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Posts Tagged ‘surgery’


4 am.

That’s when the strains of Charlie Peacock’s West Coast Diaries Vol. 1 awakened me.

They didn’t play long because I hadn’t slept well. I’d gone to bed later than desired, watching The Walking Dead’s mid-season finale (finally Rick realizes they need to join together to destroy Negan and the Saviors).

I was up at 4 am because our flight to LA left at 6 am. After a shower to wash the smell of the fire pit off of my body, I was dressed and ready to go. Eli already has his backpack on his back. I think it weighed 20 pounds, filled with his tablet, toys, books and who knows what else. He was ready for an adventure. I was ready to go to bed. But we had some pre-op appointments to make in LA.

It was a smooth and quick ride despite the exit at Prince Rd. being closed due to an accident. We could see the vehicle which looked like it rolled a few times. We decided to try the “economy parking” lot, only $4/day. Since it is December I wasn’t worried about covered parking. As we walked to the shuttle stop I could see the shuttle bus approaching.

With no bags to check we went straight to the security line. While we waited, the TSA guy chatted me up about the Red Sox and D’Backs since I was wearing my long sleeved Red Sox jersey. And so we soon sat waiting for the flight to board. I started Faithful Presence by David Fitch in preparation for my upcoming series on 1 Peter. I would read it throughout the day. I decided not to read any of the other two work books I brought. Eli was anxious; rocking, roaming, eating an apple and going to wash his hands (after I suggested the common sense idea).

There aren’t many direct flights to LA from Tucson these days, so it was the early flight. I decided not to buy a Chai and wait for the flight’s drink service for my caffeine- Coke. It was an uneventful flight as I read, he did some Minecraft on his tablet and the guy next to us slept on the short flight.

I love not having to go to baggage claim. I wasn’t exactly sure where the Shrine van would meet us. The corridor turned right, and there were doors to the curb in front of us. I saw a van, and the driver looked vaguely familiar. Finally I saw the name on the van and knew it was the right one. He mentioned calling twice, as if we were late or something. “We just got off the plane. I didn’t hear a call.”

And we were off to the Shriners’ Hospital for our 4 appointments. It was about 7:30 Tucson time, but 6:30 LA time. Even though I had the luxurious breakfast of peanuts, pretzels and Coke, I was still hungry. But first the van right, which seemed exceedingly bouncy. I was reminded of Trena’s “burping ‘Burbon” which made her kids puke. Tires? Shocks? Then I noticed the PSI light was lit.

Finally our bouncy ride was done. I thanked him, and noted the light. It was now time to check in. You might say we were early. No one else was waiting. After checking in we went by radio to wait. And read. And play Minecraft. I took a few texts for work-related stuff and read.

Finally it was 8:30 and the cafeteria was to open. Breakfast! I made sure I had cash (a rarity) since that is all they took. And we waited. They were a bit slow getting going. He picked scrambled eggs and bacon with juice while I had a breakfast of champions: bacon, hash browns and a Vanilla Coke. Sweet nutrition.

As we were putting our trays away, I heard his name being called. Figures…. We walked to the nurses station and they begin the preliminary work. The boy has actually gained 6 pounds since May. He has been eating like a horse, so it has paid off.

Then we waited. I read. “I’m bored!” He only had 42% of his battery left and he forgot to bring his charger. I noted the 20 lbs of toys & books. No go. So began the time of playing with medical stuff, rolling around on the stool and generally driving me crazy. We took a few walks up and down the hall to get ants out of pants, but there were too many ants. Way too many ants.

The doctors showed up late, at least 45 minutes for the first appointment. But they were all nice. The anesthesiologist talked about a new protocol they were using to reduce the use of narcotics by kids post-surgery. We would begin dosing him with painkillers on Saturday so they’d be in his system already. We’d have to chart us dosage post-surgery. He usually has a high pain tolerance and turns down pain killers after a day or two.

We talked about the surgery with Dr. Magee. They would be rotating some muscles in the back of the throat so he can fully close the airway connecting the nose and mouth. This way he can make all the sounds necessary to speak. Hopefully this helps more people understand him, and makes him less self-conscious. He will have to re-learn a few things. The opening will be smaller so he will snore (more than he already does) and have a hard time hocking a loogie to get excess mucus out.

There are risks. They will be working close to the spinal column and the carotid arteries. This is why they will do it at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena instead of the Shriners’ Hospital his last 3 surgeries have been in. Any future surgeries will likely be in the new outpatient surgical center they are building near Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

Our flight was at 3:30 and the cafeteria didn’t open for lunch until 11. More waiting. I sat and read while he went to see “the show” they had. Apparently when they asked if any kids spoke English he didn’t raise his hand because most of it was in Spanish. The humor seemed similar to El Sabado Gigante, and he enjoyed the part when one guy kicked another in the bottom. Always gets the 10 year-old boy in the audience.

I got the meds, read and we went to the cafeteria for a far more affordable lunch than at the airport. He had spinach manicotti and a roll while I had chicken parm over linguini. And more Coke for me as I struggled to stay awake.

I saw the van driver and said we were ready when he was. He passed us off to another, younger guy. But they made sure he still got a gift. In addition to the bag, there was another item and he could choose another. One of the things I love about him is that he can be quite generous. He was thinking about which things his siblings would like. When he wasn’t talking to me about this I was talking to the driver. First about the new restaurants in the area (where were they in 2012 when I had to walk over a mile to Korea Town for dinner???), and the new facility.

One of the benefits of this ride was learning the LA method of “discreet” public urination. In Tucson, I’ve just seen guys “whip it out” by the bus stop. Yeah, public johnson sighting as I drove by. In LA the method, witnessed in two cases on this one ride, was to get close to the wall, or lamp post, to minimize any visuals of said johnson. Thinking of the children, obviously. Though I imagine it would splash all over your pants so pick your poison- public exposure or wet, stinky pants. Life in the big city has its charms.

I think it was my quickest ride to LAX ever! It was quite congested when we got there. Dropped off at Southwest we went to security. They sent us to the family line which was short. Okay, non-existent. “Whose printer did this?” he said. They worked in Tucson this morning, I noted. “That’s Tucson…” he said forebodingly. Sure enough, his boarding pass refused to be read. I tried to pull them up using the SW app. It also told me to go to the kiosk. Back down the stairs. Back up the stairs with a newly printed set of boarding passes. Through security and to the gate.

Back at the homestead …. Cody the Destroyer was digging again. I’d filled a hole this weekend. Well, back to the same basic spot. There is something about that spot that he really likes. If there was a rodent hole, we can’t tell because of the Cody hole. We have realized how difficult it is to get dirt out of artificial turf.

And so we waited back at the gate. Again. I read and he fidgeted. Another reference to the backpack full of books and toys. Nah. Eventually he wanted water. At lunch I bought him a bottle of water. He drank about 2-3 ounces before I had to throw it away before we got to security. Tired, and in need of even more caffeine I bought a Chai Latte and water.  Our plane was late arriving, but we were only about 10 minutes late departing.

Being at the end of the “B” group we were way in the back in the only 2 seats we could find together. He was happy to be able to use the tablet again. Tired of Faithful Presence and it’s overuse of the word “space”, I read some of War Room by Michael Holley about the Patriots and team-building. Our whirlwind trip to LA was nearly over.

We arrived on time and next came a classic Eli moment. It took us quite some time to get off the plane, so I asked if he needed to go potty. “Nope.” He then proceeded to remove the burden of his backpack and head into the men’s room.

The shuttle came quickly, we headed home. Nearly home, I got the text that one of the other children had become curious. “Hmmm, what will happen if I stick these metal tweezers into the outlet” kind of curious. Thankfully said outlet was in the bathroom and therefore GFCI. This meant the circuit broke before this child could electrocute themselves. Thankful for small mercies that result in big mercies. The tweezers were damaged, but the child was only traumatized as Dad explained the reality of electricity and conductors later that evening.

We arrived home to the dogs and fish since the others were at BSF. I checked the outlets, reset the breaker and then the GFCI outlet (both tripped) and reheated some pizza while I turned on the Patriots’ game. It was a good game except for the 14 seconds or so in which they allowed the Ravens to score 2 touchdowns.

And so we wait until Saturday when Amie and Eli head back for some pre-op appointments at Huntington Hospital.

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Eli slept well. I did not.

I lost track of how many times I woke up, and why. Like the night before I turned off the white noise app around 1. At some point I woke up to the sound of splashing. I wondered if perhaps a street sweeper had gone by. Eli woke me up for water. Another time I woke up, stretched and suddenly got cramps in my back and one leg. Around 4 I noticed that the A/C turned off. It finally got down to 75 degrees! I could faintly hear the periodic chirp of that lousy smoke detector whose battery they couldn’t or wouldn’t replace. I kept thinking about Eli and how he’d do on the trip home.

Around 6:15 I gave up. This is when I realized the splashing was a rain storm. I peaked through the blinds (did I mention they had no controls, so initially I had to close every slat by hand?). This may change the airport equation. There isn’t much rain in LA so they may drive as horribly as Tucsonans.

I had gotten dressed when Amie called. I kept it brief because I had plenty to do. I got Eli up. He was in some pain after not moving much all night. But he went to the bathroom and then I gave him water and his antibiotics. We got him out of his pjs and into shorts and a shirt to travel. This was when he moved, quite quickly because he had to throw up again. Oh … this did not bode well. I wondered if this had to do with El Niño I heard about.

I had to head downstairs to get cleaning supplies. As I was heading down to the office I saw the buckets in the center of the common area. Apparently the roof had a leak. But it was still raining, which did not bode well. Back upstairs I pulled the sheets off the bed. I noticed, with relief, that there was very little blood on the towel I placed over his pillow. Last time there was far more. I was also relieved to know he hadn’t thrown up again. I cleaned the bathroom and gave him some water. I needed to get the trash to the receptacles so I drank the carton of apple juice we’d brought from the hospital. I figured that might be a bit much for his stomach.

After returning from my errand, I got him in the rundown wheelchair. Off to the rickety elevator when thumps when it starts making you feel incredibly secure. He waited in the commons area while I went to retrieve our luggage- my briefcase, his backpack and a small suitcase. Then to the office to check out and pay the “suggested” donation. In the past they have checked the room before returning my deposit. This time it was simply, did you strip the beds? Okay.

The van was only a few moments late so we got in. I pulled up the stool thinking we were the only people going. What a fool! He came back and noted, with frustration, that another family had called at the last minute but weren’t ready yet. They had an 8 am appointment at the hospital. This was on the way to the airport, but not a main road. So … we waited. It was at this point that I wished I had that jacket Jadon told me to bring. It was a bit cool with the rain. Then I apologized to Eli, thinking I should have given him the pants to wear so he’d be warm. He did have a sweatshirt on so I wasn’t a completely incompetent father. Yeah, we were still waiting.

Finally a guy showed up with a little girl in his arms. I thought we were ready to go. We weren’t. Still waiting for his wife and daughter who finally arrived. Our 7:30 departure morphed into a 7:45 departure. This was not looking good.

It looked worse when we entered traffic. It would NOT be a 5-minute drive to the hospital. It was snarled like nobody’s business. Anxiety raising to Def Con 2. Since Virgil is only one lane in each direction he went a block to a wider road, but that didn’t seem to help much. While we sat at a light I made a few observations. LA must have an aversion to left turn arrows, which made turning left in such situation very difficult particularly in light of pedestrians sauntering across roads. Second, the Metro stop had a fancy looking toilet building. Curious I asked and it was relatively new.

That 5-minute ride took about 20. We were now about 30 minutes behind schedule for the 30-minute ride to the airport. But the driver needed 5 minutes to run into the hospital. Def Con 3.

Sooner than it felt, we were back on the road, and caught in traffic. Every. Red. Light. Starting to think we might not make it I asked Amie about other flights out. Not good. 10:45 (only 40 minutes later) but thru Vegas instead of our nonstop. There was a 3, but also thru Vegas. Eli doesn’t do well in Vegas because he gets overstimulated by the lights & bells. Perhaps being post-surgical this wouldn’t matter but the thought of a layover with a post-op kid was not appealing. This is when I started praying that the flight would be delayed. So far it was scheduled to depart on time.

I was talking to God about it since talking to the driver could do no good. My control idol was very unhappy and I was trying not to stress out. I absolutely hate it when I have no control over anything. This was one of those times. “Help me, Jesus, to trust in your love and power no matter what happens!”

Finally we were on the highway. An earlier glimpse had not been good. We were in the HOV aka Fastrack lane (you pay for this privilege, well the hospital did), and finally making good time. My anxiety level began to go down.

But then we hit the bridge between the 101 and 105. Fastrack no more! Backed up was more like it. It was moving but merging onto the 105 was not easy. Eventually we got moving at a good pace. I asked how long it normally took from this point to the airport. 10 minutes was the answer, which would put us at about 9, an hour later than expected and 35 minutes before boarding. There was still a chance, but possibly a Lloyd Christmas chance.

As we drew near to LAX the traffic came to a new standstill, again. I kept watching that clock as it slipped past 9 am. Oy vey!

Thankfully Southwest is the first airline you come to. In light of the traffic this was such a happy sight to my eyes. It was about 9:10. We had 25 minutes, with a hobbled Eli, to get our vouchers transformed into tickets, a wheelchair for him, thru security and to our gate. I was … stressed.

We were dropped off by the curbside check-in. We got in line, Eli quite painfully. Then I spotted the wheelchair check-in on the far side. Off we went, with Eli hobbling along while I had care of all 3 pieces of luggage. We must have looked pathetic but he was a trooper. Getting a wheelchair also meant we got to use a different sky cap station. This jumped us to the front of the line which was obviously fortuitous, to say the least. If I hadn’t been so stressed out, I’d have been more thankful that Eli had kept that water down.

The other great thing about a wheelchair is that you go through security more quickly. This time it was a bit odd. Here they are checking for explosive residue on the hands of a child who had surgery the day before, AND a wheelchair owned by  the airport. Of course they had to open the backpack and examine his medications. I always use injured children to smuggle things on airplanes!

Our gate was the 2nd gate! We arrived at ….9:35 ready to board. And had to wait. The plane we were going to fly was late arriving, and they hadn’t de-planed yet. I could catch my breath and call Amie. Last time we had plenty of time so I bought him yogurt to eat with his pain meds. No such luxury now, so food and med would wait. Caffeine too. We were the only pre-board on a half-full flight to Tucson, so we sat in the front row, which we had to ourselves. I read Lawhead and he played Angry Birds Star Wars on the iPad (he was obviously feeling okay).

It was an uneventful flight, and the family was very happy to see us.

On the ride home I was telling Amie about my struggle with control and stress that morning. “Well, this will add to it.” Apparently, our washer which was awaiting its 3rd new mother board decided to exhibit a new problem as a result. Usually is doesn’t turn on. That morning it turned on and was on mid-cycle when they heard a not-so-good-sounding noise. Heading upstairs they discovered the door had opened and water was gushing out. They got the machine turned off but used just about every towel trying to get the water up. If we still lived in FL this would be no big deal. The washer was in the garage. This house? Big deal. Not only is the washer inside, it is upstairs (as you may have caught from the earlier statement). We counted 10 water spots in the ceiling downstairs as a result. Thankfully they were home! If not, the washer would have kept running and would have flooded the upstairs causing lots of damage. Big props to Jadon who kept her head, and got the other 3 kids to help clean up.

We are grateful to be home. We are grateful for Eli’s excellent surgeon. We are grateful for friends who let us use their machines for laundry. We’re just plain grateful.

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Just a little paperwork

It has been a busy week or so around here. In anticipation of the impending adoption we are re-arranging the house to make room for them. When you double up in rooms, you have to put clothes and stuff somewhere. So …

We painted the loft and bought some storage shelves from Ikea (it was a painful trip to Ikea, I always get turned around and lost). We also checked out a new dining room table since we need a bigger one. We found a great one, but need to wait to buy it. I then spent the next few days building the storage units (hard on the hands).

But that is not all. We finished our I-600 paperwork. It is currently in the mail to our adoption agency. That not so small stack is courtesy of the Paperwork Reduction Act. I hate to think what it would be like if this Act hadn’t of been passed. The government’s ability to create paperwork knows little to no bounds.

We were not done with paperwork. We discovered another foundation and applied for another grant. Here’s hoping (and praying)!

(more…)

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