Because it was so early, and the night before so long (Annika started kicking like a Rockette every few hours to see if maybe she could shake off the sedation), I had not yet had a shower. But Jörg had at least brought me a large coffee, bless his caffeine-bearing heart. After abandoning the parade at the doors of the OR, I ran back to the room to retrieve the cup left behind. Her room, emptied of her bed and the various I.V. pumps, looked so spacious and open. But the ventilator was still there and soldiering on, puffing its breaths without benefit of lungs to receive them. It was a bit sad, all that useless breathing.
Jörg and I sat in the surgical waiting room together, watching the clock and catching bits of cell-phone conversations. One tall woman wearing the kind of corduroy skirt that only looks good on the blessedly svelte, was making lots of calls and repeating the same information over and over, losing none of the stunned tone of disbelief with each repetition. Knowing the hospital as well as we do, it was clear that her daughter was going up to short stay after her surgery, which meant she might even go home this evening. Funny to realize how far we have come, when the prospect of weeks of intubation and an open abdomen doesn't even elicit that tone of shock in our voices anymore. When the tall woman called her own home, she followed up her usual recitation of the medical facts with a barrage of questions of her own. "How are the twins?" she asked. She nodded her head eagerly as she listened to the reply. "What time did they get up this morning?" A few seconds later she repeated more insistly, "But what time did they get up this morning?" I knew what she meant. Not knowing such basic facts as the time your own children awake in the morning is a strange feeling, made even stranger when the surgical waiting room of a children's hospital is an alien environment.
We were practically in home territory, though, and less worried than we'd been many other times in that room. My old rocker had been moved into the waiting room, and I settled into its familiar seat. It was the rocker that was brought into Annika's hospital room before her transplants, and we spent many hours in that chair together. I gave a silent thought for Lauren, the little girl commemorated on the plaque adorning the chair, whose loved ones hope we remember to cherish each moment of life.
Barely an hour later, Annika was back out again. The sutures in her bowel had held together, and the infection was showing improvement. Altogether, nothing but good news. Still, the surgeon told us that the earliest she will be extubated is sometime next week, assuming she continues to improve at the current rate. And he estimates it will take about 2-3 weeks for her abdomen to be closed. So patience is the name of the game around here.
The return parade was even more jovial. I suppose there was relief that Annika, with her abdomen so often hiding unexpected (and frequently unpleasant) surprises, was showing nothing but improvement.
After finally getting a shower and lunch, I headed to the hospital lobby for a coffee. Rounding the corner I saw that the hospital had set up Santa Claus, complete with a red throne and elves. He was surrounded by wiggly children, all murmuring, "Santa!" and eyeing the presents he was handing out to each child. They were all so excited and happy, and (wouldn't you know it?) I started to cry. I can pretend that Christmas will happen in February this year, but the rest of the world is carrying on with the usual calendar.
As I entered our PICU room again, my emotions back in check, Jörg stood up and announced he was going downstairs to get some hot chocolate from the cafe.
"OK, but there's a Santa down there," I warned him.
He looked at me quizzically, clearing not understanding what I meant.
A little embarrassed, I explained, "He made me cry."
"Santa made you cry?"
I nodded, beginning to realize that perhaps my warning was a bit unnecessary for someone not awash in PMS hormones.
Jörg cocked his head and gave me a concerned look, "Do I need to beat him up?"