What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Relaxing Holiday part two

Time to continue the story (for part one, see the previous post).

After 4 hours, we were finally dismissed from the Blue Mountains Hospital Emergency Department. We were given some neurofen (to reduce the swelling and pain), some more panadol (for the pain), antibiotics and a letter for the hospital, and at 11 o’clock, were sent back to our cabin. As we walked out, the cheerful young girl and the mother with the vomiting baby were still there – the mother still feeding her small sips of water, the baby still puking it up seconds later.

Mister Determined kept apologising that he didn’t mean to do that. Once we finally convinced him it wasn’t his fault, he got very worried about his family member who closed the cabin door. So that night, Mister Determined pecked sparsely on the food Hubby had kept, and then insisted on going over to the person who closed the door to tell them that it wasn’t their fault. What a kid! As he went over with Hubby, I cried my first tears for him and his finger, and his gentle nature.

We’d dragged the mattress on the floor in the living room of the cabin, so Mister Determined could sleep next to his Daddy. I’m not sure he slept much – but Mister D. slept through all night, not even waking up for more painkillers – I think he was just too exhausted. I certainly did not sleep much. I just could not get the image of that small broken and bloody finger out of my mind. What I wouldn’t have given to take his place.

The next morning (Saturday), Opa Keith drove us down the Mountains to Nepean Hospital. While not a children’s hospital, we had chosen to go there because it was the closer, so that the boy would have some holiday left. I don’t know if in hindsight it was a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant day. To cut a very long day short, we sat there in Emergency all day, waiting. We were seen by the triage nurse early on, and told that the plastics team were in theatre, preforming a complicated surgery fixing up a multiple stab-wounds case. We just had to wait and wait - and off course, Mister Determined had to fast, so Opa Keith and I did not eat either. So we sat on those plastic chairs. At least there were a few chairs without armrests, so Mister Determined could more or less lie down on my lap. I had bought him a notebook and a pen, and he “wrote” some notes, and drew some pictures. We went for a walk on the hospital grounds. We looked at the fancy clothes the ladies wore in the celebrity magazines. We counted to hundred and back. Sang some songs. High on the wall a television was blaring, showing some footy game no-one was watching. People in various stages of distress were walking in and out, some limping, some bleeding. Two police officers brought a beaten up woman, and two others came to collect the clothing of a stabbing victim for forensic evidence. We heard two emergency helicopters arrive. Once all staff were called to a cardiac arrest, and once to the resuscitation room. Thankfully Mister Determined did not understand the true meaning of these loudspeaker announcements.

We sat in that waiting room for five full hours. It was one of those days were I thanked my lucky stars that he has Cerebral Palsy and not ADHD – imagine sitting there all day with a hyperactive kid! These places are really not nice, and totally unprepared for children. My local GP, the local cafĂ© and many shops – even the tile shop where we bought out bathroom tiles, for heaven’s sake – all have a children’s corner, with some toys, kids television, some appropriate books. Why can a hospital emergency department not do this? Some comfy chairs and sofas? Some toys? Some books to tell kids about hospitals? There as some snack machines, but that’s more torture than help, what with having to fast for surgery.

Then, finally, Mister Determined was called in to come and see the Plastic Surgery Registrar, a tall moustachioed man-in-green who introduced himself to Mister D. as Hassan. He apologised for the endless wait, and was very friendly to my little boy. He confirmed that surgery was necessary, and soon. Realising we were on a holiday, and trying to salvage some of it, he tried to pull some strings to get the surgery underway that afternoon (in which case we would have had to stay the night, but as far as I was concerned, that was worth it) but to no avail. Instead, he booked us in for the next morning in the main part of the hospital. He cleaned and dressed the wounded finger, which by now was not only mangled and bloody, but also very swollen, gave us some more medication, and send us back up the Mountains – just in time for the big family dinner, the one thing Mister Determined was keen not to miss.

So off we went again on Sunday morning. Opa Keith took us again and then went back up to enjoy some of the time with the rest of the family. We were taken upstairs to the children’s ward. The boy was put in a hospital gown – which he thought made excellent dancing clothes – and allocated a bed. At mid-day, they came to take us downstairs for the surgery. Doctor Hassan Sawar popped his head around the corner into the ante-room to say “hi” to “the brave boy”. The anaesthesiologist showed us the mask, and Mister D. got to smell the strawberry smell that hung around the mask. Mister Determined was in a fit of the giggles, getting nervous about this medicine that was going to put him to sleep. He knew I would be there (although I did not tell him that I had to leave once he was asleep) and he’d get an icy-pole when he woke up, but was nervous nevertheless. Once in theatre, he slowly drifted off as the smell of strawberry-infused gas grew stronger. His eyes showed he was worried for a while, but he calmed down as I held his hand, caressed his arms and told him that it was Ok, and I was there. Once he was gone I was led outside to let the doctors weave their magic.

I was called into the recovery room just as Mister Determined woke up. He was a bit confused, telling the nurses that one of the kids at school had slammed his finger in the door, and that he had seen statues in the room (dunno what that was all about). He then started to ask them for his icy-pole, impressing the ladies with is recovery speed. Shortly after that, we were taken back upstairs to the children’s ward, where Daddy was waiting for us, and he finally got his long awaited icy-pole. Two hours later, he was taking his sister for a walk in her pram, up and down the ward. One of the mothers in another recovery room was impressed “didn’t he just come back from surgery?” she asked, amazed that he was running around. The nurses were happy with his progress too, and, having achieved all the important milestones (keeping food and liquids down, and managing a wee) and being ok on all basic stats (temperature, BP, etc.) allowed him to leave the hospital half an hour early – so that we made it back to the communal dinner table just in time!

That night, I finally managed to sleep – more an exhausted sleep than a refreshing one, but at least it was sleep. It was over. All in all, we had spend 18 hours in hospital. I don’t know how many times I had to tell Mister Determined that there was nothing we could do but wait. That other people were sicker and sorer than him, and needed the doctors more. He asked me a million times “how much longer”, “is it my turn now”, “when can we go home”, “will we be in time for dinner” and told me many times “it’s not fair”. I answered equally often “I don’t know”, “we just have to wait sweetheart” and “no, it’s not fair”.

Of course, it wasn’t really quite over yet. We did have a lovely day in Katoomba, going down on the Scenic Railway and walking along the boardwalk in the rainforest valley. The next day (Tuesday) we drove home again – and for once, I was happy the holiday was over. I think Possum had a good time, playing with his cousins, going on the steam train (on the day of his brother's surgery). Mister Determined enjoyed running from cabin to cabin and having dinner together (heavily drugged up, but hey!) and Boo Boo was happy to see her three cousins. The rest of the family had a good time – and we celebrated Romilly and Tsuya’s birthdays with plenty of cake. But overall, Hubby and I had a shit time. The amount of energy it took to keep the boy together, stay calm despite wanting to cry over his pain, and scream at someone to improve Emergency services! The hours of trying to keep him calm during the endless waiting. Knowing that all control has been taken away from us, not knowing what is going to happen next. The mental image of the mangled finger … it took it out of me, and I was completely exhausted. Help! I need a holiday from my holiday!

Now we are home. On Wednesday, I had to drive Mister Determined back to the hospital for a check-up. To my surprise, it was over and done with in 15 minutes (not counting the hour it takes to drive there, and then the hour driving back). Doctor Hassan came and said “hello” again and looked pleased with the condition of the finger – I must say, we were pretty impressed too. It does look amazingly good, considering. I think it will always look a bit different, but all in al, it will be pretty close to normal. The stiches will dissolve by themselves over time. Mister Determined will need many weeks of physiotherapy on the finger to hopefully regain feeling in the tip of his finger (as tendons and nerves have been cut), and to maintain the ability to bend the top joint. Worst of all, he is not allowed to swim for three weeks – how’s that for torture! It’s 34 degrees outside, the pool is nice and warm – but we’ve left it closed until we can all swim. Finally something we can do to make it fair…


Susan, Mum to Molly said...

Hey Heike, what a lasting impact such a brief moment in time can leave (I know all about that). Sounds like Mr Determined was incredibly brave and patient - here's hoping for a full & speedy recovery. And a few stiff drinks, or at least good coffees, for you. We were married at Jemby Rinjah Lodge - it is a truly beautiful place to spend some time. Also, belated congratulations on the self-feeding to clever Boo Boo. Hope you are all enjoying your new home. Cyberhugs, Susan

Jacqui said...

Mr Determined is incredibly brave. Sorry that it ruined your holidays. We seem to always get a tour of the local hospital when we are holidays too. Fingers crossed that a swim isn't too far away!