Decisions For Them: To Operate or Not?

One of the biggest challenges I face as a parent is the ongoing need to make tough decisions on my children’s behalf.  Society tells us that mothers know best, but do we really?  Do I really?  I’m not always so sure.  In the past few years I’ve really felt the magnitude of this burden, specifically with decisions involving my boys’ health.

In the last year, I was required to make two separate medical decisions, one per child.  To operate or to not operate?  Two totally different surgeries.  Surgeries which in the professional opinions of their specialists would be of extreme benefit to each boy.  The results sounded tempting but I wouldn’t be the one who would be going through the procedures.  I wouldn’t be the one going under the knife.  My choice, their bodies.  It took a while to arrive at my decision.  I mulled over what the doctors had said, I did my own research and ultimately decided that the benefits far outweighed the possible complications.  I ended up opting for surgery for both boys.

Our experience with the first surgery last year was not what I had expected.  Recovery was rough.  No, that’s an understatement.  Recovery was hell.  We learned the hard way that our youngest son is a bleeder.  He bled and he bled and he bled.  We ended up at the doctor’s office the day after surgery followed by 3 visits to the ER during the first week of recovery.  His dried blood acting as a form of glue had fused the bandages to his skin.  He screamed in pain. He cried out for me.  I couldn’t help him and it broke my heart.

On the third day, on our first visit to the ER, the nurses and doctor decided if they were going to have any luck removing the bandages they would have to sedate him.  On that Wednesday afternoon, I was introduced to the frightening effects of Ketamine.  They assured me it was the best option at this point.  He would be awake but he wouldn’t feel anything and he wouldn’t remember any of it.  I helplessly agreed.

Starting an IV was more difficult than anyone in that room had anticipated.  My son’s arms violently flailing, his precious blood seeping all over the white sheets.  They called for back up.

Once they administered the Ketamine, the effect was instant.  His screams turned into a weak moan which turned into silence.  His eyes widened, his pupils shifted, the left to the left and the right to the right, as if they were trying to escape his body.  His stare devoid of emotion.  His movements stopped and he lay there still, eyes wide open and helpless as the doctor and nurses quickly worked to remove the bandages.  I could not control my tears.  I was broken.  My baby is here because of me, because of the choice that I made for him.  I chose and now he suffers.

Within minutes the bandages were off and his skin wiped clean.  One by one each nurse and doctor disappeared and I was told by the last one that it would take a little while for my son to “come back” and that when he did, he may say things that don’t make any sense.  She dimmed the lights and I sat and waited for my son to come back to me.

After what felt like an eternity, we made eye contact and he seemed to be present.  I asked if he could hear me and he nodded.  He faintly whispered something.  I couldn’t hear him.  I asked him to repeat himself.  This time I heard him loud and clear.

“Are you a pig?” he asked.

“No, I’m not a pig.  I’m your mommy.”

“Oh.” he said.

I nervously giggled.

A few minutes later I hear his sweet little voice again.


“Yes honey.”

“I don’t remember your name.”

At that very moment my heart was broken.  I told him my name and asked if he remembered his brother’s name and his father’s name, which he did.

He proceeded to ask me if we were in a race and rambled on about a few other things.  He slowly returned and we were discharged.

We ended up having to return twice more that week although they no longer sedated him.  He ended up with an infection and was prescribed an antibiotic.

Recovery was long, arduous and painful.  I told myself I would never subject my children to surgery ever again.

The year passed and I found myself agreeing to a different type of surgery for my other son.

The surgery was a few days ago and his recovery seems to be going well.  I was preparing for much worse and am so thankful that he is healing properly.

What tough jobs we have as mothers.  These precious little lives are in our hands.  The decisions we make for our children can be life altering and are usually done without their consent.  I guess all we can do is follow our hearts and do what we think is best on a case by case basis.  After all, mothers know best, right?