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?

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