We had arrived at the hospital in the early evening, and it was 2:00 in the morning when they were finally ready to take us to MRI. It seems that they called in the staff to perform the procedure especially for us, because it was quiet and deserted in the bowels of the hospital. Luckily for him, Gavin stayed asleep the whole time, and we were allowed to stay with him as the anesthetist sedated him. We left our baby pale and sleeping in their capable hands, knowing that it isn’t uncommon for people to die simply from the general anesthetic.
We found the surgical waiting room, a painful limbo where families gather, wait and cry for their children to come out of surgery. This place would become agonizingly familiar over the next couple of days. At that time of the night there were only a few people there, mostly sleeping. A nearby cart that had once held blankets now was only stocked with hand towels, and I stole a stack of these to try to reduce my constant shivering. I was so drained that I did manage to fall into a kind of sleep curled up on a couch, but it was anything but restful.
Craig and I agonized over how to tell our parents. It seemed impossible to wake someone up in the middle of the night to drop this nuclear bomb on them. He decided finally to ring his when he hoped they would both be home from work in Australia. I waited to call my mom and dad and got in touch at around 4:30 in the morning. My mother answered the phone and telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Gavin has always had a special connection with his Grandma, and is ecstatic when I drop him off at her house for fun and play, and full of tears when it’s time to go home with boring mum. My parents were at the hospital within the hour.
After an endless wait, the anesthetist came to collect us from the waiting room and took us to see Gavin in recovery. Our Beanie was quite unfazed by the experience, and woke up pretty cheerful and happy to see us. From there, we were taken to the Neurology ward upstairs, without a clue how long our wait until surgery would be.
I was slowly beginning to understand how the hospital works – shift changes, when doctors do their rounds, the role each person plays. Gavin was started on a round of drugs, a steroid called dexamethasone, an antacid called ranitidine and eventually an anti-nauseal.
During our first day in hospital Gavin was in relatively good spirits, talking to us a lot and wanting to watch endless episodes of Max and Ruby. He still had an appetite and ate a little bit without throwing up. Craig and I took shifts at his bedside and got out of the hospital for a short time to sleep at my sister Lauren’s place – a convenient two blocks away. I wept when I saw that she had set up a proper bed for us in her spare room. The small kindnesses of friends and strangers resonate. Our nurse in the constant observation room, Darcy, was like a beam of light into the soot-black cloud floating around me. After sharing her story of cancer survival with me, I found myself literally crying on her shoulder, both hopeful and hopeless as my tears finally surfaced. Over the next couple of days she would seek us out wherever we were in the hospital to offer invaluable advice and words of encouragement. She’s getting married on Gavin’s birthday this year. I have to take that as a good omen.
We met with the staff neurosurgeon, Dr. Kulkarni, at the hospital in the afternoon. He showed us the images of Gavin’s wee head and there, coiled like a lethal jellyfish, was this terrible thing, wrapped around his brain stem and protruding into the cerebellum. We were given the worst case scenario in clinical terms. I’ve learned that surgeons have a very practiced, impassive face and voice that they employ when they’re delivering this type of news. They want us to know all the horrendous possibilities so that we are prepared for the worst. He told us that it was unlikely that they would be able to remove the whole tumour because of its position on the brain stem. He also told us that there existed the possibility of paralysis, mutism, haemmorhage, and of course, death. But he also told us that they intended to try to remove all of the tumour, and that they hoped to do so. At that time he thought that there were still a couple of days before any action was needed, and we were thinking that Thursday would be surgery. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Craig opted to stay with Bean that night and I was relieved and guilty to escape the hospital and spend the night at Lauren’s house, talking about anything but this.