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Monday, 20 April 2015

Day 1 - Zac's Operation

I'm 36 years old and I've never had an operation. Zac needed one within 36 hours of being born.
We found this out on New Years Eve (24 weeks) at one of our regular scans when they picked up a blockage in his digestive system. This led to them telling us that there was a 40% chance that both twins would have Downs Syndrome.
While this didn't change how we felt about the lads or how the pregnancy would progress it was a massive shock to the system, and despite this meaning there was a 60% chance of the opposite we subconsciously decided to focus on the 'negative' and get our heads around what we thought would be our new future. We spent Dec 31st holding each other in bed while fireworks outside brought in the Happy New Year.
We also felt obscenely guilty for our sadness. So what if they have Downs Syndrome? They'd still be loved and given every opportunity to flourish as they would if they didn't. We chose not to get the full test done at that stage - it wouldn't have changed anything from our end other than peace of mind and it carried the risk of premature labour. But with Zac's blockage came an increase in fluid which needed draining twice, so we opted to get the test done at that point.
I can't remember ever feeling as sickly nervous as the day we went to the Women's Hospital to get the results. My wife lying on the bed with me sat on the chair the consultant was given an envelope containing our future and everything went into slow motion, like we were at the shittest awards ceremony in history. 
Thank god this woman wasn't a fan of the X Factor and didn't try to emulate the boot camp result scenes or else you would've seen me on the news that night.  God bless her, she opened the envelope like a well trained post room assistant in one sweeping motion, slapped the results letter on her knee, scanned it like Predator and barked, 'They're fine.'
Relief burst into the room and throat-punched me as my wife sobbed tears of happiness. The guilt also returned, instantly.  We did a fair bit of research whilst in this limbo period and spoke to some amazing people. The Downs Syndrome Association do fantastic work as do loads of the parents and kids themselves that we spoke to.
So after the birth Ben was taken to Special Care in the Women's Hospital and Zac spent 12 hours there before being transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital for his op.
Thinking back I was very calm about the whole thing, probably my way of dealing with it. Waiting for him to go down to theatre wasn't the wrench that it should have been as I just convinced myself that he'd be okay. I even joked with the surgeon when he told me that you'd barely see the scar and asked him to make it noticeable enough so we could tell him apart from his brother. Most scars seem to look like the letter 'Z' anyway, at least on cartoons.
So he went down for what was to be about a 2 hour operation and I went back to the Women's Hospital to see my wife and other son, feeling pretty fine with everything. That was until I got the call that he was out of surgery and doing okay and then I fell apart quicker than a game of Jenga on a bus.
I don't know where I'd been storing the anxiety and dread but as soon as I knew he'd got through it I felt like whatever stoic dam that had kept my emotions in check just collapsed in like a piece of soggy Weetabix.
Because I was now acutely aware of just how lucky we were. At Alder Hey earlier that day I'd got chatting to a young mother who's twins had arrived at 24 weeks with one of them not making it. The other had been in hospital for 5 months and both parents were staying at the hospital which meant neither had been to work since the premature birth.  There was a strange combination of strength and exhaustion in her eyes and it was mind blowing.
When she asked about Zac's ailments and birth weight (6lb 7) I was almost embarrassed telling her, such small fry it was next to what she and her young family were going through.
I went back to see him that evening, feeling this awful parental sickness in my stomach as I parked the car. These feelings were all new and not enjoyable in the slightest - I was looking forward to watching them at sports day or sticking their first painting to the fridge, not seeing them hooked up to medical machines on day 1 of their lives.
And at times like this, you look for anything to lift your spirits. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the waiting room this time next to a young dad who was with his 3 year old daughter. He was on the phone and asked the young girl, 'Porsche! Do you want to speak to Mercedes?'
This guy had called his kids Porsche and Mercedes. Wow. Then Porsche took the phone and opened the conversation to Mercedes with, 'Hiya, Nan.'
Nan.
Awesome.
I went into Zac's room and watched him sleep for about an hour. He looked pretty good for someone just over a day old who'd already gone under general anaesthetic and been sliced open. The staff (who were all staggeringly helpful) told me that he was on the right track and they'd try to feed him in the morning to see if the op had been a success. I considered signing him up for Tough Mudder but instead gave him a kiss and headed back to my wife and other son.
Is every day being a parent this taxing?
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2 comments:

Carol kelly said...

Great reading Sam

Jules said...

Hey Sam, I manage content for a twin parenting blog, Twiniversity.com. I really like your style and if you ever want to write for us, email me at julie at twiniversity dot com. Cheers!