Four Years, Four Hours

In Liam’s first five years of life, he had 12 heart surgeries of assorted intensity, from one of the riskiest and most complex on the planet, to marathon caths, to a simple removal of sternal wires.  With his Cardiac MRI, he’s been under general anesthesia with a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist 13 times.  Then, in 2008, the week before kindergarten, he got his stent and stabilized.

It’s been almost, but not quite, four years since I smelled the sterile glare of hospital sheets.  Glare is the right word, that smell is so harsh and unique.  I smelled that smell today as I rested my head next to Liam’s and kissed his tear stained face.  It’s been nearly four years since I hid my own tears from Liam while he cringed in a hospital bed, and that ended today too.  I knew he was scared after the IV went in, I couldn’t bear to add to his burden.

Liam had chest pains, regular, recordable chest pains at school.  We headed to the doctor’s office, but when he complained of feeling faint in the car, I turned into the hospital instead.  We then ended our nearly four year streak of office-visits-only with four hours in the ER.

We had a happy ending when the events of chest pain he was feeling set off no difference in the heart rate monitors or his blood pressure.  This was even better when a bag of fluid seemed to alleviate his pain and his dizziness faded.  Seems our nearly-nine-year old was badly dehydrated.  . . but with an impending pacemaker Jim and I took no chances.  The doctors and nurses both at our local ER and who I spoke with on the phone at Children’s told us we did the right thing coming in today.

It feels so strange to be “happy” our son had dehydration that brought us to the ER, but the alternatives for Liam are so much worse.  So, Liam pretty much gets a bottomless supply of milk and water for the foreseeable future.  In the meantime, we’ll consider this a test run for his next open-heart surgery where we don’t just get to have the IV pulled and go home to watch TV after four hours.  Maybe, for that reason alone, it was a blessing in disguise.

Oh, since we’re not at Children’s Hospital tonight like we feared we would be, please do come see me at the Aurora Barnes & Noble (225/Abilene) tomorrow night (6:30 pm).  Liam won’t be there – he’ll be resting and drinking, but I could use the encouragement!


  1. I’m so happy it was “just” dehydration. Our heart kiddos get dehydrated very easy and react much differently to it. We’ve been there with Luke. When he’s dehydrated he gets dizzy and starts vomiting. Give Liam a big hug from us.

  2. What surgeries did liam have done? Dr forbess at children’s Dallas did my asd and cleft mv. I’m okay, that was when I was 17 and I’m 23 now. But Wednesday my one year old is having av canal repaired. And I’m a wreck! I’m sorry your son has to go through all this. I’m terrified of this next week. I know I was okay, am okay. But its different when its your child, not yourself.

    • 1. Modified Norwood
      2. Diagnostic Cath and ballooning under general
      3. Glenn and pulmonary artery augmentation
      4. Diagnostic cath and collateral coiling and balloon
      5. Additional cath preop with more coiling
      6. Glenn revision and pulmonary second artery augmentation
      7. Cath with additional coiling
      8. Fontan and even more pulmonary artery augmentation
      9. Emergency cardiac irrigation and sternal stripping due to massive bone and tissue post op infection
      10. Sternal wires removed
      11. Cath to eliminate more collaterals with coiling (lasted almost 8 hours under general) and test occlusion of fenestration
      12. Cath for more collateral coiling and a stent placed in the Left Pulmonary branch artery

      He was under general a thirteenth time for a Cardiac MRI but since his heart was not touched or impacted by that I don’t count that. Even the wire pull impacted his cardiac function as it set his rhythms wacky for a while from the disrupted scar tissue between his sternum and his cardiac muscle, and was performed by a heart surgeon. He’s “only” had his chest opened five times and been on full respiratory bypass (heart stopped) four times. . . but that’s enough. Caths (when needles are run through the inside of the heart as in all of his) are still heart surgery. I didn’t used to count them until a man at an American Heart Association event got up to talk about his “heart surgery” and it was a cath. If he could count that, then so can Liam. 🙂

      I don’t count his 21 chest tube pulls, his fluoroscopy lab visit for PICC line or his numerous cut downs (all surgical procedures) as “heart surgery,” but technically, if we counted all those scalpel cuts and stitches, Liam has had more than 30 “surgeries” in his life. I’m tired just remembering it all. I went over his medical records before the final copy of the book went to press to check the details and that was a bit overwhelming to read too.

  3. We are so happy that this scare was no worse than it was.We know all the thoughts that went through your mind.Also we the doubts you are having even now.We think of all of you each day,and are praying for you.

Tell me what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s