Under the Quilt

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Wrap Up (warning: it's long)

I figured I better get around to finishing this thing up before:

a) you all get tired of waiting around to hear about my trip
b) I forget everything that happened on my trip
c) nobody freakin' cares about it anymore

So, here goes. The remainder of my two weeks away from home revolved around, but certainly is not limited to, the following activities:

Numerous trips to the public pool. Even though most of those trips involved me taking the six munchkins BY MYSELF, it was actually one of the most enjoyable activities. A couple of times, Franky went with us and sat in the hot tub. That is until he had to go back in the hospital (yep, more on that later). I was able to witness one of my nieces and my youngest nephew go in the deep end for their first time ever. It was awesome. I love seeing kid's "Firsts". The look on their face is something I wish I could bottle up and sell on Ebay. I'd be a freakin' millionaire.

Tons and tons of hugs and goodnight kisses. It makes me realize how much I miss being around family. Even though they can drive me crazy sometimes, it still hurts me to not be around those little guys seeing them grow up.

My mom went in the hospital to get her second bionic knee. Everything with the surgery went smoothly, thank goodness. I went to visit her the next day. While trying to help her fill out the menu card, she kept falling asleep. She kept telling the nurses that she felt the same as last time, as in she thought she needed a blood transfusion. Noone, including the doctor, would listen to her and finally, two days later, they gave her a transfusion. She perked right up and was out of the hospital the next day. She actually shouldn't have been released that soon, but she forced herself to walk the hallways with the physical therapist. She was so frustrated with the lack of basic care, that she was determined (and you do not want to cross my mom when she's determined...believe me) to get out as soon as possible. She received no sponge bath, even before coming home. She repeatedly asked the nurses to get her bag out of the closet that contained her toothbrush/paste, comb, and deodorant. No such luck. Needless to say, when she came home she received the best care ever!

I could probably write a whole post about all the medication follies, but I will try to limit it to a couple of funny anecdotes. You know how most families have a stockpile of "extras". You know what I'm talking about. Someone has a prescription for the good stuff...Vicodin, Tylenol with Codine....and they never use all the pills. So then they sit in the cupboard for that "just in case" ailment or twinge. So, Franky had some Vicodin and my mom had been taking them, sparingly because she is one of those people who is fearful of getting hooked. She had been in so much pain before her surgery, more than I can probably imagine. So, she comes home from the hospital with some pain killers (ones that actually have HER name on the bottle). My dad is reading the bottle and mentions the name Oxycontin. I said, "Oh man, you've got the good stuff. Those are the ones that people break into people's houses and pharmacies to steal." For the next week+ , I was in charge of getting up in the middle of the night to get mom's pain pills (and help her to the potty). A couple days into it I noticed the name on the bottle said, "Oxycodone". I have no idea why, but I found this to be amusing everytime my dad said, "Do you need your Oxycontin?" And then mom says, "Yes, I haven't had my Oxycontin yet." I couldn't bring myself to correct them so I just avoided saying the name of it. "Yep, I'll get your PAIN PILL for you."

Okay. It's been just over a week since Franky came home from the hospital. Upon discharge, the doctor said he had no physical limitations other than just listening to his body and not trying to overdo it. He seemed to be doing okay at first. He was eating okay. The only thing we noticed is some short term memory problems. He'd completely forget about whole conversations or portions of them. And he wanted to sleep almost all day and then go to bed early. Not having any previous experience with brain surgery and the recovery time, I wasn't sure if this was normal. My sister seemed to think that he was trying to avoid reality. She kept trying to get him up out of the recliner (because if he was sitting, he was sleeping). She was at her wit's end. One day, while he was taking a nap, Mom sis and I started contemplating whether his anti-depressants were still working. Maybe he needs to see the doctor to get his dosage increased? And then, AND THEN, we quickly figured out what the deal was. He came down with a fever, pain in the abdomen, and was basically incoherent. Welp, the next morning during his dialysis treatment, the nurse called his doctor and they sent him to get checked out. After his doc ruled out an infection involving the brain (whew!), they admitted him to the hospital and started with the various testing. Turns out....he has diverticulitis. Because his kidneys are so enlarged at this point, there is less room for his intestines. This is not good. He had a pretty nasty infected section of the intestines. It had to be removed. The following day he was back on the operating table. The surgery went well, but it was well over a week before he would be released from the hospital. So, not only did he get to spend his birthday in a hospital bed, but Christmas, too!!

Because my parents were busy with physical therapy appointments every day and my sister busy with taking Franky to dialysis, or the doctor, or by now visiting him in the hospital, I was given the job of picking up one of my nieces from school at 12:30 pm and then walking out to the bus stop at 3:00 pm to get the rest of them. One day I was engrossed in folding one of the millions of loads of laundry (and maybe I was also watching babies being born on Discovery Health). I looked up and the clock read 3:02. Doh! I ran out as fast as I could because they won't let the kids off the bus unless someone is there to collect them. This is because my youngest nephew is a kindergartener. I lucked out this time. They had a sub-driver and she let them go. Otherwise I would have had to catch up with them back at the school. And I didn't have the big van that fits all the kids in it. Major crisis resolved (Whew!).

For the previous month, my dad had been stressing over his job situation. He was supposed to be starting a new job as a custodian for the county. With my mom's pending surgery, therapy appointments, and various check-ups, my dad wanted to make sure there was no issues with the insurance coverage. He is one of the most honest, hard working people out there. And I'm not just saying that because he's my dad. He has to be forced to use his sick days. He had four freaking weeks of sick days built up. Now get this. He goes in to give his two week notice. The boss takes it rather well, even telling him that if his new job doesn't work out that he'll have a job to come back to. Now, my dad does not want to work for these people any more. That's why he's found a new job, but it was a nice gesture. That night he was taking a shower to get ready for work (the graveyard shift) and noticed a tender and protuding spot on his groin area. He thinks to himself, "Hmmm....I wonder if that's a hernia." Not saying anything to any of us, he goes to work which involves lifting bales of newspapers in and out of a van all night long. When he got home that next morning he informed us all that he "might" have a hernia. My mom had me get on WebMD on the 'net to convince him that he couldn't and shouldn't put off getting it checked out. Between my mom, sis, and I (and some help from the web doctors) we managed to convince him to hitch a ride to the ER. Since my sister was headed to the hospital anyways (remember Franky just had intestinal surgery yesterday!) he rode along with her. They immediately took him in and was consulting with a surgeon within the hour. He had two protrusions, one on the left and one on the right. Yes, surgery was needed. Within a few hours he was on the operating table getting his guts put back in their respective places by, you guessed it, the same surgeon that rearranged Franky's guts just the day before. The funniest part is when my sister was sitting in Franky's room for his consult with the doc. He kept glancing over at her with a funny look on his face. Before he left she asked him, "Could I find out how my dad's surgery went?" He says, "THAT'S why you looked familiar!" Too bad they don't give two-for-one deals for families. By the way, my dad not only had two external hernias, but once they got inside him they discovered a third one that was protuding up towards the abdomen. Triple the pleasure!

Only four hours after having his insides exposed to the world, my dad was back home again. Can you believe it? That's crazy. And to make his experience that much more enjoyable....they sent him home with no pain medicine. "Take some tylenol if it gets too painful." He had a prescription for Vicodin, but of course all the pharmacies were closed by the time he was released to go home. Oh joy! He could barely even move. He wanted to clear his throat but didn't want to because he knew the pain would be too excruciating. Luckily we still had the stash of Franky's "good stuff". Imagine if people actually listened to the doctors and pharmacists and never kept a stock pile of all their leftover meds. There'd be a lot of people in a lot of hurt that's what!

The next day my dad was telling us about his "first pee" after the surgery. Along with having to eat something before getting released, he had to demonstrate his ability to urinate. Let me back up a few steps and say that his incisions were closed up with this new fangled glue that they use instead of stitches. It's weird to think that you can just super glue a big 'ol hole shut, but who am I to question surgeon's? So, he goes to take his pee, and his penis is stuck to his leg. The first thought that enters his head? "They went crazy with the glue!" Of course that wasn't the case, but what a funny thought! It was just the sweaty "sticking to the seat of the car in the summertime" syndrome. He had his pee, ate some pudding (which was a feat itself), and was sent on his way.

My dad has had food issues ever since I can remember. Sometime when my siblings and I were young, he developed an eating disorder. Now noone in my family wants to call it that, but that's what it is. If you have a fear of eating in front of other people and you only eat about 10 or fewer different types of food, it is indeed an eating disorder. For years he only ate ice cream, english muffins with peanut butter, cookies, and coffee. And he's stick thin. Over the years my mom has convinced him to add in a couple of vegetables. His time to eat is after everyone has gone to bed. This is one reason that it's worked out well for him to sleep out in the travel trailer while my sis+family are living with them. He can have his privacy for eating and stay halfway healthy. Now we had a new predicament with the new sleeping arrangements. The only comfortable place for he and my mom to sleep after their surgeries was in the two recliners. My bed? The couch which was located less than a foot away from my dad's chair. I became real good at pretending to sleep so that he could eat something and start mending. I don't know if I would be considered an enabler (like the rest of my family), but I don't know how else to act in that situation. It was extremely painful for my dad to have my sis and I prepare his food for him before we went to bed. Probably even more uncomfortable than I have been throughout all these years trying to cover up the fact that my dad has a serious problem and NO ONE ever wants to address it.

I was down to just one more day before it was time to get on the airplane. For the past four to five days my youngest nephew had had an on and off fever reaching as high as 104 degrees. The fever was gone but he was still complaining about his throat being sore. Even crying that it hurt to drink apple juice. My mom kept suggesting to my sis to take him to the doctor. She, of course, was in no shape to go back to the hospital (it was the weekend so it would have to be the ER). The night before I had my 6am flight, I offered to take him in. We lucked out and had about 10 minutes in the waiting room. They did a throat culture on him and discovered that it was NOT strep throat. Whew! One less thing to worry about. Take some tylenol, drink fluids, and lots of rest. We were back home by 8pm. No worries.

Are you getting bored yet? Stick with me a little while longer. It gets even better! I promise! That night, I tossed and turned and tossed and turned worrying that the alarm wouldn't go off (I was borrowing a Disney princess one that was on it's last leg). I slept a total of 2 hours. Got to the airport with plenty of time. While doing the "easy check" in, I was trying to hurry because there was a long line of people behind me. I click, click, clicked through the touch screen prompts barely noticing the "delayed" warning on one of my legs of the flight. When I got back over to my sister, I mentioned something to her about one of my flights being delayed, but when I looked at my boarding passes all the times matched up with my itinerary. Hmmm. I guess it's not delayed after all. Wrong! I get to San Fran airport and slowly saunter over to my gate. I have an hour and a half after all. That's when I discover that the flight, in fact, HAS been delayed about an hour and a half. I quickly start doing the math in my head and realize that this leaves me with 10 measly minutes in Chicago O'Hare. I marched right up to the gate counter to see how to rectify this situation. I was not about to spend Christmas Eve night in the freakin' airport! They sent me on my way to the United Airlines help desk...of course just where I had come from. They put me on a later flight from Chicago to Columbus "just in case" I didn't make my current flight. I asked, "Now am I still on the earlier flight?" "Oh sure." With my provisional ticket in hand, I high-tailed it back over to wait out my 3 hour layover. On the flight I met an Air Force dude on his way home. On my right was a young woman who was on her first airplane flight. She was also on the same "run for your life you've got ten minutes to make it there" flight to Columbus. Not having flown before, she didn't have a clue she needed to check into anything while we were still in San Fran. She started to panic because she (unlike me) was not on the later flight. I tried to help her think positively about it. I told her she could follow me through the airport and we would try our darnedest to get on that stinking plane. We looked at the map of the airport so we knew exactly which direction we needed to head. I had it all under control. UNTIL. Our plane got delayed on the runway because the gate still had an airplane sitting at it. And then someone sneezed at the control panel and we were delayed another 20 minutes! Just sitting there. My hopes were almost smashed. I told her the only way we'd catch that plane is if, by some miracle, it was ALSO delayed a tremendous amount of time. We ran off that plane in a hot minute, I tried not to lose her in the crowd. I'm 5'9" with a pretty long stride. She looked to be about 5'2" wearing high heels. Needless to say, at one point I looked back and she was no where to be seen. At this point it was every man (or woman) for him/herself. I made it to the gate, the doors were closed (of course...no surprise there). And then I looked up at the kiosk. The gate had closed at 6:02 pm. Current time? 6:03. This is when my new friend comes running up with her high heels in hand. I gave her the bad news. She managed to get on the standby list. Along with a million other people. The previous day's windstorm had people STILL trying to get flights out. I procured my boarding pass and would, thankfully, we on my way to Columbus in the next couple of hours. Is this why people always tell you not to travel this close to the holidays?? You think? So, we get on the plane. I say we because my new 'first time flying' buddy got on this flight. The mood on the plane seemed to be one of contentment. Everyone on their way to see loved ones for the holiday. It puts people in a good mood. Especially for the ones who have been stuck in an airport for more than a day wondering if they'd ever make it in time for Santy Claus to come visit. Drinks were given. Light conversation with the woman beside me. Her and her husband were traveling from Oregon to visit her family in Columbus. I told her a little bit about my past two weeks. We hear the pilot tell us that the flight attendants will begin to prepare for landing. Ho hum. Let's wrap this puppy up. About 15 minutes later the pilot comes on again.

"Uuhumm (clears throat). We're having some trouble with the brakes. The flight attendants will be reviewing emergency procedures with you. If I could have everyone take out the card from the seat pockets. We will be circling the airport for the time being."

Huh? Immediately everyone got "that look" on their faces. You know the one. Not quite panic (yet). It's amazing how a plane full of people can get real quiet real quick. The flight attendants immediately went into ultra-professional flight attendant mode. You know how you know that they're trained well and all that, but all you ever witness is the serving of food, beverages, pillows, and such? I was completely impressed. They had four men in the front of the plane and four men at the back of the plane huddled around explained what to do to assist people out onto the inflatable slide. We all were given clear and concise instructions on how to get in the "brace" position for the emergency landing. Everyone tall enough to reach the seat back in front of you, were to cross their hands, arms out straight and put your head between your hands. Everyone else does the head on the lap position. Take off any jewelery that could injure you in any way, loosen or remove neck ties, take off pantyhose. If you're wearing high heels and have flats available, put those on. Okay, they're really serious here. The flight attendants go back to their seats. We start to descend. The pilot says, "Prepare...brace!" This is our cue to get into the brace position. If I wasn't so nervous, this might be kinda fun! Is this it? Should I start having my life flash before me? None of that was happening. I just kept saying to myself over and over...it's going to be okay....nothing's going to happen....we're just fine. In the meantime, the flight attendants are repeatedly yelling, "HOLD BRACE! HOLD BRACE! HOLD BRACE!" I must say that I was dually impressed with the flight attendants and the pilots. That was about the smoothest non-brake landing that you could ever hope for. Seriously. As soon as everyone realized that we had touched down and nothing was on fire and the plane had not crashed into anything, cheers broke out from first-class all the way back to us peons in coach. Because, really, in the end if the plane crashes it does you no good to have extra leg room and extra pillows and champagne in your tummy. If we're going down, we're ALL going down. And, luckily, none of us were going anywhere except home....to our loved ones. I looked around the plane and there were a few tears here and there. One man shouted out, "Hey I looked at my watch right after we touched down. It was at exactly 12:00 am. This truly was a Christmas Miracle!" Even though that sounds cheesy, at the time it sounded like the best thing in the world. Someone else looked out their window and noticed all the fire trucks lined up ready for a disaster. I think it really hit home at that point just exactly how lucky we were. As everyone made their way off the plane, the flight crew ,including the pilots (do they always come out to bid the passengers goodbye?), were there to sending us on our way. I felt like giving each of them a hug or at the very least a simple "Thank You". Instead I just briefly smiled in their direction and darted off. Hopefully they understood how grateful I was that they actually listened through all of their hours of training. Hopefully they know how thankful I am that they know their stuff.

The families waiting to pick up their loved ones had obviously been informed of the situation. Because as soon as we got past the big red security "do not cross" line, everyone was there with tears running down their faces. I, on the other hand, had a two hour drive home to greet me. I was actually thankful that no one was there to greet me. Much less stressful for me and for them. I made the phone call to Ron and even though he was surprised, it was much easier for him to hear about it after the fact. I collected my luggage, rode the shuttle out to find my car, spent 20 freaking minutes scraping ice off the windows (but I was happy to be alive and freezing my butt off), and drove home listening to Christmas carols on the local radio station. The only exciting thing that happened the rest of the way home was when a raccoon almost met his demise. I was trying relentlessly not to catch him under my wheels. He was being stubborn and kept coming towards me even though I was slowing and swerving (slightly since I was going 65 mph!). He made it. On the radio was the Beach Boys chanting, "Run, run, reindeer!!" I had to laugh out loud while I sang, "RUN, RUN, RACCOON!!"

I was never so happy to be hugged and kissed on than that night (or morning...3am). Now do you see why I slept for a week after I got home?

And now for the most recent update: I called my sister tonight to wish her a happy 40th birthday (I got her a gift certificate for a full body massage...think she deserves it?), and she said that my mom had to go to the hospital today. She has pneumonia. That's all I know so far. She'll be calling me back tomorrow. Here we go again.....

MOST RECENT UPDATE: My mom is back home and supposedly doing better. It is still scary because she is not as mobile right now as she typically would be. And with pneumonia, that is not a good thing. I'm sure everything will be fine, but I can't help but worry about her.


  • At 9:34 AM , Blogger Bearette24 said...

    Wow, that's a lot of surgery and sickness. I hope everyone gets better.

    Now I'm freaked out about my flight to Miami in March. I hope I don't have to go down an inflatable slide!

  • At 12:33 PM , Blogger His suzy said...

    I can't imagine how freaky that must have been on your last flight home!! I am so, so glad that you all made it safely!

    I hope your mom (and everyone else) gets better. And stays better!

  • At 1:03 AM , Blogger Roxanne said...

    Bearette- It definitely is. Thanks for your well wishes.

    I wouldn't get too freaked out. I'm not scared to get back on a plane or anything. I know that malfunctions happen, but I was just so thankful that they were fully prepared to handle the situation. In a twisted way, I actually wished we had been able to go on the slide. As long as none of the lady's high heels punctured it!

    Suzy- It was very weird, but at the same time I was strangely calm about the whole thing.

    Thanks! My mom is back home now and supposedly on the mend.

  • At 8:19 AM , Blogger Liz said...

    Oh my GOD, Roxanne! I can't believe all those things happened within such a short period of time!

    Here's hoping that 2008 is much less eventful.

  • At 10:49 AM , Blogger anne said...

    Holy cow, man. Geez. I don't even know what to say about all of that!

    I hope your mother is doing better. It's a real shame that she didn't get a bed bath. That's part of my responsibility as a nursing student; I suspect it falls down the list of things that need to be done, especially if there is short-staffing... but it's such an easy way to help someone feel better. Thank you for reminding me of this - thinking about such things will make me a better nurse.

    I hope you're feeling better and rested too.

  • At 3:54 AM , Blogger The Beast Mom said...

    uh, so you've had just a LITTLE going on lately. :) wow. I feel overwhelmed just reading and not even having to do anything about it.

    take care over there!

  • At 7:30 PM , Blogger Caro said...

    Thanks for finishing the story. Your family was very lucky to have you there. :-)


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