To the ER Surgeon who Saved my Son’s Life

Thank you for already knowing that we followed our son’s original surgeons post-op orders to a tee, and then some. Thank you for knowing that his little blood covered body came from nowhere other than a hemorrhaging surgery site, not some awful mistake we made, or some lack of good parenting decisions, or even mom and dad trying to get a good nights sleep and not watching our little. Thank you for knowing that for the past week, he was camped in bed with me and that I awoke every so often to check him for post-op bleeding. The first time he bled, I called his doctor immediately and followed his orders. The second time, I insisted he be seen that minute and took him in. I was told he was fine, there would be no more bleeding, but I am his mommy and I knew that was bull. I knew he was going to bleed again, but I had no one to help me. So I checked him every hour that night and had a flashlight next to my bed–better to err on the side of caution. Somewhere between the time of 10:30 pm and when I tried to go to bed at 11:30, he hemorrhaged yet a third and final time. I found him in a puddle of fresh blood, from his hair to the soles of his feet. My heart left my body for a minute because I knew that this time, it was really bad. Like the kind of bad you read about or see on the news. He was going to bleed to death. He’s just four years old and a whopping 35 pounds, and he was bleeding beyond my control. That’s when we met you…

Our first ER doctor was kind, but he was beyond baffled at the blood loss coming from my sons nose and mouth. He knew that he wasn’t qualified to fix this emergency and he called you on the phone right from our room. I heard that you were coming to meet us and you were there almost instantly. I remember you were wearing jeans and nice Italian shoes, something about taking your contacts out, and then the rest got a little fuzzy. Maybe you were out for dinner that night, an anniversary, or your own child’s birthday. Maybe you were celebrating some medical award or just hanging out with your friends for once. But at 1:30 in the morning, you showed up for us. You forced my crying son to open wide for you, no easy task for a bleeding child in pain. And then you saw it, the clot that was causing him so much pain and grief. Finally, someone spotted our ongoing problem. Finally, we could get some closure to this situation. You told me that hemorrhage after a tonsillectomy is rare, but that we were in the midst of one and he would need surgery immediately. You even begged the current hospital to open an operating room for you so we wouldn’t need transferred or lose any more blood. They told you no (they were not a children’s hospital, in their defense) and I saw your disappointment. Thank you for trying.

I saw you look distressed again when the anesthesiologist insisted an IV line be put into my son before he was ‘asleep’. You were trying to spare him more pain, but the new children’s hospital we were transferred to had different rules, and his stomach was going to have to be pumped from all of the blood he ingested which required immediate access to his bloodline. Your hands were tied. You apologized to my child that he would have to experience the pain of the IV line. He cried and you listened. You sat with us for awhile until he was a little calmer. Once again, you showed up for us. You drove yourself to the new hospital and were now wearing a white doctor’s coat over those jeans and Italian leather shoes. You could have transferred us to a surgeon there, but instead, you transferred yourself. It was nearing 3 am. It was time for surgery.

I sat in the dark family surgery waiting area alone and crying. You had a cool message board with little icons to let me know where my son was in the process, pre-op, surgery, post-op, recovery. I watched like a hawk until I finally saw a little band-aid icon telling me he was safe and in recovery. When you emerged from the surgery room to talk with me, you sat down in the dark and sighed. You told me first and foremost that I did the right thing that night. He had several areas in his throat that were bleeding and needed cauterization. I told you I just felt that something was wrong all week and that I couldn’t shake my feelings, even with the reassurance of the doctor. What you said next will stay with me forever. You said mothers have been saving their children for thousands of years. The Mama Bear instinct has persevered the human race since the beginning of time.It was now almost 5 am and I was feeling exhausted, relieved, and empowered. Thank you for telling me I wasn’t that crazy mom who overreacts. Thank you for not knowing more than me just because you’re trained. Thank you for telling me that my connection to my child is much more powerful than your ability to diagnose. Thank you for validating my fears and concerns in one sentence.

I already know, it’s your job. And I already know that it was just lucky that you were assigned to us that frightful morning. And I also know that you’re trained to do what you do. But that you did it with such kindness and non-judgement, that’s more than we could have ever asked for.

And mostly, thank you for saving my son’s life. He’s only four and he has big plans. You stopped a lingering bleeding problem and you were kind to us. When you called me the next morning, from your office, you got my voicemail. I’m sorry that while you were working after that long night, I was sleeping and missed your call. I know, it’s your job. I know I’ll get a bill for your services. I understand all of that. But I also know that you will forever be one of the most important human beings I have ever met. You were calling to see how my son was doing, just checking in on him. And thanks to you, he’s doing great.

(Please note that the ENTIRE nursing staff at both hospitals also have our hearts. The anesthesiologist as well, and the dude that drove the hospital bed to the operating room. All of you. Every single one of you.)

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