After JR's parents and Vicki left, JR and I spent some time with Athan. We didn't know when we'd be able to hold him. We didn't know when he'd be able to eat. We didn't know when we'd be able to take him home and our family would be whole, like it was supposed to be. Around 7 pm we went to our "sleep room" which was literally a room that someone could do nothing but sleep in. It had a tiny couch with a pull-out bed in it, that when pulled out left maybe 6 or 8 inches between the "bed" and the wall. There were two little bedside tables next to the couch that again, left hardly any room between them and the walls. It was tiny and it was cramped, but it meant we were only one floor away from Athan. We could go see him anytime without having to feel guilty about leaving the hospital altogether. And, it did have a bathroom with a shower. Actually the bathroom may have been bigger than the room, but it didn't matter. We were close to our little man.
We decided it'd be a good idea to take a little nap- try to get at least a little bit of sleep- and then return to Athan's room. We set our alarm for an hour later, but the next thing we knew it was after midnight... we were so exhausted!
So, we made our way to Athan's room in the wee hours of the morning. He'd been out of surgery for probably 8-10 hours. We thought seeing him right after surgery was hard, but seeing him only a few hours later was even harder. He'd started to retain fluid all over his body- he was so incredibly swollen. And his little feet, now swollen and puffy, were dark blue- almost black because he still wasn't getting all the oxygen he needed. He was still sedated, so he just laid there, his little chest still rising and falling in time with the ventilator. I'm pretty sure we just sat there for a couple of hours crying. It hurt so bad to see our little man like that.
The next day the sedation medication had worn off some. He would cry, but it was a silent cry because some of the tubes that were inserted through his throat went through his vocal cords. It was so hard to watch him lying there, knowing he was crying but having no sound come out. We longed to hear his newborn cry. After he was removed from the ventilator his cry was raspy and harsh. His little vocal cords were so irritated that the sound came out barky almost- it's a sound that's hard to describe and one that we're not looking forward to hearing with little Jillian.
By Friday afternoon (surgery was on Wednesday) Athan was ready to be moved from the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) to the NICU. By this time we had Oli in Aurora with us and we were staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Let me say, that place is AMAZING! They do anything and everything they can to make the stay for families of kids in the hospital as easy as possible. Obviously it's hard and it's something I'd wish upon no one, but having a place our whole family could stay and 5 minutes from the hospital was a huge comfort for us. Plus, Oli loved their HUGE playroom and playground ;)
Okay, back on track... Friday afternoon Athan was moved to the NICU- this was a big moved to make, especially 2 days after surgery, but he thrived. He was moved from the little "plastic bin" bed, to an actual crib. He was still on oxygen, but his drainage tube had been removed. The swelling had gone down and his color was looking much, much better. Even his cry was becoming more of a normal, newborn cry.
We spent the weekend taking shifts- one of us going to see Athan and one of us staying with Oli. We'd take turns taking naps with Oli and made sure we at least had dinner all together as a family. Oli was allowed to visit Athan, but he wasn't quite sure what to think... I think he expected him to play and run with him right away, not just lie in a bed.
Monday morning we were told Athan might be able to go home by Tuesday- just six days after surgery. Our little man was a fighter. But, by Monday afternoon, they surprised us and said we could take him home in just a few short hours! He was still on oxygen but about an hour and a half before we left, they took him off of it and watched his oxygen saturation's. They decided it wouldn't be necessary for him to go home with oxygen, which was a huge relief for us. Finally at 3 or 4 that afternoon, we packed our whole family up and headed home. At just over 5 and a half pounds, Athan looked so, SO tiny in his car seat. Oli spent the first part of the car ride trying to talk and play with Athan, but when he didn't answer Oli got bored and decided to sleep instead.
When we finally got home, we put Athan on the floor so Oli could see him. And as a welcome home gift to his little brother, Oli... kicked Athan in the head. True story... you can't win them all, I guess.
So, you may be asking yourself, "What is the point of this looong story?" Well, I couldn't just say, "Athan had surgery. It was hard to see him that way. We were there 5 days post surgery and we went home. He's doing good. The End." How boring would that be?
No, really the point is this: I look at Athan now and no one would ever know he'd had such a rough start. He's a little smaller than many kids his age, but believe me, he makes a BIG presence for himself, where ever he is. He's fearless (which scares the heck out of me!), he's ornery. He fights with his brother. He thinks he's tough and has the most amazing sense of humor- even for only being 2 years old. He loves Oli and to see the bond they're starting to have is amazing. Together they have the craziest, most vivid imaginations. When I look at him and I think of Jilly, I can't help but be hopeful for her. I know their defects are very, very different. I know she faces several, complicated surgeries where Athan only had one, "minor" surgery, but still I feel hopeful.
I like to think that 6 months or so from now our whole family will be home together. I know that having a (then) 4 year old a 2 1/2 year old and a newborn freshly released from surgery that life will be nothing short of crazy. I mean, really, it's already crazy with just the two of them! But, I can't wait. I can't wait to see how the three of them bond. I can't wait to see how they interact and how they love eachother. After all of this, a few years down the road, I may even welcome a fight between the three of them (although, it will be quickly broken up... because really, picking on a little sister? is just not cool! hahaha, only joking, my big brothers!)
I don't think, however, that we will put her on the floor first thing when we get home... I don't think she'd appreciate being kicked in the head after all she will have already gone through...
Throughout all of this, I'm so thankful for my little boys. They are our inspiration and they give us hope. They are amazing little boys and we're so lucky to have them :)