I mentioned last week that Rhiannon was having surgery this past Thursday (April 19). I wanted to wait until it was over to discuss what was going on, and why surgery was necessary.
Rhiannon is in a very small percentage of children (less than 1% we’re told) who have a very serious reaction to the BCG (tuberculosis) vaccination. In Rhi’s case, she received the BCG vaccination at birth as is customary here in Singapore. BCG is a standard vaccination in most countries (although not the United States), although it seems to vary pretty widely by country as to when the vaccination is given.
The super short version is that the lymph nodes closest to the vaccination site (the ones in the crease between her thigh and stomach) began to swell, and got so large they needed surgery. The first surgery was performed at Gleneagles under circumstances I’m still upset about (no anesthesia, not in an OR, no tests run on the nodes). Rhi got an infection, so we ended up at KK, and we switched to a surgeon there. The wound closed for about 8 or so weeks, and then split back open because more nodes were getting inflamed and swollen. We spent the last 6 or so weeks trying non-surgical solutions, but finally the decision had to be made for a second surgery.
Unlike the first surgery, this one would be performed in an operating room, under anesthesia at the hospital. The nodes removed would be sent out for study and evaluation to see exactly what we were dealing with.
Last Thursday I got up far earlier than anyone in our house usually does, and took Rhi to KK Children’s Hospital for the surgery. We were moved from admissions to a waiting room to day surgery to their waiting room to the operating theater’s waiting room, and finally the operating room over the course of two hours. I held Rhi as they administered the gas that helped put her to sleep.
During the hour or so it took for the surgery, I grabbed a quick breakfast, bought a guilt gift for Rhi, and went to the parent waiting area in the hall outside the operating theaters. Ironically the parent waiting area is located next to a sign that says “no waiting in this hall.”
I was on the phone with a friend when the surgeon came out to tell me that it was done. He showed me the really big lymph node that he’d removed and was sending for tests (I’ll spare you the gory details), and said she’d done very well. She had needed to fast for a number of hours prior to surgery due to the anesthesia, so once she was out of surgery, the first priority was nursing her. After Rhi’d taken a nice full feed, she smiled and interacted with the nurse and I for a while before falling asleep.
Boredom combined with a lack of sleep began a long discussion of the wallpaper on my twitter feed. The creepy, creepy clown wall paper.
When you’re stressing out, sometimes you need to focus on something stupid like whether or not the clowns in the recovery room are just creepy, or zombie clowns. Rhi was sleeping and we were waiting to be admitted up to a room for observation. Many thanks to my tweeps who played and chatted along, helping to keep me distracted.
Eventually we were moved up to a ward, where I am happy to report the wallpaper was covered in lions and zebras and elephants–not a clown in the room. As happened last time, I had to have about 5 discussions regarding Rhiannon’s eating habits (specifically that she is exclusively breastfed and no I don’t want them giving her water and no she doesn’t need formula-yes I use it on the occasional date night, but I don’t do a daily supplement, and yes I was serious). I eventually wrote and taped a note to her crib that said something to the effect of
Dear Nurses and Doctors
I am exclusively breastfed by Mommy. Please do not offer me
- baby food
Coupled with this was the extreme discomfort the nurses and doctors had with my breastfeeding her. Specifically my comfort level of breastfeeding without needing a cover, a curtain, a KEEP OUT sign, or an armed guard. That I would call out “come in” and be completely comfortable with speaking with them while nursing visibly unnerved them. As it is a children’s hospital, and as they are pursuing certification as a breastfeeding friendly hospital, this strikes me as an area with a lot of potential room for improvement. If you want to be breastfeeding friendly, you need to understand that plenty of moms are going to be comfortable nursing publicly.
We killed about seven or eight hours in the room. I watched a lot of downloaded tv on iTunes, Ravi came for a visit (which freed me to go grab lunch), and then Ravi and Ellie visited after school. Ravi had taken the day off to parent Ellie and provide support to me at the hospital while E was in school.
Rhi slept a lot (not shocking given the anesthesia and the pain killers they gave her) and nursed, and did some playing.
Around eight o clock we were given permission to go home. She went home on an antibiotic (which she finished up today), and with a bandage over the wound site.
Rhi got tylenol (paracetamol) on and off over the weekend. Sunday was a rough day, but that had more to do with teething than her surgery.
This past Monday we saw the surgeon so he could take a look at how the surgical site was healing. He said it looked great. I was able to get some of the initial test results–that the lymph node wasn’t malignant and that there was no bacterial infection present. We’ll need to wait until Mid-May to get the rest of the test results. A best case scenario is that we’re done and the first surgery just didn’t get all the infected nodes. The worst case is that she had a very rare reaction and actually contracted tuberculosis to the extent that she’ll need a 3 month course of treatment (but the odds are quite low).
I want to thank you guys for the well wishes I’ve received, and the concern you’ve shown for our family.
Tomorrow we return to less medicalized content, I promise.
Rhiannon is doing great…this photo is from today, taken at Amazonia as she terrified me by trying to push up onto her hands and knees (I just know crawling is going to happen far too soon).