In the past few weeks, following the diagnosis of Charlie’s heart condition, I’ve learned more about the human heart and cardiovascular system than I ever thought I would know. I can now identify all the major parts of the heart, the major blood vessels, and explain in layman’s terms how the normal heart functions. I can also explain how Charlie’s heart is not properly functioning and how it will function following the first, second and third surgeries. So basically, I feel like I’ve earned my medical specialty in cardiology without going to medical school.
The past few weeks have also shed light on other things for me. I feel much more in tune with how fragile life really is. I believe that I appreciate the constant interruptions, occasional meltdowns, and umpteenth request to play baseball that my current toddlers provide much more than I did in the past. I can enjoy time spent in quiet and solitude as an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future.
But perhaps the thing that has hit me the most is this…
Until last month, I’ve taken for granted how wonderfully blessed and lucky we are to live so close to two outstanding pediatric hospitals. I’ve overlooked how easy it was to call a pediatric plastic surgeon to schedule Nathan’s surgery a few weeks ago. I certainly have never thought twice about scheduling an ENT appointment for John. The hospital is a mere twenty minute drive from our house and it is (quite literally) all interstate. We cruise there like it is no big deal.
However, as I talk to families who have faced similar situations I realize that many of them have packed up their families for the last month of their pregnancy to move across the state or sometimes the country in order to be close to a hospital that can care for their cardiac child. I can’t even imagine!!!
Instead we face a different dilemma. We have to choose between two pediatric hospitals that are both capable of more than adequate care for Charlie. One hospital has the top two surgeons in the region. The other has a state-of-the-art cardiac intensive care unit and is ranked as one of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation. So how to do you choose?
A case could be made for both hospitals. Certainly, the top two surgeons in the region wouldn’t choose to work at a hospital that couldn’t meet the needs and demands of their patients. On the other hand, the other wouldn’t be nationally ranked if their staff were a bunch of schleps. For us, it becomes a decision of the gut. Where do we feel most comfortable? Where does the staff feel like family (because we’re going to see them more often than our family in the upcoming year)? Where do we feel most supported?
We haven’t made that decision as a family yet. I have put in requests to meet with some additional staff at both hospitals. Then we will take some time to decide where we feel best about Charlie’s care.
How blessed are we to have to make such a difficult decision?!?!?!