About a month ago, as we sat in the ENT's office and he went over all the scenarios that were possible for Nolan's procedure and recovery, I nodded as I took it all in, thinking that it was good to know all this stuff, but, really, as the worst-case scenarios were rare, I shouldn't focus on them.
Nolan, on the other hand, giggled as he said to me, "Mom, watch. I'm gonna be in that one percent." I told him to knock it off. He was joking with me because he has this funky skin condition on his palms that I'd finally gotten him to a dermatologist to see--and while it is treatable, it is rare, and exceedingly rare in boys. We have been teasing him about being a freakshow, and he decided to head me off at the pass, I guess.
Or tempt fate.
Friday night, well I guess, Saturday morning, Nolan shook me awake at 4 am. I felt bad, as I did the Vulcan death reach at him, something new in my wake-up repertoire that makes even Mr W take a step back after he starts trying to wake me up, but as he said "Mom!" I opened my eyes and saw him.
I thought that maybe he needed some pain medicine (we'd been cutting back and not sure if he'd make it through the night). There was just enough light from the hallway bathroom coming into my room for me to notice he looked scared, and a little pale. "Mom, I threw up blood," he said. I sat straight up, weighing the possibilities, my mind still a little fuzzy. "A lot or a little? Into your washcloth or in the bathroom?"
"A lot. In the bathroom."
I reached next to me, to wake up Mr W, only to find Audrey there and Mr W gone. I got up and patted Nolan on the back, and went to the bathroom to investigate. He was breathing rapidly, and wide-eyed, I made him sit down as I comforted him and tried to assess the situation.
"Hang on," I told him, as I went in search of Mr W, who I was sure vacated the bed once our little hockey player came into it. She pretty much pummels him when she comes in, so I winced as I realized he was probably in the recliner. I filled him in, and he followed me back down the hall to Nolan.
We'd been in there for maybe a minute when Nolan started throwing up again. Bright red blood. I patted his back as soothingly has I could as all the alarms in my head went off. I looked at Mr W, who mouthed "I don't like this" over Nolan's back and I traded him places so I could go out and get our post-op instruction sheet.
I read it as I pointed out the relevant section to Mr W. I was about to get the phone to call the on call doc when common sense took over and we both said at the same time, "He needs the hospital."
Hurriedly, I dressed myself, while Mr W got Nolan cleaned up a bit and explained to him what we were about to do. Good god, I thought, it's 4:15. Mr W would have to stay behind for the other kids. I steeled myself to keep it together and grabbed a plastic shopping bag and a book as we headed to the van.
I weighed in my head the quickest way to the ER even as I autopiloted to the freeway. I broke a few traffic laws along the way, but I figured if anyone stopped me, I'd have a good excuse. As I got closer to the hospital, I felt Nolan fighting the urge, so I sped up as I explained to him that holding it in was not going to work. When you have blood going down like that, I explained to him, it's gonna come back up because your stomach doesn't want it, so use the bag.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I grabbed the first spot I could find, and before I was out of the car, Nolan had his head in the bag and he proceeded to just let it go. He was on his third wave as I opened his door, trying to get the seatbelt off of him and get him out; my mind racing as he asked me "Mommy, why is it so hot? Why is it so hot?"
"It's blood, baby." I half dragged him out of the van, and tried to hurry him along when I realized this wouldn't work. We were too far from the door. He was in no shape to go anywhere fast and while I didn't want to leave him, we needed help. Of course, there was no one outside to yell at... "Can you prop yourself on this car? I'll run in and get a wheelchair and some help. I'll be right back," I said, almost losing my resolve as he slumped across the trunk of the car we stood next to.
I never knew I could run that fast. Adrenaline does that to you, I guess. I sprinted through the doors and ran up to the desk. I was clear in what I said, but the girl there looked at me, and to me, was moving in slow motion. I repeated myself, threw my stuff on the counter, ran back out, grabbed the first wheelchair I could, sprinted to Nolan, "Get in," I ordered, and was back inside the doors before anyone had their gloves on.
As he sat there, bag of blood on his lap, the receptionist asked me a few questions, while the nurse next to her assessed him. We were back in a room in a couple of minutes, and he was throwing up again by the time they got his vitals.
I thought that once we got there, and the IV was in, he might slow down, that it might stop.
I spent my time answering questions, alternately holding his puke bag, his hand, and wiping his face while I tried to maintain calm for him. This was no small feat, because when your kid is puking that much blood, and the staff is doing the best they can and it's still not good enough, all you want to do is yell at someone. This coupled with an ER doctor who not only failed to let me know he was the doctor and freaked me out as he examined Nolan with nails that brought Nosferatu to mind was making me anxious.
Nolan was terrified at this point, and I knew the only thing that would make us both feel better was reinforcement in the form of Mr W. "Would you feel better if your Dad was here?" I asked him, as this was the only thing I could offer at this point. (*Although, joking with him in Urgent Care earlier in the week, I'd offered a car, a cell phone, a new video game...just to crack him up.) He nodded yes. Then no. I knew he was hesitating because he knew the kids needed someone at home. "Son, this is an urgent situation. I can call Remo, I can call Jane, we can get someone to the house for the kids. Do you want your Dad?" He nodded yes, eyes full of tears.
I called Mr W and told him my plan. "I'll see if I can get Remo to come for a little while," --knowing that he'd worked the night before and probably had not been asleep for long, and that Mr W would only agree to this if I had relief coming soon--"until Jane can get there; that way you can come right away." I called Jane first, and while she is an early riser, I woke her, and filled her in, trying to remember to breathe, willing myself not to start bawling at the sound of her voice. She said she'd come, and it would be about forty minutes. Then I called Remo, and while I knew I might not get him on the first ring, I knew he'd answer, as it was the wee hours of the morning...and no one calls at that time for just a chat. I stammered out what I needed to with him, but again, I had to will myself not to cry, and just speak. I mean, really, it would have alarmed both of them more if I was a wreck, and as hard as it was, I managed it, my voice cracking just as I finished talking to him.
And here is the beautiful part. I didn't worry about the kids at home anymore. I knew they would be in good hands. I wiped my eyes, before I turned around, and I just concentrated on Nolan while I waited for Mr W to come.
Once he arrived, I brought him up-to-date. I was mainly concerned with keeping Nolan from freaking out because he would not stop puking. I have never seen anything like it, over, and over, bright red, sometimes clotty, he'd jerk upright and we'd comfort him through another bout. The thing is, I was so focused on him, I didn't realize we hadn't had an update at all other than the nurses coming in to draw his blood for typing. Instinctively, I knew that his bleeding wasn't stopping on it's own; I knew that he was probably headed for surgery, but it was like that was in a separate thought bubble from the task at hand. Wipe face-new bag-comfort him-throw washcloth out. I looked up at Mr W, spotting him shooting a murderous glance into the hallway at the nurses' station. I caught his eye, as I knew what he was thinking. Ipounced on the first person to come into our room next. "What's going on? Where are we (with this)?" I asked, as politely as I could without shaking her silly.
"We're waiting on the labs from the blood we drew." I saw Mr W stifle a snort. He was not impressed with how that went at all, and I know was about to take the guy trying by his scrubs and throw him out into the hall had the other nurse in the room not intervened before he could.
Shortly thereafter, Nosferatu returned and looked in Nolan's throat, "I need to see if he is still bleeding." Are you kidding me? I pointed to the bags in the trash and the one in Nolan's hand, "I think he is." I figured he must've concurred, as he turned and left the room without saying anything.
A bit later, a well-dressed man, my god, I thought, noticing the crispness of his clothes, it's not even 6:30 am and he's so polished; came in. "I'm Dr. G," he said, "covering for Dr M." He gestured towards Nolan. "Has he stopped at all? What's been going on?" Mr W told him that he had not stopped, that he'd been at it since 4 am, and it was now after six; Dr G told us they were planning on taking him up to the OR once anesthesia got there, and he'd go in and see what was up and hopefully get it stopped.
The room was a flurry of activity as they readied Nolan for his trip upstairs. It was hard to do, as he kept puking. On his way up, Mr W walked right beside him, and even the transport guy was amazed when he had to stop a couple of times so Nolan could hurl.
We finally made it to preop, and it was more prep, and questions, but they were really wonderful about reassuring us and explaining everything. Of all the indignities he suffered that morning, the one that bothered him the most was when the nurse said he had to take his sleeping pants and his underwear off. He shook his head, pleading with his eyes, "no". "Sweetie," said, "it's okay. It's just a requirement when you are having surgery at the hospital, it's not like at the surgicenter. We'll keep you covered up, no one will see anything." Is there anything like the modesty of an adolescent? The nurse furthered his perceived shame when she handed him the pitcher-urinal. "We need you to pee, honey, if you can. I don't want you to have to get up, so do you think you can go in this?" I looked at Mr W. "You're up," I said, as I bowed out of the curtain surrounding his bed.
I stood outside and the staff talked to me, as we were the only people there at that time of day. I snuck away and gave Jane an update, again managing to not lose it. Barely. Mr W said to me, "Geez, Anna, you didn't ask her about the other kids." "I don't have to," I replied. "They're fine. Besides, they're probably sleeping," I added.
It seemed like the longest 30 minutes of my life, sitting in the waiting room. Finally, Dr G came out and told us that he'd patched the boy up. He'd had an arterial bleed on one side, probably brought on by the scabs in his throat falling off. He assured us that it wasn't due to anything we did or didn't do, that about 2 percent of tonsils bleed. Nolan was right, when he was joking around with me about his ability to be the freakshow patient. (I'll have to ask him to pick some lottery numbers.)
We sat with him in recovery as soon as they let us in. Once we were comfortable with the situation, Mr W went out to move the van from the ER to closer to where we would make our exit; naturally, Nolan started coming around. He looked confused, so I held his hand and told him where he was and reminded him what happened. "Where's Dad?" he asked. "Moving the van," I explained. "Just a second," I said, as I called Mr W. "He's asking for you," I relayed.
All in all, we were on our way back home by 10:45 am or so. We made it into the house and Nolan headed straight for our room. I squeezed Jane immediately, I was so relieved that we were home; so relieved to see her, that this part was over. The kids were all milling about, Ryan enthralled with Guitar Hero, it was like I'd just stepped out to the store or something.
Like I said, they were in good hands. I decided to wait to fill them in at Casa de Remo, as I limit my wake up calls to once a day.
Nolan is pretty weak, the doc says he's anemic for the time being, but he is on the mend. It hasn't been as bad as it was right after his initial surgery, but he does have some more recovering to do before I will feel okay about sending him back to school. He's lost ten pounds, he gets tired easier, and he's a little too frail-looking for my taste, but he's talking and acting like himself, and I definately will take that.
Maybe this week will be our week of ice cream and Halo.
But if not, hugs and naps are okay too.