St Louis Surgery part 4

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When we last left off, we were in the recovery room at Mercy Hospital. Both of the boys were out of surgery. Robert was clearly outpacing Peter with speed of recovery. Peter was hitting people with his cast.

Dr. Marsh talked to me for about 5 minutes about how the boys did and asked if I had any questions. When I didn’t, he shot out of that hospital like he was on fire because apparently we were his “last day of school” appointment and he was antsy to start his vacation. (Of course, right?) I never saw him again.

The boys were quickly wheeled out of recovery and brought up to the pediatric intensive care unit. Considering how well they were doing, it seemed wholly un-necessary. (Just another extra charge on our massive bill, I guess.) But, in hindsight, it was nice to have more nurses more actively involved with them. They required a lot of attention just because they were scared.

When we got up to the rooms, the same nurse who told me the surgeries didn’t hurt started talking to the PICU doctor about what to use for pain management. I held my tongue, but just barely. Pun intended. We ruled out IV drugs because they are bloody expensive and settled on regular Tylenol and Motrin.

Oh, but wait! The boys have a red dye allergy. The hospital doesn’t have dye-free Tylenol or Motrin. Yes, you read that right.

“If you would have informed us of their allergy in advance, we could have been more prepared,” the nurse scolded me.

Yes, because all that paper work I filled out beforehand was for funsies. Why would the nurse read the page with the allergies, after all? Also, aren’t I an idiot! I assumed a major metropolitan hospital would have TYLENOL. Gosh. What is wrong with me? I bet they scold the people who come in with latex allergies, too… Not.

So, I had to go to Walgreens as my sons sat alone in the PICU to buy Tylenol. I’m not kidding.

Yes, it really happened

Yes, it really happened

I mean, I was pretty pumped that Walgreens was running a “buy one, get one 50% off” special on children’s pain relief, but honestly? I was not impressed. (I was even less impressed when I got an additional bill from the hospital for them to administer it. But, let’s not dwell. Yet.)

I was finally back with the boys and they were petrified. The children’s hospital at Mercy is all pretty new so the suites are all single patient. That’s lovely…until you have two children in at the same time. I spent my day running back and forth between the rooms. I would wait until one child fell asleep to bolt over to the other child or listen for crying to choose which room I would spend time in. It was absolutely exhausting.

When I couldn't be in his room, he needed his teddy

When I couldn’t be in his room, he needed his teddy

I made a vain attempt to go back to the hotel for some sleep at one point, but another patient coded and there was commotion, alarms, shouting….yeah. I wasn’t going anywhere. I slept in my clothes on a tiny foam couch in Robert’s room for most of the night because Peter was doing a better job with sleeping.

He kept falling asleep watching Shark Week.

He kept falling asleep watching Shark Week.

This was, unknown to the boys,  the easy day of their recovery. The following day was going to be the day they were forced to RECOVER by their nurse. She wanted them up, drinking, and out of the PICU as fast as possible. I knew they were having a great recovery, but I was still a little unsure how they would accept drinking. I mean, they had feeding tubes in that gave them their medicine and food today. What would they do when they were told to just drink some milk tomorrow?

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Surgery in St Louis part 3

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The day was finally here. After the trip, the fundraising, the loan….we are finally at the morning of the surgery!

We got up at the crack of dawn and I dragged my sleepy little boys to the surgery building. (Right? This hospital was so big, there was a separate building for surgeries. Insane!) They were would up pretty tight with nerves so, they were difficult to contain.

I went to registration and the clerk looked at me and said, “And do you have you payment with you?”

I almost died. I tried not to bite her head off, but I very firmly explained that we made all the payment on the phone yesterday. She disagreed with me because I had no receipt. I explained that my cell phone does not have printing technology quite yet. I suggested she call Dr. Marsh’s office manager. The clerk got huffy but eventually called over.

Shocker: we were fully paid.

They allowed us in and the boys started getting prepared for surgery.

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The internal waiting room had a bubble machine. It was the exact same one the boys hung out with in Ann Arbor before their last surgery. I took the picture for nostalgia’s sake, but the comparison turned my stomach a little. I didn’t want this to be like last time…

Robert was combative because he was scared so, he was taken in first. Peter and I got to spend some quality time watching cartoons, taking selfies, and watching Peter start getting high as a kite when he was given some sedatives.

High as a kite...

High as a kite…

Right after Peter was taken back the nurse tried to mother me and insisted I go to the cafeteria and get something to eat. I resisted the urge to kick her in the shins, and briefly disappeared so she would be fully convinced I went to the cafeteria.

We had been on shaky terms with each other since the day before when she told me tongue surgery doesn’t hurt and I called her out on that. I’ve had tongue surgery. It hurts. She claimed that her 35 years of experience caring for patients trumped my actual pain. She knew better about whether or not I experienced pain during a surgery 11 years ago that she wasn’t present at. We had some words.

As soon as I hit the waiting room, I could hear Robert crying. So, I followed the howls to the recovery room. I told the nurse at the room my son was in there and I had been told to join them in recovery. (I was, promise.) She told me my son wasn’t in there.

Now, I have my moments of sheer stupidity, but I know what Robert’s cries sound like. I was quickly turning in to the Hulk’s mother and preparing to bust out a wall to get to him when the nurse came back, looking sheepish.

“You were right.”

I know.

I went in with Robert and he was super confused and sleepy. Despite the stitches and drainage, he looked good. He even asked for some water! It was such a different post-op look compared to last time.

He took a sip of water, and then fell dead asleep.

Trust me, this looks GOOD for 1 hour post-op!

Trust me, this looks GOOD for 1 hour post-op!

His recovery was working out so shockingly easy, I was really looking forward to seeing Peter. If crabby, difficult Robert was having an easy time, Peter would be a breeze!

You know, by this point in my life, you’d think I would know better than to have those thoughts.

As you may recall, Peter has a cast on his right arm right now from a soccer injury. A cast on a sedated, confused, scared little boy becomes a weapon. When Peter entered recovery, he was swinging that cast around like a club, making contact with anyone who was mistakenly in the line of fire. I got clubbed a few times when we were trying to calm him down and let him know he was okay. Eventually we were able to get no-no’s on his arms to protect us and Peter from damage and he settled in to an unhappy nap, too.

He hated those Nemo no-nos.

He hated those Nemo no-nos.

Since I am getting long-winded and the rest of surgery day gets ridiculous, we will continue this tomorrow…

 

Surgery in St Louis part 2

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Our second day in St Louis started off pretty easy. Robert is a huge fan of continental breakfast, especially when it is free.

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After a good feed, we were all set to go see Dr. Marsh for the very first time. We got in the car, plugged the address in my phone, and set off.

And that’s where everything went downhill.

I have the ability to get lost literally anywhere. A hospital is no exception. There are multiple towers in Mercy Hospital and they all have different numbering systems. I spent a good half an hour wandering aimlessly with the kids until we finally got where we needed to go.

And once we got there, well…

I don’t want to say his office manager was bad, but I don’t think we got off on the right foot. She was abrupt with me and seemed kind of rude because we were intending to self-pay for the surgery as a back up since insurance was still fighting us. (I would think self-pay would make them happier? I mean, they don’t have to haggle with a company and wait for payment. They just hold up actual people until they cough up cash. But, that’s another story…) I was kind of still trying to make the self-pay a back up plan. I was hoping we could bill the insurance and see if they would accept any of it, and then be billed the difference.

Well, she told us we weren’t allowed to even try to bill the insurance. We had to have the whole payment in full NOW.

I panicked. We didn’t have $26,000 yet.  We had only managed to save and fundraise $16,000. We were ten short. And they were very firm about no full payment, no surgery.

I didn’t know what to do. I was crying, the boys were confused… So, we went down to the financial aid office. It was a non-profit hospital, after all. I talked to a man who told me that based on our finances and the financial burden, we should only owe about $2500!! Wonderful! I was ecstatic! I went back up to the doctor’s office, and Kristin gave me her now patented Sour B*&%$ Face and marched us back down to financial aid. She went and had a private conference with the officer I talked to and when they came out, my bill was back up to $26,000. Pert of me bitterly wonders what exactly she said to them to get them to change their minds. And why couldn’t I have been involved with that meeting? Shady.

Apparently charity isn’t available for “optional” surgeries. You know, because I had three different doctors including two cranial-facial specialists referring the boys because it was not a cosmetic procedure…still optional.

So, we left with no hope. How were we going to get $10,000 in less than 5 hours? They wanted us paid in full before the office closed that day or our surgery would be cancelled and we would have to go home.

I took the boys to their pre-op speech appointment while making calls, sending out pleas for help, and trying not to cry. I can barely remember one thing the therapist told us because I was so pre-occupied with the big, glaring $10,000 hanging over my head. Thank goodness she gave me a folder of information to take with me.

I took the kids back to the hotel after the appointments where they played and I tried to keep myself together.

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I mean, at least they deserved to have some fun…

Well, without getting too far in to the gritty details, let’s just say there are a lot of ways to get loans in the US. Some places are pretty liberal with what they will give a person because they have ridiculous interest rates. It’s painful, but it happened.

By the end of the day, the surgery was fully paid for. My bank account was sobbing gently in the corner, but the surgeries were going to happen as scheduled the next day.

 

 

Surgery in St Louis pt 1

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I have finally decompressed enough from our trip that I can talk about how it went. So, let’s go…

Two Sundays ago, we were all packed and decided to spend the night at Grandma’s house. She’s 20 minutes closer to the airport than we are, so it made sense. The boys were super jazzed up to have a sleepover, but they were getting nervous about the trip. So instead of sleeping on the big, blowup mattress in the living room, they both mashed themselves up against me in a double bed that was much too small for such an arrangement.

Extremely early on Monday, we got up to go to the airport. There are only two flights per day out of Marquette so, you catch this early one or you don’t go. Well, we were anxious about getting on the plane so, of course, I got a sassy gate agent who tried to bump us due to the plane being overly full.

Thankfully we were not bumped and a couple people moved on the plane so that the boys and I could sit in the same row. Robert was across the aisle from Peter and I because the planes that fly out of Marquette are itty bitty puddle jumpers. Well, I didn’t think about it until we were buckling up and getting ready to take off but, Robert is a little ball of anxiety. He was terrified to be on the plane in general. And it was made worse because he was sitting next to a stranger.

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He sat on the edge of his seat, looking nervous all the way to Detroit, poor thing.

In Detroit we learned Robert’s anxiety does not end with planes. He is also suddenly and inexplicably afraid of escalators.

We had a great time trying to figure out how to get across that airport without using escalators. More than once Robert and I used an elevator while Peter jumped on the escalator. When we got to the bottom….Peter was gone because he went right back up the escalator. Ug.

Also, the tunnel of horrors in the Detroit airport? Who thought that up? It’s a dark cave with creepy flashing lights and music to inspire your worst nightmares like scary circus music or thunderstorms. Because, when you are already nervous about flying, let’s make you think about storms and turbulence!

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Seriously, what is this?

Anyhow, eventually we got to our next plane and set off for St Louis. Robert sat next to me and was much happier.

“This plane is bigger. I am much more comfortable,” he told me sagely.

What a character.

Once we got to St Louis, we found our luggage and had to set out to get our rental car. We took the shuttle to the rental car place, waited in a super long line and….were told our car was at a different location.

“Your tag line is literally, ‘we’ll pick you up’. Can someone from that office pick us up here?” I asked the agent.

“No. We can’t pick up at other Car Rental places,” the guy replied.

“But, if I walk like…a block in to the neighborhood here, they will?”

“Sure!”

Well, that’s stupid. But, I did it. I walked over to a White Castle with two kids and an enormous suitcase in tow. Everyone I passed looked really angry and I was getting concerned that St Louis was one of those cities with really awful, mean people.

We waited for over an hour and a half to be picked up because the guy picking us up got lost. But, once he got there, he looked REAL anxious to leave.

I tried to make small talk as we left the area about how nice this neighborhood looked. I asked if all of St Louis looked so nice. The driver still looked nervous and didn’t really answer my question.

I found out later I had been in the middle of Ferguson. You know, the place with all the racial tension and (at that time) active riots? The driver must have thought I lived under a rock.

Well, we finally got our car and headed to the hotel. I have never been so happy to see a Best Western.

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The boys made themselves at home immediately.

They also very quickly noticed there was a Target right behind the hotel and they deduced they could convince me to take them there for snacks and swim trunks. (I avoided bringing swim suits because I knew Peter couldn’t swim with his cast. That didn’t stop him from trying, though. I still consider it a miracle that he didn’t completely destroy his cast during this trip.)

In any rate, it was nice to burn off some energy at the store and in the pool because we had a full day scheduled for Tuesday…

to be continued.

 

Say What?!?

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3 days until we fly out for surgery.

We were getting supplies yesterday for the trip and I explained to Peter that I was getting chewing gum so our ears don’t pop on the plane when the cabin pressurizes. I think he was only half listening.

Later in the car, Peter was relaying his new knowledge about chewing gum.

“We use it so our ears won’t explode,” Peter said confidently.

Robert stopped what he was doing and stared at his brother. “Wait, what? We put gum in our ears?”

I think I an going to have to re-explain the gum. And keep a close eye on it.

Finally!!

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Look at that! After 1 week, two different splints and a return trip to Urgent Care, Peter is finally in his cast! I have never felt such relief in my life.

We went yesterday to the orthopedic specialist to make sure everything was looking good and to get a cast on. Peter still has some nasty looking bruises on his hand and it hurts like heck, but at least the swelling was over so he could be put in a cast. Originally he wanted a hot pink cast, but I think the nurse asked him if he was sure a few too many times and he got self-conscious.  He then picked red and she asked no questions. Part of me was super annoyed because, honestly, who cares what color cast he wears? Pink, blue, sparkles, rainbows and unicorns….whatever. If he likes it and won’t try to destroy it, I am happy. And that old crap about pink being a “girl color”….well, don’t get me started.

Whatever. Peter is now officially in a cast for four weeks and I am still holding my breath because he still has the potential to be “that kid” who manages to crack or break their cast. Apparently that’s a real thing. And it sounds exactly like something Peter could do.

 

Good Morning, Friday

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Recently I have been trying to exercise more to get in a shape that is more pleasing than “round”. So, I have been getting up early and going to the gym before work. I may be getting too confident in my own theoretical competence there.

This morning I got up, grabbed a magazine, and hopped on a elliptical. As soon as I started my work out, I dropped my magazine and it got stuck in a fan. So, most of my workout was actually just me sitting on the floor trying to pry a copy of Real Simple from the death grip of a box fan.

And for my encore, I accidentally sprayed disinfectant in my eye when I was wiping down my machine post- workout.

I am a little concerned about how the rest of my day is going to go…