What a trip... we missed the health care workers at Alberta Children's Hospital so much that we decided to come back for a 2 week slumber party! For those of you who haven't already heard, we are here again. Peyton has been privileged enough to be cared for by the doctors and nurses of Unit 3 for the last week and a half. While we originally felt it was far too soon to return we now can express only gratitude and thankfulness to have this opportunity, tough as it has been.
Peyton's body decided it didn't need it's appendix and I suppose I am thankful I will never have to wonder again if he is having problems with his appendix!
Tuesday, a week and a half ago, Peyton started showing symptoms of moderate stomach discomfort and my mother's instict told me it was appendicitis, but our experience had tainted the ability to trust instict to the point that we thought we might be overreacting. By midnight Tuesday both Jordan and I realized we needed to head back to the hospital. As you can imagine, it took alot for us to get to the point of walking back into the ACH ER. On the other side of the coin though, neither of us felt like challenging life - we didn't feel up to taking any chances. Walking in created a moment no words can describe, but I know I can speak for both of us when I say God bolstered us for that moment. When we walked in, we saw another couple from our church with their daughter there waiting and as sad as we were to see them there, it encouraged us so much. The triage nurse was also a blessing - he immediately recognized us and tried to make the situation as bearable as possible. Peyton's nurse in the ER was one of the ones who had done so much for Drew on Unit 3 and who had since moved to the ER - what a gift to have someone caring for us who already knew our background and knew why we might react to a procedure differently than another. Peyton's doctors were also familiar, which some might think would be awkward, but we only found to be comforting. It turned my heart in knots though to watch Peyton go through some of the procedures our little Drew had been through.
We gained an analogy from a friend this week for our experience - it felt like a little spider web that had once been spun so carefully, so intentionally, and so perfectly but was then broken when Drew died. There is now a hole in part of our web, though our web is still in tact. The web has expanded with every gentle touch, caring heart and thoughtful prayer, but there are also holes that are not noticed until you step into one. We can repair the web, but there will always be evidence of the hole. If we sidestep the holes, we will only encounter them again. We will attempt to repair the holes, but only with the help of so many that have come alongside our family. This has been felt keenly in so many ways during the last two weeks.
Sidestep back into the ER... We were struck by the things that jabbed our hearts and also were strangely suprised by the things that did not. On the way to the X-Ray lab, the tears flowed freely when we walked by the MRI waiting room where we had gone shortly before we found Drew had 2 weeks left, but the X-Ray was simple to watch. Watching Peyton get bloodwork done was difficult as we had done that hundreds of times with Drew, but seeing the ER rooms and going through those halls was much less difficult than I thought it would be. We found an unexpected blessing in the nurses who were nearby as well. One of the nurses I drew so much encouragement from on many of the visits Drew made to the ER was right across the hall Tuesday night (thanks Kaitlyn!) and that lent so much comfort in the midst of the strangeness. After they examined Peyton it was determined that he probably just had a bad gastro bug and we could take him home. We felt a little silly leaving at 7:00 a.m. that Wednesday morning but were also slightly relieved.
By Thursday afternoon at his prescheduled (from October) pediatrician's appointment it became very apparent this "gastro bug" had progressed and she could only recommend that we head back to the hospital. Here we go again. We were greeted by exceptional care in the ER and our nurses were amazing. They had to start Peyton on an IV at this point and after some more testing, decided he should stick around even though they couldn't say for sure what was going on. After another ultrasound and X-Ray they couldn't see his appendix, but his colon was swollen on the left side. He was having stomach pain all across his lower abdomen and all the symptoms he was having were atypical symptoms for appendicitis. The doctors thought it might have something to do with his colon. They asked us if we wanted to stay in the ER that night as the beds upstairs were all full at the time, or if we wanted to go home and come back in the morning. We joked that they should call up to Unit 3 and tell them who was coming, but little did we know that the strings were already being pulled behind the scenes by our ACH angels! It turns out that the Unit Clerk noticed we were coming and put the plan in motion to provide us a space if at all possible on Unit 3. The caregivers in the ER were very conscious of our history and gave us the courtesy of asking if we would prefer NOT to be on Unit 3. We quickly responded we would rather be nowhere else than with those we knew best and trusted unequivocably on Unit 3! Thank you to all those who made Peyton's stay work out so smoothly! (We since found out that most of the appendix cases are now on Unit 4 - I can't imagine having to be here and not to be surrounded by these nurses!)
Saturday night might have been the most trying part of the experience, but once again, we were supported so well. Peyton took a turn for the worse Saturday night and though it seemed some of his symptoms were improving during the day we realize now that it was probably due to the fact his appendix had likely ruptured by that point. He woke with extreme stomach discomfort during the night, and other symptoms pointed to trouble. Our nurses and doctors were quick to get things moving Sunday morning and by 10:00 a.m. he was in for an ultrasound where they still were unable to see his appendix (Ultrasound # 3 where no appendix showed up!) but they could now see an abscess the size of a softball in his pelvis. The surgeon was in shortly and said we needed to remove the abscess and he was pretty sure he would find a ruptured appendix too - by 2:30 we were certain. The surgeon said it had ruptured so he had tried to remove both the appendix and the abscess. He also mentioned they hadn't been able to clean the abscess out thoroughly and there was a 5% chance Peyton could develop a second abscess. Jordan got to go into the recovery room to see Peyton as he pried his way back into consciousness and helped wheel him back to Unit 3 while I waited and tried not to think. He arrived with the ever too familiar NG tube in his nose, a drain and 3 incisions in his stomach, a catheter to closely monitor him to make sure he didn't go into septic shock, 4 IV lines into his right foot, an IV sight on his left hand, and an oxygen saturation monitor on one of his left fingers. Wow! He was more connected than Drew ever was. I think the NG tube bothered me more than the stomach drain, but looking back on it it's amazing how much we just functioned Sunday through Wednesday and didn't actually stop to think.
He had all the above removed Wednesday, except for the NG tube which came out Thursday morning. During the whole process he showed us his fighting spirit, fighting to the point that he had to keep everyone but Daddy out of his ring! We have determined that Morphine and Peyton are not a good combination. I will be glad to have him weaned of that!!!
Thursday proved that our family does not like percentages - they did a follow-up ultrasound to check for secondary abscesses and it showed he had 3. Ug. I will never play the odds again!!! We were now in the 5% that this MAY happen to. The surgeon said he would like to see how Peyton's body will respond to them instead of going in and draining them right away so he increased the duration of heavy duty antibiotics and ordered a repeat ultrasound for Monday. The hope is that his body will absorb the fluid and we won't have to go in again (hint hint - prayer request). It appears at this point we will be here until the middle of next week so we have taken up residence again.
Peyton seems to be doing alright with the experience, if you can overlook the extreme moodiness. We did ask him upon his admittance what he was feeling and he said he was scared he was going to die. That was a little heavy to take, but only made sense. A couple friends came in later this week and showed him their appendectomy scars and it was after that that he stopped contradicting us when we said he was going to get better. It's difficult to know what a 4 year old is thinking, especially when under the influence of Morphine and in the midst of a surreal experience. We are just praying that he will soon begin to show the nurses his charming side so they won't walk into his room gingerly! : )
As for Jordan and I, I think we are functioning without thinking as mentioned. Someone asked me if I was sleeping here with Peyton or trying to get home for a good night's sleep to which I had to respond I will likely sleep better here. If I am at home it may hit and I could find myself awake all night unable to drift through the emotional haze into sleep. Someone asked us last week if we were angry that these things have happened to our family and I realized we are not really angry at all. My last post may have showed you that I am dealing with some type of anger over the reality of our grief (which I only realized after reading the post a day or two later! - sorry if it was too blunt!), but I think this situation has transported us to a completely different place. The nurses here are going above and beyond for us - each nurse we have had has brought more than their skills in, they have shared their hearts with us. The two or three times this last week that the reality of the situation actually sunk in someone was there to lend a shoulder and they went far beyond the tasks expected. I could not possibly tell these nurses and doctors here how much they have contributed to our family's life.
Peyton is doing better today and is actually willing to walk down the hall, albeit gingerly, to get a popsicle, but we are still keeping a close eye on his temperature and soreness. I am pretty sure we are out of the woods and hope to hear Monday that the abscesses will remedy themselves, but in the meantime we will just keep praying and being thankful for each new experience. We could be angry, but if I am really, really honest right now I would tell you that I am just happy to be surrounded by people who care, and that Jordan and I are thankful for every moment with Peyton, tough as some of them might be. You probably would have either laughed or groaned to see us taking pictures of Peyton all hooked up, eating his first popsicle, sitting up for the first time, walking the first time or smacking his popsicle blue lips, I think I groaned about some of them. We are glad to be able to capture each moment, and as hard as this experience could have been, we are just so glad to be on the other side of the hall this time. We are now the parents that have the simple case, that get to go home in a week or two and know their child will be alright. What a gift! We are also glad to be here to spend some time with those we have developed friendships with along the way. On that note, please continue to pray for our little friend Abby as she continues to fight her way along a tough road. Her parents are amazing, but please pray for strength and wisdom for them as they encounter many tough decisions as they care for Abby. Thank you for your continued prayers for our family and theirs.