As soon as Muttah woke up after his heart surgery, he squawked from morning till night. He repeated the same motion over and over, throwing his little hands over his head, then back down to his sides. Over and over, for hours at a time. If Muttah wasn’t sleeping or eating he was squawking and flapping.
ICU staff wondered if he might have neurological issues. It’s not uncommon for children with congenital heart defects to have other physical complications. Nurses took turns rocking his bed when he became too fussy. They tried to comfort with softly spoken words, and pats on his back. Muttah just fussed. But his heart was healing well, and the squawking helped his lungs to clear, so nurses made him as comfortable as possible, and kept a close eye on him.
Everything became clear once Muttah was well enough to remove all of the tubes his body needed to heal. Muttah is part of a huge family. Betwen being an adorable baby, having a serious heart defect, and having so many hands at home to hold him, Muttah rarely spent time outside of someone’s arms. The whole time Muttah squawked and flapped, he was asking to be held! When Muttah was free from his bed, and held by his mother, he was finally still.
Mawada cried a lot after her heart surgery. Some children have hardy temperaments—they hardly cry at all during recovery. Mawada was not one of those children. It wasn’t her tears that pulled so strongly at our hearts. It was her expression. Mawada was inconsolable, despite her mother’s near constant presence at her bedside.
In time it became clear that Mawada’s pain didn’t have a physical cause—it had little to do with the fact that her chest had been opened and her heart mended. No, her pain was emotional. At six years old, Mawada was already responsible for helping to care for her younger brother. She missed him! She was worried for him—from the moment she woke after her own heart surgery, Mawada was worried about her brother.
Mawada’s father died more than three years ago. She, her mother, and younger brother were a tight little unit within their larger family. Absence was painful! She didn’t crack a smile until just before she was released from hospital, when she knew she would see her brother soon.
When Othman woke after his surgery, he asked for water. Then he asked for juice. Again and again. Less than an hour after heart surgery, Othman was awake and demanding juice. His voice was still hoarse from the effects of anesthesia, but he was persistent.
“Juice! Juice! Juice!”
His surgery was the kind you hope every child to have—quick, efficient, effective. But Othman woke up THIRSTY! He had been fasting since the previous evening, and his stomach was definitely not happy!
It was still too soon after surgery for juice, so a volunteer nurse distracted Othman with a game on her phone. He played like a boss! But during every lull in the game, he asked for juice.
One of the local nurses comforted Othman, giving him encouragement in his own language. But Othman used the attention for only one thing: to ask for juice!
“Juice! Juice! Juice!”
Othman got his juice eventually. He drank until he was finally satisfied.
There is a saying in the intensive care unit—kids aren’t always themselves during recovery, but they will always be themselves again before they go home.
True for every child! In the end, every one left with a smile.