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     Our journey toward surgery started in February of 2006. We saw the implant audiologist, Jolie Fainberg, to determine if Belle was a candidate for the implant. She answered a lot of questions for us and explained the implant process. She did an ear-specific hearing test in the sound booth and determined that Belle could begin the process toward implantation. We had to attend several appointments including seeing a social worker, and speech pathologist, and a family psychologist. Finally, we were approved to schedule surgery. The date was set for May 12, 2006.

    Waiting for surgery was hard. We wanted to have it over with, so our baby could hear. It really ended up being time that we needed to prepare ourselves and our children for what was going to take place. We went through a coloring book about the implant process with Belle and her older sister, Emma.

       We prayed a lot and loved on our babies. I wished we didn’t have to put Belle through so much. I talked to other parents of children with implants and tried to get as much information as I could to be ready. The week before, Belle had a pre-op visit with Dr. Todd. She had blood work drawn and we had to sign paperwork. I cried when I had to sign the consent forms. I realized that this was really going to happen.

On surgery day, we checked into Egleston Hospital at 5:45 AM. We were immediately shown to a pre-op room and the orderly took Belle’s vital signs and gave her a hospital gown. We had some downtime after that while we waited on Dr. Todd. Belle watched cartoons and visited with her Grandma and Granddaddy and Aunt Dianne.

We saw Dr. Todd at about 7, and he asked if we had any questions. He marked Belle’s left shoulder to make sure he had the correct ear in the OR. The nurse gave Belle some medicine to make her groggy. At 7:30, the nurse took us to the first floor to a holding room near the OR. We waited there for what seemed like forever. We watched other children being taken to surgery and their parents watching them go. We just held our Belle and told her that we loved her so much. I gave her so many kisses. At 7:50, Dr. Todd and the anesthesiologist came in to see if we had any last questions. The nurse carried Belle back. She didn’t cry. She just watched us and held onto the nurse. After she had gone, we held each other and cried. It was so hard to give her up. I knew God was holding my baby for me.

We went back to the surgery waiting room to be with our family. The minutes ticked slowly by. We got some breakfast and made phone calls. At 9:00 the OR nurse called the waiting room to give us the update. Belle was doing great, and they were beginning the surgery. 

 Those calls would be our lifeline to our daughter during the long 51/2 hour surgery. At 10:15, we got another call to let us know that Dr. Todd was about to insert the implant, and all was going well. When we didn’t get another call an hour later, we began to worry. At 11:45, we finally got word that the implant had been inserted fully, and Belle was doing well. We got some lunch and headed back to the waiting room. Finally, at 1:30 the nurse called to tell us that the surgery was finished, and Belle was being bandaged. When Dr. Todd walked into the waiting room, I was so glad to see him! I ran over and hugged him. He let us know that everything went very well and apologized for taking so long! At 2:30 Belle was still in recovery, and we were very anxious to see her and hold her. They were waiting until they had an open room to move her. At 3:30, I was almost in tears when the nurse called from the Post Anesthetic Care Unit (PACU) and told us they still didn’t have a room for her. She said we could come down to the PACU to see her.

Belle was groggy, but she was awake. She saw us walk in and smiled, then she went to sleep. We held onto her and spoke with the nurse. Belle stirred and whispered that she wanted water. I gave her a few sips from a straw, and she drifted back off. At 5:00, a room was ready for her. We walked up with her to the fourth floor of the hospital and got her settled in.

She slept until 7:30. While she slept, I ate something and took a much-needed shower. I called and checked on the other children. I was so thankful that everyone was taken care of, so I could concentrate on Belle. When she woke up, she seemed like she was in pain, so I asked the nurse for a dose of Tylenol. We had brought a few Dora videos to the hospital. Belle smiled when I put one on for her and was very content watching TV for a few hours. She continued sipping water and apple juice, but she didn’t want anything to do with the crackers I offered her. She drifted off for a few minutes, but woke up wincing when she tried to move. She wanted her bandage off. She was pretty upset, so I put on another movie for her and crawled into bed beside her. We watched Toy Story 2 together. I remember being so thankful to be lying beside my baby.

I was so glad she was alright. I was so exhausted, I could hardly stand it. When the movie ended, we settled in for what I hoped would be a few hours’ sleep. We slept from 2 until 5 when the nurse came into check Belle’s vital signs. We watched some more Dora and waited for the hospital to wake up. At 7:30, a breakfast tray came, and Belle went crazy over the scrambled eggs! I was so relieved that she was feeling good enough to eat. Dr. Todd came in right after that to take off the bandage. He listened to her chest and cut off the bandage. I had seen a picture of a friend’s daughter’s incision, so I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t prepared to see staples. It was really hard to keep it together to continue my conversation with Dr. Todd.

He wanted us to make an appointment for 10 days later to remove the staples and three weeks later to stimulate the implant. At 8:30 the nurse removed Belle’s IV and began her discharge paperwork. I was surprised how quickly it went after that. At 9:30, we were walking out to go home!