August 28, 2014. Thursday. One of the greatest and craziest days of my life. I became a father.
My wife was scheduled for a c-section to deliver our first child, our son Luca, who would be born with a Congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome that required immediate open heart surgery.
We left our Redondo beach condo for the hospital around 6am and drove to Hollywood Presbyterian where Luca was scheduled to be delivered before he would be transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Before arrival to the hospital we checked into our room at the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House where families stay when they have children or family being treated at CHLA, which was conveniently just only one block away.
After waiting for hours while preparations were ongoing, Megan went back to the delivery room before me as I waited in the hallway so she could get an epidural. The anesthesiologist numbed her and literally had the needle to her back for the epidural when someone ran in and told him to stop because the doctors at CHLA had an emergency situation with another child. We got moved back into a waiting room and 30 minutes later Megan goes back in to get numbed again and finally gets the epidural. When actually getting the epidural the anestegologist wanted to give Megan anesthesia which would have knocked her out. But she refused because she would then miss the only seconds she had to see Luca that day. I walked into a very cold delivery room filled with about 15 other people. The room consisted of surgeons, doctors, nurses, and others who were just observing so much so I asked a lady to take photos of Luca’s arrival.
Luca was born at 10:35am. We even heard a small cry, which was a good sign that meant he was breathing. Not being able to hold Luca we watched him get tubes jammed into his throat and body as his 6.61 pound body began to turn blue minutes just after he was born. Not only did he have hypoplastic left heart sysndrome (HLHS) but he also had a restrictive atrial septum. So, I went with Luca in the ambulance as we had to transfer to CHLA, which was literally across the sidewalk. We got in the ambulance and the only thing in the way of our 20 second drive was a crosswalk, and a nurse who seemed to be in no real hurry as we waited for her to cross. I wanted to turn the sirens on or just yell out the window for her to get the hell out of the way. Every second mattered for Luca and I was scared and impatient.
After arriving at CHLA I talked with the surgeon, and I remember nothing except for him giving me a timeline of when I can expect to see my son again. I had just became and father and only wanted to know when I could see my son again. Around 1pm I got to see Luca again as he was tangled in a bed full of tubes for his medications and a gauze pad taped to his chest that read “sternum open.” I stood over him and said my first words to him and his eyes slowly opened. All those hours of reading to him in womb felt like they had paid off at that very instant.
I wanted to pick him up and hold him and ease all the pain he had endured in just his first couple hours of life, but I couldn’t. Neither could my wife, as she was still in recovery back at her hospital just across that sidewalk. She couldn’t leave her hospital until she was discharged and healthy herself, which they estimated to be about 3-4 days. Therefore, the only time she saw her son was at first from a distance when then were hooking him up to his tubes and breathing machine and as they were wheeling him away in his incubator they stopped by her head so she could see him for a mere 5 seconds before he was rushed away. The rest of the day I spent my time going back and forth between hospitals to check on my wife and then on my son. Majority of my time was spent taking photos and videos and admiring this little boy that I had so many hopes and dreams for. Every photo and video I took I would share with Megan and our families via text.
That night I slept in Luca’s hospital room where we were prepared to send the first couple months of his life at recovering. Nurses would come in periodically through the night to check on him and it’s like they spoke a foreign language, I didn’t understand much. I still didn’t know much about his condition because I had always held out hope that when he was born they would say “it’s a miracle.” I was wrong but this day was still one of the greatest days of my life. But the day following it was one of the worst…