yourself up and making excuses for a child’s behavior? When do you accept that there is a more serious problem lurking in the shadows? What do you do if you are overreacting? What if it is already too late?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just go with it

I started my second internship last week. Truth be told, I had a love/hate relationship with my last internship. It was a great opportunity to be a part of the Savannah Book Festival as their social media intern and it was amazing experience to put on my resume, but it was a lonely and frustrating assignment.

I spent my 100 hours of the internship at home on my computer on Facebook and Twitter communicating with people who could basically care less that I existed. While I did make a few connections with some of the authors, for the most part, I was just a cyber-stalker working for free. Eventually the job would end and only a few people would ever recognize my face if they saw me walking down the sidewalk on Broughton Street.

But this new internship has already changed something inside me—and in a good way. I was able to land an editorial/writing position at Savannah Magazine. My first day was very surreal. Savannah Magazine was my first glimpse into Savannah when I moved here 8 years ago. So to be sitting at my own desk in their office and writing stories that will appear on their pages is dreamlike to say the least.

What’s ironic is that this internship was last on my list—a former intern had told me I wouldn't get a chance to write very much for the magazine and I thought I wanted a public relations internship. But after months of sending out failed requests to work for people for free, I began to realize that I better change my attitude about a journalism internship. For whatever reason, I was meant to take this offer.

My background is in journalism. My last year as an undergrad was spent in the basement of our student center in the newsroom. I would have lived there if they would have let me. I loved going out and finding stories and talking to people. I knew I had to do it for the rest of my life.

But when I married my ex-husband the week after I graduated, I didn’t get my chance to be a reporter again for almost 2 years. The Army makes it tough for a spouse to hold a job—no one wants to hire you because they know you will move and it’s hard to become passionate about a job that you know you will have to leave. I was a substitute teacher for those 2 years—not much a story there.

We moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and I was able to get on as a copy editor and then move on to reporter. That was the last time I worked in journalism and I left with a very bitter taste in my mouth. I swore I my days as girl reporter were over.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized why I became so frustrated with working in the world of journalism. First of all, it’s easy to get burned out when you are surrounded by stories of people dying, people committing crimes, and children being abuse. But most importantly, most of the people I worked with in Fairbanks treated me like garbage.

I was the newbie and I was about 10 to 15 years younger than most of them. It took me over a year before they accepted me into their circle. But about 6 months later, the Army came calling and I had to pack my bags and say goodbye.

Sometimes I feel like I forced myself to believe that I hated being a reporter because I knew deep down that I could never make a career at it with the Army moving me around everywhere. My ex never really liked for me to work and he didn’t seem the least bit interested in my choice of career. It was easy to turn my back on that life.

This past week at the magazine has awakened something inside me that has been hibernating for the past 11 years. Savannah Magazine is housed in a large building that also holds The Savannah Morning News and several television news stations. It’s the hub of news for Savannah (although my friends at South magazine would disagree) and you can feel it the minute you walk through the double glass doors.

Everyone at the magazine has been more than welcoming to me. I already feel like I’m part of their established group. I actually feel like they are nice to me because I fit in and not that they feel sorry for me because I’m a 37-year-old grad student.  There is this instant feeling of mutual respect that I am humbled by.

I also realized something about myself this past week. I am meant to be a reporter. For some reason, it is natural to me. While my style is still too newsy for the magazine world, I can already feel a natural progression into this job. I like the fact that magazine writing is not news heavy like newspaper writing—I think constantly reading hard news stories was a big part of my total burnout. And I know it’s something I could do for the rest of my life because it the first job I’ve had in a long time where I don’t find myself wishing I were at home with my children. I’m glad I got this second chance.