PTSD – You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide – part 2

Holding back my tears and holding my breath, I reluctantly signed all the consent forms allowing the doctors to remove my son’s deteriorating appendix. I surprisingly, and coherently answer all the questions and list out what the anesthesiologist needs to know: sleep apnea, hearing loss, tinnitus, asthma.

I kiss my brave boy on his forehead right before they wheel him away.

Tears are flowing before I leave the pre-op area.

While it is true that I have witnessed my children be put under anesthesia 26 times before. IT DOES NOT GET EASIER. It gets familiar, but does not get easier. My feet get heavy as I walk away. Have you ever stood at the end of a shoreline and felt the tide wash sand on your feet? And as you stand there, and the tide ebbs and flows, your feet sink deeper and deeper into the sand. And soon, your feet are buried, almost up to your ankles and you try to lift your foot, but it is so heavy. And you feel unbalanced. But on the beach, the unbalanced feeling is fun. This is not. It’s just heavy.

I need a hug. I desperately need a hug. My husband cannot be by my side because, you know, “COVID rules”.

I tearfully text my family in one group text and then copy and paste the exact info to another chat group for my husband’s family.

I decided that maybe I could find the high risk specialist who cared for me when I was pregnant with the twins. Whenever I am at the hospital we unintentionally bump into one another. I thought I would surprise her and find her this time.

The surprise was on me! Her office relocated to a new location.

I am a glutton for punishment. I realized that I was on the same floor as the nursery and NICU. I ask the unit clerk if I could be allowed to visit “the wall” of the NICU. She tells me that unfortunately, they are not allowing visitors to the NICU, only parents. Stupid “COVID rules.” Tears. Tears I cannot control start rolling down my cheeks again. In between sobs I try to explain that I am not here to visit any babies. I just want to see “the wall”. I try to explain that my son is a NICU graduate. And I need to find his tile. I explain that he was in surgery. And I need to find comfort and hope. And if I could just touch his tile, it would mean so much to me.

Now she has tears in her eyes. She bows her head and whispers “follow me”.

She brings me to “the wall”. I stand there in awe. Inspiring amazement. So many children that are alive because of the phenomenal men and women who dedicate themselves and their lives to saving the tiniest of lives. And there are so many more who did not make it to the reunion, but are living and thriving because of these doctors and nurses. It was just beautifully overwhelming. This is the first time I had visited “the wall”. After the 2016 reunion, I never went back to see the final product. Too many painful memories. But such a beautiful tribute.

I find my niece’s tile. She too is a graduate of the very same NICU. My lips start to quiver trying to stifle my emotions.

I find my daughter’s tile. Now come more tears.

I find my friend’s son’s tile. We met when our boys were in middle school and she and I quickly realized that we, as well as our sons, had so much in common. Both boys had the same rough start.

My eyes finally fall on my son’s tile. And I smile. And I cry. And I know how many times he was near death, but always pulled through. I know that he will be fine. I say all this to the unit clerk, who now needs to touch up her mascara. She allows me to take pictures.

As we head back toward the elevators, I thank her for not calling security on me and for having the compassion to allow me this moment. And before I knew it, I was kissing my groggy and loopy son in the recovery room. And now I cry tears of joy and relief.

The Wall

PTSD – You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

After 9 hours in the emergency room, the kind ER doctor informed us that the cat scan revealed that my Boy has a mild case of appendicitis. It was now 1:30 in the morning. They injected an antibiotic into his IV and informed us that he would be staying “overnight” (it was already almost 2 in the morning).

They said that the antibiotic should keep the infection at bay and the surgeon will evaluate the need for surgery in the morning. Evaluate. …

As they were wheeling him to his room, by heart rate started to quicken. I could swear the beating of my heart was louder that the hum of the elevator as we approached the 4th floor.

“Look down. Look down at your feet. Don’t look around. There are too many memories here. If you look up, you are going to see something familiar. Something you will remember from the last time you were here. Don’t do it. Don’t look up. Don’t cry….don’t cry…whatever you do, don’t let your son see you crying.”

The room seemed so dark. And sad. It was sadder than I remembered. Even my son said, “this room seems so dark and sad”. I held back my words and emotions. I helped settle him into bed. He tossed and turned trying to get comfortable without pulling on the IV.

I tossed and turned on the foldable vinyl loveseat/bed. I did not want to unfold it to open to a bed, but it is not comfortable enough to snuggle into, especially when you stand at 5’10. Maybe if I was shorter I could have curled into it. I remember having that same thought all those years ago. The last time I was up on this unit, my son’s little body was ravaged by an unrelenting fever of 105º. He was lethargic and had multiple IV’s inserted into both his arms. One IV was an IVIg transfusion that replaced his platelets. He was 11 months old. I slept with him in the metal crib that looks and feels like a small jail cell.

I tried to push away those awful memories.

But my mind was racing. I was trying hard to process everything that was happening.

We have spent over three months cloistered in our home trying so hard to minimize our risk of exposure to Covid. I have been working from home up to 10 hours a day. The kids have not ventured out unless absolutely necessary. We have tried to do everything to stay healthy.

And yet, we are in a hospital. The germiest of germy places. And now my son may need suregery. During a pandemic.

We both tossed and turned until at least 3:30am.

The nurse said the doctor will be in around 7am to do rounds, so I set my alarm for 6:30am. With a stiff neck, and achy lower back, I groggily turned off my alarm. I sat trying to stretch out my stiff and sore body, casually drifting in and out of a light doze.

At 7:05am, the overhead paging system started playing “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. At that moment, the music and lyrics were so comforting and I felt peace:

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right. It’s all right

It was such a nice way to wake up.

At 7:25am, the nurse pops her head in and announces “Transportation is here to take you up to the OR.” My son and I immediately stare at one another, eyes wide open! “Um, excuse me, but like what happened here? I thought the surgeon was going to come and evaluate him for surgery. What happened to the evaluation? Are you sure you have the right patient?”

She cheerfully replied, “Oh yes. He is on the schedule for surgery. He is up next!”

“Well, ummm, I would like to meet the surgeon who is about to cut open my son.”

“Oh dear. I am not sure you will be allowed up to the OR.”

She saw my eyes widen and my face redden. Before I could find the words she blurted “COVID rules, I am so sorry.”

I muster our “But he is still a minor! He is not 18 years old just yet. For the next 6 months he is still a minor. There is so much the doctor and anesthesiologist need to know about his conditions. More importantly I would like to see the whites of the eyes of the individual who is doing the surgery. For Pete’s sake, I don’t even know the surgeon’s name!”

The charge nurse came in and assured me that I would be allowed to accompany my son to the OR and meet the doctors performing the surgery.

Thank goodness!

When the Universe Makes You Face Your Fears

There is a meme that says “I just don’t have time for the nervous breakdown that I deserve.” That. Meme. Is. Me…..

I admit that I have been experiencing anxiety and panic attacks whenever I go out to the market and start trying to embrace and live in the “new normal”. Our governor has been opening the state in phases and I am having trouble with the “new normal”. The new normal that includes me continuing to work from home; wearing a mask whenever I go out; trying to leave the house as little as possible.

With that being said, you can imagine the abject horror when my pediatrician instructed me to take my child, to all places, the emergency room.

Let me set the stage:

11am, The Boy: “Mom, my stomach hurts.”

3:15pm: Conversation my child hears me have with his pediatrician:

“My Boy has had stomach pains since 11am. I told him to go fart, poop, and drink Mylanta. He did all three, but the pain has not gone away, actually it has gotten a bit worse. The pain is at the top of his stomach, above his belly button. Nope, no fever, no vomiting, no diarrhea. Are you fucking out of your mind??? Are you absolutely sure??? What if I don’t want to? Why can’t I just bring him to you? ARRRRGGGGGGG. Fine!

Nine. Three. Two. Twenty Seven. One.

NINE: We spent nine hours in the emergency room.

THREE: Three COVID positive patients that needed a Cat Scan before my son needed his. Which means they too were in the ER.

TWO: 2am my boy gets admitted into the hospital.

TWENTY SEVEN: This is the 27th time one of my children has needed to be under general anesthesia for surgery. I only have TWO children.

ONE: I am One Stressed Out Hot Mess Express.

April 19, 2020 C19 Expectations

Tomorrow is the beginning of the 5th week of me working from home; and the start of 6th week of the kids distance learning from home.

The challenges we are facing are not unique. But they are OUR challenges.

I thought this shelter in place would allow me more time to do the things I never have time to do. I want to bake bread with the kids, spend more time developing my photography skills, participate in more virtual college tours with and for the twins. But most importantly, I want spend more time with my kids (and less time getting frustrated with them).

But we are all less motivated to do more because we are all still so overwhelmed with school and work.

I just want more quality time together with my kids. God willing, next year, they will be committing to their college of choice. If all goes well, we will be preparing for prom, graduation and hopefully many more celebrations.

It’s kind of hard to think that far ahead given these uncertain times, but I want to hold on to them a little while longer. And I want to worry less.

I worry about the malformed veins and clots my daughters body keeps developing. I am anxious and scared as heck about scheduling that MRI to see if the veins have grown up her back.

I worry about my son’s asthma. He has been needing to use the nebulizer every night for the past 4 nights.

I try to not get too ahead of myself. But I’m a mom. It’s my job.

As the government is moving toward reopening the economy , I hold my breath and try to let my hope for the future outweigh the worry and fear.

April 13, 2020 C19 The Food Shopping Challenge

Fri, March 20 was the last day I was physically in my office. Today is the start of week 4 working from home. It’s been a blessing! It’s been a bit challenging at times, but overall, it’s been more of a blessing.

I work in healthcare and almost all my coworkers, who are direct care staff, have mostly tested positive for Covid-19. I am so grateful to be able to work from home.

I have been very good about staying home. I wear my gloves and mask if I need to go out. Keeping the kids home has not been too much of a challenge. We got this social distancing down to a science.

But grocery shopping has been my biggest challenge. Two weeks ago, during the height of my anxiety/panic attacks about grocery shopping, I desperately swore I would arrange weekly grocery delivery services through a large supermarket chain near my home. I tearfully loaded my virtual shopping cart.

I have been modifying my virtual cart up until last night. As of 8:00 this morning, my estimated shopping bill was $243.66. I was excited that I was dodging a trip to the market.

I heard the delivery truck pull into my driveway and I scrambled for cash so I could give the driver a healthy tip. After all he was preventing another anxiety ridden episode of me crying. And he was helping me practice social distancing by bringing my groceries to my door.

I opened my garage door and waited for him like a puppy waiting for a treat. I could here him sorting through the truck, gathering my order. I could hear him. He was coughing. And he was not wearing a mask. Uuuggghhhh.

After two quick trips into his delivery truck, he dropped off my treasures. I cannot explain the expression on my face when the delivery man dropped off only 7 bags (all 1/2 empty) and handed me my receipt. My total bill was reduced to exactly $115.00.

From $243.66, my bill was only $115. I am repeating myself because I still can’t believe it.

My jaw literally dropped when he told me that more than half the items on my list was out of stock! I placed my order two weeks ago and more than half of it was out of stock. Incomprehensible.

Panic set in with the realization that I will need to go to the market after all. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Easter 2020

The days have been flying by. The kids last day of school was March 13. They haven’t seen their friends or really have left the house since then. It’s starting to wear on my social butterfly the most.

Today was a very different Easter celebration. We tried to watch Easter Sunday Mass on tv, but the kids couldn’t get into it. We video chatted with family, instead of sharing dinner with them. And while it’s cute and fun, it’s not the same.

I pulled a muscle in my back so the kids helped prep dinner. I asked them to dress up a little since today is still a celebration. My daughter came out of her room still dressed in her pajamas.

At least they were not the same pajamas from yesterday, but I was not having it. She went back into her room and returned dressed nicely, but still not in a celebratory mood.

This social distancing is hard on everyone. But for kids like my daughter she is missing the social interactions. She has been video chatting with her friends…and texting…and using different social media platforms, but there is so much more that she is missing.

We were lucky that my husband didn’t have to work this weekend. That’s 2 days less being surrounded by positive cases in a closed environment.

We are praying that the curve is flattening and hopefully we will be able to start functioning as a society and community again. We are praying for those who are recovering. And we are praying for those who have lost their lives.

COVID-19 April 6, 2020

Numbers. That’s the main focus on the television. The number of new cases, the number of deaths, the stock market numbers bottom out, 100.5.

100.5 is the number that’s been circling in my head. This afternoon I checked in my daughter and she was sitting in her desk chair facing her bed. But she was bent over with her head on her bed. I asked her if she was okay. She lifted her head and did not look okay. I instinctively felt her forehead. Damn it! She was hot.

99.3. I promised myself that I cannot start calling doctors unless she’s at least 100.5°. I have her two ibuprofen.

Two hours later. 99.1°.

Two hours after that she was outside with her brother letting our puppy run without her leash. I hear her giggling. Good sign.

We ate dinner and watched movie. She seemed fine. Now she’s in bed. I forgot to check her temperature before bed.

No ER visits!!!
Borrowed from @themindsetofamom

COVID-19 April 5, 2020

It is my husband’s turn.

He came home from work furious that a state penitentiary has not supplied their officers with personal protective equipment (PPE). He is finding out that inmates in his cellblock, whom he interacted with last night, without PPE were taken to nearby hospitals with COVID symptoms. He is so worried and stressed about getting sick, or worse, bringing it home.

And there is the added stress of how short staffed they are due to many officers falling ill to COVID. His co-workers are working 16 hour shifts 3-4 days in a row. When he works 16 hours, he is only managing 3-4 hours of sleep before his next shift. Let’s say he is working 3p-11p and then 11p-7am. He gets home by 8am, he doesn’t always fall asleep right away. Then he is up by noon so he can shake the sleep off, eat, shower and get ready to do it all over again. He is mightily stressed.

He sat on the sofa flipping channels on the tv and I could hear him sighing loudly. Repeatedly. Big deep breaths and loud exhalations. After several minutes of him sucking all the air out of the room, I served him a cup of chamomile tea with lemon.

Later that afternoon I sneakily “remembered” that I needed to ask his sister “something”. Fact, my father in-law lives with her family and sometimes you just need to speak with your parents. So I video chatted my sister-in-law. My father-in-law is always amazed at technology so I was not surprised when my father-in-law started asking for his son.

My hubby got to “see” and talk to his dad for a while. That also helped center my husband a little. When he hung up he asked me why did I video chat his sister and not just call like I usually do. I fessed up and told him I thought that he needed his dad and this was be a good way to connect with him. He hugged me tightly.

They were giving the classic movie The Ten Commandments on tv. He loves this movie and watches it every time they air it. During a commercial I asked him if he was sure he wanted to watch the movie and he said “Yeah, why? You know I love this movie.” I said yes, but are you sure you’re okay with the fact of that Moses sends the plague? I mean it’s a little to close to reality.” He started laughing and called me a mean wife. We both giggled.

We are both scared. Terrified.

COVID-19 April 4, 2020

Working from has its advantages. But the downside is that I don’t always know how to shut it off!!! It feels like I am working non-stop.

Baby steps. Hubby was working and I needed some items from the market. The kids wanted to get out of the house a little. We all agreed that we will wear masks and not touch a fucking thing! I am the only one who can touch anything because I have gloves. There was no argument from either one of them.

I let my son drive. He hasn’t been out of the house much to drive anywhere, so he was very pleased to be in the driver’s seat.

We pulled up to the first market. I say first because there were 5 markets we stopped at today. After my son shut the ignition, my daughter reminded him to put on his mask. Teasingly he says that masks do nothing. It gives a false sense of security. She whips back and says you better wear your mask! We all have weak immune systems, and we are not taking any chances! I was very proud of her. They get it and they are taking things seriously.

So the first market had only 2 things on my shopping list of 11 items. So we drive to market #2. And we kept driving because there were too many people. Hardly anyone had a mask or gloves. So we kept on driving. Market #3 was similar. So we kept on driving. The parking lot at store #4 was ridiculous. So we kept on driving. Ah. Market #5. Still too many cars in the parking lot for my taste, however, there were people standing in line outside the store. They were more than 6 feet away from one another. There were about 10 prospective shoppers standing on line.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t convince myself to stand in line. My kids were laughing , saying that I was overreacting. But there were just too many people for me.

Now I’ll have to try it again tomorrow.