If you ever want to zero in on your child with fresh eyes, there is nothing quite like surgery to create the ideal conditions.
Tuesday dawned. Hudson woke up bright and cheery exclaiming, ‘It’s my hospital day!’, getting dressed in record time and obligingly sipping on the half cup of water he was allowed to consume. He was excited about everything – from Dave taking the day off to be with him, to the iPad and phone we packed for the long wait… even the fact that he would get to ride in ‘Little Mac’ (Dave’s smaller green Mazda hatchback… not to be confused with ‘Big Mac’ – our MPV).
I was distracted and edgy all morning. Feeling as if I should be doing something but unsure quite what. Eli busied himself writing kind notes to his brother, half wishing he was getting to go to the hospital instead and slightly exaggerating a limp to emphasise the point. I pestered Dave for updates, though he was exceedingly obliging – sending through photos of each part of the phases, making me feel as if I was part of the experience in some way. I prepared myself for a long wait, knowing that ‘hospital time’ runs on very different types of clocks.
He was third on the list. Then suddenly he was bumped to first – being wheeled down to the pre-operative room in his geometric blue gown, looking slightly unsure in the rapidly loading photos (though apparently it was just because Dave kept getting in the way of the show Hudson was watching.)
Memories of Hudson’s last operation (to correct an inguinal hernia when he was almost one) came flooding back. I pictured the scene with vivid clarity – the hungry, hysterical wait and desperate attempts to distract him, the empty feeling of being told I could leave the theatre room when he succumbed to the steady rhythm of being under. Breathing shakily in the courtyard garden while keeping one hand firmly anchored to the buzzer that was my access back to the recovery room. Drinking coffee in the lime green cafeteria without tasting a single sip.
This time it was the firm push of the vaccum. Fierce strokes to distract and bring order to the one thing I could control – the house. Every second seemed to hang back before passing, and I kept glancing at my phone just in case. When the call came through that everything had gone well and Hudson was in recovery I let out the breath I scarcely knew I had been holding.
Mum and Dad came over to look after Ivy so that I could go and visit. I made the decision to bring Harvey, knowing how much Hudson loves his little brother. It was a good choice. As soon as Hudson blinked open his eyes, heavy with exhaustion, face pale and small, he reached immediately for Harvey’s chubby body. Cradling him and rocking back and forth, he sang to the little radiant face, hugging him tightly to himself. It was a moment Dave and I will remember forever.
As monitors beeped and the ward pulsed with the sounds of sudden shrieks, hoarse breathing and pitiful sobbing, Hudson just sat there… opening the donated craft pack that had been so kindly packed by Beaconsfield Baptist, tongue out in dogged concentration as he pasted and scribbled and peeled off stickers. When lunch came, he looked with interest at the tray laden with jelly, ice-cream and sandwiches… and polished off almost the entire selection. I stared at him for a long while, drinking him in, so thankful to be on this side of the ordeal (for his sake as well as my own).
Before long the bed was insufficient to contain him, and we went on a leisurely-paced tour of the ward, pausing in the playroom for some time. When Dave returned from the school pick up with the others, they glanced around in awe at the unfamiliar environment. Eli’s limp grew more pronounced and he wondered aloud if he would need to stay overnight. Ivy decided she wanted to stay in this magical place with Cinderella, Snow White and Ariel on the walls. Harvey just smiled at everyone. I think we set a record for most amount of visitors in a 24 hour period, when Grandma and Grandpa dropped by and Nanny and Pa did too.
The overnight shift went to Dave, given that Hudson still cannot go even a night without the comforting presence of Daddy’s company. He slept fitfully, the curse of hospital ambience and writhing patients, but Hudson barely stirred.
In the days that have followed, time has slowed to a crawl. Despite barely registering pain in the first day, Hudson has struggled from time to time and we have delivered many long monologues on the importance of taking pain medication. ‘Cuddle!’ is the most issued request, often with slightly trembling bottom lip, and it has not been strange to see him conked out on the couch – unable to keep eyes open any longer. Unfortunately, both Ivy and Eli now have the flu and keeping germs contained seems a feat beyond human ability.
I’ve seen the ugly sides of us all- from the fear twisted into anger when medication is refused or spat out dramatically. The agony when cuddles and whispered platitudes aren’t enough. The nightly wails issued from darkened room when the pain resurfaces. Counting and recounting the hours since the last dose to make sure I’m not overloading his battled system. High-pitched orders for sick siblings to give a wide berth. Exasperated ejaculations when I simply don’t have enough hands to go around.
Then the glimmer that peeks through occasionally… the rare ‘thank you Mum for giving me my medicine’, the deluge of heartfelt cuddles from an unusually still boy, words enunciated with more clarity already, gradual changes in ability and comprehension. The knowledge that every minute is one more towards health and wholeness for him and a smile filled with dawning delight that the world has no idea of the unleashed potential that is Hudson Patrick Hughes.