Friday, January 23, 2009
Zumrat and Noordin
The past few days I have had the privilege and honor of walking through heart surgery with a mother and her 9 month old baby. Their story is incredible. The number of people who came together so that this could happen is amazing. You see, this little family is from Krygyzstan, and they don't do this type of surgery there. This sweet little baby would have only survived another six months if he didn't get this life-saving surgery. I met Zumrat on Wednesday when Valerie and I visited the hospital. It was a long day for them, they had pre-op and a tour of the unit and had to check into the Sharing Place. We had to talk through an interpreter because she doesn't speak any English. She was so appreciative to have us there and of the few things we are providing (meals, phone cards, gift bag...). We told her about our children and their surgeries and she asked us some questions. And when it was time to leave we hugged and she said "I will remember this and appreciate you forever." It was at that moment that I remembered what is important and what isn't. When I decided that I could change my schedule for Thursday so that I could wait with them during Noordin's surgery.
And I am truly puzzled. My own son has undergone three separate open-heart surgeries. Shouldn't I have learned this lesson by now? Why do I have to keep learning it? I am a slow learner I guess.
So yesterday I arrived at the hospital at 11:00 and waited with them until surgery was over. Zumrat was worried, but noticeably calm. I asked how she had been doing. She said that she had cried a lot when they took Noordin away (always the hardest part) but that she felt peaceful because we were all there waiting with her. She asked us all to write a note in the little notebook I had given her. I gave her magazines so she could look at the pictures, and Valerie brought sandwiches for everyone. Finally, Dr. M came in to tell us that surgery was over. He said the procedure went well and that Noordin's heart looked great. But there was one problem.
You could feel everyone's heart in the room sink. His lungs were having trouble adjusting to the new blood flow and they had to leave his chest open. He would also have to stay on the ventilator for 3-4 days instead of coming off of it later that evening, as they had anticipated. As a heart mom myself, I know that this is not that uncommon, it happened to Drew and he is perfectly fine now. But I also know that anything that doesn't go as expected during your baby's heart surgery is terrifying. And Zumrat was very scared and crying. We hugged her and tried to share some of our experiences with her. She got to go in and see Noordin for a short while (they still had to get him stabilized in the room) and then came out with us again. She was understandably upset and so we took her for a walk.
As we were getting ready to leave we shared some more hugs and she again expressed her gratitude to us. But I feel truly blessed to have shared this experience with her, to witness her strength and courage traveling so far from home without her husband and daughter, in a country where she does not speak the language, her dedication to do anything that needs to be done to save her baby. What an honor.