Some months have gone by since my last entry into this chronicle of Gunner’s life. He’s already more than 5 months old and in all honesty, these months have felt far longer, while they also felt like they were rushing by – like a train. It is almost August, now… so deep summer here in AZ and my husband and I are anchored into our drama free life in the desert.
Gunner is now home on Maui! His parents are elated and, initially they were a bit frightened by the immensity of what was before them. Especially Sarah has been 24/7 with her baby boy, keeping him fed, bathed, changed and loved. Jacob is the consummate father; working every day, coming home and helping with whatever is required and being a rock for both his wife and son. Impressive, to say the least. More on all this later, for now I’ll return to February 25, 2022.
The morning of Gunner’s 2nd surgery dawned with anticipation and fear. Anytime someone you love goes under general anesthesia, not to mention major surgery where loads can go wrong, any self possessed human would have some trepidation. We all did.
At this point, we had secured a condo in a high rise downtown and loads of homeless people wandered around night and day. Not a vacation spot or in possession of exceptional views of the ocean, but comfortable enough. Jacob and I woke up early to make our way to the hospital (only one person could stay overnight with Gunner, so his papa tried to get the sleep he needed, as did I).
Sarah was getting herself emotionally ready for the surgery, while she tended to Gunner along with the attendant nurses. Much occurs prior to surgery, so in Gunner’s case Sarah wanted to give him as much ‘skin to skin’ contact as possible (her instincts & anxiety gave her so many alarm bells, she insisted she to do this with him). Lab work commenced around 4 am and medical team had to put in a new IV (the former one had already been removed a few days prior). This took some time, but as much as Sarah could manage, she insisted on skin to skin snuggles with her boy. The possibility he wouldn’t make it through this 2nd surgery caused his mother to savor every moment she had with him and she steeled herself for all the possibilities inherent in a week old child going into another major surgery within a week of being born.
By 7:30 am, the surgical team was ready to take him down to the surgery theatre and left his mother behind, crying in the NICU halls. As a mother myself, my memories of how I felt regarding protecting my babies when they were so young and vulnerable, rushed into my consciousness. It took a mighty detour for Sarah to allow this precious, fragile child of her’s to be wheeled away. What a fucking warrior my daughter is!
Jacob and I got to the hospital right when the team took Gunner to the surgery area so the three of us gathered in the cafeteria where Sarah and I ordered two dirty chai’s, a big cup of coffee for Jacob and some grubby food. Then we all settled as a cautious, huddled group of worried, yet hopeful humans.
We were all pulling for Gunner to make it through this surgery which, if successful, could help him immensely. Putting the two ends of his intestines back together could have one of two effects. One would be his small intestine could begin to grow and extend. The other it would not. Either way, Gunner had an uncertain future, but completely vital in every way, aside from his intestine. His body was strong, healthy and all his major organs worked perfectly.
When Jacob and I arrived at the hospital, Sarah had already been getting Gunner ready for this next stage in his life. She was so tired, in every way, yet her spirits were steady. As steady as a mother can be under these incredible circumstances. At 7:30 the team came to the NICU to pick Gunner up and take him away.
Sarah dissolved into a million bits and a cascade of tears streamed down her cheeks, but she mustered up her faith in him; that Gunner would not only survive, but thrive with this experimental surgery.
This procedure was not generally done so soon. Reconnecting the two ends of the severed intestine is normally conducted after many weeks of being earthside, but the lead surgeon told us he kept ‘thinking’ the best course of action was to connect the two ends of Gunner’s small intestine right away.
To me, spirit was moving through this pragmatic and scientific human’s mind and urging a radical intervention for our boy. This old witch just smiled knowingly as I listened to this man – close to my age and experience in life – mumble about how he didn’t know why he thought this was a good idea, but how sure he was that it was. My inside voice said, ‘Alhamdulillah’ (“praise be to God” in Arabic) to this news and the way Source is such a sneaky resource to us humans.
Lab work began around 3:30 am, a new IV had to be installed into his tiny body (which was no easy feat), waivers and documents needed to be signed, loads of information about the procedure explained and as much as she could, Sarah insisted on skin to skin contact with her boy. The idea that he would be cut open again was staggering, yet the faith the 3 of
us had was in equal measure.
We made our way to the cafeteria where we talked, we cried, we felt loads of emotions and I mostly listened to these young parents. They were so new at being parents, yet so skilled at being in that position already. They both KNEW they needed to be incredibly brave and full of faith in the process they found themselves in. Their courage was so inspiring to me, as I have NEVER faced this level of the unknown with an infant.
If I could only be so brave in life, I thought.
In a few hours, word got to us little Gunner was out of surgery and doing well. He was ALIVE and he made it through another trial. Sarah & Jacob rushed up to her NICU room to wait for Gunner’s return… and Tutu went about the business of gathering up what we needed to keep going in Honolulu, HI.
We just kept taking one step, then another… and this became how our days went. Inside of a week we were becoming accustomed to the trauma informed life we were leading. Looking back, I can still recall how I felt in the early months of 2022. Fractured, hollowed out, frightened, sleepless and so utterly grateful for all the tiny moments I had with this tiny little human named Gunner.
It was more than enough.