As her warm hand swayed with mine and Daddy’s down the steps to theatre, she showed no signs of anxiety, anticipation or apprehension of where the nurse in pink was leading us to.
I wanted to express my anxiety and share with you how it truly feels when your child is under General anaesthetic. I am more than aware there are millions of surgeries that take place within children under 5 and you maybe thinking what an over reaction this post may seem. But as soon as I received the letter I was already nervous for when my daughter needed to go under. For the next 7 days I tried helplessly to research other parents experiences to fully understand what to expect. (Like all those sleepless nights researching hearing loss in babies, you may recall?) I really struggled to find anything that I needed to read to settle my over racing thoughts.
This increased my anxiety and heightened my emotions. I am, unfortunately one of those people, who when feel out of control they need to know all steps of a process in order to be able to feel at ease and feel slightly in control of a situation without being there. Even if that means knowing all the nitty gritty details.
Due to the nature of the tests we both surrendered our hearing aids, the only connection we had to the hearing world (the only chance of communication to the specialists in the room). The only feeling I can explain is you feel isolated, withdrawn and detached from anything and everything. I immediately felt her pang of anxiety.
A silent bright, anaesthetically white room, full of machinery and uncomfortably unfamiliar faces restraining her, unable to speak out, unable to understand what was to happen, my daughter fought back as the mask was placed over her sweet little face. I held her tighter than I could imagine, knowing I couldn’t combat the anxiety and uncertainty my daughter feared, knowing I couldn’t be there to oversee and protect my little girl, yet even the tight hold of her mothers embrace wasn’t enough to comfort her. The muffle of her screams beneath the mask will be a sound that will haunt me for a while. As her eyes rolled back, her body finally reacting to the anaesthetic, went from pure restraint to suddenly limp and floppy in my arms.
This was something I found incredibly hard to bare placing your limp child on a bed leaving her in the hands of someone you’re forced to trust and needing to walk away. It’s was like gravity pulled me back and I kissed her snowy white cheek.
Alivia’s effort to fight against the mask being placed over her, like the little warrior of fierce stubbornness we all know, meant the usual guidelines of 10 seconds to work, took a little longer but just under a minute she was put to sleep. When our children inhale,the gas travels through the lungs, blood stream which then pass to the brain which begin the effects of inducing unconsciousness. Then to keep the affects of the anaesthetic a cannula is applied to the back of the hand, this will be when they inject an induction drug.
I looked back as the specialists began their work on my daughter, placing a cannula on the back of her left hand. She appeared safe and sound. Two nurses accompanied me outside the surgery room asking me if I was ok and cuddled me. I reassured them I am fine but my heart and gut felt anything but. Dad was waiting for my return. We grabbed a coffee and bite to eat, to pass the 45-60 minutes that we had to spare before being reunited with our daughter, neither of us could bare a chat. After a hour we made our way back hesitantly to the waiting room.
Every time I heard a door open I felt a pang in my heart. But every time wasn’t for us.
A hour and half later a male dressed in burgundy scrubs asks if I, mum could follow him as Alivia was just coming round.
I wasn’t sure on what I was anticipating to become face to face with… I assumed my daughter would be drowsy and curled into the ball she tucks herself in, all long limbs tucked under her delicate little body with her bum in the air.
As I walked towards the recovery room the sound was like something of a horror movie. She was screaming and distraught. As I reached the door I could see she was fighting against one of the nurses who was desperately trying to console my little girl. All limbs lashing out bending her body in unusual positions. Mouth wide open with a half scream half groan. It was like watching her being possessed. Horror movie material.
I tried to comfort her with my touch to let her know that Mummy was there and she was safe (to state the obvious talking is no option here) But she didn’t sense me, saw straight through me and resumed to closing her eyes tightly shut and throwing her curly blonde haired head back, continuing to lash out and groaning uncontrollably. I was reassured that this was a reaction to anaesthetic in young children that they see often. And she would need to sleep again until the effects are worn off. As they felt sure she would be ok, we met dad in the corridor of the hospital whilst I tried my hardest to lay on the bed with my daughter providing a source of comfort and keep her from wiggling around the trolley bed. We had to pass the main entrance, which Alivia’s reaction meant we was met by concerned, curious looks of the publics faces.
Emergence Delirium, you can forget the thought of being reunited with a drowsy sweet child. You’re presented with your child being a force to be reckoned with. An irritated, inconsolable, uncompromising and combative possessed child who cannot recognise her family, objects (a sodding £19 jelly cat unicorn she hasn’t touched since!) Alivia was basically thrashing herself around on the trolley bed, eyes shut tightly closed, kicking punching and part incoherent screaming and crying.
It was honestly not the nicest thing to witness as a parent and there was nothing we could do or help Alivia, until she went back into a deep sleep. I don’t know how I’ve become emotionally strong and resilient with regards to challenging times. But I am so thankful I am, otherwise I think dad, would have broken down too.
As we made our way back to the children’s ward, after 20 minutes passed of this possessed energetic acrobatic body movements, Alivia feel back into a deep sleep.
Her dad and I kept exchanging looks of WTF… what an experience! To think she was only down for a hour and a half. I dread to think how she will react if cochlear implants are a success.
After nearly two hours of a sleep, where she continually had her obs checked. We decided to ask a nurse if she was ok to wake up and try again. After a couple of minutes our cheeky girl was back, almost immediately signing for food and ate an entire plate of sweet and sour chicken, go on girl! Nobody really truly knows why this reaction takes place, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about or causes any affects to her. Apart from being in the moment where they can potentially pull their line out or fall off the bed. I wish I could have prepared myself a bit to know what sort of reactions are possible. But we know now, and there is no need to worry because after the initial 15-20 minutes we know the episode will die down and she will fall to sleep.
We look forward to the future with Alivia continually taking every test, assessments, hospital appointments and educational appointments in her stride. As always her strength and resilience to her daily struggles is outstanding how at 3 years olds she is this remarkable. Mummy and daddy love you darling, and although mummy can’t always take your fear or pain just know for every tear that falls from your big blue eyes, two fall from mine.