Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emergency Surgeries: A Family Tradition

Seeing as how my blog readership consists almost exclusively of family members and very close friends, most of you are already aware of what’s transpired over the last 24 hours. The story actually begins roughly two weeks ago. Edison and Peter, within an hour of each other, both got sick and vomited a couple of times within a 20-minute window. They then seemed completely normal and remained as such for three to four days. Then, once again, within a 20-minute window, they would vomit once or twice. They then returned to normalcy and repeated the process a few days later. It was very strange to us, but we assumed things would improve.

Peter finally stopped vomiting, but Eddie took a turn for the worse. On Saturday, he actually seemed full-blown sick. Rather than puking a couple of times over a 20-minute timeframe, he vomited periodically throughout the day. He seemed ill, too. After vomiting, he did not return to his normal self, but remained still on the couch, not wanting to say or do much. Saturday night was especially vomitous. Sunday, too, he puked a few times throughout the day and didn’t seem well. Finally, on Monday, Edison seemed normal and healthy again. He ate plenty and played around. At dinner, he ate very little and seemed tired, but not too horrible. By 11 p.m., he vomited once again.

On Tuesday, Eddie was again lethargic and lacked an appetite. He did not vomit, and he drank various things throughout the day, but he clearly didn’t feel well. He also started complaining about pain on the right side of his abdomen. By the late afternoon, he was experiencing mild fevers. The pain in his abdomen seemed to be getting worse. We were quite concerned about this. Although Eddie said it only hurt when he would move, it reminded me all too much of my experience with diverticulitis. Of course, with his pain being on the opposite side of the abdomen than mine, I suspected appendicitis. That was my only guess, and thus my only real fear.

I took Edison to an “Urgent Care” facility around 8 p.m. After being seen, the physician too suggested appendicitis. However, I would have to take Edison to the ER of the hospital to find out for sure. Only they would have the means of giving Edison a CT scan, which would be needed to make an accurate diagnosis. And so, I took Eddie to the emergency room. It was the best emergency room experience I have ever had, in part because the time spent at the hospital-affiliated Urgent Care counted toward our wait time at the ER. I don’t know precisely how long it took, but I’d guess that within 30 minutes or less, Edison and I were being guided to a hospital room to await further testing.

Eddie was such a trooper. Over the next several hours, they would subject him to an examination almost identical to what I underwent back in late September / early October. It saddened me greatly when I learned that Edison’s CT scan would require, like mine, an enema that would have to be held in. I didn’t know if a four-year-old was capable of such a feat. The enema was the worst part of my experience, and I dreaded putting him through that. Amazingly, he handled it far, far better than I did. He didn’t cry or let out even a single moan, the entire time. He did so well that I feared he must not have held the fluid in his bowels after all. I worried that he must have released it, and that his releasing of the pressure explained why he performed so commendably. I especially worried about this when, after the CT scan was over, Edison failed to empty his bowels when told he could do so. Surely that meant he no longer had the fluid in his system! But he must have, because the CT scan images turned out well enough for them to diagnose him. The nurses (doctors? technicians?) at the CT scan told me afterward that children often perform better than adults and somewhat commonly don’t empty their bowels once the CT scan is complete. One of the women theorized, in not so many words, that this is because children are more recently potty trained and thus better able to resist the urge to go whenever they want. She further speculated that this is because children assume they’ll get in trouble if they don’t hold it in. I doubt this last comment would apply to Edison’s mindset, but it was her theory.

It really wasn’t that long after the CT scan that the doctor came to Edison’s room and told me that his problem was indeed appendicitis. That meant surgery was guaranteed, as no other treatment is possible. Eddie is quite aware of what surgery is; at home, he sometimes uses my electric nose hair trimmer to play surgeon. He’ll administer anesthesia and everything. So, knowing that surgery entails cutting someone’s body open, Edison was initially quite alarmed by hearing that he would require surgery. This was news I had been dreading for that very reason. But I was again incredibly impressed when he quickly calmed down about it. I reminded him that he would receive “medicine” that would make him fall asleep and ensure he couldn’t feel or hear or see anything during the surgery, and he stopped fretting. I asked him if he could be brave about it, and he nodded sincerely.

The doctor that diagnosed the appendicitis told me that the surgeon would be coming to talk to me “in about an hour,” and that the surgery would need to be performed that night. The surgeon didn’t show up until two or three hours after that, but I was then assured that the surgery would take place before dawn. It was probably 4:30 a.m. or so when they started wheeling Edison in his bed toward the surgery area of the hospital. We were taken to a waiting room, introduced to the anesthesiologist, and told it would happen very soon. A short while later, they told us there had been a delay because another emergency surgery (more emergency than ours) had come up. Edison was sleeping soundly at this point, and I fell asleep too. At 6:30 a.m., they awoke us and said it was time.

The sad thing at this point is that Edison was kind of out of it, so he was rather distraught as they wheeled him away. I had a very brief second to lean in and tell him that it was time, that (as I had discussed with him earlier) I would not be with him when they made him fall asleep, but that I would be in a nearby room and see him as soon as possible after the surgery was over. I don’t know how much he processed my words at that moment. He was crying and didn’t seem completely happy to be getting wheeled away. That was rather heartbreaking. I was taken to the surgery wait room, not sure how long it would take. I was told the surgery would take about an hour, but I wasn’t sure how much prep time still remained. I didn’t plan on seeing anybody too terribly soon.

To my great surprise, the operating surgeon came into the waiting room at 7:30 and told me that everything was done. The surgery had gone well. When they opened Edison up, they learned that the appendix had actually perforated, but an abscess had grown over the rupture. It was a little unclear, but I got the impression that the abscess, in this case, had been helpful, though an abscess itself is not a good thing and can cause problems. They told me that Edison would have a stomach drain (or something like that) still coming out of him, designed to extract any excess fluids from that area of his body. That helps ensure that an infection doesn’t occur and another abscess form. There’s a 30% chance of such an abscess forming after the surgery, but you won’t be able to tell for 5-7 days because the patients show improvement for several days regardless. So, in a week from now, if Edison seems to be getting sick again, that’s not a good sign. I’m very hopeful that that won’t occur.

It hasn’t been a fun 24 hours. On the other hand, I’m glad things went so quickly. I found that my anxiety peaked whenever I had down time and could do little more than reflect on the situation and whatever negative repercussions (both hypothetical and actual) lie ahead. It’s been special to me that I’ve been the one to be here with Eddie through all of this. I’ve been amazed by his bravery and kindness through it all. When they first took him down for surgery, they gave him a puppy Beanie Baby to keep. He asked me a moment later if I could ask for another puppy, so we could take one home to Peter, so Peter wouldn’t feel sad not to have one of his own. What a sweet thought in the midst of everything.

I’m writing this blog entry from the hospital bed adjacent to Edison’s own. I’ll be staying with him tonight, and we’ll probably be here until Friday morning. Melanie visited earlier today, and I went home and slept for a couple of hours while she was here. Now I’m back and we’ll probably repeat the process tomorrow. Edison has been sleeping soundly for a couple of hours now, which is wonderful. He’s very tender in his abdomen, which makes it hard for him to move around, but he’s done impressively even so. He’s done well with walking around, which will help his stomach “come back to life,” they say. He’s on a liquid diet for now, but if things continue to go well, he’ll probably get some crackers or something like that tomorrow. Within another day or so, he should be able to eat like normal. Or so I understand.

I’m sure there are a million details I have overlooked that, if I thought about them, I’d be tempted to cram into the end here, just to capture them all. But that’s OK. No need for that. I’ll write them for myself later. To conclude, I’ll just say that the last six months have been unbelievable. Three of the people in my family of five have ended up in the emergency room, and two of them have had emergency surgeries. I’m really hoping this won’t turn into a fad. Then again, maybe it already has.


  1. WOW. It pains me that you have to keep experiencing things like this, but on the other hand I am so glad that each of these problems, while dangerous and inconvenient have proved curable and in the end you will all be healthy again. Best of luck to you and we love you and your family.

  2. Yes, I think you started a fad... but fads fade fast I hope and I think it's time for something new for all of you. I would say it's spring (that helps me to feel better and "start fresh") but I guess that doesn't count in Florida? Oh how I miss you and wish I could be there. I'm awed at your compassion and taking care of your son. I'm also hurting for Melanie as it has to be extremely hard on her not to be there. WOW! I really hope you guys are on an upward road now. I love you all SO MUCH!

  3. thanks for writting this. it is amazing at how well they handle things. i'm constantly amazed. part of my coping with diabetes was littleman. when i told him about the shots he said at least it wasn't more. then he asked so just one shot. i said yes every day, he said ah you can handle that..
    just put it all in perspective. well that and brandy not leaving me over it all.
    thinking about you everyday and praying for you. hang in there. i know how you feel.