I woke early, with a start, panicked, and raced back to the hospital in the grey light of early morning. My boys had spent a restless night, and a short time later I sent Craig away to sleep. Gavin and I spent the morning cuddled up and watching Max and Ruby and eating Shasha cookies. My parents arrived sometime later and I went downstairs to buy non-hospital-issue tissues and a new toothbrush for Gavin as he wanted to brush his teeth. I bawled my around Shoppers Drug Mart and hurried back upstairs. By the time I got there he was clearly not well again – he wanted to lie down and go to sleep after being quite playful only a few moments before.
Then again time sped up and the chain of events is hard to remember. He went to sleep for a bit and then vomited again and was having a hard time breathing. I called Craig back to the hospital quickly. More and more nurses and a respiratory therapist came in. There were a dozen people standing around his bed, drawn faces, discussing. Finally it was decided he had to go back to CT to discover what was going on in there. We were asked to sign a surgical release in case they had to rush him to the OR. We went back to the surgical waiting room to wait yet again. A surgeon came to talk to us a short time later and told us they had found a bleed in the tumour and the situation was now emergent, as they say around here. He had to go right away and we couldn’t see him again. We stood in the hall and I begged, begged him to use all the skill he possessed to save my little boy. He told me quite calmly that he and Dr. Kulkarnie would do the very best job they could do, and then added, “We do this every day, this is our job.” Later I thought, how unbelievable to do this every day. The strength of will and mental fortitude that must be required to pick up surgical instruments and open other people’s bodies – most of us simply couldn’t do it.
I was surprised when a few minutes later another surgeon came to talk to us to let us know that Dr. Kulkarnie was in another surgery and he would be taking over. He explained what his process would be and promised to call into the waiting room to tell us how the surgery was going. His name was Dr. Dirks and it was 1:00 in the afternoon. He told us the surgery might not be over until midnight.
After he left, Craig and I, my parents and my sister spent a couple of long hours crying, praying and then doing completely mundane things like the crossword. I couldn’t eat – food was sawdust to me, but I forced down some sushi rolls mechanically anyway. Two hours after the start of surgery we got a call that they had managed to alleviate the pressure on his brain and could now begin the process of removing the tumour. Things were going well.
I kept wandering into the meditation room where there is a large stain-glassed window with a flame near the top. I sat on the floor and stared at it, closing my eyes and letting it drift across my eyelids and tried to focus my energy, willing all of my hope and love to go to Gavin, to enter the surgeon’s hands, to bring my baby back from the brink safely. I prayed to all known and unknown gods. I asked the universe. I imagined that the tumour was not intertwined in Gavin’s brain but could be removed easily, peeled away like an orange from the rind, leaving no damage behind.
We asked almost everyone in our circle of family, friends and acquaintances to think of us with positive intent. I felt, and still feel, that the more people out there who send us their good energy, the better.
The hours ticked slowly by and we received updates from the OR. Things continued to go well. Finally, Dr. Dirks came out and called us into the consultation room. I didn’t know what to expect, and we had been prepared for the worst, so we were both stunned when he told us he’d managed to remove the whole tumour! The surgery had gone far better than they could have hoped. He did warn us, though, that the tumour was the first hurdle to get over, and further treatment (chemo, radiation) would be required down the road. I was ecstatic, still in disbelief, and Craig and I group-hugged the incredible Peter Dirks. He was confident that Gavin would get better. Hearing those words from a neurosurgeon is so satisfying. I’ve learned now that they don’t sugar-coat anything.
We exploded into the waiting room and told my family in a jumble of hugs and tears. Sheer relief. Sheer joy. Only an hour or so more until we could join Gavin in the ICU where he was spending the night.