Reflections on Surgery

This post was originally posted on my blog but I wanted to share it on our family blog as well:

On Monday, Mandy and I drove Molly Kate to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to our second attempt at her first surgery. The surgery that would repair her cleft lip. We had made the same trip approximately four weeks ago only to be turned down due to the fact that Molly Kate had pneumonia four weeks prior to that. This trip, however, would have a better outcome. Although they were about an hour late starting surgery, at 3:00 PM on Monday we watched as Molly Kate was carried down to the operating room for her 3 1/2 hour procedure.

It is now Friday and we are hoping to go home today, but will most likely go home tomorrow. Molly Kate has done remarkably well and has charmed every nurse (and nursing student) that has worked directly with her or just been on her floor. Our frequent walks around the 8th floor have garnered “She is just so cute” comments each and every trip outside our room. Molly Kate is fiercely independent and will not even hold my hand on most of these trips but that is alright. She is doing just fine.

Watching Molly Kate respond to this surgery and reflecting on what I have seen has caused me to think some less-than-pleasant thoughts about her life prior to our Gotcha Day a little more than three months ago.

Molly Kate is very independent. I mentioned this earlier but not the reason that I suspect that she is so independent. For children that are born in to and continue to live in a home filled with loving parents and other caregivers, they have a near-constant advocate for their needs. For children raised in an orphanage, however, they learn–quickly–that they have no other advocate than themselves. This leads them to a place of feeling very independent. Not because they want to be independent, but because they have to be independent. She is learning every day that she has multiple advocates that love her dearly, but this is a long-term learning process.

Molly Kate has been hungry before. Because our surgery had to be rescheduled, our surgeon–Dr. Kelly–had to “fit us in” and gave us a 2:00 PM time slot. On the surface, this may not sound like a big deal but when you think about the fact that the surgical candidate cannot eat anything after Midnight the night before surgery, a mid-afternoon start-time feels less-than-ideal. We fed Molly Kate some oatmeal right before bed at about 8:00 PM on Sunday night and some apple juice on Monday morning but, other than that and the fluids delivered via IV, she went until breakfast on Tuesday morning without eating. And she did not cry once. Living a life where we get cranky going four to five hours without a meal, it is incredibly sad to realize that Molly Kate has experienced true hunger before and, therefore, did not complain about not being able to eat more more than 24  hours.

It was a blessing that Molly Kate’s lip was not fixed before she came home. It is rare that an orphan in China with a cleft lip not to have that lip repaired before their first birthday or at least before they are given to their adoptive family. Both Mandy and I questioned why her lip had not been fixed but it was never a big deal for us, and certainly not for the boys, who never once said anything about it. Seeing Molly Kate struggle to come out of the anesthesia, however, convinced us that the fact that she had not had surgery in China was a major blessing in disguise. Molly Kate really struggled with waking up. She was on a lot of pain medication, so she was not in pain, but she was truly pitiful to behold. She was barely moving, with her eyes closed and constantly crying. Huge, crocodile tears were running down her cheeks. The nurse in recovery quickly traded places with Mandy and then something magical happened: Almost immediately after being placed in Mandy’s lap, Molly Kate said, “Mama”. For the very first time. Ever.

Surgery this week was just the first step in Molly Kate’s medical journey. There will be a second surgery in January or February to fix her palate. Followed by a third surgery between the ages of four and fix to finish the work on her nose that was started on Monday. A fourth and final surgery will be between the ages of 10 and 12 when a bone graft will be performed to rebuild her gum line and dental implants will be inserted to complete her already beautiful smile. She does not understand any of this yet but Mandy and I do.

We feel blessed to live in a city with such a wonderful children’s hospital staffed by talented and caring medical professionals. We trust that God will bless us throughout this entire process and that He will protect and care for Molly Kate when she is out of our sight but never our hearts.

Molly Kate sleeping in my arms one day post-surgery.

Molly Kate playing in a playroom one day post-surgery.

Molly Kate taking a nap two days post-surgery

Molly Kate playing in a playroom two days post-surgery

Molly Kate playing with a bear given to her by Carter's 8U baseball team

My breakfast date four days post-surgery

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