Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our Little Trooper

Our little Joah had minor surgery last week, although if you know Joah, you know that nothing is ever minor, especially if it has anything to do with doctors, nurses, or hospitals.  One look at a human wearing a stethoscope, and the kid will usually go off like a Roman candle.  Nothing would send him into a run-into-the-corner-hide-behind-the-chairs panic faster than walking into the waiting room of a doctor's office.  Last year, when he had to have his annual physical, I literally had to peel him off the chairs when the nurse called his name in the waiting room, and it took three of us to hold him while the doctor did a quick exam.  I'm not sure who was more shell-shocked..them or us.

Not that he has always been this way.  He used to have no fear of any medical professional or facility.  However, that was the pre-tonsillectomy Joah.  After experiencing the trauma of a very painful surgery last year (you can read about that drama here), he has shown extreme anxiety around any doctor visit. To this day, he still refuses to be administered anything that we refer to as "medicine" because he still remembers the pain associated with the pain medicine that he was forced to swallow during the days after his tonsillectomy.  It was awful for him and us.

So, a couple of months ago, when we found out he would need minor surgery to repair a small birth defect, our hearts dropped.  How in the world would we be able to prepare him for that?  He had screamed and kicked during the completely pain-free examine. We could only imagine how he would respond to another hospital setting again. We scheduled the surgery for three months out and began doing our best to emotionally prepare him and ourselves for the inevitable. 

Fast-forward to last week. After weeks and weeks of talking and explaining and encouraging him about the upcoming surgery, the day was here. As we loaded Joah into his car seat, it was obvious that he was apprehensive. When we dropped his brother off at the grandparents' house, Joah gave him a big hug and said to him "I really, really love you, John," which surprised us, considering we had assured him he would see John again soon.  He said very little on the two-hour drive to the hospital, but did seem to find some small consolation in reminding us several times that after his surgery was all done, he wanted a blueberry bagel from the "bagel store". We promised him all the bagels he could eat when it was all over.

It's easy to overlook the little milestones in our children's lives that show that they are growing up not only on the outside, but also on the inside.  The pants that are too short or the hair that is too long make the outward changes difficult to ignore. But sometimes, the milestones that reflect perhaps more important changes in their personalities and maturity are not so obvious.  

Since his birth, Joah has been our high-needs child.  He was the newborn who had to be held constantly, the infant that would not sleep without me beside him, the toddler who demanded constant control, and the three-year old whose meltdowns could clear a room. We've known no other remedy for his somewhat extreme behavior than to meet it head on with reassurance and patience. It has been one of our biggest challenges as parents, and after four years, we started to wonder if any of it would ever pay off.

This past week, we got an answer. The Joah we thought we knew and the Joah we expected to see was not the little boy we took to the hospital this past week. Instead, we had a little boy who put on a brave face.  Who, when he got frightened, would pout but not cry.  A little boy who tried to look at the positive side of things ("when this is all done, can I get a bagel?") instead of the negative. From somewhere deep inside of that anxious, insecure, temperamental, emotionally-charged little boy we had once known, a new child was emerging.  

After an hour of patiently waiting with us in pre-op, we watched as Joah was wheeled into the operating room.  As they took him away, he turned around to look at us and bravely waved goodbye. Shortly after, we were summoned to the recovery room where we found him sitting up on a gurney, rubbing his eyes. No crying, no screaming; just a groggy little boy trying to get his bearings.  He saw us approaching and gave us his biggest smile. "I had a green balloon," he said, referring to the gas mask they'd placed on him for his anesthesia. 

Not long after, we were ready to go home. As he hopped into the wheelchair, he smiled from ear-to-ear. Nobody was more ready to go home than he was! He talked all the way to the car about bagels and cheese crackers and the green balloon. He couldn't wait to get home and share his adventures with his brother John, whom he kept referring to as his "best-est buddy" and whom I'm not sure he thought he'd ever see again.

Tom and I smiled. We knew that we had experienced yet another milestone in parenting but more than that, we felt like maybe we had turned a corner.  A corner that we'd been waiting to turn for four years.  And as pleased as we were to be heading not only home, but perhaps in a new direction, nobody was more pleased than Joah. At barely four years of age, he had conquered a demon, and that is a milestone worth remembering.

Trying to smile but a pout was all he could muster.

Helping the nurse by getting
the wagon for his ride to the OR.

If bagels aren't immediately available,
 cheese crackers will do.

Heading home.
Mission accomplished.


  1. I hope Joah is feeling better. Little ones always surprise me at their resiliency to tough times. I think they often handle it better than adults.

    1. Thanks Donna! He is back to his rowdy self. He's a tough little guy!

  2. What a great example of carrying a cross, truly! Little ones can inspire big people if we look at it that way!

    1. Definitely. Sometimes I forget that children often carry some of the same crosses we adults carry. They can be wonderful examples to us.