Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Week of Recovery. Or Damage.

We are back from the hospital. We went to Shriner's in Sacramento last Sunday afternoon, the first of three or four surgeries to reconstruct Ethan's little ear.
I was expecting to come home Wednesday but Ethan didn't get released until Friday morning.
We're home and doing normal things, things like taking a shower in my own bathroom and putting product in my hair and driving my car, which all seem really really special.
Ethan was a trooper despite waking up from surgery with surgical soap in his left eye. Apart from having his cartilage scraped off his ribs and then implanted in his head, his real problem was not being able to open his eye, which was swollen and purple on the outside and red and terrifyingly opaque on the inside. As his mother I kinda wanted to kill someone, like maybe the person who didn't shield his eyes from the surgical soap, which the nurse said was "anti-bacterial soap times a hundred."
I thought I was handling things pretty well until Wednesday night. After two days of his eye not getting any better and his demeanor getting worse due to the ongoing pain and irritation of his eye (his ribs and ear didn't seem to bother him at all)  I was at my own ropes end. Joey went home Monday to be with Noah, so I was by myself, just me and grumpy Ethan, surrounded by the the green and pink walls of the hospital, the beep beep beep of all the little machines, and the sirens of all the ambulances bringing people to the UC Davis Emergency room across the street at all hours of the day and night.
I think what was getting to me more than anything-besides not getting any adequate explanation for Ethan's eye and no remedy for it either-was the lack of privacy. The constant publicity of being in a hospital, the shuffling of feet outside the door, the wails of other patients next door at two in the morning, the constant use of a public bathroom since the one in our room was "FOR PATIENTS ONLY".  The latter was especially frustrating because Ethan could not get out of bed to use it. So it just sat there, empty, clean, private, while I made my way down the hall and around the corner three or four times a day to a stall. Showering was even more irritating and I only did it once in the hospital due to the fact I kept thinking about all the disgusting little germs everywhere (it was a public shower as well) and what if the lock didn't work and the shower curtain just gave me the creeps. At least I got clean, but it was nothing like a hot twenty minute shower in my own bathroom. Plus, I forgot my shampoo (I can't go anywhere without forgetting something) and what was supplied in the bathroom was a small yellow bottle of Johnson and Johnson's baby shampoo, which doesn't really clean your hair it just sorta separates it.  Anyway, when my hair dried it didn't look any different then before the shower.
Wednesday afternoon the "toy" lady came, a pleasant woman named Melissa who was supposed to make things fun for the kids, bring them toys and movies and portable PlayStation's on wheels. Ethan didn't really want to have anything to do with her since number one he couldn't open his eye to see anything anyway and number two he couldn't open his eye to see anything anyway. Oh, and did I mention his eye kinda looked like someone had doused it with antibacterial soap, times a hundred, and then let it sit there for eight hours? The only pain he complained of was his eye.
Melissa, the toy lady, said his demeanour was "concerning" as most kids want to play with something. I started crying and Melissa suggested I get out of the hospital for awhile-she'd stay with Ethan.
I knew this was probably a good idea; I had only been there three days but I was starting to feel like I was in prison. They only trips out of our hospital room I was taking were to the bathroom; I was barely making it down to the cafeteria in the morning for coffee because I was surviving off the left overs on Ethan's meal trays (another reason why I was feeling like I was in prison).
Reluctantly (Ethan teared up when I told him I was going out for a bit) I grabbed my purse and headed toward the elevators. Outside the fresh air felt heavenly, the sun warm and alive on my cheeks. I walked a block down to a local coffee shop run by christian Asians; they had a picture of who I can only assume to be Jesus, laughing, in a cheap frame and a one page calender that at the bottom read, Revival Christian Fellowship.
I ordered a chai which was too sweet but comforting anyways and sat looking out the window. I can't remember what I thought about, maybe nothing, and then I got up and walked back to the hospital. Melissa was sitting by Ethan, her toys unopened. Ethan was awake and quiet on the bed.
That afternoon we got a roommate.
His name was Lawrence and he was six years old but looked like he could have been four. He had warm brown skin and his dark hair was curly and stood up all over his head. He was pleasant and friendly, having just came from surgery on his hand to correct his thumb which bent unusually backward, making it hard for him to learn how to write although his PlayStation skills were extraordinary.
His hand was the least of his problems, though, as he was born with no rectum, no genitalia. He has to wear a diaper and a colostomy bag all the time. The diaper is never dry because he has no control to hold his pee; it just leaks out like a faucet all day long. To top it off, he has an advanced stage of liver failure.
Grandma though, was the real paradigm. He called her "Gaga" (like the Lady) and she called him "JuJu". I don't think they were actually related by blood as she was white, and I later learned he was half mexican half black, but she definitely had the role of caregiver in his life. She talked to both mom and dad on the phone but JuJu seemed totally disinterested in speaking with them.
"Gaga" was on the phone a lot, coordinating what seemed to be a house filled with a lot of kids, making sure the dogs were taken out and the dishes were being done.
The dish conversation was the first of many that perked my ears and made me thankful we don't usually have to be paired with strangers, especially ones where we are both confined to the same room twenty four hours a day. In the middle of what seemed like a very normal conversation on making sure chores were being done, Gaga says, "Yeah, there's not a clean dish in the house....I was thinking of paying [whoevershesaid] twenty bucks to do them-it's been over a week...well, if you do them, make sure you use some bleach and Ajax to kill all the maggots, we don't want to be getting sick..."
Yeah, take a moment to process that one.
Then in the middle of the night, while holding JuJu who had started to whimper or say something, she says to him in a loud whisper, "SHUT UP JUJU! IF YOU DON'T SHUT UP I'M GOING TO CALL THE FUCKING NURSE IN HERE TO GIVE YOU A SHOT!" This was even more disturbing as I heard her tell the nurse earlier that day the only thing he was afraid of was shots.
I was relieved to see Ethan was still sleeping soundly. I, on the other hand, was seriously damaged. And poor JuJu...although they seemed to have a very loving relationship otherwise. He wanted to sleep with her and they cuddled a lot. She cared for him, changed his diapers constantly, even through the night.
Thankfully he only had to stay for one night as things came to a head twenty minutes before they were supposed to be released. Gaga wanted JuJu to be able to watch a movie but there was only one TV and Ethan wanted it off so he could sleep. Joey was back by this time and soon the tension in the air was palpable. Joey turned the volume of Shrek 2 all the way down to zero. Lawrence didn't really seem to care, but the next time Gaga was on the phone she says, "This guy over here, he's something else!"
As they left I wished Lawrence well and said a silent prayer to never ever have to meet Grandma Gaga again.
Thursday was better, having the room back to ourselves and Ethan's eye showing signs of improving for the first time since Monday. Also, Joey was with us so I could leave to the Ronald McDonald house and zone out in the shower for twenty minutes.
I was disappointed when the doctor wouldn't let us go home Thursday afternoon, but I managed to get through one more night on Old Betsy (the roll away vinyl mattress I had been sleeping on all week which made an incredible amount of almost fart like noised every time I moved, which didn't matter anyway because I always ended up back in the sunken middle, the sides folding up all around me like it was about to swallow me up) knowing that we were probably going to be released in the morning. 
The next morning as we headed out I felt as happy as if it were Christmas. For the first time in my life I knew the feeling of walking away from something and having no desire to look back on it.  Just leave it all there; all the tubes, all the cold bedding, all the drafty windows, the sirens.
And if by chance, you are wondering about Ethan, he's fine. Children are extremely resilient, as they say, and he can't wait to go back. They have PlayStation! Mama, on the other hand, may take a couple of weeks to recover, and heal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Well things have been going swimmingly since the truck incident. Days like that make you in love with ordinary days, days when nothing completely shitty happens.
Joey's been trying to sleep off a cold, especially in light of Ethan's first ear surgery on Monday. I've been trying to stay away from my husband, which is unusual for me; usually even if he's sick his nearness is more important and I'll sacrifice being sick too for some lov'in. But this time Ethan's surgery, and my ability to be there with him, wins out.
I have no idea what he's going to look like after this first surgery. I guess I am picturing a lump, or bulge, behind his little ear. Anyhow, I know it's not going to be pretty. He's strong though, and if anyone has to go through it God gave him the characteristics to make it easier: he gave his class a whole presentation on it, and can't wait to go back and give them the follow up after the surgery.
I'm a little anxious over what the heck I will be doing down there, seeing as they won't let both of us stay in the room, so Joey has decided to come home in between. I need a good book.
I am excited for the holidays, excited to be with family. We are planning on going up to Graeagle too; the thought of the big trees and clean air quiets me, makes me want to take a walk.
I miss my sister, the older one, terribly. She's so. far. away. I miss the little one too, and her girls. If I can't make it to SA, at least I may be able to make a trip to SD work...
Tonight Joey and I get to go out with friends. I'm looking forward to a big glass of wine, or two. I'm also hoping to get a run in this weekend, despite looking out the window and getting the chills from the trees blowing in the wind, the white clouds covering the sky. Winter has arrived and now it's time to bunker down, gather up every grace I have with in me, and wait it out.  Things that I have found help: running, even in the cold, laying in a tanning bed and coming out brown, and going on a weekend get-a-way to somewhere where the tentacles of winter can't reach, like Vegas. The last option is especially a luxury, but one I hope we get to do again sometime in February or March, when the winter seems like it will never end. Visiting somewhere warm is a reminder things change.
It's a perfect Saturday. Still. Time to go curl up in bed, and rest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Warming up the Truck.

It started at five AM when my phone went off, telling me to get out of bed even though my body said, "No, please, God, no..." I pushed the boundaries and didn't actually get out of bed until five thirty, stumbling into the bathroom and fumbling until I was in a hot shower, where I stood, for another ten or fifteen minutes or so before I remembered I was supposed to actually do something in there, like wash my hair.
Getting ready went smoothly despite the anticipation and stress of having to get to FOUR different locations (pick up Joey, drop of Noah, drop of Ethan, pick up a car for me) before my meeting at eight thirty. We were down to one vehicle because mine was getting fixed in the shop--someone slammed their door into mine a couple of weeks ago.
It's been getting colder so I thought I'd go out before hand and start the truck, warm it up for my two little spaz attacks.
I went back inside to grab them and all our gear: hats, jackets, diaper bags, lunch bags, work bags, purses...and we tromped outside to the waiting truck, humming lowly in the quiet morning air. I reached for the handle to open the door and it didn't open.
I tugged on it again. Nothing. So I tugged on it ten more times, before running around to the other three handles only to find the same thing: the truck was locked.
And this is when my heart dropped into my shoes and I wanted to scream.
The truck was locked. Running. And the spare key was with my subaru, at the shop. And Joey was at work, without a vehicle. And there was no way I was going to make my meeting.
And did I mention the truck was running?
We ended up waiting over an hour before Joey finally came home with my spare key, after borrowing a car, going down to the shop to get it, and then driving all the way back home. I sat on the couch and had a mental breakdown while the boys played in the living room, still with their beanies on. Every once in a while I'd get up and go look at the truck, the exhaust filling the now bright morning, and want to kick something really, really, hard.
Fourteen hours later I still need a massage and acupuncture to undo the stress build up in my neck.