Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Nathaniel's' Open Heart Surgery Experience Part 2/2

Following on from Part 1 of Nathaniel's Heart defect diagnosis and surgery we found ourselves settled into ward 12A - the paediatric ward of the hospital. Being the mom, and still breastfeeding I was the default care-giver to stay at the hospital with him. So although A did visit as much as he could and came around for the doctor checks and tests he was able to pretty much carry on with life and get a bit of work done - and help with getting the boys to school etc as they were back at school by now and their lives needed to go on.

I ended up staying in the hospital with him for 4 days and 3 nights, with just one brief break to go home and shower etc once in that time.... those days were LONG and I lost track of time and the outside world, with not even a window to look out of. It was both a tiring, stressful frustrating and sort of pleasant time. I had to sleep IN his cot with him, my back has still not forgiven me for that. And there is so much noise, routine, disruption and frankly nonsense that goes on in a hospital. They really do not leave you alone or let you rest at all. Someone always wants something, even in the middle of the night. So I was busy doing something. Cleaning, dressing, feeding, changing, medicating, checking temps, checking BP, check O2 stats, reading to, playing with, putting to sleep, waking up, cuddling Nathaniel all the time. Day and night and all confined to on or around that little 'jail-cot'.
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But that said despite how awful being in hospital was, that special 'nothing else to do but sit here cuddling' time was super special and I really enjoyed the bonding time and opportunity we had. Nathaniel and I definitely got closer though the experience and I am grateful for that.
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It was also nice to have a break from having to prepare meals and cater for a few days. A cooked meal arrived for him 3 times a day, and once for me too. It was cool being able to just feed him and eat and not have to try to juggle entertaining him and trying to cook while keeping him happy (admittedly the other 2 boys do help a lot with this at home anyway, but still).
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So overall the time in the hospital was mostly pretty bearable and at times bemusedly pleasant, if you just follow the rules and instructions and are not stroppy, but one particular nurse was beyond awful.

She is really not good. She does not communicate well, clearly or even in a pleasant manner with parents, and is rough, to the point of potentially damaging, to children both psychologically and physically. Her bedside manner is very bad and her handling of patients (well Nathaniel at least), is I feel almost abusive. 2 examples:
- On our fist evening in the ward after ICU, after Nathaniel having had all meds via IV or nasal tube prior, she proceeded to shove 5-6 different meds down his throat via syringes in quick succession. It was done FAR to fast and roughly done and as a result a few minutes later he vomited out the entire contents of his stomach. Note that he has NEVER vomited before (or since). She didn't seem to care and kind of laughed it off saying 'maybe he had it too fast'. YOU THINK!?

From then on he went on a meds hunger-strike. And we struggled to get him to take any oral medication, and after trying to add it to his milk he stopped drinking anything from a bottle too. Leaving only breastfeeding as an option to get nourishment into him. On Monday we got nearly no pain medication into him at all, and only on ME telling Dr Vosloo this late that evening did she suggest using suppositories. Surely the nursing staff could and should have considered this option??? He had been clearly in pain all day...  2 Nurses and myself then administered suppositories to him, gently and with no issue over the next day. 

- On the Tuesday evening this same nurse decided she was going to administer a suppository and she literally shoved her entire thumb up inside his anus and rectum so hard and fast and right up beyond the second knuckle that he screamed and shrieked in pain! I was so shocked and horrified I couldn't believe it. Surely that is 1) unnecessary 2) dangerous, and could perforate the bowel!? and 3) actually pretty abusive!? I am absolutely appalled at her treatment and lack of compassion and care. After that he was scared and upset every time we administer the suppositories, and clamped his legs together in fear of anticipated pain, even though I always did it as gently and slowly as possible to ensure there is no pain.

I was horrified and appalled. I was actually a bit traumatised by it myself. After we left I actually lodged a complaint about her as I feel it is important that something is done about it, and to potentially spare any other babies and young children from having to endure unnecessarily traumatic experiences with her.

Nathaniel progressed nicely over the days, and had a follow-up U/S on the Tuesday by Dr Pribut where he measured the pressure differential on the aortic valve to be 20 (down from 80) so that's great. He did detect a bit of a leak, but says it does not look serious at all and he thinks it might settle down quite well in a few months, when we'll check a gain to see how everything has re-stabilised.

On Wednesday morning on her rounds Dr Vosloo examined him and decided he was strong, in good health and his incision was healing as it should so she gave us the ok to go home! YAY YAY YAY.

I packed up and got organised as fast as I could and then hung around the nurses station expectantly and kind of harassed the nurses to get their asses into gear then, as we needed a dressing change of the incision and to get his drain stitches out before we could go. We also had to wait for a prescription of suppositories to be filled. This would have taken hours if we'd waited for them to be sent to the ward. I insisted on going down to the pharmacy to get them myself on the way out thanks.

Eventually we were FREE. Nathaniel and I high-tailed it out to the car and the little boy who usually does not like his car seat or car rides much actually smiled when I put him in it. I do think he was very glad to finally be going home after nearly a whole week in hospital. Poor boy.

When we got home he flopped about on the big bed really happily. Hugging the pillows, turning the TV on, admiring himself in the mirror and chopping on an apple.

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We are now 2 weeks out from the surgery and he is better and stronger every day. After a few really clingy days and nights and struggling to get him to take a bottle or to eat still he has started trusting us and being himself again and is healing from the experience in all ways.

He has a check up with the surgeon this week, but I think she'll be very happy with his progress.

So here's hoping his repaired valve stays in good repair and doesn't give him any more trouble!


  1. Its that odd thing about having a child in hospital - it is extremely tiring but its bonding time that you will hardly ever get on that level again. Glad he is doing so very well

  2. Thanks Cat & Daniel. It was harrowing, and a really traumatic experience, but there were these hidden blessings in it too, for which I am very grateful! <3