Part 1: THE PLAY-BY-PLAY
(not all of you will be interested in these details. I totally understand. Just skip to "part 2" below. But don't read "part 1" unless you are going to read "part 2" as well.)
We set off for the hospital on Wednesday morning. We live only about 15 minutes away from one of the largest and best hospitals in our area of Japan, so we took the stroller and our suitcase and enjoyed the cool air as we walked to what would be our temporary residence for 3 days. After turning in some paperwork, Rowen had some initial tests (chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, and a health check from the pediatrician) before they approved him to be admitted for his operation. He was such a brave boy through all of it!
Rowen during the electrocardiogram
We got settled into our room after the tests were done. Rowen promptly discovered the nurse call button and the emergency staff call button, and sent several kind hospital workers running to the rescue. At one point during the middle of the first night, a nurse made an attempt at covering the buttons with a cut up paper cup and some medical tape, but Rowen still managed to push it while I pretended to be sleeping (you know, the "hey, look, mom's sleeping...all the cool kids are sleeping...you should be sleeping too" strategy). He eventually lost interest. Phew.
The room was very small. There were four beds per room and each unit had a small tv, a chest to store clothes, a folding chair, and a rolling table. The space between the bed and the chest/tv stand was about 3 feet--just enough space to wedge in my rented cot. I only used it for half of the first night. I ended up sleeping with Rowen in his crib for the rest of our stay. He may be small, but he's a feisty bed-hog.
Our room-not sure the picture can accurately portray the size. Basically, what you see pictured here is the entire area.
Jay had to leave in the evening. We said goodnight to him and I was hoping that Rowen would be ready for bed shortly thereafter. He'd had tests all day and never had a quiet, dark place to lay down to nap, so he crashed on my lap for a total of 20 minutes in the afternoon. I thought he'd be really tired by bed time. I was mistaken. We waited around for them to shut off the lights in our room at 9:00. The door to our 4 person hospital room had to stay open all night. So we could not only hear the others in our room, but we also could hear children in neighboring rooms and nurses rolling their carts down the hall. With the sounds of a children's ward filling his ears, an exciting metal crib to bang on, curtains to shake, and emergency call buttons to push, Rowen had absolutely no desire to sleep.
The nurse told me that I could take him to the play room to try to get him to sleep, so that we wouldn't disturb the other patients in our room. My back was aching, my stomach sour from all the convenience store food I'd consumed, and my head throbbing, and I actually fell asleep before Rowen did--but I had pinned him against the wall on a futon mat in the playroom, and eventually he fell asleep as well. I think he went to sleep around 11:30 pm. Whoa.
I carried him to his crib and he slept until 8 am. I didn't sleep much because of all of the beeping IV machines, the nurse checking on our neighbor every hour, and because of my paranoia for the morning. I kept imagining Rowen waking up and, as he does every single morning, signing that he wants to eat and have a drink. The nurse woke me up at 3 am to tell me "No more food from now on." Then she came at 5:30 to tell me that he had 30 minutes until he couldn't have any water. She recommended that I wake him up to give him a drink because otherwise he'd cry all morning until his surgery. I tried to wake him up, but amazingly, it was as difficult to wake him up as it had been to get him to go to sleep. So I gave up and just prayed that he'd sleep in and that I could keep his mind off of drinking and eating until they called him in for his surgery.
As it so often happens, the things I'd been so anxious about--things that kept me from sleep--didn't happen like I'd expected. Rowen woke up cheerfully and we had a good time playing in the play room while our neighbors ate their breakfasts. He didn't even think about eating or drinking. We got called in for the surgery and put him in his kimono robe, and carried him to the operation area. The doctors and nurses were very kind. We got to see his tiny mask that they were going to use for his anesthesia.
I'd cried several times thinking about the moment that was about to happen--handing him over to the doctors for them to carry him into the surgery room. I knew he would be scared. He would be confused. I wished that we'd be able to go in with him until he fell asleep. But when we handed him over to the kind nurse, even though he was crying, I felt at peace. It was so different than I expected. God is so good.
Jay and Rowen right before we left him with the doctors to take him into the operating room. He was such a brave boy! And he looked cute in his kimono. It had a doggy embroidered on it.
Rowen immediately after the surgery.
Jay and I waited until we heard our little guy's cry an hour and a half later. The doctors came and told us that the surgery had gone well. It was difficult to remove the hernia sac (I'm sure there is a more technical term) so it took longer than they expected, but everything went well.
Rowen was very agitated as he was coming out of surgery. I thought he would just be really doped up and sleepy, but he was crying hard and we had a little trouble calming him down. He wanted to be held, so the doctor let me carry him back to the room from the operating area. He also kept asking for a drink. It broke my heart to not be able to give him a drink for 3 hours after the surgery. They said it was dangerous for him to drink right then, even though his mouth was visibly dry and his throat was all scratchy and hoarse. I think his throat really hurt from the tube that was inserted during the operation. Finally, he fell asleep and when he woke up he was able to have some water. We all felt so much better after that!
Here we are snuggling after the surgery. He was doing so much better after a little rest and some water! He hated the IV and after he somehow managed to get his hand out of the binding, the nurse taped it a little excessively. It took them forever to get the IV off later that day because there was so much tape!
Lots of resting and a good nap with daddy made a big difference!
By dinner time, they said that he could eat some normal food. He'd done a good job with keeping down the water and yogurt we gave him during the afternoon. He was very hungry when they brought the dinner trolley around and he devoured his rice and pineapple. He had a little apple as well ("boe poe" or "apple" was his first post-op word). He was acting much more himself that evening and he really loved the presents that his buddy Brigette brought for him! We watched a few episodes of Curious George, and then went to bed.
We slept much better that night and he was feeling good in the morning. His incision looks really clean and though he has a bit of swelling and bruising, I think he's doing really well. The doctor approved him to go home, so we were able to return to our home before noon that day. I cried a lot of tears as we left the hospital. One of the reasons I cried was because of thankfulness for Japanese National Insurance. They handed me the bill and it was 1400 yen. That's about 17 dollars. For everything. The rental of my cot that I didn't even sleep on cost more than all of Rowen's surgery, X-rays, electrocardiogram, doctors visits, anesthesia, food, room, everything. I just looked online and a similar inpatient operation in America costs 23 grand. Thank you, Japan, for taking care of your peeps. So, that's not the only reason I cried, just for the record. If you want to read about the other reason I cried (and I hope you do) please read what I wrote below. I know it doesn't have pictures, but I feel like it's important.
Part 2: FROM MY HEART
So, I just gave you the play by play. But what I really want to remember from our time at the hospital is not the details of the surgery. It is the way my heart felt the first time I passed by the little boy sitting in his hospital crib--not much older than Rowen--his hair thinning to near baldness as a result of the ongoing treatment for his sickness. Or how I felt when I talked to the mom who was worried about her one-month-old because she had not been allowed to have any milk for what was going on four days. Because of the particular operation her baby had received, she could only be fed through IV until she recovered more fully. Her baby had cried through the night because it wanted to nurse. Meanwhile, the poor sweet mother is sitting beside the crib trying to pump milk to keep up her milk supply and wishing she could just pick up her hungry baby girl and let her find comfort and nourishment at her breast. And I thought it was heartbreaking that Rowen couldn't drink for only a few hours.
My heart ached for the moms who had been there with their infants for 6 months or longer. One woman lived an hour and a half away from the hospital and her mother was taking care of her older son and her infant, the twin brother of the 2 month old baby she held in her arms while I talked to her. One of the twins had been born with a heart defect so she had been with him at the hospital since the twins were born-not being able to see her other baby and older son except for every once in a while.
Another mom excitedly told me that they would finally get to go home next week, after 6 months of living in the tiny cramped space of the hospital. Her baby had to have several surgeries to repair problems that he'd had since birth. She pulled out a photo album to show me pictures of her older son, whom was just a month older than Rowen. She was so excited to finally be home--her family being together for the first time since her baby had been born.
Jay had bought some little toys that we took around to the kids before we went home. All of the mothers were kind and seemed so upbeat even though their situations were difficult. Many of them had made the tiny space "home" because they had been there for so long. I thought about how much they probably wanted to go home, but also feared that when they finally were able to go home, their child wouldn't be going home with them.
Being there opened my eyes so much. When Jay described the little children he saw sleeping on the dirty sidewalk when he was in Bangkok, my heart was broken. When I saw these darling children with terrible illnesses in the hospital, my heart was broken. The commonality with both of these instances is that until I came face-to-face with them, I never thought about them as reality. But this is reality.
This world is visibly wounded by sin. In the world that God originally created, there were no babies with feeding tubes. No 2-year-old boys that were losing their hair because of cancer. No inguinal hernias either, I suppose. But, thank God, we have hope even though sometimes things seem quite hopeless. This place won't always stay tainted. And we can trust God that no matter what sadness we experience during our lifetime, God is with us and he is good. He will make all things new.
I left the hospital feeling so blessed that Rowen is healthy. I have so much to be thankful for. And in the past 24 hours, I have had an overflowing heart as I watch Rowen playing, dancing, and saying "oooowww" (I think he's a bit sore still). I gave him so many kisses today. And I held on to him extra tight, even after I caught him putting my eyeshadow brush up his nostril.
I have been haunted by our time in the hospital. As I was laying Rowen down last night, I thought about those same moms who were putting their little ones to bed to the lullaby of beeping IVs and nurses' carts rolling down the corridor. I can't forget. I refuse to forget.
They need encouragement and they need to hear the hope of Christ. I intend to do whatever I can to make that happen. For those of you who have stuck with this blog post to the end, I implore you to join me. We can't forget.