Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Bummer 2015 edition: Henry's eye surgery

For your sake, dear reader, I recommend skipping my version of events and hear it from Henry himself.
After committing to Henry's eye surgery, I felt an array of emotions. First, I felt relief. This step in improving his vision was one that I believed to be inevitable. After waiting and watching for three years, it was clear to us that time and glasses would not be enough to fix Henry's strabismus. With his glasses off, his left eye would frequently turn inward. On occasion, he'd complain of double vision, but most of the time it didn't seem to bother him. However, even with his glasses on, that same eye would often turn in whenever he was looking at things close up; playing Legos for instance. This was most disconcerting to his doctor. Even with his lack of progress, we hesitated.
(Henry with his eye turned in)

While wearing glasses, Henry's vision was 20/20. He has functioned well in school. It has not inhibited him from learning. For the most part, people were unaware that he had a "traveling eye." It only became {obviously} apparent when his glasses were off. During swimming lessons, for example, his eyes were crossed the majority of the time. Thankfully, Henry has not encountered any teasing, but I worried that it would soon happen.

So, like I previously stated, there was relief. However, as Dr. Richards began to share the risks involved I felt a lump rise in my throat. I began to wonder: Am I pushing a cosmetic issue? What if the surgery hinders him further? What if there's a complication and he suffers vision loss? 

I'm sorry to sound like a cliche blurb from a primary lesson, but I'm thankful to say that this decision was one that we didn't need to make alone. Having made the decision to proceed, it was time to pray to Heavenly Father for that reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

The same day that we committed to the surgery, I took dinner to my friend Megan who recently welcomed a new baby. In addition to her sweet arrival, her family just moved into a new home that's about 15 minutes away from us. It had been a crazy day but I was looking forward to meeting her new baby and thrilled that Andrew would be home early enough from work so I could visit with her sans Flegal children.

The visit was as sweet as I imagined. I was able to snuggle that baby, take a tour of her beautiful new home and hear the story of how baby Eleanor arrived. As we chatted, I likewise caught her up on our happenings; specifically the latest with Henry. Seeming interested, she asks:

"So, who is his doctor?"

"Dr. Bradley Richards." I say. Her eyes lit up. She shares the name of his practice, wondering if we're talking about the same Dr. Richards. I confirm that it's the same. 

"Oh! He's in our bishopric!" Having known Dr. Richards for over three years, I felt like I already had an understanding of his qualifications and his character, but her words still amazed me. It was great timing to hear her praise him. As she spoke about the good man that he is, I felt a peace confirm to me that the Lord was aware of Henry and that He knew of my concerns. Feeling thankful about how I was feeling after our visit, it was clear to me that if I hadn't taken her dinner, as simple as it was, I would not have been in the spot I needed to be to receive that added affirmation that I'd been praying for.

This experience may come across as insignificant, but it was followed by other tender mercy moments that continued to support our choice. The weekend before his big day, I spent Friday night at Snowbird with some friends from high school. Henry's surgery quickly became a joke as I brought it up frequently.

"Hey guys! Did you know, that on Monday, Henry's having eye surgery?" 

 At one point, I felt like a total schmuck as it occurred to me that one of my friends has a son who has had several major surgeries. Her hero son has already proven that he is the epitome of bravery and is younger than Forrest. Surgery, hospitals, medical bills, heavy concern, worry, prayer and all things that relate, are things I'm hardly acquainted with. For my friend, they are extremely familiar. Thinking back, I hope I didn't seem too ignorant or come across as being insensitive as I verbalized my worry about Henry.

I share. I talk. I open up {and hopefully I listen}. Other people are private and hold things close. I respect that and wish in some ways I was more that way myself. The time spent with my friends was so good. We laughed a lot, took ugly selfies, ate treats and stayed up way too late. I'm glad I went. However, when I left the next morning I wondered if I was being over dramatic. But then I decided I wasn't.

I am a Mom. It's my job to worry and pray over my child. If it's a big deal to me, it matters to the Lord. He has the desire and the capacity to care about each of us, no matter the size of our problem or the level of our fear. This experience hopefully taught me empathy but also served as a reminder that it's okay to have a day or experience that feels difficult. We can't utilize these moments to draw near unto God if we don't take the time to acknowledge that we're having such an experience.

Finally, the night before Henry's surgery arrived. We were at my Mom's for dinner. Having family around, we took the opportunity to have Andrew give him a Priesthood blessing. Henry happily obliged our request when we asked him to take a break from playing with cousins to come join us. I was emotional as I watched my dad, husband, brother and brother in law form that circle around my son. As Andrew spoke, the Holy Ghost pierced my heart in a profound and powerful way. I had been expecting to ask Andrew for a blessing following Henry's, as I was feeling the weight of anticipation, but the Spirit that I felt during Henry's blessing made that need disappear. I was filled with comfort, assurance and courage as I listened to the promises shared. I needed that.

Because lately I have felt discouraged. Forgive me as I digress a moment. 

Doubts and criticism about the Mormon faith are rampant. Testimonies soften. After periods of neglect, they disappear. Bad habits creep in. Faith is abandoned. Church members and their practices are mocked. An ugly spirit of divisiveness grows. Gossip and unfair judgement crops up. There is a lot to observe, mean words to absorb. There is hurt on all sides. Double standards, hypocrisy and questions form. Hearts break. Hearts fail.

And then you turn to the Lord. And a moment like what I just described happen. The Spirit of God fills your soul with a beautiful fire. You think your heart may burst. A desire to repent of your shortcomings arises as you realize how significant and real God is.

The blessing concludes and I want to run to Henry and ask if he can feel that same beautiful burning in his heart. Keeping most of my feelings to myself, I promise him in a most deserving, confident manner that all will be well. He will be okay. His surgery will be a success.

Kissing him goodnight, I felt teary. Even though I knew this was the right decision, I felt sad about his forthcoming pain. I had this same surgery twice as a child. I was younger though, closer to Lottie's age. The memory of that recovery is still vivid which made me feel guilty for signing him up for the same procedure; even though, I am thankful everyday that my parent's had my eyes fixed.

Day of Surgery:

It's 3:00 am. Henry comes in to our room upset. His stomach hurts. He's crying as he explains:

"I don't think I ate a big enough dinner last night." It's too late for food now and he knows that. I offer him my spot in bed which he quickly accepts. As he climbs in bed with Andrew, I head downstairs to the couch. Thankfully, we all fell back asleep quickly. In a few quick hours, we'd be on our way.

Driving to the surgical center, we are greeted by a beautiful sunrise, complete with a rainbow. The rainbow was reassuring in so many ways, a real gift, another tender mercy. 
Before leaving our house, I surprise Henry with a new beanie boo; a tiger named Tiggs. Henry is delighted! Their "bond" is instant. ;) With Tiggs by his side, Henry bravely proceeds with his morning. He is pleasant, obedient and brave.
(We thought it was great that Tiggs matched his hospital gown)

As for me, my composure crumbles after we say "goodbye" to him and his anesthesiologist. Andrew and I settle into a quiet corner of the waiting room. It was here that I let myself have a moment to unravel. Andrew is kind enough to endure my public display of {quiet} emotion. Bless him. An hour or so passes before we are called to meet with his surgeon. Dr. Richards is pleased with how the operation went. Again, we talk about what  to expect the next few days/weeks. Knowing we'd be seeing him the following morning for a post-op appointment is comforting.

We are sent back to the waiting room as Henry needs more time in the first recovery room. Gah! Finally we are allowed to see him. Henry seems distressed as I approach his bed. I hear his nurse announce that his Mom is just about there. Henry reaches out for me and asks:
"Where? Where is she?" As I take in the scene, I see that his eyes are closed. There are small spots of blood on his pillow. The nurse explains that his eyes are "goopy." We weren't shocked by this as the doctor had said that Henry had bled more than what's expected (excuse me a moment while I pull myself off of the floor... blood makes me queasy). In fact, he asked if Henry had advil recently or other type of blood thinner. I told him that he hadn't. Because of this, we should expect extra redness.
With eagerness, I reach for his hand, kiss his face and rub his back. I reassure him that I am there. Thankfully, he settles down quickly which makes me feel like I have a special super power. His greatest complaint is his sensitivity to light. Andrew leaves right then to go get his sun glasses that we'd left at home.

By 9:30 a.m., we are allowed to leave. Tenderly, Andrew carries him to car. The rest of his morning is spent resting. After a 'power nap,' he wakes up cheerful and ready to eat. To be honest, the most trying part about our return home was Forrest. He was jealous of the royal treatment Henry was receiving. Finding a pillow of his own, Forrest stole Henry's cup of Sprite, swiped a pair of Henry's sunglasses, laid on the pillow, pulled up a blanket, and played "sick" in an attempt to mimic his brother and shift the attention to himself. It was hilarious but more frustrating as he truly hindered our efforts in making Henry comfortable!
Henry's pain was managed by tylenol and ibprofen. By dinner time, he is playing with a new set of legos.

As for the result of his surgery, it will take six weeks for his eye muscles to really stabilize. However, I feel very encouraged by the difference we already see. They seem so much straighter. When his glasses are off, I expect to see them cross, but they don't. It's happened, but it's rare; especially when comparing it to how he was before. Other than his sensitivity to light and eye redness, Henry is back to normal. He is playing, taking care of our animals, riding four wheelers, etc. I'm glad that the procedure has come and gone. I remain hopeful that it was a successful experience.

At his post-op appointment, I was relieved to see that his vision is still a solid 20/20 with his glasses. The doctor said that from a cosmetic standpoint it was already a huge improvement. I'm so grateful for the good news and smooth recovery that we've had up until this point. 

I love you, Henry. I am so proud of how well behaved and kind you were during this experience. You are such a good boy and I feel so lucky to be your Mom.

Summer Bummer 2013 edition: Eliza has her tonsils out
Summer Bummer 2012 edition: Eliza breaks her arm

1 comment:

Paparazzi Boutique said...

The Richards family is the best! Bradley's father, Winn Richards, is the doctor who did my two eye muscle surgeries when I was little. I was so sad when he retired. So glad you felt the spirit and were comforted with Bradley's abilities. Great doctor, for sure.