Monday. Lymph node biopsy day. April, 29, 2013. We were told on Sunday that Mac was the first patient of the day so to have him bathed no later than 5:30 a.m. I remember thanking God for this early appointment because I did not know if I could handle the anxiety of having to wait. Well, evidently God has more faith in me than I do. Mac did not go into surgery until close to 10 a.m. I was literally shaking with fury when our morning nurse came in. I introduced myself and preemptively apologized for how I was going to come across: rude, impatient, not understanding. Maybe even a little coo-coo. “Why have they not come to get him? Why did we have to wake him up to give him a bath to sit in the prison of a room for four hours if they were not ready for him?” We all know hospitals have their own schedules but don’t they know they are dealing with our son? I never knew the spot between the corner of my eye and the bridge of my nose had a pulse until that day–my body was physically responding to what I had been emotionally feeling for just a little over 24 hours. “Mrs. Howard, transport is waiting outside to take Mac as soon as I take his vitals.” Ashamed. <Thank you, God, for an understanding nurse who probably deals with LifeTime actresses like me all day>
The walk from our prison, I mean, our room to the operating holding area seemed to be 10 miles long. It was so quiet. So vacant. So, so surreal. This would be the first of many times we would have to hand over our son to a complete stranger and trust them with his life. At this moment, Dr. Elizabeth Beierle came in, talked to us briefly and asked if she could carry Mac. Somehow, this comforted me. At least we had met her previously at our initial consult and I did not feel like I was just handing Mac over to someone who only knew his name because of his chart. Tears. The big kind. There he goes between the double doors.
I wonder if those doors realized how much weight they had on them. Afterall, on the other side of those doors was our fate.
Mac’s lymph node biopsy went well. They removed 1 1/2 lymph nodes–they would do an initial screening, which would have results within 24 hours and then a more in-depth screening, which could take 3-5 days. He looked so tiny and seemingly peaceful when they rolled him out to us on that huge gurney. Poor kid. We took him back to the room where he slept, slept, and slept. We never let him out of our arms. Various doctors from various teams were coming in and out. I honestly cannot tell you who they were or what they said. All I know is my physical shell was in that room, my mind was not.
In the early evening, Mac became very fussy. His neck was swollen to the point that he no longer had any distinction between his neck and jaw line. They would give him acetaminophen and Motrin for the pain but it did not seem to work. I don’t know about you, but if someone sliced my neck open I would want something a little stronger than Tylenol or Advil but hey, that’s just me. UAB was remodeling Dearth Tower so we were only one in a hand full of patients on this floor. We tried walking Mac in the wagon but the walks were short and not very inspiring to the mind or soul. We asked our nurse if we could take him to the new portion of the hospital where there was more room to walk around. We were permitted to do so but were instructed to check back in at the nursing station every 15 minutes. The attempt for a long walk proved fruitless. Mac was so tired but every time we would have to get in the elevator the stopping of motion would cause him to wake. It was a vicious cycle that kept him up all night and into the early hours of the morning. Finally our baby boy fell asleep at 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. At 5:40 a.m., Team Dracula (phlebotomists) arrived to take more blood. “You have got to be freakin’ kidding me.” At this point we had been up for 24hours.