Isn't it funny how you can remember every single thing about a day that has such a huge impact on your life? For me, October 11, 2002, was one of those days.
Ryan and I met at Centennial Hospital that afternoon - driving separately from our respective jobs. We were there to see a radiologist for a high-resolution ultrasound. It was at this appointment that we learned that our sweet baby girl would be born with bilateral cleft lip and palate. At this point, I was 32 weeks pregnant. Just a few days prior, I went in for a regular check-up with my OB and was measuring a few weeks larger than normal and as a precaution she wanted me to have another ultrasound with the specialist (I don't remember his name and if I did, I would tell you to NEVER see this man. I did not like him nor his condescending attitude).
I remember the smell of the room, the dim lighting in the office and the fact that the valet had taken my keys to a different office and I was unable to leave when all I wanted to do was run far away from that place. I remember calling my mom on my drive home and Ryan begging me to let him drive me home. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck.
My heart was broken at the thought of the many surgeries and difficulties my sweet girl would face. But after a few days we tried to put our emotions aside and began our research for a plastic surgeon. We met with several and found the best - Dr. Kevin Kelly at Vanderbilt. Dr. Kelly is truly awesome. He is the best at what he does and has a great personality - always smiling, patient and willing to answer any question with a smile, even Kennedy's never-ending, "will this hurt?" During many visits, Kennedy has said "I love you" to Dr. Kelly. His response? "I love you, too, sweetheart." He is the best.
Surgeries began when Kennedy was just nine weeks old - February 19, 2003. The first surgery was to repair her lip. And what an emotional surgery it was. It is hard to explain the emotions that you experience when your child goes to surgery looking one way and comes out looking completely different. Her next surgery was one year later to close her palate. And since that surgery, she has had two additional surgeries - one lip revision at age two and her most recent surgery in March 2011 to complete a bone graft from her hip to her gums. We feel so blessed that she has needed only four surgeries (she has had four plastic surgeries, but nine total for ear tubes and a broken arm); many children born with cleft lip and palate have so many more.
Kennedy has dealt with each surgery like a champ, even looking forward to her time in the hospital. She considers her surgeries mini-vacations. She is often pampered, given anything and everything she wants and eats lots of ice cream. During her most recent surgery, her first while attending school, her friends and classmates, in addition to her grandparents, showered her with gifts. And her daddy drove all over Nashville to fulfill her (and mine - I was 30 weeks pregnant) every request for specific foods, not to mention the huge steak - her favorite - he bought her the night before surgery (she was unable to eat solid foods for six weeks). During the last surgery she even refused all pain medication. (Who does that? Especially after someone has chipped bone from your hip and put it in your mouth.) The morphine made her sick and the codeine made her loopy, so she decided she would rather tolerate the pain. Every nurse fell in love with her as she was quite simply an easy patient. The only time she was uncooperative was when the resident told her she could go home. She wanted to stay.
On October 10, 2011, one day shy of exactly nine years, we traveled to Nashville for Kennedy's six-month post-op visit. For the second time in nine years, we had to wait to see Dr. Kelly ... and we waited more than two hours in the overcrowded, small lobby. But for the news we received, I would have waited all day in that lobby.
After a look at her mouth, lip, nose and hip, Dr. Kelly gave us the best news - NO MORE SURGERIES.
I'm pretty sure the look on my face was one of disbelief. And the look on Kennedy's was one of disappointment. I couldn't believe that we would no longer be making the day-trip to Nashville for our annual visits. And Kennedy begged Dr. Kelly for "just one more." Seriously. Dr. Kelly laughed and said numerous times just how beautiful she is and how he would miss seeing us. We'll miss him, too, but we (Ryan and I) will not miss the surgeries. We feel so blessed to be finished with this chapter in each of our lives and look forward to watching our girl grow more beautiful each day.