I woke up with the sun this morning, images of Banyan’s beautiful face in my mind. I let Benji sleep until the last possible minute, since he couldn’t have anything to eat. I put numbing cream on his port, using the last of my box of 100 transparent dressings. I’ve ordered more. I can’t believe I’ve put numbing cream on him nearly 100 times; I was so nervous the first time I did it. It seems like a lifetime ago. We loaded up into the car and headed north.
Krista was our nurse today. She remembered Benji’s sliding port and preference for freshly drawn saline flushes without being reminded. Benji’s port was accessed with the help of his calming essential oils, and the lines showed perfect blood return. I placed a Scopolomine patch behind his left ear, and we had a brief meeting with Dr. Grana, who was very pleased to hear about Benji’s action-packed weekend.
Benji’s immunity is dropping, but slowly. His absolute neutrophil count is at 880, and his blood counts are declining. He’s right where he needs to be. Krista administered Kytril intravenously, followed by his first of four more doses of Cytarabine this week. Then I signed the consent forms for today’s lumbar puncture with Intrathecal Methotrexate and we went downstairs to wait for surgery.
Just before we left the exam room, we got a text from Michael and Banyan that they had landed in Tampa. We weren’t sure if they’d make it to the hospital before Benji went back to the operating room, but we could promise him they’d be here when he woke up.
The time between registering Benji for surgery and actually taking him back was the shortest it’s ever been. We went back to pre-op, and both nurses and the anesthesiologist were there within minutes. Today’s anesthesiologist was one I hadn’t met before, and he’s my favorite to date by leaps and bounds. He was informative and direct, not at all condescending. He addressed Benji before addressing me, and he listened to both of us carefully.
There is typically a waiting period after the nurses check Benji in and we meet with the anesthesiologist, during which they are paging the physician who will do the lumbar puncture. Depending on the day’s docket, this wait can be long. Today it was nonexistent. Dr. Hale was actually waiting for us. Benji was a little disappointed that he wouldn’t see Michael and Banyan before he woke up, but he rested easily knowing they’d be there when he woke up.
I walked Benji back to the operating room. I waited until the last drop of propofol was pushed through the syringe, and his limbs were limp and his breathing deep. I thanked the doctors and nurses by name, and walked out to retrieve my buzzer. It was my first time. Michael always does that part. Today I was alone.
I walked through the double doors out of the surgery unit and looked down the hall. Right away I saw Michael and Banyan. It was like a slow motion scene in a movie. Michael took Banyan’s things so the boy could run toward me. I grabbed him, probably a little too tightly, and didn’t let go for a long time. When I finally did, I fell into Michael’s arms like I have every other time I’ve left Benji sleeping in the operating room.
When our buzzer went off and we went back through the double doors, Banyan was the first to greet his brother. It filled my heart completely to see them together again. Banyan was so gentle and kind. “Can I feel your head?” he asked Benji. “It feels really good! I like it.”
Within a few hours of being home, balance had been restored. Brothers were bickering, the prime seat at the dinner table was negotiated, and four snuggled in to watch a movie instead of three. Banyan being home with us is like a long, deep exhale.