After a 10-day add-on to his 137 days at Cedars-Sinai, our son Charlie is home again! I was astounded by how fast he recovered from his shunt replacement surgery. When he had the first one last month it took six days just to get him extubated and several more weeks to get him back to speed. But now, less than 48 hours after the surgery, Charlie was being sent home without his oxygen tank, apnea monitor, or any other medical accoutrements. Yippee! On Saturday we were moved from the highly secure PICU to the regular pediatric floor for our last day which is just like regular hospital rooms except all the kids have a lo-jack device on their ankle to prevent any sociopaths from waltzing out of the building with them. There are big signs marking the boundaries of where you can walk around with your child without setting the alarm off. I took Charlie for a little stroll around the floor yesterday morning and as I was heading back to the room I saw a pair of security guards heading our way. “I hope they're not coming for you,” the nurse joked. And yet they were! Somehow I had set Charlie’s lo-jack off and the guards had to examine all of our identification. Oops.
Suddenly, without any of the fanfare or extensive paperwork of the NICU, the nurses came in, snipped off Charlie’s ankle bracelet, took out the PICC line they had put in for the surgery, and said we were free to go. Really? I almost felt like a kidnapper walking out of the building on our own back into the sunlight that Charlie had seen for only six days before landing back in the hospital.
Yesterday was Charlie’s five-month birthday so of course as we left the hospital complex our thoughts were on that scary day last April and our son, Oliver, who never got the chance to feel the warm sun on his skin. It was so great to be home again and though it was only 16 days since our last departure from Cedars, Charlie seemed like a different baby, so much more developed. Our dogs were excited to have us all back and apart from a few enthusiastic licks pretty respectful of the baby. We had a great night. I sang a little bit of the Kol Nidre prayer to Charlie since we were missing our synagogue’s services and also sang a bit of “Let Me Entertain You” in honor of our sacrilegious Yom Kippur Eve performance of “Gypsy” on Broadway last year.
I was on feeding duty last night and today feel an exhaustion I haven’t felt since Leah was a baby back in 1994. But even though I looked forward to complaining about typical new parent stuff like sleep deprivation, I don’t feel like complaining. I can barely keep my eyes open but it is such a happy, grateful exhaustion.
And now, I begin to contemplate my post-hospital life. I MUST get work right away and I have a few writing projects in mind based on our experience over the past five months. What will I write about on this blog now that I no longer (God willing) have complex medical procedures to deal with? I have fantasized about returning to “normal” life for so long and yet it’s a bit unnerving to find myself in the position of having to retool my identity that was so well defined for almost half a year. But I'm thrilled to find myself facing this unknown. Today is the Jewish Day of Atonement but to me it feels much more like Thanksgiving.