Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I seriously needed 24 hours to recover from yesterday. Twenty four hours that included at least ten hours of sleep (I got eight) and at least four advil (I took six).

It was without a doubt one of the longest and most stressful overly emotional days of my parenting career. This is the stuff they don't talk to you about before you have kids - moments like the one when they wheel your baby's metal hospital crib away from you towards the operating room.

I cried, of course. I do that. I'm a crier. But Skippy told me that all things considered, I did very well. Thank goodness he was there to keep me under control. He is the reason I was a pudding-like mess instead of a plain old puddle of snot. And in the midst of all of the emotional angst, I gained a new appreciation for the overall health of my kids. Some people there have been through hell, and I have so much admiration for them, although I know that they are just doing what they have to do. This was our first visit to a children's hospital, and the chances were excellent that it would be our only one. Some of these people consider it a second home, and even though your heart breaks for them, you feel so blessed.

But anyway, here's how it all went down at Emanuel Children's yesterday.

We hit the road at about 5:40. We needed to check in at 7:30, and it's a long dark drive through the Gorge before sunrise. Skippy took the wheel while I self appointed myself to deer duty, much to my husband's annoyance. But seriously, not too long ago he took out not one Bambi, and not two Bambis, but THREE so I wasn't taking any chances, since he appears to be some sort of cosmic deer magnet. Luckily, traffic was heavier and it was no longer mating season, so I guess the combination of cars and the lack of hormones kept the deer snug in the woods doing whatever deer do. For his part, Chunk seemed puzzled about the entire endeavor, but pleased to be spending some one on one time with mom and dad. He chattered at us for the first bit of the trip and then settled into his seat to watch the scenery go by (and presumably to help me watch for deer, of course).

We checked in on time at the hospital (a major feat for us, we are notoriously late) and for the next few hours we proceeded to bounce between Chunk's room (shared with three other cribs), pre-op preparations, and the kids' playroom. He looked adorable in his hospital-issue jammies and he was in high spirits, but I couldn't quite shake the butterflies in my stomach. And then suddenly, they were ready for him.

When we brought him back to his room for his first doses of medicine, he was absolutely WOUND from the lack of sleep and the excitement of the morning. But we got him to lie down and he impressed the nurses with his stellar medicine-taking skills - Chunk takes meds better than any baby I've ever seen. They told us that within the next five to ten minutes, the liquid valium would kick in and he would start to get woozy. At that point, we accompanied him and his crib down to the waiting area for surgery, kind of a crib holding pattern if you will.

This was when I started to struggle. I knew that they would be coming to get him, and I knew that I'd have to let them. This was for the GOOD of my baby, no matter how much I hated the thought of them putting that big plastic mask over his face and then sticking stuff down his throat. Skippy kept on calmly reassuring me that we were doing everything right, and that everything would be fine. We distracted ourselves with amusement when Chunk's meds kicked in full time and you could tell he was seeing three sets of mommies and daddies instead of one. By the time his surgical team arrived, Chunk was resting comfortably in his crib counting ceiling tiles or possibly doing calculus in his head.

And just like that, they wheeled him away and we were ushered to the waiting room. The assured us that the meds would keep the baby from remembering much of anything - even leaving us, but I think I'll always remember that one single split second when I wanted to jump up, yank his crib rail down, and sprint away with him while yelling "MINE!!!"

I fidgeted in the waiting room. They told us that it would be about 45 minutes. So when our surgeon showed up after only 30 minutes, my initial thought was pure panic. He must have seen it in my eyes, because he very quickly flashed us a big smile and said that "sometimes, you find what you're looking for pretty quickly."

The verdict: A "mushy trachea" Obviously, that's not a medical term, but that's the way it was explained to us. Basically, when Chunk's windpipe developed, the cartilage down near the bottom never firmed up as fully as it should have. As a result, it's not as strong or as dense as it should be and when he breathes, sometimes the air gets pushed through there and that's when we hear that wheezy rattling noise. To further validate me, the doctor went on to say that the reason Chunk seems to get hit so hard whenever he gets sick is that it's much easier for that area to get swollen or irritated whenever he catches a bug, and that's what produces that horribly croupy cough and the more intense illnesses.

The good news (hell, the GREAT news) is that all of this is something that he should outgrow by the time he is three. Four years old, tops. If he DOESN'T outgrow it, we may have to do it all over again, but it doesn't sound like that's likely. Basically, short of the surgeon coming out and telling us that there was absolutely nothing wrong, this was the best possible outcome AND now we know exactly what the issue is, and how to deal with it more proactively when Chunk gets sick while we wait and see if he outgrows it all together.

Naturally, we were thrilled and relieved with all of this news. We settled back into our chairs to wait until they came to grab us after Chunk woke up. I was antsy. I wanted to see my baby. Little did I know how rough it was going to get!

An hour later, they finally came to retrieve us. The nurse cautioned me that he was still very much out of it, but I really wasn't prepared for how awful it was. The poor boy was sweaty and disoriented, with his wrist all bandaged up around an IV and half-open, tired eyes. I stroked his matted hair away from his face and tried to soothe him, and he broke my heart when he barely croaked out a "maaaaaa" for me.

Then he realized his IV was still in and he decided that he had absolutely had enough of this hospital crap. He got.........mad.

No, to say he got mad really doesn't do justice to it. He became somewhat possessed by the devil. Basically, they had given him some pretty neat feel-good medicine and he had taken a nap and then woken up feeling like crap with the worst sore throat of his life and a needle stuck in his hand. Face it, you'd be pissed off too.

We weren't really prepared for how bad that part would be. Back in his room, Chunk proceeded to throw himself around his crib like a mini sumo wrestler who had just been told that the all you can eat buffet was closed for the night. Our nurse arrived in our room, appraised the situation in about four seconds, and quickly moved in to take out the IV. An for the next hour, we did all we could to calm him down. You couldn't touch him. You couldn't hold him. You couldn't even LOOK at him without sending him into a renewed baby-rage. It was insanely and horribly awful.

Finally, he worked it all out (or detoxed, whatever you prefer) and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he was ready for apple juice, a fresh diaper, and we hit the road for home.

Today he did extremely well. His fever is gone, his IV site looks great, and his voice has lost most of his hoarseness. If he was a little bit more cuddly than usual, I can't say I blame him. We celebrated Kbear's birthday with a quiet night at home and he went to bed without a peep until I came in here to blog. As I sit, he's peering at me over the crib rail, occasionally sharing some deep thought with me, and I simply don't have the heart to lay him back down just yet.

I am just so happy that he is healthy, and that it's over. Validation is not a bad thing after having two doctors blow us off shortly after Chunk was born, but mostly I'm just thrilled that we got good news, and grateful to the wonderful staff at Emanuel for taking such good care of my little man.

Kendall's birthday blog will be up tomorrow. For now, someone needs to go to SLEEP!


hellolittlepeepers said...

baby valium can be really funny to watch in action, but it has a harsh come down effect. They say it is the anesthesia. Yeah right. We are anesthesia professionals in this household. One place we get baby Valium first, the other we don't. Two totally different experiences waking up. The hospital were she gets it, they take her away from us while she is awake. The other, she sits on my lap to go to sleep. I wouldn't give up the Valium regardless of the harsh wake up.

erineliz said...

So glad to hear he is ok. We love you guys and are thinking of you.

Kyla said...

OK, I clearly need to read your blog more often. I'm glad everything turned out alright!

Laura Kattner said...

I know exactly how you felt about that split second moment. I felt it twice - first time they took Adam from me when he had to have tubes put in his ears and second when they told me right after Eric was born that they had to take him down to the nursery and he couldn't stay in my room. I was only able to hold him for a few seconds after I had him because he had the mushy trachea thing too - his however turned into gerd and we went to Lutheran General in Park Ridge. It is the most horrifying feeiling in the world and I am very sorry you had to go through that. Laura Kattner