Houston is enormous. It’s essentially a blanket term for the upper Gulf Coast of Texas, stretching into parts of East Texas. So on that Sunday, August 27th, 2017, what the rest of the country was seeing on every news channel was virtually every neighborhood, from the luxury million dollar homes sitting on the southern Gulf of Mexico to the north eastern suburbs to downtown Houston, where folks like myself reside, go completely under water. Hurricane Harvey had not even made landfall. The doctors who were supposed to operate on my baby at 8:00 AM that morning had to live somewhere…
“We will be removing twenty-five percent of his bowel this morning.” A new doctor, Dr. C, who had barely made it into the hospital early that morning, explained to me at the bedside of my baby. Miles was still sedated since his exploratory surgery that Friday night. I missed seeing his big sweet eyes.
Dr. C went on to sum up that this surgery, a jejunostomy, would require Miles to have a stoma and an ostomy, They would act as his missing bowels for six to eight weeks. Then, depending on his healing and overall health, he would have another surgery to reconnect his bowels. He said although many function at home after this type of surgery with colostomy bags, his team would not be recommending it because of Miles’ already weakened immune system and because of the possibility that he may have more complications coming.
Our dream of sixteen days till home was gone. We would be in this hospital for at least two more months. Period. I wanted to be devastated, to throw a fit, to punch something, to scream, but my baby was about to be cut open and my husband and dogs were possibly evacuating the city along with all my friends and family. The time for a pity party wasn’t now. I had to be an adult, even though I felt like a scared child. I had to be there for Miles.
“Half the operating room team cannot get here So we are going to have to operate bedside.” Dr. C informed me as his scheduled surgery time came and went. He said it was not preferred but desperate time called for desperate measures. Miles had to have the surgery or risked further complications. The team began to pour in and parents of our fellow pod babies were instructed to leave the NICU.
“You too, mom. Time to tell him goodbye.” The nurses looked at me as I stood next to his bed. “Mr. A is here to walk you out.” Another somber Chaplain stood with hands folded at his waist. Why the hell is he here? Nothing is going to happen, right?
The scene of all those doctors and nurses preparing to operate on my baby for the fourth time, the rain pounding against the window, that Chaplain’s pitiful looks and the thought of walking out of that NICU and being alone for the next few days was too much and I began to sob. Losing my breath sob. Knees weak sob. A kind nurse put her arm around me and whispered comforts to me as the whole staff watched me lose it. Eventually I kissed my baby and walked toward the lobby with Mr. A trailing behind.
Seems like they always interview the guy without a shirt on in these situations. I chuckled as I tried to cheer myself up a bit amidst the horror that was unfolding all around Houston. I sat in the lobby watching my fellow Houstonians get rescued from the rising waters. I wanted to ask for those Facebook prayers just once more, but felt they were needed by so many others that day. So instead I waited, alone. It was another one of my darkest times, in that waiting room. Not even sure what I would do, if he didn’t make it through this one. I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to stay there alone until the water receded, knowing he was gone. Texts from friends and family letting me know they were safe helped ease my fears. Chris was still safe and had power, my friends and family near the gulf were all accounted for.
After a couple of hours, I saw the Dr. C and his team heading toward me. Every thing had went well. Now, it was time to wait. Wait for clots, wait for floods, wait for healing, wait to go home. Wait…
That night, after sitting with Miles for the rest of the day, I found a nook around the corner from the elevators of the seventh floor NICU. It had a window overlooking the flooding city and benches so that I could build a fort around my camp site. I told the night nurses I slept in a bright orange hoodie so if they needed to come and find me I was easy to spot. I washed up in the bathroom, made a pallet on the floor, and settled into what would be my lobby home for the next week until flood waters of Harvey receded .