Today A and I went to the beach.
Yeah, I know I wrote that kind of casually, but really, that sentence is something I have wanted to write for 4 years. You see, although we live only 15 miles or so from the beach, I have never been able to take my daughter there. With a tracheostomy, things like sand and water don't mix. Sand can easily get in the trach, and therefore down her airway. And water....well, it is obvious what being in water would do. So even though we live in San Diego, in warm weather and very close to the beach, A had never:
Been to the beach
Swam in a swimming pool
Gone on a water slide
Played at a splash park
Bathed with more than an inch or so of water in the bathtub
Frolicked in sprinklers
Had a water pistol fight
Heck, until this past year she had never even been in a sandbox! We finally let her go at school (she wanted to so badly!) and always made sure she had a heat moisture exchanger (or HME) over the trach to protect it from sand entering. Of course, her hearing aids are a factor as well, but those can easily be taken out, or have a protective cover put on (not for total water immersion, of course, but for things like water gun fights).
When she had her trach removed 2 weeks ago, the first thing I thought of is that she would be able to finally go swimming. I thought wrong. Her stoma is still open, and won't be surgically closed for 6-12 months. Our ENT told us to treat her as if she still had the trach in, at least until he did the closing surgery. So even though so much as changed for us, she still has some limitations.
My two sisters and their families had gotten A some swimsuits and a towel as a "decannulation" gift, which was such an incredibly sweet gesture. At first I thought that we'd have to wait until next spring or summer, after the next surgery, to use it. However, after much deliberation, I thought it would be ok to take her to the beach today. I put a piece of gauze over the stoma, and taped it (both horizontally and vertically) so the airway was effectively closed off and protected. I got her in her swim diaper (her first time wearing one!) and a swimsuit (again, her first time wearing one!) and to the beach we went! It was just the two of us, as J was at work and D was at camp.
A LOVED the beach. Absolutely loved it. The look on her face while walking onto the sand was priceless; it was as if she had been in the Midwest her whole life and was seeing the ocean for the first time. In actuality, she WAS seeing the ocean for the first time, at least up close! We set up our blanket, and then headed to the water. Even though I couldn't take her IN the water, I figured she could at least get her feet wet! The water was freezing (as usual) and I think the combination of cold water and the vastness of the ocean scared her, because within a few minutes she wanted to go back to the blanket, and wouldn't go back to the water's edge no matter how many times I suggested it.
We stayed only about an hour, which was plenty of time for my fair-skinned beach bunny. She played with the bucket and shovel I brought; we made sand castles; we hunted for shells around our blanket; we ate lunch; and we relaxed and sunbathed a bit. The entire way home she kept talking about how she wanted to go to the beach...again.
This will be the first of many beach trips for my amazing daughter. I can't wait to take her again. Next year (God willing) her stoma will be closed, and we can take swim lessons, go to the water park, and maybe, if she allows it, I can take her in the beautiful Pacific.