Rilien’s Second Operation on his Toes



Some of you may remember Rilien had an operation on his funky big toes at about 10 months old. The documentary posts are here (part 1) and here (part 2). I just re-visited them myself, and I’m so grateful I shot those images of our little guy during the process of his first surgery.

Now it’s almost 3 years later, and it’s time for Rilien to have another operation on his toes. They’re much smaller and better than they were before his first operation, but he still has trouble with shoes, and Dr Angus Gray reckons we’re better off doing a little more surgery now (before our around Australia trip) to finally straighten his toes up for good.

This story is truly a documentary photo-essay… I’ll add a few small comments where they’re needed, but I encourage you to read each photo as if it really were a thousand words. Look into the images for the time and place cues, the details, the emotions, and give some thought to what I was thinking as I pressed the shutter.


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You can see his toes are still a little funky here.

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I waited for what felt like ages here, for Bel to return from theatre while Ril was in surgery. I nipped back home to have dinner with Indrani and Bev, before coming back to meet Ril in recovery. This image is tough for me – he was still really drugged up on the general anaesthetic as well as morphine for pain-relief, so he was completely not himself. His eyes were glazed over, and he wasn’t very responsive. In the end I had to settle him down by singing his bedtime song into his ear. It was one of the hardest moments in my life as a Dad.

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The next morning he was more peaceful, although he had only slept briefly and fitfully, with lots of nightmares (thanks to the morphine). He still wasn’t himself. Israel-Smith-Project-Riliens-Operation-201406_0027A Israel-Smith-Project-Riliens-Operation-201406_0028A Israel-Smith-Project-Riliens-Operation-201406_0029A


This image, like the ones from recovery, are hard for me. Rilien is clearly so wiped-out on morphine – his eyes aren’t him. It’s like the eyes are looking at me, but Rilien is lost somewhere inside, and can’t look back out at me.

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