This day was already as surreal as possible, so I listened to her explain that the tumor is in the base of her brain, and that she was to be taken by ambulance to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit immediately following her scans while I waited to wake up. No such luck. Rachel and I were rocked. Shell shocked, we took turns calling our parents. Information was streaming in far faster than we could process it, and yet we still desperately needed more. How large is the tumor? Is she in immediate danger? Can we see our daughter? What happens next? Is she in pain? Can we please see our daughter?
Rachel got to ride with Mal in the ambulance while I did my best not to swerve off the road while following in my car. It is not easy to drive when you're crying. When I got to Children's and parked, the woman at admissions looked up Mal in her computer, and then instead of asking for insurance or a payment, she told me to hustle up to the 7th floor. Being under sedation had changed Malorie's body's balance. Her brain started retaining cerebral fluid rapidly and the pressure needed to be relieved. I made it to her room just in time to be whisked away from the door as the team of surgeons bustled briskly near her bed.
The attending physician took me, Rachel and Aunt Chris to a conference room where she detailed the surgery that was needed to save Mal's life. It is called a ventriculostomy, and it's a procedure in which a hole was being drilled through the top of Malorie's head and then a shunt inserted through to a cavity deep in her brain to vent the accumulating fluid. "This procedure is relatively safe," she told me. "Only 4 percent or so of kids do not fully recover." Rachel had to go to Mal's room to sign the consent form for the surgery, as if we had any choice. A nurse stood in the doorway, purposefully blocking her view of the preparations. All she could see was Mal's legs twitching.
The procedure took all of twenty minutes. I think the worry took twenty years off my life. Mal came through it well, but more detailed MRI scans of the tumor were needed. She remained intubated and in an induced sleep while those scans were performed. Rach and I ate dinner. It tasted great but only made the pain in my stomach worse.
Mal returned to the PICU and the doctors told us they wanted to try to let her wake up. If she did ok, she could come off the breathing tube and remain awake. If she freaked out, they would put her back under. In true Mal fashion, her first word when the tube was removed was, "Elmo."
Mal is sleeping now, but I'm not sure I will sleep until Monday. That is when the doctors will attempt to remove her tumor. They will spend tomorrow looking at her scans and then charting the best course to the tumor. The surgery will likely last several hours, and that's if it goes well. The tumor is in the fourth ventricle of Mal's brain stem, which is the most common location for a children's brain tumor. I'm told the number are in our favor for a successful surgery, but I'm not sure what that means. I hope 99.99 percent of kids recover from this with no long term effects, but I have my doubts. The safe procedure she got today had a 4 percent chance of bad news. Following her surgery, the doctors will analyze the tumor for cancer. There is a chance that its benign, but we won't know until a few days later.
Once the initial shock wore off, we settled in as best we could. We are not strong, but are relying on the steadfast strength of Christ to bolster our efforts. Our family is tremendously blessed with a support network that is out of this world. A special thanks to Jenna, Judy, Bob and Chris for taking such good care of Micah today. Also thanks to Brian, Liz, Phil, Jessica, Aunt Carol, my parents and siblings and so many others for rallying to our side in a time of need. Today was the worst day of my life, and each of you made me smile, so thank you and God bless you for that. I will try my best to write more this weekend and keep everyone updated on Mal's condition. It's been a rough day, but I pray that we are now on the road to recovery.
But my heart soars,
Because it can't rain all the time.