Rhi’s Surgery

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.”

guilt gift

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

  • formula
  • water
  • baby food

Thank you,


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.

playing in the crib

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).

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15 Responses to Rhi’s Surgery

  1. I admire how you stayed calm through it all. Hope little Rhi stays healthy! She’s really cheerful and cute.

  2. Robin says:

    Oh my, what whirlwinds you have had with your girls! My heart goes out to you. I cannot imagine the mental and emotional pain, knowing your baby daughter had surgery withOUT anesthesia and NOT in an OR! I got chills reading that. My 3-yr old son recently received four stitches, and due to his young age they couldn’t even give him local anesthetic. They wrapped him in a blanket and he screamed in terror while I held his head. It tore my heart out!

    I am so glad she is better. She looks so happy!

    • Crystal says:

      I’m so sorry that he had to get stitches without any anesthetic! It’s awful when it’s your kids–you wish you could get the medical treatment for them and spare them any of the fear or pain.

      She’s doing great!

  3. Laura says:

    Glad to read that Rhi is a lot better and fingers crossed the rest of her test results are all good.

  4. Claire says:

    I know the experience has been far from perfect (although miles better from what happened at Gleneagles!) but I really hope now that Rhi makes a speedy recovery and that you can put this behind you.

    Watch out for the crawling – betting she’ll be a little speed demon with that cheeky look on her face! 🙂

  5. katrijn says:

    At least Rhi seems to have taken the whole surgery thing in her stride! And you know, she might be like Elsemieke and all you need to do is figure out the right sentinel point in the room 🙂 Once Blondie figured out crawling, she didn’t really see the use for actual walking until about a year later – so maybe this whole crawling thing might work out to your advantage? (Glass is half full! With a silver lining!)

    Also: I tried babyproofing the house, but she’d rip all my strategically applied soft strips right off all the nasty glass edges, so that after about a month I decided that she must be hyper aware of said edges and in order to get her away from them it might actually be a good idea to take off the baby proofing stuff. And it worked!

    They’re weird little creatures. But so cute! And her blue eyed bossiness behaves more like a proper human being every day! Who knows, maybe she’ll grow into a reasonable person in the end. (But before that, she’ll be three, I dread the day. :))(No, I don’t actually, I’m in denial.)

    • Crystal says:

      Yeah, our E made giant FAILs out of our attempts to babyproof as well (she would rip or attempt to eat the strips, etc). In our case, we just gave up the coffee table at some point (we no longer have one) and hoped she wouldn’t crawl/walk over the electrical outlet and shove a fork in it. (Not quite that bad, of course, but…)

      Denial is a happy place. I live there when it comes to the fact that my daughters will go through puberty and slam doors and be hormonal and all that happy stuff. LA LA LA DOES NOT EXIST

  6. bookjunkie says:

    Yeah it’s really odd that a hospital wouldn’t be comfortable with a mum breastfeeding. They really have a long way to go.

    On another note I am just so glad that Rhi is ok. She is just so precious and it ached my heart to see photos of her in the hospital bed…what a little trooper. She looks so cheerful considering what she’s been through. So glad the ordeal is over for you.

    • Crystal says:

      I think it’s a larger cultural thing (as well as a generational thing). It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t change over night, but rather over time.

      It was communicated to me that another mom felt like her son’s interest in watching me breastfeed was somehow “perverted”–aka sexualizing something that wasn’t sexual. Her son is roughly e’s age, which is about when kids start figuring out that girls and boys have different bodies, and are trying to figure stuff out. If you have an issue with the way that we as a culture (or men specifically) sexualize women and fetishize breasts–teaching your 3/4 year old son that breasts exist to feed babies and that mom is feeding her baby is a good start. It normalizes breastfeeding and draws attention to the actual job of a breast–to produce milk for an infant. Not to fill out a bikini. (And for the record, when you breastfeed, the nipple and aerolae are both in the baby’s mouth, and their head blocks the majority of your breast–I have shirts that show more of my breasts when paired with a push up bra than I show when I breastfeed).

  7. Dawn says:

    Glad she’s recovering!!!

    As for nursing and hospitals, I vaguely recall nurses coming in when I was trying to nurse my newborn, and and being asked if they should come back later, but I think it was less embarrassment and more a feeling that I was busy and what they needed to do (probably vitals checks) could wait. In any case, if *they’re* uncomfortable walking in on a nursing mom, then they’re going to make the nursing mom uncomfortable, and that’s definitely not good for promotion of nursing! You should write them a letter!

    • Crystal says:

      I plan to, when we get back, especially as they’re trying to get the certification as “pro-breastfeeding” or “breastfeeding friendly” or some such thing.

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