A place to share struggles and triumphs, a place to bless and serve - but never a place to murmur or complain. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

When you suffer...

On Monday night, my daughter wasn't feeling well. She said that her stomach hurt and so we monitored the pain for a while. It seemed to be moving, and wasn't unbearable for her. Her dinner didn't stay down much longer, but then she felt a little better. My best guess as a nurse (and mom) was, from the way it came on and her symptoms, it was a virus. She stayed home from school on Tuesday and rested the entire day. She still wasn't feeling great Tuesday night but she thought she was doing a bit better. I prepared for work the next day, and we headed for bed. At four a.m. she was sitting at my bedside. "Mom," she said. "It hurts so much. I can't sleep, I can't lay down, I can't sit up, it hurts to walk." My gut moved much quicker than my brain did at that point. There was only one thing to do and I was sure: "Get your shoes on sweetie. I'm getting dressed and we are going to the Emergency Room." She looked a little dazed. She told me later that she had thought I would give her some ibuprofen for the pain. I'm grateful that didn't cross my mind. I let her dad know we were on our way to the hospital.
It took 6 hours in the ER before we knew what was happening inside my beautiful baby girl. Bloodwork and a urine analysis told us that she had a high white blood cell count and so, infection but not in the bladder. Ultrasound couldn't see the appendix, but did show a pocket of fluid on the lower right side. Nothing abnormal with the Pelvic Ultrasound. The Radiologist mentioned that with someone of her age, CT was the last resort, but might be necessary. Not long afterward, she was drinking the oral contrast and knew that she would have IV contrast as well. The CT was fast and before we were back in our room a surgeon had been contacted. It was her appendix. Within 12 hours from the time she was at my bedside at four a.m., she was in recovery following her emergency appendectomy. The surgeon came out with photos taken during the surgery. It had ruptured, but was contained. He said a few times with pause, "It was a very good catch." The surgeon wanted her to stay overnight in the hospital for one more round of IV antibiotics, and so it was.
There is a first for everything. In twenty years this was the first surgery and overnight hospital stay for any of our five children. My ex-husband and I are friends, and our love for these children binds us to each other though our separate lives are well developed. I was glad to know, when I knew surgery was coming, that he was on his way. He mentioned in the next phone call that his husband was going to come, too. I cringed inside. Something in me knew it would leave me alone, and it did. It was painful to me in such an odd way; I recognized the pain and pushed it away. I stayed in Nurse-Mode. I've been there before. My instincts have made life-saving care available to many. It was a place of emotional safety; I recognized it and stayed there. With no one to hug me and hold my hand through the trauma of what was happening to my child, I couldn't be anything but detached. I stayed detached through the hospital stay, focusing on the hour to hour needs of my daughter and the others at home. After a night at home, my daughter went to her dad's for their regular weekend and I went to work. I recounted the story to as many of my co-workers as were interested. On the way home from work, however, a dam broke in me.
Almost out of nowhere, tears started to flow, forcefully. They've been with me on and off all night and into today. There is catharsis in it, recognizing and feeling the pain, this pain and others I've pushed away necessarily. Acknowledging the fear, the panic, the understanding that my child was in danger. Coping with the knowledge that to heal she needed to be cut further, and the danger I understood in anesthesia. Remembering the anesthesiologist assessing her in the hallway as we spoke, starting her first round of medication right there a few seconds before taking her away with the surgeon. It all brings me to frame shaking tears. I've been in an operating room, I've seen surgeries. It's hard to think of her there. There is a lot of gratitude as well. Gratitude that she came through it without complications and that she won't have more than a few small scars and memories of pain that is gone. I'm grateful that I understood what needed to happen, and what was happening to her. Gratitude for education which makes all of these things possible, and of careful serious professionals who cared for her earnestly. Gratitude eases pain.
She's doing well now, still sore and moving slowly. I'm doing well, too. For me, I'm glad everything bubbled to the surface, that it flowed over and out. I'll need to think a little more about everything. I have seen first hand this week the painful truth, how a mother holds her worry close and is strong for her child. I've seen the struggle of being alone through something like this. We had enormous support from family and community, and yet, at the core, I was still alone. It was more painful than I imagined and that is something I need to learn from, and not forget. It has heightened my compassion for others in similar or far more difficult circumstances. It will allow me to attend to others more effectively in my everyday work, as well as grow in other ways, I believe. There is much worth cultivating and learning from in this experience. It feels like a door, and it will be interesting to see where it leads.