I wanted to write up a post on the surgery – mostly writing out things that I had wanted to know before the surgery, just in case someone else is facing the prospect and is wondering what’s in store. Obviously, the surgery experience will differ for everyone, but there are certain to be commonalities. Apologies for such a long post, but I wanted to get all the details out.
We were told by the eye institute to arrive at 5:30 AM for the 7:30 AM surgery. Our ophthalmologist’s assistant called the day before to confirm the surgery and when I told her we’d be there at 5:30, she said, “what?! Who told you to come that early? You don’t need to be there until 6 at the earliest.” We weren’t sure who to believe, so we split the difference and arrived about 5:45 AM. I had been worried about keeping Zoe from eating or drinking before the surgery, but it turns out that the new places and people and toys kept her distracted enough that she never asked for either. We also brought a whole lot of toys with us to keep her entertained, but it turned out that the institute had bins full of toys in our waiting room, so we never pulled out any of her toys. The morning was pretty much a whole lot of waiting, punctuated by answering the same questions over and over (I do understand why this is). I would absolutely recommend bringing toys for distraction during the waiting, unless you know for sure that you’ll be somewhere with lots of toys.
During the wait, we met with admitting, nurses, the anesthesiologist, the ophthalmologist, and probably 5 other people that I can’t remember anymore.
I had assumed that putting Zoe under anesthesia would be the hardest part, and the anesthesiologist didn’t disabuse me of that thought. He told us that it was very difficult to be with your child, as they’ll fight the mask and the anesthesia. Chris offered to go with Zoe for the anesthesia, and I’m glad he did. He went with the crew of doctors and nurses and was gone for about 15 minutes. His report was that it was really hard, but not as bad as he’d feared, and he was very glad he got to be there.
We waited another 35 minutes or so before a nurse stopped by to say they were done, it had gone well, and the opthalmologist would be out to see us shortly. As expected, we spoke with the ophthalmologist shortly thereafter. She was pleased with how the surgery went, and we would have a follow-up appointment with her the next day.
By far the worst part of the day was when we were brought back to the operating room to be with Zoe as she came out of surgery. First, I want to thank everyone who warned us about the tears with blood in them. She had that, and it was really hard to see, but made much easier because I was expecting it. Zoe did not come out of anesthesia well. She wasn’t truly awake, but was screaming and twisting and trying desperately to pull her IV out of her hand. The nurse with her was very reassuring, but no amount of reassurance makes that easy to deal with. There was no calming her or comforting her. We mostly just tried to hold her and keep her from pulling out the IV. After about 20 minutes, she finally fell into an exhausted sleep with wracking sobs. About 2 minutes later, she woke up a completely different child. She sat up on my lap, saw a packet of crackers on the table and said, “crackers?” We gave her a glass of watered-down juice first, which she sucked down really quickly, and then reiterated her request for crackers. She ate 8 crackers and drank 3 glasses of watered-down juice. During this time, we were visited by all the doctors and nurses one last time. They mentioned that a lot of children throw up on their first car ride home from surgery, but that she shouldn’t have any problems after that. Um. Thanks for the crackers and juice? (She was fine). We were released from the hospital and got to the car and realized it was only 10 AM. Probably the longest morning of my life so far.
That first day of surgery, Zoe ate a bunch of crackers once she got home, and then took a really long nap. When she was awake and not stuffing her face, she was surprisingly cheerful. She was also not as steady on her feet as normal, and ended up falling down quite a bit. We were warned to keep her away from stairs and I’m glad we did.
Since then, she kind of alternated between good days, when she was her cheerful self, and days when she was clingy and grumpy. She’s definitely been more sensitive to bright lights. I’ve had to change her diaper in very low lighting first thing in the mornings because the light in her room was bothering her. She’s gotten acetaminophen most days, but usually only once or twice a day when she complains about “owie eyes.” We’re also making sure she has her glasses when we read books, even right before bed, since she can’t cross her eyes now to try to focus.
The biggest problem we’ve had is the eye ointment that we have to put in her eyes 3 times a day. I think if they were drops, it might be easier, but it’s a thick ointment that we put in the corner of her eyes. She’s gotten to the point now where she’ll give us the tube of ointment, take off her glasses, and sit in my lap, and then hide her face in my shoulder and fight me when I try to actually apply it. But it’s better than it had been the first couple of days.
We’ve all definitely noticed her eyes seeming straighter, though I’m not sure if she’s always using them together yet. She was much more daring at the playground the other day – climbing up ladders and rope ladders, and exploring parts of the playground that she hadn’t done before. It was actually a bit scary – in a good, my-daughter-is-growing-up kind of way. Our next ophthalmologist appointment is in 2 weeks.