We were home again but still with the same problems as when we arrived in Brisbane for a hopeful answer. The spina bifida clinic was only a short time away and we were going to have to do something. Faith couldn't live like this and nor could we. There was no escape for Faith from the pain, vomiting and suffering, day after day it went on. It went on into every night and we reached a point when we needed a game plan to educate these doctor's on what life is like for Faith and how she is symptomatic for both the syrinx and the arnold chiari. But how? We decided to get the social worker involved. We sent her an email outlining what Faith goes through every day and every night. We explained how life was and how we were feeling about the situation and the lack respect for the parents opinion. When we arrived at the spina bifida clinic, the social worker sat in with us on the consultation with the neurologist. She had already spoken to her and at last we were being listened too. Faith had changed so much since our last visit and she saw first hand how sick she was. The neurologist saw the hot and cold sweating on different sides of the body, the sweating on one side of the body, the pain and the distress she was in. She saw it at last and she acted.
The neurologist got a second opinion from another consultant and then hastily called the neurosurgeons. We also saw a consultant paediatrician who specialized in spina bifida and he called the neurosurgeon too. The doctors at last understood. It went on for a few hours, it felt like a whirlwind. We saw doctor after doctor and explained what was going on. The neurosurgeons decided that posterior fossa decompression surgery and shunt the syrinx was the way to go. It was explained how this operation would work and what it would do. Frightening, but what other way forward was there, there was only one. The surgery was scheduled for a couple weeks into February 2011. At first the doctors wanted Faith to stay in hospital until surgery but they thought we have been living with this for a long time now and it might not be best for the family. Faith might catch some other bug in the hospital so decided to discharge her.
A week before the surgery we had to bring Faith in for another MRI so the neurosurgeons could see where the blood vessels were and be as prepared as possible for the surgery. Faith was already scheduled for a CT scan as the plastic surgeons were looking at the possibility of whether it would be beneficial for Faith to have a helmet to reshape her head. We were very unsure about this as we had to be careful of pressure spots and her shunt. In consultation with the neurosurgeons we later decided that her head shape had formed nicely and it was a waste of time but at this point we were still seeing where the road led. Back to the MRI/CT scan, we had to report to the day surgery unit and sit in a crowded waiting room until they were ready for Faith. She had to have another general anesthetic and because an MRI had been added we were bumped to the bottom of the list. She was so hungry and we waited and waited. This time there was no power outages and the MRI and CT were completed as quickly as possible. We were taken back to the day surgery unit where we had to spend a few hours waiting to see if Faith had any reaction to the anesthetic. She was fine.
With the surgery the following week we started to plan, we would have to be in Brisbane at least a week. We had to organise food and accommodation. We had to be at the hospital the day before and we were desperately hoping that this surgery would give Faith a better life. It was hard waiting for another week and we really wished it wasn't so far away. A week felt such a long way off. But the days did pass and the day to go back to Brisbane came. We were feeling so anxious and stressed, we were sharp with each other and struggling. The trip there took longer than usual as it was raining again. But we eventually arrived.
We lined up at admissions and booked in. The staff were friendly and talked to Faith. We headed back to the well walked corridors of the babies ward and to our surprise they had no beds. Yes, we were expected but no where for us to go. This threw us and we were asked to wait in the parents lounge. It was hard not to jump to conclusions thinking what does this mean, no surgery, no bed, what are we going to do. The neurosurgeons had not forgotten us and we had a visit from the registrar and fellow who we had never met before. We were very impressed by this new registrar and fellow. They explained the procedure. Faith was to have a posterior fossa decompression. The goal of this procedure is to create more room around the malformation and restore the flow of spinal fluid. They said that this procedure was rarely done done at this hospital on someone so tiny. The neurosurgeons had to order a special instrument from the Melbourne children's hospital to assist them. We also went through the risks of the surgery. Faith would have to go to the Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU) afterwards and would have to keep her head very still and this was a very dedicate time after the operation. She might be there for a few days but would take it a step at a time. Brain overload! Then the nurse came in. Faith's bed was ready. Here we go!
Faith had a lovely position next to the window and I had a window bed to sleep on. There were two other babies in the room. A new born near the door and a little baby boy opposite us, who was alone. Faith had to have bloods taken and get a drip put in her hand. She is such a challenge to get a drip into as she has had so many. This happened later that night. This was really going to happen. They were checking everything including blood type, white cells all the usual tests. The surgery was scheduled for pretty much first thing in the morning. The surgery schedule had be cleared as they were not sure how long it would take. It all just sounds like a bad dream, I am now meant to wake up!