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While we’re here jumping off the dock and dodging seaweed in the lake, my sister-in-law Sarah has flown to Boston for this weekend’s Swim Across America event. She and her brother are part of a team that will swim a total of 22 miles in the Boston Harbor to raise money for cancer research.

Sarah happens to be a stellar athlete, good at every sport she attempts so I have no doubt she’ll do fabulously at this as well, especially in her hometown. Her brother has participated for a bunch of years, sometimes in Austin’s honor, and I’m certain it will be enormous fun on top of the enormous physical challenge. If you want to support Sarah in her efforts, visit her fundraising page here. The funds go to the Dana Farber clinic for survivors of childhood cancer.

Turns out that this year, another swimmer is participating for Austin: a girl (well, once a girl, now a college graduate) who I used to babysit for in Cambridge when I was a college student myself is also swimming, motivated by Austin’s story.

So, here’s wishing for good weather and calm seas. Good luck, Jono. Good luck, Susannah. And good luck, Aunt Sarah,

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I don’t intend to make anyone jealous (I too am looking at my window at another winter wonderland), but here are some more pictures from our trip.

Enjoying the pool (nice view, eh?)

And the beach

The littlest Dietrichs

One happy boy

This old school merry-go-round gave me the opportunity to
explain the words “litigious society” to Braedan when he asked
why we don’t have any closer to home!

Sweet boys

Braedan in the bird cage

Proof of how much the kids have grown in two years: they actually survived the pony riding (and even asked for more)!

I guess I’m having fun too

Increasing evidence that we need to carry a real camera with us and stop relying solely on our blurry phones . . .

Really, how hard would that be?

Til next time . . .

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?

Today is not PICC-removing day after all.  There was some confusion about whether or not Austin actually needed blood and it’s now all been moved to tomorrow. His hemoglobin is not low enough to require a transfusion right now but it’s steadily declining so his oncologist said we could either keep the PICC in and give him blood next week or give him blood through a peripheral IV next week or give him blood preemptively tomorrow while the line is still in. If only all our decisions could be so easy!

Good thing Austin’s sense of time is a little fuzzy. I told him it was moved to tomorrow and he said, “The one day after this day?” just to make sure. Yes, honey, the one day after this day. The PICC hasn’t been all that bad, nothing like I expected when I walked into the pre-op room back in January, hoping for a repaired Mediport, only to see Austin with a bandaged arm. And my heart just sank and I thought, “Oh come on now, not a tube dangling right out of his arm! That’s gonna get stuck on things and get dirty and probably get ripped out by him or his brother!” It seemed like such a big deal in that moment (I just reread that particular post and everything seemed like a big deal right then) but we’ve all been pleasantly surprised by it. It doesn’t itch him like the Broviac used to and aside from that crack in the tubing back in March that required an extra surgery and a few scary failed-flushing attempts, it’s always worked the way it’s supposed to.

But it will be nice to not have to flush it three times each day, including late at night when I have to finagle the line out of his pajama sleeve of the arm he’s inevitably asleep on. And he is most thrilled to take a bath without keeping his left arm propped on the edge of the tub, all wrapped up in Press n Seal and tape.  I think he’s almost as excited for that as he is to go swimming.

And now, just the one day after this day.

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