The actual purpose of our trip to Sydney was to visit a thoracic surgeon. My son has a severe pectus excavatum which requires a surgical correction. Basically, his ribs and sternum are growing in toward his spine. At the moment he has about an inch between his sternum and spine. This has caused his ribs to touch his heart and push it to further to the left. He has a greatly reduced lung capacity. The human body is a very clever thing. It may just be that his organs adapt to the shape of his rib cage, but it could also be that later in life he has heart problems caused by the stress of this condition.
(This bit will be a bit gross, just warning in case you are squeamish)
To correct this my son will have a surgery called the Nuss procedure. A metal bar will be contoured to the correct shape for his chest. This will be done the day before surgery, then the bar will be sent to be sterilised and prepared for surgery. During surgery a small incision will be made each side of his ribs and a hole drilled through his ribs. The metal bar will then be threaded through, under his bones, avoiding his heart, lungs and major arteries. Once the bar is right through it is literally just flipped – forcing his ribs to take the correct shape. His bones will go from concave to convex in one flip of the metal bar. A camera will then be used to make certain that the bar is in the right place and that no damage has been done to any other internal organ. A three inch long section of the metal bar will extend outside his ribcage on each side of his body, just underneath the skin. This will be curved to the shape of his body and fixed to his ribs to secure the bar into place.
This is going to hurt like all holy hell. At the moment his ribs are mostly cartilage in the front of his chest. They don’t set into bone until he has finished growing. This makes it the ideal time for the correction surgery and less painful than if he had already set bone. Despite saying that he will require serious pain management. He will spend the first four days after surgery on an epidural. He will then be transitioned onto strong pain killers. It will take about six weeks for the bones to settle into their new positions and he will require some measure of pain management for the duration of that process.
You can see why it was so important to us to find the right doctor. It is a major surgery and a life-shaping moment in my son’s life. We LOVED the surgeon in Sydney. He was kind and immensely knowledgable. He listened and answered questions, he provided mountains of information. We feel quite secure about allowing him to touch our son. He wants to do the surgery right away. Initially he said next week, but we need to get our daughter off to France first. We have booked our son into the Westmead Private Hospital for surgery on the 22nd of January. My son commented afterwards that he preferred to get it done quickly. I can appreciate that- the longer you think about something the worse it becomes.
So in just over a week we return to Sydney for about two weeks. We take our comfortable, happy boy and subject him to pain. It is the right thing to do. The long term benefits far outweigh the short term pain. I would take this surgery for him if I could. I would bear this pain for him if I could. All I can do is hold his hand and provide him comfort. I have written about the surgery in a very matter of fact manner because I need to be in control of all of the information. I cannot be in control of anything else. I will hold his hand and I will be his advocate, but I’ll cry for my baby every night.