Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Listening Ears

"WHAT?! Ear tubes for Christmas?!"
"Ok Mom and Dad: so we'll have Nurse J take him back and Dr. E will be out to see you in about 15 minutes to let you know how he's doing," she said, her gaze warm and consoling given her gift in working with patients' families, even at the early hour of 6:45 a.m.

With that came the dreaded last kiss and embrace, the awareness of how minor a surgery ear tubes can be but how major a love is for such a small child. Major enough to fill an entire universe twice over. And that was felt with every footstep the nurse took, his small frame bobbing in her arms as she whispered animatedly to him, his brow beginning to furrow as he couldn't quite anticipate what was next. With that he was gone, and we were surrounded by white walls, monochromatic beeps and the soothing instructions of a care coordinator pointing us to the front of the building.

Knowing the drill, the mister and I grasped palms and did the quick walk to the waiting room, awkwardly pretending we were carefree and calm about our child going under anesthesia and emerging with two new pieces of plastic in his ears. From all the cases I'd seen over the years, the experiences friends have been through, the horrifying news headlines and my father's own experience in neonatal care over decades, this still felt big. Thank goodness in this eight minutes one of my best friends seemed to understand I needed to learn in those very moments the gender of her baby to be, keeping me light spirited and distracted.

Three "Today Show" clips later, the reassurance that wasn't our child screaming behind closed doors, two families exiting the surgery center and we were whisked back to speak to the doc. His fourth surgery on one of our children, we were immediately calmed with his soothing voice, quiet confidence and his ability to headline the report with:

"Everything went great. He's recovering well and you'll be able to see him in a few minutes."

Did I mention our anesthesiologist was none other than one of the kindest, brightest mothers of a kindergarten peer?! You know, the same one I had called about the week before to grill the scheduler on the amount of experience each of their anesthesiologists had? Total bonus. Total. I can't think of one we'd trust more. The combo of her and the doc? Priceless. Phew.

Moments later he's fitful in my arms, finding comfort in the warmth of my well worn elbows to his shape, chugging his beverage of choice and cradling his "dog dog." Doting nurses (they all love the youngest patients of the day), a set of instructions, another watchful 15 minutes and we were cleared.

You know what else cleared?

Those ears.

Day two meant six new words in his once limited vocabulary for a 19 month old. Day six contained three two-word sentences. And all the days to follow have meant words we never even knew he'd been exposed to before.

In other words, Santa delivered listening ears. Just in time for Christmas. And although they are already filled with infection three weeks later (tis the season), it's easier to fix, less painful and there's nothing better than watching his face glow from discovering the new world around him without a mute button.

Welcome, listening ears. We look forward to your stay. Even if there seems to be an "off" button when it comes to gentle reprimands.

We can't wait to see what you'll hear and say next!

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