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Sooooo, here’s the rundown on our weekend.  The boys and I went out to Chagrin Falls (dang, is that far away) for the Kick It event Friday evening. Their team had fun despite being a hodgepodge of ages and sizes and ability levels. We literally had three year-olds who didn’t know which way to run after kicking and ten year-olds who were slamming the ball into unsuspecting opponents as they moved from base to base.

And Austin, the boy of the hour, was completely uninterested. Clinging to Mommy, begging to be held and only kicking when bribed by one of the organizers with his very own ball to take home. I was a little bummed that he didn’t participate more, but wasn’t shocked because his public M.O. is one of shyness and disengagement.

As soon as our official game ended and the kids were organizing their own mini-game off to the side, the tornado siren went off. Huge long wails circling around the community, while those of us on the fields looked at one another with raised eyebrows and shrugged shoulders. “Is that, like, … a tornado warning?”

Suddenly the refs blew their whistles and people started running for their cars, actually running, clearly not inner-ring dwellers like us who’ve never even heard a tornado siren (did I tell you the eastern edge of Chagrin Falls is far away?). Meanwhile, the sky was slightly gray but certainly not foreboding and there wasn’t a drop of rain or a breath of wind. So we hung out for a bit as the organizers quickly packed up the tents and unclaimed trophies before making the long trek home.

A half hour later (and still not a drop of rain), Austin was snuggling with Mark on the porch swing while Braedan and I walked up and down the block to retrieve the (adorable) signs from their (successful) lemonade stand, which raised an extra $52.52 for Kick It.

Breadan was complaining about the “stupid” weather people who blew that horn and I repeated ancient motherly wisdom: We’re better safe than sorry. But little did I know how that small piece of advice would come back to bite me in the ass.

When we finished our neighborhood walk, Austin was asleep on the couch and I didn’t move him up to bed until well past 9. And he was broiling. Sweaty hair matted to his head, red rosy cheeks burning with fever. Yes, a 102.6 degree fever. Not the end of the world, I told myself, he doesn’t have a central line, it’s not an automatic overnight in the hospital like it sued to be. I gave him Tylenol and he quickly feel back to sleep.

Only to awaken an hour later throwing up. After we cleaned him and the rug and the bedsheets and ourselves, we texted Austin’s oncologist just to let him know. Within a half hour, Mark and I were standing in the kitchen hovering over the speaker phone while Dr. Auletta suggested a visit to the emergency room. Mark and I were shaking our heads and mouthing, “No way” to each other — I mean, it’s just a kid with a fever, right? — while Dr. A repeated what we already know: One traumatic event of dehydration could destroy what remains of that kidney. Austin simply cannot get dehydrated.

Ultimately, we were advised to keep giving him fluids throughout the night and if he could manage to keep them down, we could wait until morning to visit our pediatrician for bloodwork. Mark and I sat at the kitchen table long after that conversation reminding ourselves and each other that Austin is not a regular child. Even when he looks like it and acts like it, even when we all feel like life is normal, it’s just not. And it could turn on a dime.

At about three in the morning, Austin was lying between us in bed shivering uncontrollably despite the blazing heat emanating off his body. And then he was throwing up again. We swooped him into the bathroom, washed him down, stripped the bed, and then I got dressed. Glasses, cup of coffee, charged phone (not that it works in the basement ER anyway). I was most bummed to learn that the brand new state-of-the-art pediatric ER doesn’t open until July 7 (bad timing, Austin), and off down that damn hill we went, one more time through the quiet and empty streets.

We walked in the old ER (yuck) and Austin, just for dramatic effect, puked three times in front of the registration counter. Finally, we were in a room with an IV placed, labs drawn, anti-nausea meds administered. He is a spectacular patient, braver and more mature about medical procedures than about any other aspect of his life. I slept fitfully next to him on the tiny bed, while he snored and blew stinky throw-up breath in my face. At 7:30 he popped up and announced he felt “so much” better, was able to keep some water down and we were out the door and home before 9.

He was in and out all day yesterday, some moments of playfulness and others of feverish misery. But he hasn’t thrown up again and, between juice and fruit popsicles and an occasional piece of toast, he seems to be fine.

As we left the hospital on Saturday morning, one of the nurses told us to come back and see the new ER when it opens. “It’s soooo beautiful,” she gushed. “Hope we don’t have to!” I called as we walked out the door.

But we probably will. Better safe than sorry, after all.


You’re not really gonna believe this one.

Back in the winter, during those long dark days spent cooped up in the hospital, Austin announced that when his PICC line was removed he wanted to go to Kalahari. No, not Africa; the “world’s largest indoor water park” located about an hour west of us. We’ve been for each of the past two summers with Mark’s family and so again planned a Gallagher outing for this week.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and the boys quickly immersed themselves in the relatively small outdoor water slides (Braedan not being brave enough and Austin not tall enough for the more serious slides inside). After two hours of watching them climb up the steps and zoom down the slide, emerging from the tunnel with shouts of “Again! Again!,” Mark and I stood in the ten inch deep water with beers in our hands and commented on how lucky (again) we were to be there. “This is Austin’s victory parade,” we said as he whizzed past us for one more trip down the slide.

Then we dragged them back to the room for some dinner and were sitting out on the balcony looking over the restaurant options. I, of course, was most concerned with keeping Austin hydrated and had poured each boy a full glass of cranberry juice in the only glasses I could find which were, well, glass. And then Austin tripped, on something invisible, and fell forward on the concrete balcony floor, without thinking to release his grip on that drinking glass.

My initial reaction was annoyance that he had broken a glass, until I glanced up into Mark’s usually calm face and saw that something was definitely not right. I scrambled over the chairs to avoid the shards of glass, grabbed a bath towel and, as I quickly wrapped it around Austin’s hand, my heart sank. This was no small scrape, no minor abrasion easily remedied with a BandAid and Neosporin. No, no, his right ring finger was sliced (“filleted” the doctor later said) from base to tip, down to what appeared to be bone, skin dangling precariously from the top. And blood everywhere.

Here we go again.

I held my poor screaming child in my arms and tried to slow the flood of red seeping through towel after towel, while Mark called guest services to request medical attention. Finally, the EMT, whose job usually consists of swimming accidents, arrived and removed the towel (ouch) to briefly reveal this horribly mangled finger, not really looking like a  finger at all. He managed to wrap it tightly enough to stop the bleeding and called an ambulance, our first ride ever, to take us to the local hospital.

Austin was a trooper, laying back on that stretcher and looking in quiet wonder at the inside of a vehicle revered in the imaginations of young boys everywhere. And you should have seen the look on everyone’s faces, first the EMT, then the ambulance team, and finally the nurses and doctors in the ER of Firelands Regional Medical Center, when they asked, “Other than this incident, is he fine and healthy?” “Weeeeellllllll, . . .”

So, anyway, Mark met us at the hospital where Austin received a whooping 42 stitches in his right hand. Forty-two! Mostly on the ring finger, but also his pinkie and three on his palm. It was a long and tough process, with necessary but painful shots of Novocaine administered with a seriously huge needle right where he was most tender. It kept wearing off, prompting sudden and loud screams from a mostly calm Austin, then followed by additional shots followed by additional screams.

Mark and I found ourselves in a strangely familiar situation, hovering over Austin, singing in his ear, trying to distract and amuse while he lay on a hospital bed having terrible things done to him by strangers, all the while hushing him and sweetly reassuring him that this was for his own good. It was sadly typical for the three of us, a dance we know the moves to all too well.

But we made it, yet again. Mark and I were both wowed by the clean and calm atmosphere of the emergency room, quite a bit different from our own city hospital. We were back at the resort shortly after 10 to retrieve Braedan who had happily gone to dinner with his grandparents and, in a display of true brotherly affection, had saved half a grilled cheese for a very hungry Austin.  Thanks to a dose of Tylenol with codeine, both boys were asleep by 11, leaving Mark and I to sit on stools at the kitchenette counter with wine and room-service pizza.

Of course, Austin was instructed not to get his hand wet, which is something of a bummer when you’re at a water park. The EMT had met us upon our return with plastic cups, an enormous stuffed tiger and two credit cards loaded with tokens for the game room. So Wednesday morning we awoke with plans to play indoors all day and maybe take a trip to the nearby wildlife safari. And then I got a phone call from the resort’s retail manager who said she’d read a report on “the incident” and had a new waterproof glove designed by an orthopedic surgeon to use over casts. She hand-delivered it to our room and I was floored to discover that the same company also makes water-proof PICC line covers! Huh, just what I’d been searching for. Anyway, the blue rubber mitten was too big for Austin but we jimmy-rigged it with some tape and back to the pool he went.

We did of course spend an extraordinary amount of time in the game room winning all sorts of junk toys, including the newly coveted whoopee cushion which Austin has lovingly dubbed the “toot balloon.”

All in all, it ended up fine. He had his victory parade, interrupted by a little trip to the emergency room and 42 stitches. Tomorrow we see a local hand specialist to make sure there is no nerve damage. Stitches should come out in two weeks’ time and hopefully he’ll be as good as new. Mark’s pleased because he thinks this will be a good time to turn Austin into a lefty. You know . . . for his future as a professional baseball player. That was typed with a large dose of sarcasm although I suppose nothing about this kid could possibly surprise us, right?

Perhaps you think I’ve been neglecting my blog because I’ve been lounging around watching the Grey’s Anatomy premiere on DVR? No, haven’t managed to see that yet (but I must before Thursday). Or maybe you think we whisked away on some relaxing mini-vacation? Nope,not that either.  In fact, we’ve been busily finalizing the kitchen plans, including another 5am trip to the Kraftmaid warehouse (which I will write about another time). And then there’s this little tidbit, just so you don’t think that life gets dull around here (oh, what we would give for a little bit of that).

Yesterday after dinner, the boys were chasing a balloon around the living room, diving and laughing hysterically. When Austin hit his head. This is not terribly unusual and it wasn’t a huge deal. He cried and wanted to be held and then complained of a headache and asked for some Tylenol (the only medicine he’s allowed to take because it’s filtered through the liver and not the kidneys like Motrin).

Aware of the recent recall of Children’s Tylenol products, I decided to gather up all our bottles and check them against the lot numbers listed online. So I went through the bathroom cabinets and came away with a whooping five bottles, some opened, some still in their packaging, and brought them to the computer with me. The first thing I read was that the chewable “MeltAways” were not affected by the recall, so I let Austin have the recommended dose. Then, as I proceeded to compare the random strings of letters and numbers on our bottles to those listed on Tylenol’s website, Austin stood next to me playing with one of the bottles. A fact I was oh-so-conveniently ignoring until he cheerfully announced, “Look Mommy! Dink it!” and held up an open, and half empty, bottle of Tylenol.

So much for child-proof caps.

I stayed calm and asked him how much he had. After some prodding, he told me he took three sips. We went upstairs to consult with Mark, who thought it was probably no big deal. I really really wanted it to be no big deal. Trying to tease out just how much he might have had, Mark asked him what he was doing when he drank it, and he said, “Looking at the ceiling.” Uh oh. So I searched “possible Tylenol overdose” and learned a few lovely things: 1) There are usually no symptoms for 24 hours, and 2) By 24 hours, there can be permanent and fatal liver damage.

Alright. Back upstairs again where, I kid you not, I stuck my finger down my child’s throat –multiple times!–in an attempt to make him  throw up. No luck. He was crying (duh) and I told him we either had to get the medicine out of his tummy or I’d have to take him to the hospital. He stepped forward and took my finger and put it in his mouth. Ugh, talk about heartbreaking. But even with all his heroics, nothing came up. 

And what could I do? I packed a few books and some snacks and drove down to the ER. And, oh my God, we’ve been in the ER many times (too many times), but I have never seen it even close to this crowded before. It was packed, bursting at the seams, with most people in face masks which doesn’t exactly make you feel safe.

But they brought us right in, no time at all in the waiting room, and let us sit in the line of chairs on the back wall since all the rooms were full. After we were seen by an intern, she came back to inform us that, unfortunately, the blood test that detects elevated acetominophin levels can only be administered four hours after consuming the drug. The drug that he had taken a mere hour earlier. And I always thought that sooner was better with that sort of thing!

I asked if we could go home, promising to come back, which she and her attending physician both thought sounded acceptable . . . until they asked the floor nurse, who kindly informed us that because we were their responsibility, we had to stay. But we were welcome to leave the ER and go walk around or sit in the other areas of the hospital, away from potential germs. I saw this as a wink and a nod, and took Austin home for two hours.  Mark and I got the kids ready for bed and let Austin fall asleep, before I scooped him back up and drove down that damn hill, one more time, one more time, for the rest of our adventure.

Still, there were no rooms and the nurse eventually took us into the nurses’ break room to draw his blood and then sent us out walking for a half hour while the lab ran the test. I thought (and hoped) that Austin would fall back asleep in my arms but no, he was thrilled to be all alone in the huge hospital hallways and we spent the entire time playing. Finally, finally, as the clock struck midnight and we were back in the ER, the doctor informed me that the acetominophin levels in his blood were nearly undetectable.

Undetectable! Ha. I just shook my head and thanked them all (for everyone was extremely warm and kind depsite the chaos reigning around us) and laughed at myself for the mother I’ve become. They repeatedly assured me I’d done the right thing.  Better safe than sorry.

If this kid has nine lives, what are we up to now . . . ?

March 2019
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March 2019
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