• The Harlie Russell Team

A child's first....

The first year of a child's life is filled with "firsts." Their first smile, laugh, word and steps. Harlie's biggest first was her first surgery. Strabismus is fairly common in children with cerebral palsy as it is an condition that affects the eye muscles. It is also more commonly known as "cross-eyed."

Both of Harlie's eyes were affected as she would alternate which eye she would use to focus with. Left untreated, this may have caused long term vision problems. On February 9 2012, we arrived at the children's hospital to have the strabismus corrected. It was the most nervous I had ever felt in my life. I carried Harlie who had only recently turned 1, into a room filled with bright lights, numerous masked medical staff all dressed in white and a small stainless steel table in the middle of the room with tiny white sheets neatly laid out on top.

As I placed Harlie on the table, she began to panic. Doctors and nurses surrounded her and covered her tiny face with a pink mask. I remember her desperately grasping my hand as she cried while the lump in my throat felt like I'd swallowed a golf ball. As her eyes slowly closed and her hand slipped away from mine, a nurse rushed me out of the room.

I walked to the nearest elevator to find my way to the hospital cafe so I could sip coffee while watching the clock slowly tick by, but found myself rushing to a deserted corner of a hallway and breaking down in tears. She was too tiny to be going through this and I wanted to hold her hand the whole time. I hated not being with her and not knowing what was happening. I wanted so badly to be able to take her place.

Hours passed and finally a nurse announced the surgery was over and everything went well. Of course it did, but a mother can't help but think the worst. I headed to the recovery room on what seemed like the longest elevator ride of my life and when I got there, I found little Harlie laying in a huge bed all wired up to machines. Scary is an understatement. But as I got closer, I realised she was just fine. What's more, for the first time ever, Harlie looked straight at me with both of her eyes. She was too tired and confused to cry, but I wasn't! It was a bitter-sweet moment. Seeing my little girl straight out of surgery but seeing her eyes like that was something I'll never forget.

I can't tell you the relief I felt when we arrived back home that night. Harlie was smiling and she had the most beautiful straight eyes. Her bravery amazed me as just 24 hours later, Harlie was back to her old self. She had no memory of the moments leading up to the surgery and I'm thankful for that. I will never forget Harlie's first surgery, but I'm looking forward to her many more positive firsts that are yet to come!

What were your child's most memorable firsts?



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Brisbane QLD, Australia

©2017 BY THE HARLIE RUSSELL FOUNDATION LTD. Photo credits Linda Wiseman & Shaun Clifford