I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and a prayer in my heart that today we would get the miracle Annie needs. I have never prayed like I did today - every part of me aching for an answer, for resolution, for peace, for strength, for faith and hope, for courage, and for healing. Cameron and I exchanged very few words on the drive to the hospital. Both of us were struggling with the emotions of again sending Annie into surgery. When we arrived at the hospital it felt like the entire staff here was holding their collective breath right along with us. The only advantage of being here this long is that most everyone knows and loves Annie. So many of the nurses have told me that they are praying for her and some have put her name on the temple rolls. Even the surgeon that assisted on her operation told us this morning that he was praying for Annie as well. I love that these good people love her! We spent close to an hour with her this morning before the anesthesiologist came to take her to the operating room. How strange it was to repeat the long walk and the dreaded kiss goodbye. This time around was even more difficult than the last as we really knew that this was Annie's last shot at a surgical resolution to her complicated problem. I made sure that the surgeon knew how very many people were praying for him today - all of us desiring for his skilled hands to be guided in making the necessary changes to her anatomy to finally give her the relief that she so desperately needs. This time, instead of waiting in the regular surgical waiting room, we retreated to Annie's room in the CICU where we could be alone in the comfort of familiar surroundings. It was strange to be in her big empty room with no Annie. It felt so hollow without her there. While we were both nervous, we felt peace in knowing that we had done all we could to make the right decision for Annie. Now it was time to trust in God.
The first hour was spent prepping her for surgery and the next two hours were spent getting her on the bypass machine. This took much longer than last time because the scar tissue from the original surgery was still very fragile and required tedious and slow going to prevent too much bleeding. Once she was on the bypass machine, Dr. Burch removed the valved conduit that they placed last time as well as some of each branch pulmonary artery. He then installed the homograft, making sure to lengthen the arteries with it. He also dissected some of the tissue behind the aorta to give it room to "float" forward and off of her bronchus. At that point the ENT doctor came and performed a bronchoscopy to determine if the bronchus was still occluded. He determined that while it was 100 percent occluded before the surgery, now it was 50 percent occluded. A big improvement, but is it enough? At this point, we do not know the answer to this as only time will tell. Dr. Burch decided to leave her chest open in an effort to drain as much fluid as possible before closing it. Minimizing the pressure in her chest will lessen the chance of her bronchus collapsing when they do close it.
I would describe the feeling in Annie's room tonight as guarded hope. Immediately following the surgery there was noticeable improvement in her ability to breathe. When I walked into her room and heard the doctors discussing how happy they were to see both sides of her chest moving with each breath and I saw numbers on her ventilator lower than I have ever seen previously, I had to choke back the tears. It is way too soon to know if the surgeon has succeeded in his efforts to relieve the pressure on the bronchus and if it will be strong enough to remain open, but it has been so long since I have heard anything optimistic about Annie that any good news makes me emotional. The coming days will be telling, but tonight she is breathing easier than she has in weeks. The peaceful rise and fall of her chest fills my eyes with tears and my heart with gratitude.