Saturday, November 24, 2007

How I Spent My Thanksgiving Vacation

This Thursday I ate my turkey dinner in the car, enroute from the emergency room of Alta View Hospital to the emergency room of UofU Hospital. My husband, one of my daughters, and my son-in-law ate theirs together a little bit later, in the ICU waiting room. Yep, it was quite the day.

And I was wondering if I should post something sweet and sentimental about Thanksgiving…this isn’t exactly the post I was planning on. In fact, it’s one of those entries you hope to never write. It was a holiday none of us will forget. Except for my oldest daughter, who will never be able to remember it. Fortunately for her the entire day is an empty slate.

The story actually begins the day before, when she had surgery to replace her eardrum. Yes, you read that right, they replaced her eardrum. Not your run-of-the-mill surgery, but her old one was full of scar tissue and causing her all kinds of problems, so hopefully it will have been worth it. The surgery went fine, and she was as well as could be expected afterwards. But she woke up the next day feeling awful, terribly nauseous. She and I were sitting on her bed discussing ways to help the nausea when she let out horrible wail. My first thought was that she was in some kind of pain. Then I saw her eyes, which were locked and glazed over. My next thought was that our lives were about to change forever.

She launched into a grand mal seizure. I turned into a basket case. Someone upstairs called 9-1-1 in response to my yells, and her husband bolted down the stairs. The two of us made an Abbott and Costello type of rescue team. Fortunately a cousin, who had made the phone call, came downstairs and started calling the shots.

The next few hours involved two rides in ambulances, two emergency rooms, and eventually an ICU. My usually-sweet and mild-mannered daughter couldn’t calm herself down, even after the seizure ended, and eventually had to be put in restraints to keep her from ripping out her tubes and anything else touching her skin. She didn’t know who or where she was. I didn’t know who she was. I can’t begin to describe the fear that she might never come back.

Fortunately a young doctor who bears an amazing resemblance to Dr. House, and who talked about having to put together a puzzle (but fortunately had a very nice bed-side manner), figured out the problem. In a nutshell, and in layman’s terms, a drug they used during the surgery has a possible side-effect of causing extreme sodium depletion, which can lead to seizures. The next step after the seizure is coma, followed by death. Fortunately he was able to start her on sodium treatments in what I believe was just the nick-of-time. She ended up spending a couple of agonizing days in the ICU while they got everything stabilized. But the good news is that she’s home now, and almost as good as new – except that she can’t hear out of one ear, and she’s got some big chunks in her memory. Hopefully both will improve soon.

I’ve decided the only thing that would be more difficult than watching an amazing, beautiful creature that somehow remarkably came out of your body struggle to hold onto the life you gave her, would be to watch her lose that battle. My heart goes out to all parents who have had to do that. And I’m so thankful I didn’t have to on this particular Thanksgiving day.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mental Defense, or Confessions of a Warped Mind (?)

I'll let you be the judge of which this posting should be titled. Before I start my story, I have to preface it with something that happened on Sunday - I happened across a couple of women in the church library who I didn't know. They were carrying on a lively conversation, and joked that they might look like innocent librarians, but they were really having a therapy conversation. It turned out that one of them really was a therapist, and I told her it was a coincidence I would run into her on that day, because I was currently questioning my sanity. I went on to tell the story I'm going to tell here, and she gave me a clean bill of health. Of course, as I've thought about it, I'm not sure if it was the therapist or the friend who gave me the diagnosis, but I liked it, and the other didn't disagree, so I'm going to run with it. I have to preface the story with that incident, so as not to give the impression of total insanity. Or at least to give myself a defensive argument to the insantiy plea. And after long's the story...

A week ago Monday I got a letter from my missionary son...just like I've gotten on every Monday of the past year, except for the two that weren't written because he was in a third-world hospital with dengue fever, which I didn't know about until after the fact. This particular letter went something like this:

My email isn't working so I didn't get your letter.
My mission president sent me to the doctor and I have Typhoid and Ameobas.
We couldn't baptize the girl we've been teaching.

Now I know how a normal person would read the letter:
My email isn't working so I didn't get your letter.
My mission president sent me to the doctor and I HAVE TYPHOID AND AMOEBAS.
We couldn't baptize the girl we've been teaching.

But this is how I read the letter:
My email isn't working so I didn't get your letter.
My mission president sent me to the doctor and I have Typhoid and Ameobas.
We couldn't baptize the girl we've been teaching.

I was very sad after reading the letter. And I did read the entire letter. I just didn't absorb it all. I sat there chastising myself for not sending a letter to his backup email. Here he's had a discouraging week, and then he didn't even get a letter from his family. I was so sad, in fact, that I forgot to forward the letter to the rest of the family.

When my husband got home from work that night he asked if Daniel had sent a letter. "Oh, didn't I send it?" I asked. "He's fine. But he didn't get our letter. His email wasn't working." And that was the end of it. Didn't give it another thought. Until a whole five days later - Saturday night. I was with my other children, visiting and laughing and having a good time, when all of a sudden the word TYPHOID popped into my head.

"Daniel has typhoid!" I blurted out. The kids gave me a quizzical look. "And something else!" I ran to the computer and found his letter, thinking maybe I'd had a nightmare or something. But I hadn't. He had typhoid, and amoebas (which it turns out is probably the worst of all three tropical diseases he's contracted). My kids were baffled. "You didn't tell us?" "You FORGOT?"

So you see why I was questioning my sanity. Here's the diagnosis, or theory, or whatever you want to call it: There was nothing I could do about it, and I was on stress over-load (I could list a whole slue of health and financial problems my family is experiencing, but this blog is too long already), so my brain brilliantly decided to tuck the news away in some corner, where it was no-doubt curled up in the fetal position sucking it's morbid little thumb, until I was ready to deal with it. It's a pretty neat trick, actually.

As for my son's diagnosis, I wish I knew more, or maybe less, or that there was something I could do for him. I can't begin to describe how helpless I feel. But in the meantime - I wonder how many other things I don't remember?