Hospitals

Liam’s Mom Won’t Take Any Sick Days.

Were it Liam who needed to rush to the emergency room at 4am Saturday morning we would have known exactly what to do.  The movements choreographed, decisions made in seconds. Even in the most stressful of times a calmness of knowing what to do takes over. Were it Liam.

When it is one of us though, things go a little wonky.

So when Karin came downstairs at 4am, which is our time to switch posts anyway, with a swollen puffy face it took more discussion than it should have before she left to get treated in the emergency room. We both knew she needed to go. Niether of us wanted to say it out loud. knowing what we know about E.R.’s we both knew what she was in for once she got there. Hours and hours of waiting in a waiting room, before hours and hours of waiting in an exam room. Admitting desk, nurse, resident, attending, repeat your symptoms and the timeline again. Karin’s run this drill before.

Only this time…do it alone.

It isn’t as if she didn’t think she needed to be treated or that she was too scared of all of that, no it was that if she left to be treated who would take care of us. Absent the fever Karin was showing signs of a major infection in her face but she was more concerned with how I would get any sleep before work once she left. Who would do Liam’s trach care in the morning? Who would be the mom, should the mom get admitted to the hospital?

Thank God it didn’t come to that. 8 hours after walking in the hospital, after a battery of tests and x-rays, an IV antibiotic and a handful of prescriptions later Karin came home with the answers. A pocket abscess. An infection growing at the base of an old root canal. Had she hesitated to go get it checked out who knows where the infection could have spread. Bloodstream, eye, brain or airway, we know a thing or two about infections in this house. We know about sepsis. We know what could have been.

This morning, five days after this whole ordeal began, and two days after she had met with a trauma dentist (a title I had never heard of before), Karin saw the oral surgeon and had the procedure to clear out the infection. The pain she has endured all week now threefold. Swelling, which had receded with the antibiotics, now back with a vengence thanks to the cutting through gums and drilling through bone.

Given the same I would be curled up in a ball. She did laundry.

Try as I might to get her to stay in bed all night to rest she insisted on taking her “shift” so that I could sleep before work.

She is incredible.

Unbelievable.

And amazing.

I’m sure she thinks I can take care of Liam by myself if I had to — but she’ll be damned if she’s ever gonna let me prove it.

I didn’t do it by myself though. I called in some favors. Liam’s nurse enjoying a day off with his family responded to my text immediately and was willing to come and be with Liam so that I could go to get karin at the hospital if I needed to (she drove herself home because she didn’t want to bother anyone). My mom came to sit with Liam so Karin could get some sleep and I could go to work. Karin’s mom came up to take her to the oral surgeon so that I could go to work today as well.

I didn’t do it by myself.

How much do you want to bet that if it were me in the E.R. that Karin would have though?

Well that’s a suckers bet. You don’t ever want to bet against my wife.

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In the time since I’ve posted last we’ve had a super-hero themed birthday party for a five year old. I’ve been approached to give a presentation to a hospital bio-ethics committee and to be the keynote speaker at a conference on former NICU families this summer. We’ve even painted our living room which is significant only in the fact that it’s the most “moved in” to this house we have gotten since we bought it while Liam was in the NICU. Every one of those things could have made a great blog post but have gone unmarked. Longtime readers will know — tales of hospitals, E.R.’s, and illnesses?
Well that’s just what I do best around here.

The short stay that we wanted.

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We’ve never taken Liam home from the hospital while he was still “sick”. 40 day stays seldom end with discharge if there is still the hint of infection, so we were slightly surprised when the word to break free came on Thursday afternoon. Not that we complained or did anything to stop it mind you, but slightly surprised nonetheless. The attending doc who discharged us was right when she commented that once the seizure that brought us into the ER had been stabilized the remaining symptoms were not enough to keep us in the PICU. Since heading upstairs to the non-ICU floors is not really an option for Liam it was only logical to send us home. I believe her direct quote was actually “there’s nothing here that you guys couldn’t handle.” She’s gotten to know us pretty well over the years.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that these last 24 hours hadn’t been tinted with more than the usual amounts of stress and worry. Barely 30 hours after getting home Karin and I still find ourselves waiting for the other shoe to drop, for one of these mild symptoms to send us bouncing back into the PICU just like we have so many times after a hospital stay.

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I blog more when Liam is in the hospital. It’s a great way to let family and friends know what’s going on but it also gives me something to talk about. Something in the present because lately I’ve been focusing more on our past.

A few months ago I told you about a presentation I was writing about our story. I’m happy to report that it went well. Very well in fact and I have been asked to do another. Tuesday I will be the keynote speaker for the Women & Infants Hospital Schwartz Center Rounds. (You can read more about Schwartz Center Rounds here). After speaking for 15-20 minutes (no small feat in itself, that first presentation I went on and on for almost 45!) Karin and Liam and I, with the aide of a facilitator, will answer questions as part of a panel discussion for an audience of doctors and nurses, who will receive continuing education credits, along with other caregivers and hospital staff.

It’s kind of a big deal.

It’s why I have been focusing so much on our past. On Liam’s time in the NiCU. On the impact that nurses and case managers, and therapists have had on our family and its development.

It’s why along with meditations on our past there have arisen very new and exciting thoughts about our future. About my future. It may have taken me 35 years but I think I may have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up and that it has something to do with writing and speaking about patient advocacy.

And it’s why I shouldn’t be blogging any of this right now. It’s all time that I should be working on my speech.

Thank you all for the thoughts, prayers, and well wishes this week when you heard that Liam had been hospitalized. Getting all of those tweets and comments and emails is another reason why I blog more when Liam is in the hospital. It’s nice to know there are so many people out there who care about us. It means more than you all know.

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