Max's Surgery

10:57 AM Marcie Parson 0 Comments

Max was born with a cephalohematoma, basically a pocket of blood between the layers of his skull. We were told it would go away, but instead it ossified (turned into bone), and left a huge bump on his head. It's super rare for him to be born with one without a traumatic birth, and it's even more rare that it didn't go away. However, it was never life threatening or dangerous to him.

When we moved to Colorado, we asked his new pediatrician what she thought about it. She checked with a neurosurgeon for us, who told us again that they usually go away, but that we'd keep watching it for another year. In three months when we went in for another well check, the pediatrician told us she had happened to meet with a different pediatric neurosurgeon and asked about Max's head. This neurosurgeon told her that it would not go away, and it would need to be surgically removed. She told us she trusted her and gave us her card to just meet with her and find out what our options would be.

We set up an appointment to do just that: find out what our options would be. In my mind, I wanted to know what would happen if in a few years it was the same size and we decided he might want it gone. I didn't want him to be self-conscious about it as a kid or teenager. While most people don't notice it and think that his bump is actually just a lot of fluffy hair, it's actually quite noticeable, and when his hair is wet or short, you can tell just how large it really is. I was also worried about helmets fitting properly when he started riding a bike or wanting to play sports. In my mind, this was something we'd have to deal with when he got older.

We met with the neurosurgeon (Dr. Osterdock) and she told us right away that this thing wasn't going anywhere. She'd seen it before and operated on it before. Here came the kicker: if we wanted it gone, we shouldn't wait ANY longer. It would need to be done soon because the longer you wait, the harder the bone becomes and more difficult the surgery is. In fact, she'd usually operate at 6-8 months, and here he was, 18 months. It was a low-risk, surface level surgery. So she put us on the schedule for two weeks later. Just like that.

I was overwhelmed. And terrified. Having his surgery at this age was so unexpected! I was planning to have YEARS to warm up to the idea, but the fact was it had to be done soon! We scheduled it, but I was still very much on the fence, planning to cancel if after a few days I didn't feel good about it.

It came down to this: would he grow up and wish we had gotten rid of it when we could have? Of course he would. No child wants to have a golf-ball-sized bump on his head, and certainly no teenager. Even if he was an uncharacteristically confident kid, even if he kept his hair long his whole life, he would notice it. He'd go swimming. His sports team would get buzz cuts for playoffs. He'd want a trendy haircut. His helmet would fit funny. He'd want it gone.

I was a wreck. Putting my child through surgery on his SKULL for cosmetic reasons? Was I crazy? What kind of parent does that? That's where my guilt stemmed from. The fact that it wasn't medically necessary. If he had needed life-saving surgery, there would be no hesitation. At all. But I felt so sick about causing my sweet baby fear and pain over something he didn't understand and didn't even need.

The surgery was rescheduled one week later because of Max's cold, which ended up being a good thing because it gave me a little more time to warm up to the idea and be 100% certain that we should go for it. So I fasted and prayed about it. I didn't want to make the wrong choice and expose my child to some unknown risk. But the answer was peace and I knew it was a good decision. I knew he wouldn't be in danger. It was the first time in my life I remember fasting to receive an answer. And I did. Unmistakably. I felt good about going forward with the surgery.

When I say I "felt good," what I mean is that I cried about it every single time I thought about it, but still knew it was the right choice, and that Max would be grateful for it someday. I still dealt with that guilt up until the surgery. The days before the surgery I was praying hard that it would go well. But I was so emotional that mostly I prayed for strength for me that I could keep it together for Max, and I prayed for him that he would be brave and that everything would go okay.

The morning of the surgery I woke up 100% okay. I was nervous, but not emotional. Not one bit. We packed bags (we were to stay one night in the hospital), and played with Max to distract him from being hungry (he was to be fasting all morning until his surgery at 11 am). Once we got to the hospital (Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children), he was totally distracted by the toys and no longer whiny about being hungry. We checked in, had vitals/history taken by nurses, and played in the playroom for about an hour. We met with the surgeon and anesthesiologist beforehand, and Craig took Max back for anesthesia while I waited in the waiting room.

Craig said that Max did great. I don't know if he just tells me that to make me feel better, but I'm grateful either way. And then we waited. For about an hour and a half. And I felt strong. I didn't have any fear for Max. I knew he was going to be okay. Things had gone so well that morning and I didn't have any reason to be nervous. We watched a TV show and got lunch to keep our minds off of it.

It wasn't until I was expecting the surgery to be over by now that I felt nervous, but more anxious to have it over with and see him already. But the surgeon came and said that everything went well. She said she shaved off about an inch thick of bone! And then we were just waiting for him to come out of anesthesia. That's when I started to go a little crazy. I was so nervous to see that little guy. Would he be hurting? Would he have a tough time coming out of anesthesia? Would he be crying?

After what seemed like FOREVER, a nurse came to take us back to see Max. He was sleeping in a hospital crib on his side, with his incision side up. It was a gnarly incision. About 4-5 inches long, too many stitches to count, oozing. The scary IV under his bandaged hand (I have a thing with needles). I got a little teary-eyed but kept it together. Max woke up maybe 45 minutes later and was so confused. He wanted water and guzzled his whole water bottle. They gave him pain meds and anti-nausea meds through his IV. He still threw up his water because he drank it so fast.

He sat up in his crib with a straight posture and stared at us. He was so dazed and drugged and basically had no emotion. He didn't smile, but he didn't cry either. Just stared. Forever. He started to fall asleep sitting up. It was actually pretty funny. After he proved he could keep fluids in and his incision wasn't bleeding, they took out his IV and we were able to take him home that night!!!

He fell asleep right before we got home (so dazed but fighting sleep), and he fell right back asleep in his bed. He slept for two hours and woke up a little confused and whiny, we gave him some pain meds, but he just wanted to eat, so eat he did! He ate and ate and played for a while and then went right back to bed.

I went to bed exhausted but so grateful for how well everything went today. I braced myself for a long night with him, but he slept all night without a peep. When he woke up, he ran around the house looking for toys and breakfast as if nothing had ever happened to him. I was in shock. He didn't even need the prescribed pain meds. He didn't even notice. He didn't whine, he didn't touch his head, he just was himself. He wasn't in the pain I had felt so guilty about causing him.

Never before have I had such an undeniable answer to prayers. The strength I received was not my own, and I know without a doubt that it came from my Savior. I know Heavenly Father was listening to me and aware of my needs, empathizing with me as I put my only son through pain. If anyone knows what it was like, He does.

The surgery went so well, Max hardly suffered any pain, we were able to come home hours later, the recovery process couldn't have been easier... I couldn't ask for anything more. I feel so blessed that even a week later, I'm still crying over my blessings. I felt and saw answered prayers as if they were tangible. Hearing from friends and family they had prayed and fasted for us on their own... I just can't even express enough gratitude. Because I know their prayers were heard. Again and again Heavenly Father proved that he is listening and beside me every step of the way. God is so good, always.