Hearing That My Child Has to Have Open-Heart Surgery Again


It’s 1 a.m. and I’m wide awake. It’s partly due to the fact that this is the only time I can be completely honest with myself and admit that the haze of sadness I’ve been walking around in for two days hasn’t gone away. We’ve finally heard the words we thought we were prepared for: “It’s time.”

Sure, it’s easy to occupy my time and push the sadness down, but it’s still there. Just waiting for my son Josh to go to bed. When the house quiets and the vivid pictures of what I know is coming creep back to the surface.

Logically, I know this is inevitable. Yet knowing it and hearing the actual words are two completely different things. Even after what we’ve been through, it’s still a shot to the gut.

There really are no words to make it better. There’s nothing we can do. And there’s certainly no “getting used to it” like some rather insensitive and soulless people have said to me.

So, we will take our son to the hospital and he’ll have open-heart surgery again — his fourth in 12 years.

We will trust the surgeons with his life, literally, in their hands. We will trust the nurses who care for him. Because what else can we do in such a powerless and helpless situation? And that’s where some of the fear comes from — the inability to protect my child. It makes my skin crawl.

The news also brings back every vivid memory; it comes right to the surface and seems fresh again. Like little photos and videos on my brain:

The sending him off with the doctors and having to trust them. The silence as we wait and wait to hear he’s made it out of surgery. The running as fast as I possibly can to get to him. I need to see him with my own eyes to know he’s breathing.

And then I stop.

Because I ran into a room where my son is intubated and connected to a dozen or so tubes, wires and machines. And the air suddenly leaves the room. Because even though I remembered this, I’ve somehow also forgotten how shocking it really is. That it is my child lying there. The one I’d take a bullet for; have open-heart surgery for. The one I’d die for.

He doesn’t deserve it. He shouldn’t have to deal with it.

And he’s asleep because his small body needs medication to cope with the pain. I just want to talk to him. To hear his voice. To hug and hold him. To let him know I’m there and will protect him.

But can I, really? This is the plight of a parent like me. At the end of the day, the most I can do is find the best doctors for him, but even still, it never feels like it’s enough.

And I want to scream. I have screamed. And I’ve cried. And then I’ve been happy because he’ll never see this side of me. The vulnerable mom who so very desperately wants to magically wish it away.

People have asked me how I stay strong for him and keep it together. And the truth of the matter is, I’m nothing special; just a mom trying her best to protect her son. I don’t want to show him the worry or fear in my eyes. It’s not even a thought. It’s just what I do.

Moms know who they have to be and when. Soon enough, there will be a hospital room for my son. It will be 1 a.m., and I’ll be awake. And then I’ll be able to cry.

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Thinkstock image by Ryan McVay


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