Sunday, July 14, 2013

I Should get Frequent Flyer Miles at the ER

Friday night, my kids and I were playing Monopoly. Austin was being his usual goofy self to the point that the rest of us were ready to kick him out of the game because he kept goofing around and if there’s one rule about Monopoly in my house, it’s that you take it seriously! Austin had Boardwalk and Park Place, so I figured it was only a matter of time until he wiped us all out. Suddenly, Austin sat back and his whole demeanor changed. Gone was the joking goofball. He abruptly said, “Can I get out of the game? I don’t feel well. I’m going to bed.”

What? You don’t leave Monopoly when you own Boardwalk and Park Place! You NEVER leave the game when you own Boardwalk and Park Place! Everyone knows this! Clearly, he felt awful. He walked upstairs and the rest of us continued playing. A few minutes later, Clay ran downstairs and implored, “Austin needs you. He’s in the bathroom.”

I ran upstairs and found a pale, clammy Austin lying on the floor, curled in a fetal position, and shaking. He had his arms wrapped around his tummy, his face contorted with pain. He said he had horrible abdominal pain and felt like throwing up. I sat on the floor with him, waiting for the pain to pass, but it didn't. Instead, he started throwing up and he continued to vomit every half hour from 11:00pm until about 9:00am. I thought about taking him to the ER, but I’d recently been there twice with Savannah and I didn't want to be ‘that mom who freaks out and brings her kids here for no good reason’. Besides, I really thought he just had some sort of intestinal virus or food poisoning and there wouldn’t be much to do except to let it run its course.

He lay in bed, sleeping on and off most of Saturday. I checked on him now and then and every time I did, he was curled in a ball, whimpering about the pain. The Advil I was giving him was not cutting it. Finally I said, “Let’s go. I think we’d better take you the ER. You’re still in so much pain. I wonder if you could have appendicitis or something.”

We headed to the children’s hospital where I’d taken my younger kids before. It’s 20 miles away, but I liked the hospital so that’s where we went. It didn’t occur to me that my baby is no longer a baby, but a 6’2”, 18-year-old.

We walked through the metal detectors at the front door and I told the security guard, “Don’t worry. I only have my gun with me, no dangerous tampons.” He had no idea what I was talking about so he just looked at me like I was a freak and did an extra-thorough inspection of my purse.

We checked in and the triage nurse raised an eyebrow. “You still come to the children’s hospital?”

“Oh yeah, I guess he isn’t a child anymore, huh? Sorry. I don’t really know where to go. I’m kinda new to the area.”

“There’s a regular hospital right across the street,” she informed me.

“Oh, okay. We can go there,” I said, getting ready to leave.

“No no, we can see him here,” she insisted.

We took a seat in the waiting room and looked around. Austin was the only patient there who shaves. We were called back to a room filled with Hello Kitty and Toy Story stickers. Austin’s legs hung over the edge of the bed by a foot. "Do you feel like Buddy the Elf?" I wondered.

A nurse came in and asked, “On a scale of 1-10, what’s your pain?”

Austin answered that it was an 8.

“You look like an 8,” she said, taking in his pained expression.

After she left, Austin turned to me, “I think she’s hitting on me.”


“She told me I look like an 8,” he explained, a glimmer of Austin goofiness in his eye.

Later when the nurse was sticking him for the fourth time to start an IV and draw blood(apparently it’s hard to find veins in a person who’s dehydrated) she was chatting and asked, “How old are you?”

Austin answered, “Eighteen.”

“That’s my favorite age!” she smiled. She went on to talk about her son who is also 18.

When she left, Austin looked at me. “That’s my favorite age,” he gushed.  “I’m tellin’ ya . . .” ( of course the nurse wasn’t hitting on him and of course Austin knew this. He was being his usual goofy self despite all the pain and that made me feel a little better.)

The doctor examined him, and before he left, said, “Let me just make sure this pain isn’t from a hernia. He checked Austin for a hernia and walked out. When he left, I leaned over to Austin and teased, “I don’t think it was the nurse who was hitting on you. Wink wink.”

The doctor seemed to think there was a good chance Austin had appendicitis so he sent him for an ultrasound. When the ultrasound technician started, Austin asked, “Will I get to see the baby?”  She didn’t seem to think that was funny. Sheesh, tough crowd at the hospital.

The ultrasound didn’t confirm appendicitis, however it showed fluid around his appendix . A second doctor came in and said, “The only reason we’re not wheeling you into the operating room right now is because you’re indicating the pain is across your abdomen and not just on the right side. We are going to send you for a CT scan to check out your appendix.”

While we were waiting, Austin noticed the badge stuck to my shirt which read ED for emergency department. “Your name is Ed?” he asked. Or do you have erectile dysfunction? It’s okay if you have it, but I probably wouldn’t advertise it on a nametag.” Yep, that’s my Austin.

A couple hours after Austin had the CT, the doctor finally came back in and said, “Well, I know why you’re in so much pain. You have pancreatitis. It’s a very painful condition. Usually this just affects people who have gallstones or who have been heavy drinkers for many, many years. You’re really young to have this. We need to admit you to the hospital to monitor you, give you pain relief and IV fluids because the treatment for this is to reduce the inflammation by giving your pancreas a rest which means nothing at all by mouth for a few days. No food, no drinks. However, since you’re technically an adult, we can’t admit you here. We have to transfer you to the hospital across the street.”

While we waited for the ambulance, they gave Austin a shot of morphine for his pain. When I take pain meds, I get instantly dizzy, nauseated, and tired. Austin, however, became instantly chatty.

“What animal does that look like in that picture? I think it’s an oryx. You know what an oryx is? It’s spelled with a ‘Y’. I remember seeing them at the zoo. I think it was Brookfield Zoo. What kind of drug is morphine? I remember learning about drugs like this in health. I think it’s the same kind of drug as codeine and hydrocodone and heroine. What are those containers for needles on the wall called? What do you think that blue thing is for? How many milliliters are there to an ounce? How much is left in my IV? Do you think it’s about 12 water bottles?  How many kilograms are in a pound? When they weighed me, I tried to figure it out. I think I weigh exactly 160 pounds. Why do they trust people alone in these rooms? They could steal the blankets. Did you notice that all 3 of my nurses’ names start with ‘A’? What’s the difference between local and general anesthesia? You don’t need general anesthesia for brain surgery. I’ve done some virtual brain surgeries online for fun. I feel like Madeleine. Do you think I’ll get a dollhouse if I have my appendix out? My IV is beeping. Ask for Nurse Joy. That’s not my nurse’s name. She’s from Pokemon.”

Finally he fell asleep. The ambulance came and took us to the other hospital. I was so tired I couldn't even tell you what the paramedics looked like. (I know!) They didn’t have a room for him so we sat in the ER for several hours. We listened to a senile woman who kept watching some TV preacher really loudly. We listened to a man with gunshot wounds from 3 years ago who just had to go to the ER because he’s experienced some numbness for 3 years, but he didn’t want to be checked out or admitted or anything. I guess he was there for the food.

Eventually, 14 hours after we first went to the ER, he was moved into a room. On the bright side, it’s a nice room with only one bed, it’s quiet up here, and his nurses have been really nice.

They’re still trying to determine the cause of the pancreatitis so they can treat it while also trying to take care of the pancreatitis itself. He’s been running a fever and is still in significant pain, and it breaks my heart seeing him feeling so miserable. I also hate running back and forth and wish I could magically be with Austin and my other kids at the same time.

Wrapping up:
1. Don’t worry about feeling like a loser for taking your kid to the ER when there ends up being nothing really wrong. If you think something may be wrong, take them. Trust your instincts.
2. Thank you to everyone who has offered up prayers, well wishes, and help. We really appreciate it!
3. For those of you who asked, you can send cards to Austin at:
Austin Meehan
1583 E. Silver Star Rd. #315
Ocoee, FL 34761


Anonymous said...

So many mixed feelings about this post. I'd been following your progress in FB and praying every time I'd see an update. While it's rough having to go through so much pain, it's admirable that you're both able to still laugh and crack jokes at every turn. I'm sure that will help a lot with his recovery. Hoping you have friends around who can help with kids, driving, etc. Sending lots more prayers!

Cindy said...

Poor guy. No wonder he didn't want to keep playing Monopoly. Although, what a sense of humor he has! I really did lol! Hoping he's better soon.

Chris B. said...

When I started reading your entry today, I also thought appendicitis. Anytime you go to the ER and they don't have to use a knife is a good ER visit!
It's so good to see your kids have your sense of humor. ;)

PamGram said...

Always a joy to read your blog even in hard,painful times you're funny. They always say "Laughter is the best medicine" so I'm sure you and Austin and the rest of the siblings will get thru this. But still praying and sending cyber hugs.

Sunnyworld said...

Ouch!! Three of my boys have had their appendices out -- all three had the ritual of timed throw ups! Usually every 15 to 30 minutes, just like clockwork! It depended on which boy it was. That would have been an easier solution than not knowing. So sorry to hear all this, Dawn! Hang in there.

Milo + Mae said...

Hope Austin feels better soon! His jokes and ramblings in the ER made me laugh.

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