Sunday, November 30, 2008

A November to Forget

It's the last day of November and I sit here eagerly anticipating the end of the month. This has been a month that has tested the mettle of this family and has shown me personally that I am a lousy sick person beyond my (and the rest of my families') wildest expectations. 

It started with a solo trip to Toronto to see my family. Of course, I had started getting the November snurffles. November has never been the healthiest month for me. My immune system seems to give up the ghost and lay itself open for attack from any evil, opportunistic, slimy, ravaging, malignant virus that is out there looking for a mucous membrane in which to burrow and begin reproducing itself into a swarming mass of reprehensible and deadly clones, who's only pleasure is ensuring that I am brought to my knees by attacking my sinuses, lungs and throat. I left Seattle armed with my lozenges, my Nyquil and a bag full of tissues in case it got really ugly. This was Saturday.

On Monday, my husband calls to say he is on the way to pick up my older son from school because he has a headache. As any normal, self-respecting Mom would say, "A headache? But he has a math exam this afternoon!" Perhaps I should say any self-respecting, empathetically challenged, normal Mom who's son is not doing well in math, would say. To make a long story short, on Tuesday, which was Election Day so I was already wound up, my husband calls to let me know he is on the way to Emergency at Children's Hospital with my aforementioned son who is doing poorly in math. Not to mention that his headache was getting worse and a rash had taken over his extremities and the doctor's at the local medical clinic told my husband to get him to the hospital ASAP. He will keep me updated. I am having a lovely lunch with my friend at her beautiful home and now I am concerned. 

I head over to my brother's to watch the election results, when my husband calls back and tells me they are performing a spinal tap, which they so nonchalantly refer to as a lumbar puncture. At least spinal tap conjures up mental images of 18" plaster Stonehenge replica's and Christopher Guest, as opposed to visions of this giant needle being thrust into my son's spine as he lays there helpless and in agony.

My brother is now on the computer trying to find me flights back to Seattle. At this point the next flight is at 7AM the next morning. I'm on the phone all night with my husband and younger son. I have to wake my dad up at 4:30AM to let him know I have to leave. My dad is 91 and did not take well to being woken up and told that his grandson is very ill and I have to head home immediately. I also had to leave without saying goodbye to Mom who was expecting me back to see her the next day at her nursing home.

I am suppose to land in Seattle at 12PM. I switch planes in Vancouver. The flight is cancelled and I will have to wait until the next flight at 2:30PM. That flight is delayed until 4PM. My son has been admitted to hospital, he is in isolation, even morphine and Dilaudid(l?) did not take the pain away. Guess what? The desk people at Air Canada are subjected to a full-on ballistic meltdown by a frantic mom trying to get home to her son. I am not prone to such behavior, in fact, I tend to deal with major issues fairly stoically and calmly. This, however, was NOT pretty.

Finally get back to Seattle at 5PM. Take a taxi directly to Children's and spend the next week in isolation with my son. On the Thursday, he began to have these pain episodes where he would be writhing on the bed and he would come out of these with complete amnesia. I mean not knowing who he was, where he was or who any of us were. Imagine reaching out to your child to comfort them and having them pull away and hide under the blanket because he didn't know you. He would go through these episodes again and then come out of it with no memory of the pain, but remembering everything else. Sometimes he came out of it hallucinating instead of the know....people were purple and these 2 red lights were trying to get into the room to hurt him. Not to mention the footsteps in the bathroom. At one point the neurologist was observing him when he went through one of these and he was stymied. I guess I had seen a few of these already and being somewhat jaded, commented that if the amnesia stayed, I would have a Tabula Rasa son who I could then convince to clean up his room. He was not amused. Doctor's have no sense of humor.

Who we really needed was House. 

We left the hospital after every imaginable test that can be done had been performed on my son with out having a clue as to what caused the problem. Thankfully they ruled out all the icky things that it was not, but we left with a diagnosis of viral encephalitis of unknown cause that resolved itself on its own. 

We also left the hospital with a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) in my son's arm. He had blown out 3 veins from one drug they were giving him intravenously. The doctor said it was kind of like having sulfuric acid pumped into your veins. Oh Yippee. They finally decided that inserting the PICC line was the answer. This is a process that is similar to having an intravenous inserted, however, they thread a line that is about 2 1/2 feet long through your vein until it reaches the vena cava that goes directly into the heart. Because this vein is so large, it dilutes the medicine when it dumps in there, therefore freeing you from the agony of having it blow out the vein in your arm as it burns its way through to the heart. Perhaps they could have done this prior to him having 3 ex-veins? 

Anyway, they wanted to keep him on this drug for a few more days until they were sure he had recovered and they received results from a last minute test back. And who was going to administer the drug while he was home? Moi. They call it infusing, which to me sounds like putting herbs in olive oil and letting them sit to flavor the oil. I had to be trained to infuse my son, which, while seemingly very easy when the nurses were doing it, was actually pretty complicated in that you had to keep everything sterile while you were preparing it. Now, I don't know about you, but my house is far from a sterile environment, what with a dog, parrot, hamster, 2 snakes and 2 geckos - not to mention 2 boys. Zak is still alive, however, with all limbs intact and no sign of septiscemia, so I guess I did OK.

I have to say, Children's is an amazing hospital and I want to thank them for their care and attention. If he had to have become seriously ill, I am glad he did it in Seattle. I would have been happier if he had done it in Toronto, however, as The Hospital for Sick Children (fondly known as Sick Kids) is also excellent, and I wouldn't be having nightmares about the hospital bills that should be rolling in anytime now!

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