# Saturday, 14 February 2009

This is your Captain speaking, everything is under control

This has been an amazing few days. We are currently at Yolanda (the Boss's younger sister) and Jonathon's house in Golders Green, London England. I thought it would be a good opportunity to type up some of the events of the past few days.

Before I start, please let me assure you that boruch Hashem, Chaya Devoira is fine. The operation seems to have been a complete success. She is still in ICU, but they are expecting t otake her to the ward tomorrow. Right, with that out of the way, here's the story...

We arrived around 2pm on Thursday, and checked in. We were met by a Jewish nurse, who said straight away that she would help sort us out for Shabbos! That was a good start.

The afternoon was a whirlwind of blood tests, x-rays, scans, etc. They discovered along the way that along with all of her other problems, she had a narrowed aorta, which would need sorting out at the same time.

The surgeon turned out to be someone we had heard of, and had davenned that we would get. Apparently he is one of the top heart surgeons in the country.

As you can imagine, we didn't sleep too well that night. We were tired, but the hospital was a bit noisy, and we were a bunch of emotions. We slept on the ward, or rather we lay down on the ward. Neither of us slept much.

Friday morning, they took her down to anesthesia about 9:15am, giving us only a very brief chance to kiss her before she went under. It was a very difficult moment, not knowing if we'd ever see her again. I wanted to give her a brocho before they took her away, but I didn't even get chance for that. They said that it wold take about 45 mins for it to take full effect, so we reckoned they would start around 10am. The surgeon told us it would take about 3-4 hours.

Anyway, we decided that staying in the hospital would be a very depressing and stressful experience, so we went for a walk. We found a park by the Thames, and sat and said Tehillim for a while. After that, we walked along the river, crossed over and went to Covent Garden. It was a surreal experience, knowing that our baby was on the operating table, but us acting like tourists. We couldn't think too much about what was going on, and it was the best way to cope.

Maybe we were wrong, but there's only so much you can daven. After that, you have to accept that we are helpless. Hashem was in control, not us. We have never felt so helpless, and yet so helped!

We got back to the hospital around 1pm, thinking that the operation should be ending sometime during the next hour. We ate something, assuming that after the operation, we would go down to ICU, and may not get chance to eat for some time.

The time dragged on, and we got very nervous. Once 2pm came, and we hadn't heard anything, we were even more so. By the time 3pm came along, we were seriously wondering if something had gone wrong chas v'sholom.

We finally got word at 3:30pm that they were just finishing, and that she would be going to ICU sometime in the next half hour. As it happened, we didn't get called to ICU until 4:40pm, by which time we were in a state! We had already got as ready for Shabbos as we could.

Whilst we were waiting, we had called the children and some friends to let them know the good news. The happiness in everyone's voices certainly helped calm us down.

Going into ICU was not something I would wish on anyone. Seeing her little body, with a huge bloody line up the middle of her chest, and tubes and wires everywhere was pretty tough. There were monitors and machines all over the place, and about five doctors and nurses around the cot.

They told us that the operation had taken longer than they expected, but that everything seemed ot have gone OK. They had done all the work they intended to do, and hadn't found anything unexpected.

We sat there for quite a while, each lost in our own thoughts. Oddly enough, we reacted in very different ways. Once I had got over the shock of seeing her like that, I was elated. I had seriously been thinking that we would never see her again, so being able to see her breathing and alive was like having all my birthdays (and a few of yours as well) all wrapped into one. The Boss was in floods of tears, partly from relief, partly from seeing her like this. She calmed down after a while, but it wasn't easy for her.

We stayed by her bed for an hour or so, then decided to go and have our Shabbos meal and come back down.

We went back to ward, and had just got things ready, when the nurse came and said that the surgeon was in ICU if we would like to come. We raced down, but missed him by a moment. In her haste to get us, the nurse forgot to ask him to wait, and he went off. We hung around to see if he was still in the area, but it became obvious after a while that he had left so we went back up. I suppose after doing two very long and difficult operations in one day, he wanted to go home.

Anyway, we went back upstairs and made kiddush. I started singing in a quiet voice, trying to block the TVs and mindless babble of the people around us from my mind. Halfway through Sholom Aleichem, it occurred to me that the other people on the ward seemed to think it was perfectly OK to play their TVs at a high volume, so why was I singing quietly? I decided to sing louder, and to heck with the lot of them!

We had a surprisingly nice meal, considering the situation and the surroundings.

Afterwards, we went back down to ICU and sat by her cot for a while. They were a little concerned about her blood pressure, as it was higher than they wanted, but they kept telling us that this was not unusual, and a lot of things could happen during the first 24 hours after major surgery.

Sheer mental and physical exhaustion finally dragged us away. We went back up to the ward and went to bed. Neither of us slept too well, although the fact of having so little sleep the night before helped us.

Today was a weird day. I davenned on my own, which I have only done twice on a Shabbos morning since we got married, the second of those being in Crumpsall hosptial, the morning Chana Liba was born. After that, we made kiddush and and some cake and nosh, before going down to the ICU again.

She had stabilised during the night, and they were happy with her progress. It was an odd experience, being totally helpless, and having nothing to do there, but not wanting to leave her.

We stayed for a couple of hours, then went back up to the ward to eat lunch. After we had finished, exhaustion hit me, and I decided to have a rest. The Boss went back down to the ICU.

Due to the TVs, I couldn't really sleep, but dozed fitfully for a while. I came to around 3:34pm, davenned mincha and went down to the ICU. They had taken the drain tube off her, which was a very good sign. This tube was left by her heart after the operation, and was sticking out of her tummy. Any blood that came from the incisions was drained through the tube into a bucket on the floor. This helped them see how the wound was healing, as when the tube stopped dripping, they knew the heart was repairing itself. Being able to take out this tube was a significant step in her healing.

We spent the rest of Shabbos there, and ate a sholosh seudos of biscuits and crisps. The nurse on duty today was quite chatty, and made a point of telling us everything she was doing. This was both interesting, and a useful way of helping pass the time.

After Shabbos, we came to Yol & Jon's, where we had our first hot drink for a couple of days! The Boss has gone to bed, and I am following suit right now.

They are intending to take her off the ventilator tomorrow, and see if she can manage to breathe on her own. Once she is off this for 24 hours, they will send her back to the ward. This will not be until Monday at the earliest. We are going to stay here whilst she is in ICU, and then we'll see after that. The Boss will stay in the hospital once she goes back to the ward, but I may still sleep here and go down there for the day. we'll see.

Anyway, this has been far longer than I expected to write. Hard to stop, there' so much more to tell, but I can't think straight.

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