Friday, July 31, 2009

Scratching my head - but with clean hands!

Ok. So I was at the doctor's office with my son yesterday - for 3 hours. No big deal, I brought reading material. When it was finally got up to go, I discovered that I really had to "go". So, I asked where the restroom was...and went there - quickly.

After my blessed relief (how does a bladder hold so much?), I stood up and heard "WHOOSH". Yep, it was an automatic toilet. I'm used to them. I walk over to the sink and before I can find the soap dispenser, the water helpfully turns on for me. Gotta admit, I was impressed. Those auto turn on faucets are a bear to get to come on. Lots of times, I have had to find the electronic "eye" and wipe my thumb or finger across it a few times to let it know I am here with soap. But this one detected that I was a foot away and turned on. When I finally found the hidden soap dispenser (if they are going to be in a hidden area, they should emit a helpful beep and flash a light to give you a hint) I found out that the water was pleasantly warm. I rinsed for a couple seconds longer because of that.

Now, to dry my hands and leave. Oh. No automatic hand dryer; paper towels instead. Ok. I wave my hands in front of the dispenser. Nothing. I look underneath to see if there is an electric eye there. Nope. Oh no, is it empty - my hands are dripping. No, I see paper in there. Is the electric eye in a different place? I feel all around. Gosh, no. Where is that eye? My hands will be dry before I figure out how to get it to dispense a paper towel or two. I push on it in frustration.

It's a manual dispenser.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How it all ends up

Yep, I was right. He didn't know a thing about being left unstitched. I waited til the next morning when we were alone to tell him. He was not looking good, and talked of getting up and going to the restroom. I told him first, that he was in no shape to get up at all, and second that he was still open.

He looked at me, non-plussed.

"I'm what?"

"Open. The infection was so bad that he did not sew you up. You are packed."

"But...I don't feel anything."

"What do you mean?"

"No pain, no air, no nothing. Why can't I tell that I'm not sewn up?"

The answer to that, I was to find out later, is that there were no nerves left for him to feel anything in the area. All were rotted out by the infection and had to be removed. It's not like he had no feeling, though. After the first time he got unpacked and repacked, I walked in (what - did you think I was going to be staying and watching??) and he was sweating and shaking from the pain. Oh, he had feeling, it was just higher up.

He was not out of the woods, and now I could believe it. He was suffering, today, and he looked worse. He certainly was not joking around like he had been before. And, he had asked me to pull up a chair beside his bed and hold his hand as he slept. My baby boy wanted me beside him, and needed to feel that I was close. I did as he asked.

If I had to shift, he would wake up, so I tried hard not to have to move at all. I was facing the clock on the wall, however, and that was not a good thing. It reminded me of my labor with him. To time the contractions, there had been a HUGE wall clock with a white face and black hands and numbers on the wall in the labor room. I had watched the second-hand tick away the minutes and had repeatedly wished that time would just go faster. While I was not wishing the time away as before while I sat beside my son 23 years later, it sure was difficult to remain in one position as the minutes s-l-o-w-l-y slid by, second by second.

I decided to watch him sleep. It was difficult to watch his face through the bed-rail. I was in a terrible position. There were tubes and wires and I was sitting low in the chair. I kept the pressure of my hand equal, and kept my arm in the same position so as not to disturb him as I shifted up and changed my sitting position to one with my legs underneath me. He did not move; a small victory for me. Now, I had a good view of him as he slept. I much-preferred watching him sleep than watching the clock.

But what was this? His chest had stopped moving. Now, I could see his heartbeat through the hospital gown, but still no chest movement. Also, no breathing sounds at all. I had just decided that I would have to begin to panic when suddenly, a sharp gasp. Oh. Wow. Weird. Ok. Since he took that breath, I could chalk it up to just my worrying for nothing. Typical mother. What? It's happening again, except now, his chest is heaving, but no air is getting in - or out. What was going on, here? I watched him gasp again. This happened six times before I squeezed his hand and called his name.

"Wha-?" he said groggily.

"Are you dreaming?"


"Are you feeling ok?"


I told him that he had been breathing funny.

"Oh. Ok."

He stared up at the ceiling for a minute and his eyes closed again. With them still closed he said, "That makes sense...I've been having to remember to do it."

"Do what?"


WHAT? As calmly as possible, I asked for clarification.

"Well, I am almost asleep, and then I remember that I have not taken a breath in a while. So I..." and he demonstrates the chest heaving that I had witnessed.

"Yes! That's what you were doing, before!"

"Oh. Ok."

He is totally unconcerned. It's as if he has had this problem forever. HAS he had this problem forever? I ask him if he does this normally, or if this is something new.

"No, it's new. Only since I got here."

I called the nurse. Geez. Seems that the pain meds were too strong...he really was "forgetting" to breathe. Visions of Michael Jackson's death swirled through my mind.

From there, things actually got better. He improved very slowly. He was a bad patient. He decided when his breathing treatments were over. He decided when it was time for him to get up and use the bathroom. He decided where he would walk when the nurses wanted him to get up and do so - all over the hospital, and up and down the elevators. It was also him who decided that he wanted to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt instead of a hospital gown. However, he lost that fight.

He is home now - discharged way too soon for my liking. He is not at my house, like I wanted him to be (at least for a couple of days), he is at his apartment. It is not fun for him to change his own dressings, but he does it. His first doctor appointment is this Thursday. He hates limits. He hates that the limits are justified, too. (He tripped the other day, and when his foot came down hard and jarred him, the pain at the site of his surgery was instant and momentarily unbearable). He is bored and restless, but he sleeps at the drop of a hat. He knows he will not be able to work for 6 weeks and it is gnawing on him. How will he pay his rent/utilities/doctor bills? These are questions that are slowly being resolved.

I've got to say, God is good, thinking back on this whole thing. To me, it makes no sense that his testicles are fine. So what that they have their own blood supply? I thought the infection had killed everything in the scrotum. So, what is contained in the scrotum? Helllooooo! But they are fine. What was the one thing that my son had been concerned about on the way to the hospital? That he not be sterile. Ok. He's not sterile. Do I believe that everything was rotted out and that, because Mikey mentioned that he wanted children someday, and that I was praying and so were my family that God said, "Because of the faith of your family, your testicles have been saved"? No! That is silly. I believe that God can do whatever He wants, but I don't believe that He did that. None of us were praying for his testicles. Not even Mikey was praying about his own testicles. We were praying for his life. I'm just saying that we got more than we asked for and that God is good.

For the record, if Mikey had become sterile (and just because he still has his testicles, does not mean that he is not sterile), or if Mikey had died, I would still believe that God is good. I am not here to get into theological arguments.

There is still plenty to worry about. I just hope that this chapter of his life has been a learning experience that he will not soon delegate to the story-telling section of his brain. I want it to have changed him in some way. They say that near-death experiences do that.

I hope so.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


To say I was shocked at the surgeon's words is an understatement. How does one receive that kind of information? I stress again that Mikey did not ever have a look of death about him.

I believed the surgeon, of course, because he detailed for me that the infection was still raging and still active. He also indicated across his own abdomen, a line of infection. It was about an inch above the pubic line. An inch of solid, red, angry infection. (That is also something that my son had never mentioned.) They had cultured the infectious area and had called in an Infectious Diseases doctor -- a specialist! The doctor mentioned the possibility of further surgery, more dead tissue removal, possible skin grafts.

I received all the information. I did. I know I did because I am spitting it out on a blog right now. I have also repeated it to my parents, Mikey's father, my former in-laws, several friends by phone, and in many, many emails to far-away friends and family. I know the story. I believe the story. I'm telling the story...but I cannot fathom it.

How about this: His birthday was on a Monday. I could have been having a funeral for him on that Saturday. How's that for a reality check? How can one digest that information? It's simply not logical. "Parents are not supposed to bury their children." Makes sense to me. I can fully understand how parents who lose a child can look lost. They are lost! I did not lose my child and I am still wondering how it all happened so fast; and I do think too often about what could have been.

I do digress, however.

Mikey was in a room, but I had to go home. I had to get the girls back home and get them something to eat, take a shower, inform people via email, phone and text message about Mikey's condition. I had a cool house now - something that, although I was grateful for, did not seem all that important. I had a washing machine that worked, too. I had to go to work and arrange time off; not a problem, because everyone at work was and continues to be very, very supportive. Still, there was paperwork. I did not get back to the hospital until the dinner tray was out. Mikey had been up for hours and wanted to know why I hadn't been there.

He was jovial.

He joked with the nurses, joked with me, poked fun at his sisters, and repeatedly pushed the button on his morphine drip.

"You know, son, that you don't get a shot of morphine every time you do that, don't you? It's timed to only give you meds every so many minutes no matter how many times you push that button."

"Of course I know that, mom! I'm not a moron." (Said with a big, goofy grin.)

Something was baffling me, though. One thing the surgeon said was that he had left Mikey's wound open. The infection was so bad that he had packed the wound with betadine-soaked sponges, but had not closed it. ("Actually, the healing occurs much faster that way.") For a wound to be open and draining, I thought that Mikey would be in some kind of pain. I understood about the morphine, but he was not even being careful or treating the area gingerly at all. Several times during that initial hospital visit, I half-expected him to punch himself in the nuts like a neanderthal to prove his bravery. It was that casual.

I almost told him that he was open under that hospital gown. Not that anyone could see that...he was bandaged even though he was open. The sponges were to be changed 3 times a day. The first time would be tomorrow sometime. Still, each time I opened my mouth to tell him I thought, "Nah, he knows...surely someone has already told him this." His actions were telling me a different story, though. Also, the fact that he hadn't told me himself (oh, yes, he would have told me himself: "Mom, did you know that the surgeon split me and didn't sew me up again?") bothered me. Something wasn't right. Yet, he had just come out of surgery and was on morphine. Also, his sisters were here. He could be putting on a show for them. I would just let it ride for now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"He's out of danger...right?"

I must not have read that text correctly. I read it again as April comes out the door to greet me. My face must be registering alarm because she immediately grabs my cell phone and says, "What? What's wrong?"

I can't see anymore. WHY CAN'T I SEE ANYTHING?? Oh, I've actually taken my glasses off to rub my eyes and forgotten they were in my hand. Geez.

"Where's Tabby? Where's the McBee guy? Is he done yet? What's wrong with the unit? Is he trying to sell us something we don't need? Are you ready to go? I need to call Mikey. Give me the phone."

My eyes hurt. My head hurts. I must be in someone else's life.

"Mom! Is Mikey in surgery? What does this mean?"

"WHERE IS THE HEATING AND AIR GUY, GIRLIE!! Call Mikey on your phone. I can't see to dial mine....I can't find it, either. Did you see where I put my phone?"

Tabby comes bounding outside, still in her pajamas.

"How's Mikey? Can we go to the hospital with you?"

"Mom, I have Mikey on the phone."

April hands me the phone.

"This isn't my phone! Do you know where my phone is? Hello? Mikey? Where is the surgeon?"

"Surgeon? Mom, what surgeon?" This is Tabby talking to me.

"TABBY GET DRESSED! (Back to the phone) Mikey, is the surgeon with you? Do I have time to get to the hospital? Ask him if I can get back there."

"Mom," he sounds small and scared, "I will make him wait for long are you going to be?"

"No, Mikey. Please, don't make him wait. Ask him if I have time to get back there. It took me 20 minutes to get home."

April gives me my phone. Oh yeah, I had given it to her to read. She points to the back of the house...this is where the McBee guy is. I start walking. Tabby has gone in to get dressed, and April is trailing me closely to hear my half of the conversation. I head to the backyard to see if the unit is operable yet.

"Mikey. Call me back when the - "

"Mom...the surgeon just walked in. (Turning away from the phone) Um...does my mom have time to get here? (Turning back to the phone) Mom, he says 30-45 minutes tops, and then I go into surgery. Please get here. I don't want to go in without you here. Please."

"Mikey, I will get there. If I am not there, though...if you don't see me...please go anyway. I might be there and just not where you are. Please don't refuse to go...please."

"Ok, mom...but get here...I'm...scared." He is my little boy again. And I am not there to comfort him. Geez!

The McBee guy is squatting by my unit, looking at a gauge. As I approach, he looks up and smiles.

"So," I try to sound casual, "how is everything?"

"Well, I cleaned it out - there was a lot of debris in there - and now I'm just topping off your freon, here."

"Oh! Then, you're almost done?" No way. Something good is happening?

"Oh, yes ma'am. Five more minutes, tops."

I explain a little bit of what is going on and ask if he has a total for me. He does, $130.00. I write a check and hand it to him. He looks startled. Then, he goes to his van, writes a receipt and goes back to my unit. I tell him that I hate to rush him, but my son is being prepped for surgery as we speak, and I need to get going. He is done, actually, and would like to just go into the house for a minute to make sure my unit is putting out cold air. Ten minutes after the 30-45 minute time limit has been imposed by the surgeon, the girls and I are on our way to the hospital. Amazing.

Parking, running, sliding glass doors closing behind us....and we are in Mikey's room. He looks relieved and reaches out his hand. I take it and squeeze. Before any of us can say anything, the door swishes open, and here is a man in light blue scrubs, blue booties and a blue, fluffy shower cap-looking thing on his head.

"Hi there, are you ready to go?" He is smiling and entirely too cheerful.

"Yeah, man, this is my mom and sisters. Can they come with us?"

"Oh, sure! They can all ride up in the elevator!" He is very efficient. The IV, the gurney and all three of us are in that elevator about 1.5 minutes after his entrance.

Mikey says, "Oh, I have to use the restroom first. I hate to delay you..."

"Oh, no! Don't worry about that! We'll take care of that for you when you get up there."

Mikey does a double-take, causing the orderly to laugh.

"We do that all the time! Don't worry about it!" This too-cheerful orderly has made us all laugh. Ok, he's not too cheerful. He is comic-relief. It's a good thing.

We get up to the third floor and he points to a reception desk.

"You guys go that way, and we go this way. His doctor will come out after the surgery and give you a report on his condition. He will go to Recovery for a short time, and then up to 10-East, though I don't know what room."

I like this guy. I feel better already! Mikey grabs my hand and squeezes it.

"I'm still scared."

"Oh, don't worry about that, either. We'll give you something in the OR that will make you feel fine."

I laugh at this statement both because it's true and because I have experienced it, myself. I know that Mikey won't be scared for long. Soon, he will be in his room, post-surgery, and the healing will begin. I don't know how long he will be here, but I know that things will be fine. I am actually becoming more relaxed. I have to credit the orderly for this. I've decided he is not too cheerful, after all -- he is just cheerful enough. I kiss Mikey's forhead and give him a hug.

"You know, Mikey, he's right," I say. "I have had surgeries before, and I can tell you that you'll get a shot that will make you feel like everything is fine and will be fine forever." I giggle a little. "Honey, you will want some to take home!"

Mikey looks at me like I am crazy, but the orderly laughs.

"Yes, she's right," he says. (Boy, I am begining to love this orderly!) "As a matter of fact, for you, you will feel like you went to sleep and someone decided to wake you up a minute later -- but actually you will have been asleep for hours! You won't remember any of this, probably."

I give Mikey one more kiss. April and Tabby hug him and we watch him get wheeled down the hall. The orderly continues to talk to him. Wow. He must love his job. Or, he has been taking some of that medicine he's been touting to Mikey. No, I'm kidding.

We go to the receptionist desk. It is less a desk and more of a square with two volunteers inside it, answering phones and filling out charts. Beyond this square is a room full of cubicles, each with a number on it. Several families are taking up several cubicles. There is a huge, flat-screen TV similar to what you would find in an airport terminal with flight data on it. I am wondering what is being tracked on that TV. I can see that there are black colums of letters, blue columns and red columns. Oh my....are the red columns recent deaths? I am being morbid. Why would there be death numbers in a hospital waiting room? Maybe these are actually horse track numbers. Tulsa does have a horse track not too far away from the hospital. How about I just quit guessing stupid things and talk to the receptionist. Why I need to talk to her about anything, I have no idea, but I usually do what I am told.

There are four sides that I can walk up to, but only two sides are currently manned. I choose the nearest side that contains a person. She is weird-looking. No, I'm serious. She is weird-looking. Her face is kind of crescent-shaped, her mouth is crooked, her skin is powder-white, and her left eye appears to be slightly recessed on one side of her head and looking a different direction. Her whole head is lop-sided. And she is not smiling. And her voice is rather flat. She is wearing the pink overcoat of an auxilliary volunteer. She is older, with a gray-haired beehive sort of old-lady 'do. Her photo ID shows an unsmiling portrait - and looks exactly like her. I am trying not to feel sorry for her. "She is volunteering to help people like me," I keep thinking. "She is a nice person - she has to be." She is talking on the phone.

"When I hang up, say hello," she says, then presses a lighted button. "Mrs. Smith? When I hang-up, say hello." Another button press, "Mr. Jones? When I hang up, say hello." This goes on for a while. I am confused. She has not looked up or said anything to us. She just keeps saying, "When I hang up, say hello." Why would anyone say "hello" after someone hangs up? I am thinking of heading over to the other side of the square to talk to the other volunteer when that one answers the phone in front of her. She says, "Hello Mr. White? (Note: I am making all these names up as I go) I have your doctor on the phone. When I hang up, he'll be there, so just say hello." Ah-HAH! Now, THAT makes sense. I want to talk to that one! I'm just about ready to walk over there when my lady turns to the other one and says, "Will you help these people?" She sounds irritated. The nice volunteer (yes, I have divided them into nice and not nice) looks over and says, "I'm on the phone." Her voice is hushed and her face is irritated. I can tell just by this brief conversation that Not Nice Volunteer thinks that Nice Volunteer is a shirker and does not work nearly as hard as Not Nice Volunteer. Not Nice Volunteer stares at Nice Volunteer's back for a good 30 seconds and then turns back to her phone (which has not rung for at least a minute) in disgust. We are still standing in front of Not Nice Volunteer when her phone rings again. "When I hang up...."

I don't know what to do. These are the sentries into the inner sanctum of the waiting room. Do I just go in and sit down? Do I have to stand here until the feuding old ladies decide to help me? Is someone else who is more helpful and pleasant in the restroom or at lunch and about to come back? I don't know the answer to any of these questions. Thankfully, before I have to be rude and interrupt one of them, Not Nice Volunteer grabs a chart and says, "Name?" I must look confused. "Who is in surgery?" she asks. I tell her. "He's not on my list. Is this a scheduled surgery?" Well, no it is not. "Oh. Then it won't be on here." Oh my gosh. Really? No way. How efficient of you to figure that out. I am now not in a good mood. She tells me to take a seat and tell her which cubicle I choose. I will be updated via telephone in the cubicle ("When I hang up...), so it is important that I tell her where I sit. Ok, Ok, it.

The girls and I choose cubicle 10-R. We put our stuff down, but before I can go inform Not Nice, another lady dressed in pink approaches us. "10-R? Perfect! I'll go tell them at the desk. There is coffee in that room and it's free. Everything else you have to pay for. Of course, you can go to the second floor and get something in the cafeteria if you would like. What's your name so I can tell them at the desk?"

WOW! I like this lady. She is short (that is something when I say someone is short!) and sprightly with gray, spikey hair and white tennis shoes. I like her! She shows us the magazine rack, and takes me to the big-screen TV. It is a list of everyone currently scheduled for surgery. The black names are those who are currently in surgery. The blue letters show the actual start times of the surgery (as opposed to when they are scheduled to begin), and the red names are the emergency surgeries. Mikey's name is red. Mystery solved. Much more interesting than horse track numbers.

The girls get sodas, I get coffee, we all get magazines and we settle in. Occasionally, we look at the TV to see about Mikey, but we don't really talk much. The sprightly volunteer checks on us periodically, and then, the phone rings. It is a nurse from the OR to tell me that Mikey's surgery will be done soon and the doctor will be out to talk to me. YAY! It's been an hour. As promised, the doctor comes out about 20 minutes later.

We shake hands and he tells me that it was a massive infection. It was not the injury itself that caused the infection. That is, the hit in the crotch with the showerhead did no damage (as I had suspected...he is dramatic, as I said). Rather, it was a tiny scratch that had been caused by the showerhead that allowed germs to get in and wreak the havoc that brought us here. He described how there had been lots of dead tissue and I interrupted him.

"Is he sterile? He was worried about whether his testicles..."

"No, no actually. The testicles have their own blood supply. It's amazing how these things happen. Everything in there is dead, but the testicles are perfectly healthy!"

Wow. That is something I hadn't known. I am always interested in human body information. At one time, I had wanted to be a doctor. So, the operation is over, his testicles are healthy, and he will be going to a room.

"So, he's out of danger then, right?"

"Oh no, ma'am. Not by a long shot."


Friday, July 24, 2009

Stronger Meds

So, my son, lying on a gurney in the emergency room with a bag of IV fluids/antibiotic dripping into his vein texts me that the word "surgery" has been bandied about and that he cannot "do" surgery.

What is going through his mind? What does he think this is, a lottery?

"Michael, congratulations! Since we're not that busy today, we have time for a surgery - you're the lucky recipient!"

He must be crazy with fear. Or just crazy. At this point, I am thinking the latter, not the former. No doctor ever suggests surgery in the emergency room as an elective. This would be called, "emergency surgery". Emergencies are, plain and simple, emergencies. Life and death, sometimes. However, since the word has merely been mentioned, obviously, there is a chance that the infection is not as bad as doctor initially thinks, and that the IV will be enough until oral antibiotics can be prescribed, bought, and taken as directed. Still, I think my texting back, "Can u do death?" may jolt Mikey out of his dream world and bring him back to the reality of his being in the EMERGENCY ROOM of the HOSPITAL.

He texts me back: "No."

I text: "Then u can do surgery."

He: " i will ask for stronger meds."

Me: "If the doctor says surgery, u will do surgery. This is nothing to play with."

He: "They are doing ultrasound to see if infection is worse than he thinks."

Me: "k"

April: "Mom, the air conditioner guy is here."

Shelley: "How is Mikey?"

OMG! I am being overwhelmed by texts! The last two coming in and my answer to Mikey are all swallowed up by each other. As fast as they come in and as I try to answer each in turn, the cell phone rings. It is Charity, my friend from work.

I am updating her on all the goings on when a nurse comes out, walks up to me and asks, "Are you with Michael? We need you in the back...they've been looking for you."

ACK! They've been looking for me? Have they taken him to surgery??? Oh, no! In the middle of a sentence I blurt, "Igottagobye!" to Charity and hang up. How rude, I know, but I haven't received a text from Mikey in the last several minutes, and "...they've been looking for you." I gather my purse, cell phone, and whatever other crap I have and hurry after the nurse.

We come to a glass sliding door and she pushes a lever on the wall to the left. The door silently swishes open. Hold spite of my worry, I am impressed. This looks like Star Trek. I half-expect Sulu to meet me and inform me that the captain is on the bridge. Anyhow...she leads me into a darkened room. The gurney is on the left, and contains my son; the IV is next to him, ticking the drops of antibiotic into his vein. A large chart hangs on the wall to the right, with a rolling table beneath it. A huge window that covers most of the right wall looks out into a hallway that is bustling with staff hurrying to and fro, and the door, which has swished closed after me, is entirely glass so that the nurses at the nurses' station, directly behind that door, can see what is going on. To complete this picture, it is cold in here.

Mikey is texting. "Oh. There you are. I thought you might want to be here instead of in the waiting room. I was just texting you that they were coming to get you."

OH MY GOD! This nurse needs to watch how she speaks to people in the ER waiting room of a hospital! Sheesh! She scared me to death! Wow.

Mikey fills me in on the details of the IV ("It hurts.") and how he does not want surgery because he is afraid and he cannot see how he can afford it, since he has no insurance and no job, and no money, etc. I tell him that it is not important about money or insurance right now, and that if a doctor says the word "surgery" in the ER of a hospital, it could very well be the difference between life and death.

This is a surreal conversation, actually. My son looks FINE. He is in pain, yes, but his color is good, his sense of humor is intact, his reasoning powers are sharp, and he is able to carry on a conversation in a calm, rational manner. Surely this word, "surgery", is only the doctor covering all his bases.

I walk over to look at the IV. There are two bags hanging. One is an antibiotic that contains ampicillin. That is the one currently flowing into his veins. The other one is....clindamycin! What???? I know that antibiotic, too. Earlier this year, my friend nearly lost his hand - and was told that he could lose his life - because a little scratch he got while working in the yard became infected. He ended up in the emergency room with this IV drip in his hand. He was told this was a last ditch effort to get the infection under control. An infection that occurred quickly and that he had not ignored. He had got to the doctor as soon as the hand swelled up and he could not move it - maybe two days after the initial scratch - and the clindamycin was given to avoid the loss of his hand or his life. He was even told that he could have permanent damage to the tendons in that hand because of the nature of the microbe that had infected him. Clindamycin meant that the doctor probably was not just "covering his bases" with the mention of surgery.

"Mikey. I know this antibiotic. This is heavy stuff. If the doctor says he needs to do surgery, you need to let him do surgery. You won't be able to ask for 'stronger meds' after this one."

He just looks at me.

"I'm serious, Mikey. If he says he needs to do surgery, you have to let him do surgery. You just do.....please."

"We'll see, mom. They said they'll give the meds an hour to work. I bet they'll work."

"Mikey....if he says surgery...."

"I know. I heard you."


My cell phone vibrates in my pocket, startling me. It's April. She wants to know what to do about the air conditioner guy. Although I have left her a blank check to pay McBee, she is uncomfortable with being there with the guy lest he ask her a question she can't answer, or advises her that it is necessary to do something that she has no authority to ok. She's a smart cookie, that one. I pace the floor for a minute (it's not a nervous habit...I pace all the time - I should be uber skinny, actually...) and ask Mikey if he thinks he'll be alright if I go home to check on the heating and air guy.

"Yeah, mom. They said it would be an hour. I'm sure you can go."

"If they say surgery before I get back, will you go into surgery?"

"Mom! You will be back before then."

"No! You promise me you will go into surgery without me here to convince you. Please, Mikey. Tell me you will let the doctor do surgery."


I go to the nurses' station and ask how long the IV will be going, telling her that I have to go home and check on my girls. She tells me the same thing that Mikey does; that it'll be an hour, and I have plenty of time. Ok. Decision made. I pop back into Mikey's room and tell him that I will be right back. He nods impatiently and rolls his eyes in an I-told-you-it-would-be-an-hour sort of way. I shake my head and kiss his forehead. I tell him I'll be back in a bit.

On the 20 minute drive home, I call everyone who has called me and left messages. I update them on Mikey's condition and promise to let them know of any new developments. I call April, too, and let her know that I am on my way home. As I pull into the driveway, I receive a text from Mikey.

"Mom, they want to do surgery NOW."


Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Mom, I can't do surgery,"

I have my list, I have my cell phone, I have my son in the front seat. He is sweating, so I turn on the air conditioner - the one in the car actually works. He reaches over and turns the vents away from him. This is a first.

"Are you cold?" I ask incredulously.

"Yeah. I've got cold chills. I think I have a fever."

A fever? Man. That isn't good. Not with pain in his groin. This might be more serious than I thought. I pull out my cell phone and call my boss. I tell her that I won't be coming in today after all. She laughs and says, "I told you so." Then, I explain about Mikey. "Oh. That's not good. You'll be sitting there all day. Shouldn't you take him to the emergency room?" I explain that he has no insurance, and that we will be going to full service clinics. She does not sound impressed. "They'll all be full and you will end up at the emergency room anyway." What is she, a psychic?!

Two full free clinics and a text message later about the Roto-Rooter guy needing payment, and we are on our way back to the house. I am more than a little frazzled.

"Why are you being so picky!" I remember yelling at him. "These are FREE CLINICS...they are not posh, upscale places. You can't just look at a place and turn your nose up!"

"But mom. They looked...unsanitary."

Oh my gosh. This is my son? My son whose apartment looks like a bomb exploded in it? You are kidding me! Still, I don't know why I am yelling at him...they had both been full, anyway. It was just the fact that he had made the comment about not wanting to go to the one, and had been unwilling to stay at the other to see if he could be seen later in the day. And let's not forget that I had people coming over to fix my plumbing and air conditioning unit! I had things to DO! I did mention that my middle name is not "Grace", right?

The Roto-Rooter guy is done with his fix - 15 minutes worth of work for $101.60 (I'm in the wrong line of work, obviously) - and Mikey is lying on the couch...with ice on his crotch. With no idea when the McBee guy is going to get here to fix the air conditioner, I decide to go online and look up I make many notes and make a few calls. I also get frustrated. Most of the other clinics require appointments and they only see patients after 6pm. I call one more out of desperation, and I actually talk to a live person!

It's a wrong number. What? You're kidding me! Nope, she's not. I have dialed the right medical center, wrong phone number. This number is for regular appointments. Yes, they do see patients with no insurance, but there is a waiting list. She asks me a few questions and then says, "Look, this sounds serious. I think you should take him to the emergency room. Don't worry about the cost; he cannot be turned away. A social worker will see you and you can fill out Title 19 paperwork. When you fill out that paperwork, you can then choose a physician. If you want to use our clinic, that will be the time to let them know. Please, don't worry. Everything will be fine. Just go to the emergency room. A 23-year-old should not be in this much pain."

Those were the words that I needed to hear to jolt me into reality. I repeated them to Mikey, and he said, "Let's go."

The car ride was relatively quiet. During the ride, he said, "Mom, I really hurt bad."

"I'm sure you do, honey. We'll be there shortly."

"Mom...what if everything is dead in there? The left side hurts more than the right, but both sides hurt. I don't want to be sterile. I want to have kids, someday."

What can I say to that? What can I possibly say? I cannot guarantee that he will not be sterile. I can't say that he will have lots of kids, someday. I feel terrible. I say, "Honey. Whatever is wrong has already happened. Everything could be fine and everything could be dead. I wish I could tell you that you won't be sterile, but I just can't. I'm so sorry."

We are both silent. He turns to look at me and says, "Well, if they're both dead, I want steel balls to replace them."

My son is contemplating losing his testicles and he jokes about steel balls. Oh my. Maybe this is not as bad as I think. His sense of humor is definitely intact.

Miracle of miracles, when we get to the hospital at 10am, there is only one person ahead of him. The intake is quick, and then, he goes to the back - alone. I am not one of those mothers who has to know everything. He is 23. I am the mom. I will wait for the doctor to come out to talk to me. After all, this is a delicate situation. I haven't seen these parts of him since he was a toddler. I figure we should keep the record clean.

Soon, I get a text message. It's from Mikey!

"Mom. It is infection. Firm and hard is infection."

A bit later: "Antibiotic IV"

Still later: "It'll be about an hour with the IV. He's talking surgery. I can't do surgery."

What, is he out of his mind to say he can't do surgery?

I text him: "Can u do death?"

Ok, I am breathing continue

As I said, I was about to pay for my initial, ugly thought.

Instead of being openly vexed, I said to him, "I'll call 211 and get a list of free clinics...get dressed, I'll be over in a bit."

"Thanks mom...I love you..."
"I love you, too. Get ready."

I hung up the phone and said, "GGRRRAAAHHHHGGH" (Yes, I actually did say that.) Then, for the umpteenth time, I thought, "If April had her license, I wouldn't be having this problem - SHE could take her brother to those free clinics! But, why should an 18 year old WANT a driver's license?!" Did I mention that I'm a bad mother? "Grace Under Pressure" does NOT describe me. Really.

I fling open April's door.

"Get UP! I need you up and I need you up NOW. C'mon, girlie!" (I called her, "girlie". It is a pet name; it is a good name....maybe I'm not so bad in the mother department, after all.)

"Huh? Wha? Why?" she complained. I quickly explained that she would have to be the one to field both the companies that came by, and text me when they needed payment because I would be toting her non-insurance-bearing brother to free clinics. She was not happy...she hates unknown situations. Yep. Me, too. I wrote down all of the problems we were having with the washing machine and the air conditioning unit, got dressed, called 211 and headed out.

When Mikey came out of his apartment, he was walking like an old man. He had got hit in the groin in the shower with the showerhead last Saturday. On Monday, the 13th, he had mentioned that he had hurt himself and was still hurting a little bit. He had asked me then what he should do, as he had never experienced that kind of pain for so long. He has a tendency toward the dramatic, so I filtered his explanation through my "Mother's Filter" (for instance, "Mom, I hit myself in the shower with the showerhead as I was rinsing. It hurt so bad, I "whited out" - not "blacked-out", "whited-out" and woke up on the shower floor some time later..." turned into, "Mom, I hit myself with the showerhead and it hurt more than I expected." Seriously, if he had really "whited-out", he would not have been talking to me, he would have high-tailed it to a doctor, right?) and asked a few, simple, obvious questions:
1. Is there swelling?
2. Is there discoloration?
3. Is there fever in the area?
All three were negative. "Well, son," I said, stifling a laugh, "I'd say ibuprofin and ice. Why, I remember when I birthed you kids..." I'm sure you can imagine the rest of that story. He smiled wanly and said, "Ok. Thanks mom. I'll do the ice."

Problem solved. I am a genius.

Now, it was Wednesday morning....a little over 24 hours after that conversation, and he couldn't walk. That didn't make sense. No matter; free-clinics, here we come. Someone will have the answers for us in a short while. There would be drugs dispensed, and I could get back to work after lunches. I left the house hoping that April would call me after I dropped Mikey off somewhere, and that I would have all my home problems solved before I had to go pick him up again.

Ouch. Bad mom, again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Life - Turned Upside-Down

I thought my life was topsy-turvy before last Wednesday. I've been warned about "thinking". Now, I know what "topsy-turvy" really means. Just when you think your life can't get any more complicated, suddenly, a little life-lesson comes along. Thing is, that little warning in your head, the one that says, "I simply can't add or do one more thing or else I'll turn into a screaming, drooling dement," (what? You don't have that thought - ever?!) is usually a warning signal that "one more thing" is on its way.

Take last Monday, for example. I live in Oklahoma, land of Central Air. Naturally, in the 100+ degree heat, my air conditioner begins to fail. Luckily, it never quit completely, but a few days of 90-degrees-in-the-house-at-night convinced me that a professional intervention was necessary. My washing machine, being a mechanical "drama queen", overheard the talk of an appointment to fix the air conditioning unit (they have always been jealous of each other, I believe), so began spewing water all over the floor during all of the wringing cycles. "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink..." This vexed me.

Add to that the fact that payday would not be until Wednesday -- well, my anxiety level was rising considerably. I got to work that morning and thought, "If one more thing happens, I will turn into a screaming, drooling dement!" Uh oh...I should have known...but I was too caught up in the "AARRRGHH" of the situation. After a few minutes, I had a vision. I would call "Roto-Rooter" and "McBee Heating & Air" today and schedule them for Wednesday -- that way, I reasoned, I will be first on the list, and be able to get them both in the morning instead of the nebulous, "Sometime before 5pm", and I would be able to get back to work without using a whole day of vacation time. I could survive the heat and wet two more days if I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel. Genius! But, I had already had "the thought". Little did I know...

Tuesday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I said to my boss, "Remember, I'll be late tomorrow, because of the two repair jobs I've scheduled." She said, "Yeah, I won't see you tomorrow." Hmmm....I think she jinxed me.

Wednesday, I was jarred awake at 7am by the phone. "Wow," I thought groggily, "They sure start early." Nope. It was my son. "Mom...." he croaked, "I need you to come and get me...I can't walk...I'm hurting..."

My first thought? "NO! I've got Roto-Rooter and McBee coming out today!"

I am a bad mom. I was about to pay for that ugly thought...I just didn't know it, yet.