I don’t know if this is a common experience of parents of children with congenital illnesses or if it is just me. I like to call it echo stress. Every time we have a surgery or major procedure, it progress as follows: First you hear about the need for a procedure and you schedule it. During this time you are mostly in denial about the stress involved. Plus it usually takes months to schedule a non-emergency surgery. So during this time you know something big is coming up, but it is not any more stressful than planning a vacation.
About two weeks before the procedure, reality sinks in and you start to feel low level stress.
One week out the pre-op phase begins. The amount of stress is proportional to the discomfort of the tests. Usually this requires blood work and x-rays which are fairly tame. This time, the pre-op required 4 days of fasting. It was not pretty.
Then there is the day of admission. This usually involves getting IVs and prep for the surgery. This time we had the added stress of a feeding tube. For this procedure this was the single biggest stressor.
Then there is the surgery. When they roll your kid back to the OR, you would think that it would be stressful. I actually find it a bit of a relief. For a couple of hours, things are out of my hands and I have no roll.
Then the doc comes out. Stress depends on the success or failure of the procedure. This time it was a success, so it was more of a relief.
This is followed by the recovery room. My experience is that Ethan becomes like a drunken sailor. He is not sure if the surgery has happened and he is literally out of his mind. This lasts for about an hour.
Once you go back to your room, you are in the recovery phase. This can be stressful depending on how well the doctors and nurses manage your child’s pain. This hospital did a really good job.
Finally there is discharge day. This is a happy time, though when you get home everybody basically collapses. My kid bounces back quickly and returns to his normal routine.
This, however is not the end of the parents’ stress. For some reason, several days after it is all over, I can barely function.
Oddly enough, during all but the last stages, I am generally in control and am able to manage my stress. But once my son has bounced back to normal, I become a complete mess. This is where I find myself today. I am going to work. But I cannot focus. On my way to work, I nearly caused not one, but two accidents. I feel like I am covered in plastic wrap. Nothing feels right. I am depressed and irritable.
It seems odd to me that I am able to keep it together during the actual event, but afterwards I fall apart. Guess it is all just part of being me.