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Emergency Surgery Experiences.

Updated: Jul 3

I am sharing this in the hope that it may help others. Have you had a loved one require emergency surgery?

It was an intense weekend.

It started with participating in, and teaching at, an Urban Silent Retreat. I begun withdrawing from outside stimulus on Friday afternoon.  This was my 8th Silent Urban Retreat, which occurs each June, and usually I stay away from home to help facilitate stimulus withdrawal, but not this year. This year I had decided to drive to the retreat location each day from home, rather than stay solo somewhere nearby, and I am so grateful I did.

When I returned home on Saturday evening, our youngest son reached out to me, and after taking a ‘case history’ and examination, his dad and I decided he needed to go straight to hospital. My husband drove him there immediately whilst I packed up a hospital bag, let our eldest son know what was happening, and then followed.

Whilst driving in the car to the hospital I gave myself the gift of time and space to acknowledge, welcome, and explore each emotion as it arose. We so often push and squash uncomfortable feelings down or away. I drove with gratitude, sadness, fear, and dread – sometimes having medical knowledge is a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing. Being aware of all the worst possible outcomes was delicious food for my negativity bias. This quiet solo time and space in the car also allowed me to connect to the universe and to all the other parents who currently, and in the past, have or have had a child go through emergency surgery.

When I arrived at the hospital our son was already prepped for surgery. Forms acknowledging all the risks were signed. I was given a funky pink cap, blue gown, and shoe covers. I stayed by our sons’ side as he was wheeled into the operating theatre and put onto the operating table. I was calm, conscious of my breath, and I focused on radiating calm out to him and to the surgical team. I gently stroked his arm slowly whilst he was administered a Rapid Sequence Intubation (due to not being in a fasted state).

I’m not sure how many hours we waited whilst he underwent surgery, as I didn’t look at the time. I was aware of the super strong urge to distract myself (from suffering) by scrolling through emails/news/social media, but I resisted it. The waiting time for me was interspersed with talking to my husband, feeling immense gratitude, and meditating on my breath. And of course, my negativity bias would raise its head, having a great time constantly reminding me of the worst possible outcomes. Would he survive the surgery? Would he be left infertile? Would he wake with extreme pain? Why has our youngest son had so many hospital visits in his life?

It was interesting having space to observe all the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations arising. I believe this was heightened due to coming from a place of noble silence and retreat, along with my regular daily practice.  There was such an intense relief when the surgeon appeared and let us know how the surgery went. He even offered to show us photos of what he had found. There was shared laughter, and my body softened, tingled and expanded. And then there was even further relief, when the anaesthetist let us know that our son was slowly waking up. The feeling of gratitude was incredibly expansive. When I saw our son, pale with a green tinge and trying to eat a lemonade icy pole, there were tears of relief. The tears were gently painful and they helped release tension and contraction, particularly around my throat and my heart.

The waves of gratitude continued during the following days and weeks – grateful for our son reaching out to me when he did; grateful for living close to a well-equipped hospital; grateful for all the surgical team; grateful for the hospital staff involved; grateful for my husband and the support we offered our son and each other; grateful for the retreat attendees being so understanding of the situation and of me not attending the remaining 2 days; grateful for being able to cancel work the following week to support and care for our son… the list goes on.

I have some reflections and questions following this is one of them.

When we distract ourselves from immediate suffering does this then result in greater / stronger / longer suffering?

I think it does in many scenarios, but not always. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

I hope you found this post helpful.

With love,

Freya xx

PS. Thank you cards.

We gifted some of the staff involved in our sons surgery thank you cards and restaurant vouchers 🙏 ❤️. His anaesthetist shared a photo of his pinned to the family fridge. Apparently anaesthetists are not often gifted thank you cards and gifts, so he was super chuffed.

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