Before I knew it, we were in the car driving to the hospital. I made all the traffic lights, cars didn’t get in my way, and I even made the comment that the rest of the day was going to go just as smoothly. I was ready to kill Leonardo once and for all.
We arrived and were put in a room where we met with the surgery staff, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgeons. Jokes were told. “What’s the difference between broccoli and a booger? You can get kids to eat boogers.” We laughed nervously.
Parker grew more and more quiet as surgery approached. Family members filtered in and out of the room, telling him, “You got this, Parker”.
After some hugs, kisses, reassurances and many I love you’s, they rolled Parker away.
“We need to walk before I can’t.” – I said. I checked in at the waiting area and because we had such a large group, they directed us to another floor’s waiting room. And we waited. And waited.
Some family members wandered off to get food, always offering to bring me back something to eat, but I couldn’t eat. My mind was on Parker. Are they cutting him right now? Are they able to get all of the tumor out? Is he okay? I wonder if he’ll get sick from the anesthesia like last time.
My cousin came up with her daughter and son, and I was able to play with them. They were a great distraction. She left, but her sister came shortly after with her two boys and I was distracted again. Teasing and chasing the little kids. Their giggles were music to my ears. I never stopped thinking of Parker though. Soon the boys were gone, but my parents, grandparents and aunt stayed with me.
We waited some more.
The 5 hours that they told me it would be went by. We waited some more. 6 hours…they told us we needed to go to the after hours waiting area. 7 hours…I start to really get nervous. 7 ½ hours….I get a call that I’ll never forget.
“Is this Parker’s mom?”
“They are taking Parker to the PICU. We would like you to take elevator F to……”
“Wait. PICU?” – (Hold the phone away) - “MOM!” – (Put the phone back to my ear) - “PICU is intensive care right?”
We head to the elevator.
“I cannot give you that information over the phone.” - And we hang up.
The elevator arrives at the floor, opens, and my phone rings again.
“Yes?” – Tears streaming down my face.
“We need you to go back where you were. The surgeon will be out to talk to you soon.”
“WHAT?! What do you mean? Is everything ok? Oh, God!”
“The surgeon will be out to talk to you soon.” – And we hang up again.
My head is spinning and my thoughts scream, “OH GOD. OH GOD. HE DIDN’T MAKE IT. HE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT UP TO INTENSIVE CARE. OH GOD. THIS CAN’T BE. PLEASE NO. PLEASE. PLEASE. I CAN’T GO ON WITHOUT HIM. OH GOD. Just breathe. Kristin…it’s okay…he’s fine. He’s fine. He’s okay. He’s strong. He’s got this. OH GOD.”
I thought I lost him. I thought the worst. They were going to take him to intensive care, but he didn't even make it up there.
We go back down to the waiting area we were in before, but we don’t sit down. We wait. And wait. My family keeps assuring me that it’ll be okay, but the wait is torture.
I see a phone on the wall and dial the number on the plaque.
“This is Parker’s mom.” - I manage to choke out. “Am I where I need to be? Is this the right spot?”
“Yes. I believe so.”
“Ok.” – I hang up the phone. And wait.
I ask my family members, “Why aren’t they coming? What’s taking so long?” I hear muffled cries behind me as I stand facing the double doors, but nobody answers. I stand, waiting for someone, anyone. Desperate for somebody to come talk to me, yet dreading the news they might tell me.
I see Dr. Miller, casually walking towards me.
“Parker is doing well. The surgery went well.” He looks at me confused, not knowing about the calls I had just received.
“But he’s going to the PICU?” – my voice cracks.
“It’s ok. Let’s go sit down.”
He tells me that the surgery took longer than expected. They were not getting pulses in Parker’s foot. There was a blood clot and the vascular team was called in. One vein was sacrificed, but they were able to remove the clot and save the other major vein. They wanted him in Intensive Care so he could be monitored more closely, especially after such a long surgery. But they removed the tumor and were able to save his knee. It was a success. I could breathe.
We were taken to PICU family lounge to wait for Parker. I went in the bathroom and dry heaved. There was nothing in my stomach to throw up, but I was a mess.
As we were waiting, our favorite nurse, Kelsey, came down to see what was going on. She received word that Parker was being transferred to the PICU. She immediately hugged my mom and me and let us know that she was thinking about us. (Now that’s going the extra mile, or as we tease, “The Disney Way.”)
I settled down a bit. And then I saw him roll by the door, monitors, oxygen mask and all. My eyes filled with tears, and we waited, yet again. They called us back after they got him into a new bed and situated. I went to his side. He was breathing. He wasn’t awake, but he was breathing. Tears streamed down my face. As the rest of the family came back, I wiped away the tears. They rubbed Parker’s arm and told him they loved him even though he wasn’t awake yet. My grandma had to walk out. Seeing him like that was too hard on her and she broke down in the hallway. I went out and hugged her and told her it was all okay now. I told her I loved her and headed back to the room.
After standing there looking at him for what seemed to be an eternity I sat down, still staring at him, waiting for him to wake up. They came and got x-rays, and I saw him open his eyes and look out at me. He was asleep by the time I got back in the room. I pulled a chair up to his bed and sat there. Waiting. When he woke up, he reached for my hand. He didn’t say a word. He slept the rest of the night. I drifted in and out of sleep in the chair next to his bed.
To Parker, the day lasted a few hours and he slept through the rest. To me it was an eternity. Leonardo died that day, not my son. And I couldn’t be more thankful.
A note on Dr. Miller.
Dr. Miller has a reputation of being a skilled and talented surgeon. He’s confident. He doesn’t rush when he’s meeting with you. He’s patient. He waits for you to process the information given to you and allows you the time to think of questions. He explains things incredibly well and is extremely knowledgeable and well spoken. But Dr. Miller also has another gift. I went from being a belligerent mess to relatively composed in a matter of minutes, all because of his tranquil nature. He is calm and collected. He is able to assess a situation and proceed with amazing technique. Not only did he calm me down, he reassured my entire family who sat in a circle around us, staring at him, begging him for answers with their eyes. He not only asked me if I had questions, but he asked everybody with me and answered every question in great detail. And he didn’t leave until he knew we were all okay.