Unexpected Words: Our Family’s Story~Chapter 16

We felt tethered to the  phone in the PICU waiting room that day.  Our parents came and spent the day with us. They periodically cajoled us into taking a walk or going to the atrium for coffee.  Our forays into other areas of the hospital were brief; we didn’t want to miss a call from the surgical team!  The clock moved at an excruciatingly sluggish pace. Finally, the first call came, and the nurse told  us that all was going according to plan;  the doctors were working with Annie’s fragile blood vessels under their microscope. Two hours later, the phone rang again, and the nurse reassured us that Annie was stable and tolerating the anesthesia well.
Katy and David brought Bill to play for a while. His two year-old busy energy was a welcome distraction as we played with toys and read stories.  He entertained ( amazed!) us by performing a rendition of a Winnie the Pooh story he had memorized, acting out each part with great expression, providing a long-winded  narrative of the plot.  His intense expressions of surprise and delight  mesmerized us, and provided unanticipated comic relief on this ponderous day.
Two more hours passed, and we learned that the doctors had determined that Annie could continue;  the team was working on other side of her head. As the day wore on, my nerves began to fray. It was taking too long! What if she can’t recover? Is she going to have another stroke during the surgery? What if this doesn’t work? The worries flooded my mind as panic took up residence in my gut. Tom’s mother, Barbara, regarded me and said, in her ever-practical way, “Well, I just think this is going to be fine. The doctors know so much now, and they can solve this.” Comforted, I took a deep breath and sat between my mom and Barbara.

The sunlight faded, and the PICU waiting room took on its evening tone. People seemed to walk and talk more quietly in the evening, and many visitors went home. There was a hollowness to it, and I longed for more information about my daughter. I glanced at the clock, calculating; it had been more than 10 hours.  

Dr. Cohen appeared in the hallway, his long legs striding confidently toward us. We all stood expectantly. “She did great,” he told us. “Let’s sit.” He told us that she was in recovery and would be coming to the PICU shortly. “She tolerated the anesthesia and we were able to do both sides. And before we closed on the left side, we could already see the scalp arteries sprouting some new vessels. That’s good!” he enthused. “Now, I’ve gotta go to the bathroom!” We laughed with him and he told us we could see Annie when she was settled into the PICU.  

We waited expectantly, craning our necks to see if Annie was coming. Soon, the doors opened and we saw her tiny head, wrapped in gauze. Her bear had been placed back in her arms, and our note and verse were firmly taped to her gown. And…she was crying. Tom and I looked at each other, huge grins on our faces, “She’s CRYING!” we rejoiced, knowing that this meant she could breathe on her own. Dr. Bass appeared and followed Annie into the PICU. She emerged shortly and smiled, “VERY nice! You can go in and see your daughter now.”  

Tom and I rushed in and stood by Annie’s bed, feeling like we had cleared a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. The nurse encouraged us to get some dinner, as Annie would be asleep for quite a while. Now late in the evening, we realized we were hungry! While we sat in the atrium, we marvelled at the day’s events. Suddenly, Dr. Cohen appeared, pulled up a chair and dropped a tray of food on the table. “Hey, so what do you guys think? Pretty great day, huh? Any questions for me? Really, the surgery went great!” We couldn’t believe it. This man had been on his feet all day, working to save our daughter’s brain, and yet here he was, at 9 pm, having a hamburger with us and chatting like an old friend. Thank you, God.  

We spent a couple of very long days (and nights!) in the PICU as Annie dealt with post-operative pain. By Friday, Dr. Cohen felt she was stable enough  

A post-surgery smile!


 to be moved to the floor. Although we were again thankful for the intricate care we received, we were overjoyed to move toward wellness. Annie’s swelling was going down, and she was almost able to open both eyes. She was regaining strength, and she had even smiled! We were excited about the weekend…Easter was coming, and our family would assemble to celebrate.  


It was a very good Good Friday.  


4 thoughts on “Unexpected Words: Our Family’s Story~Chapter 16

  1. Hello Katie,
    I have yet to make it through a chapter of your blog without crying, you are such a wonderful writer! Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    p.s. I LOVE this photo…adorable!

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