Homefront: Surgery leaves Zich in stitches

Last week’s column was Part 1 of the story of Jimmy’s recent bout with appendicitis. This second segment picks up at the point where I was driving to the hospital in the wee hours of a Saturday morning with Tommy and Ronnie aboard.

After a night featuring such fun-filled activities as blood tests and a CAT scan, Jimmy was admitted to the surgical unit and had finally dozed off when we arrived.

His surgery was scheduled for late morning, so Ron and the younger boys returned home to get some sleep. I sat there by Jimmy’s bed, wide- awake with worry and guilt for not bringing him to the doctor when his tummy began to ache days earlier.

I stared at the words in the magazines I had brought with me and imagined all the things that could go wrong before, during and after his surgery. When Jimmy woke up, we turned on the TV and began to watch what turned out to be a “Fairly OddParents” marathon on Nickelodeon

Jimmy was becoming popular with the hospital staff as he exuded joy at the prospect of being cut open.

Surgery, even on a weekend, meant school would be out of the question for several days.

The closer it came to time for the operation, the more those Zich men began to inflict their ill-timed sense of humor upon me. Only now can I laugh at their attempts to ease the tension in the room.

For instance, Jimmy started telling his brothers which of his possessions they could have if he didn’t pull through the surgery, with instructions like, “Tommy, you can have my skateboard, and Ronnie, you take my drum set.”

I refused to take part in their macabre jokes. My worried expression was especially amusing to Jimmy, who did everything he could to assure me that an appendectomy is no big deal.

The surgeon turned out to be very personable, taking his time to explain everything. I’m happy to report that everyone at Dewitt Army Hospital on Fort Belvoir was extremely helpful.

After nearly 17 years of being treated at military facilities, I can honestly rate the nurses and doctors who treated my son as among the best in their field.

The one time I almost broke down into tears was when Jimmy was being wheeled into surgery.

The nurse seemed to sense my panic. Her calm manner and the way she kept me informed during the surgery prevented those tears from ever spilling over.

As for Ron, he caught a quick nap for the 45 minutes Jimmy was having his appendix removed!

The wave of relief that swept over me when I found out the surgery had gone well is indescribable.

I was allowed back inside Jimmy’s room, where I waited for him to regain consciousness and swore not to leave his side until he was discharged. My 13-year-old, who is already a few inches taller than me, suddenly looked like a baby boy again through my eyes.

He was beginning to fidget with his oxygen mask by the time Ron, Tommy and Ronnie joined us minutes later. “He looks like Darth Vader,” I thought and then reprimanded myself for having such a goofy idea during a serious moment.

That’s when Jimmy looked up at us and said, “Luke, I am your father!”

We all got a big laugh. I think it was Jimmy’s way of saying, “Loosen up, people; I’m still here.”

By the time we returned home on Sunday afternoon, I was ecstatic to have everyone settled under one roof again.

The only issue remaining from Jimmy’s surgery involves the still-healing incision.

Ronnie and Tommy know they had better not punch, kick or pummel their big brother for several more weeks. And Jimmy is enjoying the chance to tease them without fearing retaliation.

That’s life as usual … here on the home front.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. Their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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