Marla Sokoloff’s Blog: My Daughter Underwent Lung Surgery
The nurses bought Elliotte a barrette — Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
Since audiences first got to know her at age 12 as Gia on Full House, Sokoloff has had many memorable TV roles — Jody on Party of Five, Lucy on The Practice, Claire on Desperate Housewives — as well as turns on the big screen in Whatever It Takes, Dude, Where’s My Car? and Sugar & Spice.
Sokoloff, 31, also sings and plays guitar and released an album, Grateful, in 2005.
She wed her husband, music composer Alec Puro, in November 2009 and the couple — plus pup Coco Puro — make their home in Los Angeles.
I am writing this blog from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. The last time I was at this hospital, it was to visit my dear friend Kristy, who had just given birth to her son Cohen. Sadly, I am here today for a less celebratory occasion.
I am currently sitting in the waiting room with my husband Alec. We are doing everything and anything to distract ourselves (which is proving to be an impossible task) because — at this very moment — our 5-month-old daughter Elliotte is having lung surgery.
Just minutes ago, we endured the hideous task of handing our precious girl over to a nurse, as they don’t allow parents in the operating room, obviously. (They did kindly allow us to stand in the doorway as they put her under anesthesia.)
This little lady has been by my side since the moment she was born, and I just watched as a complete stranger carried her away. A stranger who has promised to update me every hour over the next five hours while Elliotte is in surgery.
(For the record — my brave little girl didn’t shed a tear — she even smiled as they took her away. Mommy and Daddy are a different story.)
I know this news may come as a shock, as I have never mentioned any of this before — but it’s no shock to my family and me. Remember that second trimester scare I had? Well … the blood work was in fact a false positive, and the amnio did come back showing a completely perfect little baby girl … but when they performed the level 2 ultrasound, they saw some very worrisome lung tissue.
Divine intervention is putting it mildly, because if my blood work wasn’t red-flagged, we may have never known about Elliotte’s condition, as there was no correlation between her lung issue and my abnormal blood work. I couldn’t see it at the time because I was so scared and confused, but someone was definitely watching over my family and me.
Very soon after the finding, my husband and I met with a pediatric surgeon by the name of Dr. Steve Chen, who explained to us that Elliotte would need surgery within the first six months of her life — if not sooner — to correct her lung.
Elliotte was born with a rare abnormality of lung development called congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM). I know — even the name is scary.
CCAM is a cystic area within the lung that stems from an abnormal embryogenesis. No one seems to know why this malformation occurs, and only about 1 in 30,000 babies are afflicted with this condition. If left untreated, CCAM can develop into a serious infection and it can even turn into lung cancer later in life.
My baby’s hospital bracelet — Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
During my pregnancy, weekly ultrasounds kept a close eye on the CCAM’s development. I went from having no morning sickness or really any pregnancy symptoms whatsoever to a high-risk pregnancy that was so anxiety-filled, I was actually counting down the days until it was over.
It was during one of those weekly ultrasounds around the 25th week of pregnancy that we discovered that the mass in Elliotte’s lung had doubled in size, causing much concern for her other developing organs.
The main worry was that her heart would be pushed to the side by the fast-growing mass or that fluid (also known as hydrops) would develop in her lungs, which is a prenatal form of heart failure.
As a soon-to-be first time mom, this news was beyond devastating. I wanted nothing more (and I truly mean nothing more) than for my baby girl to be safe in my belly. My maternal instincts were already intact and I just prayed and prayed and prayed.
This development was obviously a game-changer for me. I suddenly found it very difficult to be excited by this pregnancy, as I was terrified that it wouldn’t have a happy ending. When people would congratulate me (as my belly was now large and round), my heart would ache.
I cried almost every single night, wondering if my baby girl would be okay. I wanted so badly to be excited, but this giant fear was blocking me from going there. Even my baby shower felt bittersweet.
The weeks leading up to my due date were very scary for me. I knew that there would be people from the NICU in the delivery room waiting to take my baby once she was born. The hospital and my fantastic OB, Dr. Emily Sikking, were completely prepared and ready to support Elliotte with whatever she may have needed once she arrived.
Our little fighter came out with a perfect Apgar score and didn’t require any extra oxygen. She skipped the NICU and even got to stay in our room for her first night, which in my humble opinion was her first major milestone.
For the next few nights as Elliotte recovers from her operation, my husband and I will sleep on a cot in her hospital room. Something that feels incredibly unnatural and unfair.
We’ve found ourselves in the hospital yet again. Elliotte was out within a few days of the surgery, but Alec and I noticed that she’s been having some breathing issues. Her doctors want to monitor her for 48 hours just to make sure there are no surgical complications.
I can’t believe we’re back in the hospital just 10 days after leaving! Once again, I’ve been blown away by the strength my daughter has shown. In order to rule out every possibility, they’ve had to run a lot of tests and Elliotte has been a total trouper.
Nothing serious has come from her stay this time around (thank goodness!!). It was most likely a little virus messing with Elliotte’s breathing pattern, but enough to make her parents really freaked out.
Wearing my glasses days after surgery — Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
It’s now been two weeks and one day since Elliotte’s lung operation, in which Dr. Chen (a.k.a The Puro Family Mascot) successfully removed her entire upper left lobe.
In the months leading up to her surgery, everyone kept telling me how resilient babies are and how amazed I would be at how fast she will recover. I cannot tell you how annoying I found this advice to be.
I just couldn’t wrap my brain around any of it. I think it’s very easy to discuss the resiliency of a baby when it’s not your child. I didn’t even want to think about my little one going through any of this.
Well, they were right. Babies truly are resilient. If you saw Elliotte just days after her operation, you would have been amazed. It was absolutely remarkable. I swear it was way harder for my husband and me to recover from the whole experience!
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I hold nothing back. I post unflattering pictures of myself — remember the one of me moments after giving birth, or my split maternity pants? — and try my very best to paint a real image of what motherhood is truly like for me.
When PEOPLE.com asked me to write this blog, I knew that I could only do it if I was 100 percent myself. I hope you understand that I needed to hold back on this one thing. This one thing that plagued me and terrified me for 20 weeks during pregnancy, and then another 20 weeks after Elliotte was born.
More than anything, I needed to protect my family and my daughter. I just couldn’t stomach discussing something so serious while I was still in the midst of it — it felt way too private and delicate.
I even considered not writing this blog anymore because I hated not being upfront about the crisis we were dealing with, but I knew that once everything was okay and we were out of the woods, I would share.
So now we’re out of the woods … but I guess as parents we are never really out of the woods, per se. I will always worry about my little girl, but now I can finally check this extra large super-sized worry off of my list.
Feeling better and kicking it poolside — Courtesy Marla Sokoloff
For any parent that reads this that has had a child with a health crisis or that has spent any time in the hospital with your little one, my heart sincerely goes out to you. This has far and away been the hardest thing I have ever gone through and to be completely honest — I’m still recovering.
It has changed every part of my being and I’m not sure I will ever be the same again. I will forever look at my daughter and my husband differently. We went through the trenches together and our little family unit is now stronger than ever. I feel as if we can get through anything as long as we have each other.
As per usual, I read every comment and every Tweet, so let’s chat.
Until next time — xxo,
— Marla Sokoloff
Thank you all so much for the incredible outpouring of love and support. It means more than you will ever know and to say that we are completely overwhelmed would be an understatement!
The very personal stories that you have shared have touched me so deeply and I want each and every one of you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
For the CCAM mommies that are either pregnant or awaiting surgery — your comments have completely broken my heart. I know exactly where you are right now and it’s terrifying. The unknown is truly the scariest part.
I’m happy and relieved to finally say that the mystery is now behind us, and if I knew someone who had been through it that could have answered some of my questions it may have alleviated some of my worry.
Please feel free to email me with your questions — I’m not an expert by any means but I’m a mom who is happy to help and hopefully I can take away some of the worry … even if it’s just a little bit. I’m at marlasokblogATgmail.com.