Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Way Back Machine

Maya had her MRI today to determine if she needs spinal surgery. I took the day off from work, and Verna and I drove her into San Francisco for her radiology appointment at Kaiser.

The first thing Maya said when she entered the hospital was, “This was grandma’s hospital.”

Not quite a year ago, Maya visited her Grandma Chela, Verna’s mother, a few times during the last two weeks of Chela’s life. Today, without any prompting or reminders from us, Maya recalled the place, summoned up the memories of tagging along with Verna in mid-October 2008.

“I’m just so glad the place doesn’t freak her out,” said Verna, who always reminds people that Maya was born on the same floor at Kaiser SF where Chela died, a place of life, death, and the ineffable bonds of family.

So we brought Maya up to the second floor and the radiology department where they promptly gave her a coloring book with Disney characters. Then we had to go back down to the lobby, get admitted to the hospital, and then return upstairs to the ambulatory surgery unit (ASU), where they would prep Maya for her MRI.

A three-year-old having a MRI is more complicated than usual, mainly because it has to be done under a general anesthetic. There is no way a young child can lie motionless inside a rumbling tube for any amount of time. So they had to knock Maya out.

But first we waited some more, which gave Verna and I ample time to raise our anxiety levels to all-time highs. Actually, we were pretty calm. Maya helped ease the tension. Everywhere we walked, someone—a doctor, nurse, medical technician, or a hospital worker—said the same thing as they saw Maya: “She is the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen. She’s gorgeous. I have never seen someone so pretty.”

All I was thinking at that point was thank goodness Maya looks like Verna.

We waited in the ASU with Chris, a nurse who lives near in the same San Francisco neighborhood that Verna and I did when we were first married in 1991. She was very sweet, and eventually brought Maya over to the ASU prize drawer and gave Maya a flower ring with a smiley face and a green plastic watch with a mouse face. After that, when Maya asked me what time it was, I said, “Half past the mouse and cheese.”

They finally called us back to radiology after we’d been at the hospital for close to two hours. Maya was dressed in her surgical gown and pajama-like pants as they wheeled her to the MRI rooms. There we met the anesthesiologist, who reeked of alcohol (probably from washing his hands with an antiseptic alcohol solution) and explained how he was going to get Maya to sleep.

“We’ll put a mask on her that emits some gas and oxygen,” he said. “And then when she is out for several minutes we’ll give her an IV drip. Once she’s asleep we kick the parents out. Then you can come back in when she’s in the recovery room. Usually that takes about an hour. Any questions?”


I looked over at Verna, then at Maya. Verna and I were teary-eyed. Maya was unusually quiet. We’d told her earlier that she was going to get a treat, ice cream, cake, juice, or a combination of all three, after the doctor was done checking her out. One of the nurses mentioned a Popsicle and Maya’s eyes lit up. But now she was focused and probably more than a little scared.

“Do you want to put the mask on her?” the doctor asked Verna.

Verna grabbed the mask and started to put it on Maya, who resisted slightly, so Verna gently held Maya’s arms with one hand and the doctor held the mask in place. Within a minute at most, Maya’s eyelids drooped and the doctor and radiology tech lowered her onto the bed.

An hour later they came and got us in the waiting room and we helped escort a sleeping beauty to the recovery room. Maya slept in a room filled with adults in various states of recuperation. She woke up crying after 15 minutes and was cranky for a few more. Her nurse, Scott, suggested I lift her onto Verna’s lap. Verna cradled her for a bit before Maya asked to sit up. Soon Maya ate two graham crackers, sipped a can of apple juice, and chomped down a cherry Popsicle.

On the car ride home, Maya ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich Verna had packed earlier in the morning. Maya hadn’t eaten anything since dinner yesterday, and hadn’t been allowed any fluids after ten this morning. So she was hungry!

She was quiet in the car but alert, not at all dazed or confused. Before we left the hospital, Scott gave us an instruction sheet for handling young kids post-MRI and anesthesia. It said, “Allow your child to walk unassisted before leaving him or her alone or unattended. It is normal for them not to resume regular activities until the following day.”

Except in the case of Maya, who screamed with joy when we got home because she saw her friend Jira, 2, our next-door neighbor. Then we joined Jira, her 10-month old sister, and her parents, Ken and Corina, at the Thursday night Farmer’s Market in downtown San Rafael so Maya could get a head start on her normal activities. She and Jira danced for close to an hour after we ate dinner to a local rock and blues band, Ruckus, which was jamming on one of the street corners.

What can I say? Maya is abnormally effervescent.

But before we left, Maya’s pediatrician called us with the results of Maya’s MRI. Negative. No spinal surgery necessary. Hallelujah!

At home this evening, Verna plopped down on the couch and said, “I’m more exhausted than Maya because it took a toll on you and me having to watch her go through everything.”

But Maya is OK. More than OK. And we are all breathing much easier for now.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I am glad Maya is okay. When I was 2-3 I got a needle stuck in my foot and had to have surgery to get it out. I TOTALLY remember having the mask put over my mouth and crying, but I am sure it was a lot harder on my parents to see me get wheeled away to surgery.