When the Children’s Surgery Center Feels Like a Second Home

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

I sit here in this familiar room, with the brown plastic couches, and windows that look over the busy street below. A T.V monitor situated near the ceiling displays the statues of the little patients behind the big double doors. Patient # 20193, my daughter, is still in the OR.

It is the Children’s Surgery Center at UC Davis in Sacramento, California, and it is a place I know well.

My twelve-year-old daughter Lilly and her seven-year-old brother Chance have had no less than fifteen surgeries between them, and I have sat in this waiting area too many times than I care to count.

I have told too many jokes about how the hospital should implement a frequent flyer program for patients, that they should install a mini bar in the waiting room to take the edge off of the waiting, and how this place is beginning to feel like a second home.

Waiting for your child to come out of surgery is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I usually travel alone with whichever kid is having a procedure and stay the duration while my husband stays home with our other three kids.

As much as I hate leaving them behind, I need that quiet time to process while sitting in the waiting room, and whichever child is having surgery will need undivided attention afterward.

I usually bring my laptop with me. I fool myself into thinking I’ll get some work done, but I end up indulging in mindless TV on Netflix or Hulu because that is about all my brain can handle right now.

Many have asked me how I can do it.

“I’d be a wreck!” is a common response when I tell someone I am headed down for surgery for one of the kids by myself, especially since the Children’s Surgery Center is over  two hours away from where we live.

I think back to 2015 when both Lilly and Chance underwent major jaw surgery on the same day.

Their ENT doctor, who has done the bulk of their procedures over the years, spent over twelve hours operating on my babies that day.

That was a rare occasion when the whole family went down, and that next week was a blur of going back and forth between the hospital and the hotel next door, my husband and I and our other two boys switching off staying with Lilly and Chance.

Trying to make sure Lilly and Chance were comfortable. Trying to make time for their brothers, Henry and Byron.

Trying to squeeze in a shower and a nap after staying with the kids in the hospital. Trying to navigate the hospital cafeteria with two growing boys who are endlessly hungry.

Compared to the craziness of that week, taking one kid down for surgery by myself almost seems like a piece of cake now.

Despite the circumstances, there is comfort in consistency. I could walk these halls blindfolded. I know where the good seats in the waiting room are- the ones near the electrical outlets and room to stretch.

I know many of the faces behind double doors; many have watched my kids grow up and take the time to come and say “Hi” even if they are not assigned to their case that day. I know my babies are in good hands.

If we have to be frequent flyers in this place, you couldn’t ask for better than that.

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