Open Heart Surgery

The day before McKenzie’s surgery came quickly, we decided to stay at a local hotel the night of – this would save time and driving come morning. Once we were settled, it was time to bathe and sanitize McKenzie.  Once she was clean, we laid her between us with her blanket and favorite toy, she fell asleep quickly and we watched her sleep for hours. The morning alarms sounded, I wasn’t sure if I had slept at all –  McKenzie was still fast asleep as we got dressed, eventually I picked her up and buckled her into her car seat. As we walked towards the car, I held back every emotion I was feeling and we made our way to the hospital.
We arrived at the scheduled time of 6 am. It wasn’t long before we were in the back and nurses began their assessments. Nikki and I tried to talk casually, like we weren’t getting ready for the longest day, week, month of our lives.

At 7:30 the anesthesiologist stopped by the room to briefly remind us of his plans and the risks involved. At 7:45, the surgeon came for McKenzie. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was hand our baby and her life to someone we’ve met twice. McKenzie would be clinically dead and all we could do was pray, wait and pray some more.

With tears streaming down my face, we eventually made it to the cardiology waiting room. We’ve seen this room so many times but only once did we see it this way. Nikki stayed strong for us both, as I fell apart. I obsessed over every detail, I questioned if McKenzie was mad at me, Does she know I love her?, What if she doesn’t make it to the bypass? What if she doesn’t make it back? What if something goes wrong? Will she recover ok? Will she be in pain? Is she in pain? Is she scared? Is this really happening right now?

The EASE app is used during surgeries at Arnold Palmer, it’s an APP that allows updates with text, photos and videos. We have used this APP before with McKenzie’s first surgery – while the updates were hard to see, they were comforting to know.

At 8:02am McKenzie was safely asleep and they began working on her lines. I found comfort in knowing she was now resting. At 8:57 am, her surgery began. At 9:19am they began to dissect for bypass. We made our way to the chapel, I sat crying, praying and waiting. At 10:14am, McKenzie was successfully on bypass.

We made our way back to the waiting room, we updated those close to us and continued our wait. After several hours and multiple updates; McKenzie was officially off bypass. At 1:39pm, McKenzie was successfully out of surgery and at 2:12pm she was in the PCVICU.  The surgeon made his way to the waiting room around 2:30, we were relieved to hear the surgery went well but were anxious to see our baby. Another hour or so passed before being called back to see McKenzie. We scrubbed our hands viciously and made our way to her room –

As we walked through the doors, my heart dropped. It didn’t look like McKenzie, I  felt incredibly sick. The wires, the machines, the tubes, the blood. Her eyes had liquid on them to prevent dryness, it looked as if she had tears falling down. She heard our voice and even though she was sedated, she started to move. She wanted us and we wanted her, but at that point – we were bad for her and had to leave so she would rest.

Seven in a half hours, that was the time from us handing McKenzie to the surgeon to us seeing McKenzie in recovery. This day, by far has been the longest and hardest day of our lives.


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