Saturday, April 24, 2010
Precious, Painful Time
What an odd turn of events. When I woke up on Thursday morning I never could have guessed that I’d be spending the next two days holed up in a hospital room with my daughter. But that’s how life plays out, I suppose.
She’s struggled with that nasty bug called MRSA for two years now. She gets small sores that look like pimples but grow to be something more like pimples on crack. I will spare you the details but let’s just say they are big, ugly and more painful than you can imagine. I know firsthand. I’ve had one and it nearly kept me home from work. I’ve done my research and know that, although it’s in our daily environment, some people just react badly to it while others fight it off. It can be deadly to people with compromised immune systems so I have tried to be very attentive every time my girl got yet another angry sore.
Over last weekend she got a new one, then a second, so we saw the doctor on Monday. Antibiotics were prescribed and we went home with our fingers crossed. By Wednesday night the sores were still pretty painful and her eye was beginning to hurt. On Thursday morning she woke me up, in intense pain, and immediately I knew that it wasn’t a run of the mill sty in her eye. It was MRSA. By noon we were in the doc’s office again. I assumed we’d change antibiotics and be sent home with hot packs. Instead we were sent directly over to the ER.
MRSA in the eye is not something you can afford to wait out. I have learned, through our experience, that it can lead to big time problems if it takes over the eye socket. So after spending the afternoon being examined by a long stream of docs in the ER, she was given a bed upstairs and we hunkered down to wait out the cure.
As hard core antibiotics flowed through her IV, my girl and I hung out. Because her infection was so contagious and dangerous to other hospital patients, she was placed in a private isolation room. Every person who entered had to don the full wardrobe of gowns and gloves. Even the poor guy who only wanted to empty her trash can.
She relaxed as she finally got some relief from her pain, hospitals are full of good drugs. I relaxed out of sheer gratitude that we were finally on a faster track to recovery than the normal ten day wait and see game. And as much as I hated that my girl was ‘sick’, I loved the personal time we got to share.
This is my girl who has one foot out the door, as she makes her plans to go off to college in the fall. I refuse to let myself dwell on the fact that in just a few months I will suddenly be the only female in this house dominated by males. But the reality is back there, in the recesses of my brain. I know I have loved raising her and I know my heart is going to ache on the day she moves out.
But for almost 30 hours this week, it was just the two of us. Jeff held down the fort at home, coming to the hospital twice so I could leave for a short time to shower and find food. Then there was the constant stream of docs, coming in to ask the same five questions. (We were truly considering making a print-out of the five basic answers and handing each one a copy as they walked through the door). But other than that, it was just the two of us.
She didn’t have any pressing medical needs so the nurses left us alone for the most part, in our quarantined little room. We were on a holding pattern, waiting for time to pass and drugs to do their work. We watched TV, we read celebrity magazines and compared pictures and stories. We talked, and laughed and had a good time. At least during the hours that her pain meds were working. When they started to wear off, everything changed.
I went from being her friend to being her mom. Protective Mama Bear mom. No nurse could move fast enough when the pain started to take over in my baby girl again.
The worse episode transpired just hours before we were to check out. They needed swabs of her sores. Meaning they had to take a big Q-tip and ram it into her two most painful sores. Then roll the thing around for a bit. Not a good thing. And to make it worse, her pain meds had begun to wear off and the nurse thought it would be more efficient to just do the procedure then retrieve the new doses.
So for almost fifteen minutes this nurse tortured my girl. She dug around in my daughter’s eye with her giant Q-tips, came up for air, then decide to get ‘just a bit more’. Then a repeat of the same procedure on the second sore, on her leg. I could only see my girl’s feet, as they thrashed around at the foot of her bed, and she tried so hard to be compliant.
When it was over and the nurse stepped back, I could see the tears streaming down my baby girl’s face. I could see her body shivering in pain. I had to physically stop the sob that tried to escape my body. I knew I needed to be her advocate, not add to her pain with my tears.
As the nurse labeled her vials and did her paperwork I pushed her to get my girl some help with her pain. “I think she could use those lortab before you do her IV change…” Fortunately nurse agreed. Within minutes she was back with the two magic pills. I watched my girl swallow the drugs, then the water, then encouraged her to lay back and relax. Melt into her headphones and let her whole body just relax to wait out the drug’s effects.
Nurse then quickly changed out the IV, which was not comfortable, as the IV site had given my girl trouble since the moment they put it in. But relative to the torture she’d just been through, it was tolerable. Finally nurse left and I was ready to make my girl comfortable again. As I turned off the lights, adjusted the shades and fluffed her pillows suddenly her eyes popped open.
“Mom, it’s happening again….mom….moooom….” Urgency dominated her cries.
Her first dose of this new, stronger antibiotic had caused a reaction in the ER. My girl’s face got blotchy and hot and she felt like she needed to scratch off all of her skin. Fortunately a nurse caught it and the Benadryl they shot into her IV took care of the painful symptoms almost immediately. The next doses of meds were given at a much slower pace and the problem never returned. Until this last dose. Just after the torture session. Just as my girl was hoping to settle into some comfort.
I could see her face begin to redden. She looked at me, wide eyed, and said, “I need to scratch! I need to scratch!” The tears flowed again. She’d had enough. Enough pain. Enough waiting around for drugs to work so she could get back to her real life. Her friends had texted her all day Friday, telling her what she was missing at school, including a cook- off she’d been preparing for all week in foods class. Her team ended up winning. Without her. Instead she was perched in a hard sterile bed, being tortured by random health care workers in scrubs. And it was just too much.
Again I said the most comforting words I could find, acknowledging her pain but reassuring her it would all be over soon. As I felt like sobbing with her I pulled it together and did what I could to get her relief. I pushed the nurse call button and was told the nurse would be there shortly. I waited two minutes. No more, no less. And when no one showed up, I headed for the hallway.
In that instant I had a flashback. I could see with infinite clarity that scene at the end of Terms of Endearment. When Debra Winger is dying of cancer and in pain, and her prim, proper mother, Shirley Maclaine, can’t stand the fact no one is coming to give her relief. Shirley Maclaine runs into the hallway towards the nurses’ station, screaming something like, “She’s in PAIN! My daughter’s in PAIN! It’s time for her drugs and she needs them NOW! You will get them for her, NOW!”
I never fully got that scene until yesterday. My daughter was not dying of cancer. She was actually hours away from going home and days away from being back to perfect health. But in that moment, after enduring a weeks’ worth of agonizing pain in her body and thirty hours worth of random torture in the hospital, she was hurting. And I would have done anything I had to, to get her relief. Even if it meant hunting down a small, sweet faced nurse who was nine months pregnant. (I am not kidding. She could barely reach over her round belly to reach my daughter’s arms during IV changes)
As I suspected, I found her doing paperwork at the nurses’ station. She looked up, surprised, as I came around the corner. It was obvious no one had given her the message about our buzzing for help. Or maybe she didn’t see the urgency in our pleas. Either way, I was not standing around waiting for results.
I was nice. I promise I was. But I was firm. And within a few minutes she was pushing three vials of Benadryl into my girl’s IV. That, of course, was painful too, so the tears began to flow again, down the sides of my daughter’s face.
Eventually it was all over. The Benadryl kicked in and the itching sensations ceased. The pain meds kicked in and the tears dried up. Finally, finally, my girl relaxed and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. I pulled out a book and read by the slivers of daylight that peeked through the window blinds. Our round bellied nurse came in once to check on her and I whispered to her that all was fine and dad was scheduled to arrive at seven to take us home. She nodded her head politely and said, “Good, good. Let’s just let her sleep until then.”
And that’s exactly what happened. I read and she slept. In our quiet little darkening cave all was finally well. After so many long hours of procedures and questions and monotonous answers and bad hospital food and uncertainty, it was almost over. We could see the end of the tunnel and it was going to finally be okay.
When the clock rolled around to seven daddy bear showed up. Together we packed up our first born cub and we walked out of our cave, back into the world of the healthy. Back to everyday life and every day stresses.
Thankful for the everyday joys of raising healthy kids.