We’ve had a few questions recently about Callie’s amputation surgery so I wanted to share a little more about it……
We made the decision to do her amputation at 18 months. By then, she had recovered substantially from her heart surgery and was doing fairly well. She’d become a little stronger and the surgeons thought that the 18-24 months time frame would be good. We also didn’t want to wait any longer because we worried the older she got the more that she would remember. Our goal was to have her grow up with only knowing life with her prosthetic and remembering very little about the actual surgery itself.
We had to have the surgery done at Dallas Children’s Hospital instead of at Dallas Scottish Rite where we were being followed…..for a few reasons. They wanted to make sure that it was done at a hospital that had a cardiac team in the event that something went wrong while Callie was in the operating room. They also wanted to have a cardiac anesthesiologist administer her medication to make sure her heart was stable through the procedure.
There’s not really an easy way to describe the night before the procedure. I don’t think James and I even slept at all. I remember just holding her in between us in bed at the hotel and kissing her little “foot.” Tears quietly rolling down our faces in the shadows of the room. Trying to reconcile the heartbreaking notion that soon her little foot would be gone but with it being gone…..that meant that soon we would be able to build something that would finally let her walk. Trying to memorize how she looked with two little legs. One markedly shorter than the other one. One not able to support any weight while the other one was strong, sure, and stable. Whole but in many ways with this procedure we were going to make her even better….even stronger….even more whole. The night before the procedure was spent saying good bye to that sweet little broken foot, allowing ourselves some time to grieve and getting ourselves prepared for the battle that lay ahead of us.
The procedure in itself was relatively short. Callie was in and out in about 4 hours. I honestly don’t remember much about those four hours. I know James’s brothers were there in the waiting room with us but I can’t tell you what we did or talked about.
They called us back once she had woken up from the anesthesia. As we rounded the corner of the recovery room I could hear her screaming for me. It ripped my heart out and I won’t be able to ever forget the sound of her screaming “Mama, Mama, Mama.” I lost it and was right behind James as he shoved anyone in our path out of the way so we could get to her. My tears rained down on her face as we hovered over her little bed.
She was in a cast that covered her entire leg. Her little misshapen foot was now gone. They put her in a cast because she was so little that a cast was the only way to try and ensure it healed properly. The cast was very heavy and she was extremely agitated. She kept trying to move it and finding that she was, in essence, being anchored by the heavy weight, she would let out a pissed off shriek.
They did put a small stuffed bunny in the bed with her. The bunny had bows in it’s ears just like Callie wore and they had wrapped the bunny’s leg in an ACE bandage just like the one that now covered Callie’s leg. I will forever be grateful to the nurses that thought to do that because the bunny would be Callie’s constant companion during recovery in the hospital. BunBun never left her side. He slept with her, did IV draws just like she did, took medicine just like she did, and changed his little wrap just like Callie did. He also gave two scared parents a safe way to talk to their little girl about her surgery.
The reality was, that was just the starting point. We probably will never get over having to make that decision. We probably will grieve the loss of her leg and the loss of the life we “thought” we were going to have forever. But we have healed. We started to rebuild, taking those broken pieces from each of us and mended them together. We have become whole again but we won’t ever truly be……..the same.