Friday, December 24, 2021

Our Christmas Eve Story

This is our Christmas Eve story. The one where plans go awry, and we remember anew how much we depend on God and which things ultimately matter most.  The one where Allie experiences her first and second doctor visit, her first antibiotic, her first strep, covid, mono, flu tests, her first ER visit, her first blood draw, first IV, first CAT scan and first surgery. Sometimes one plans and prepares for events which refuse to stay planned and instead they go on a medical adventure. 

 Allie does not have a family doctor. We are in the process of setting her up with one. She retells episodes before she moved in with us, and we have observed an episode 2 months ago, which we were not comfortable chalking up to "normal female things."   When I say needs to picture white as a sheet, dizzy, excruciating pain. This isn't normal for a young woman. Allie wanted to get to the bottom of feeling bad, we shared it may not be possible for the docs to figure it out unless they saw her in one of the episodes. Nonetheless, we were committed to trying.  Her appointment as a new patient is scheduled in the new year. 

Meanwhile Allie had a sore throat. We'd treated it at home with all the remedies.  She developed a fever on Monday. I called our medical clinic, as Allie had a sore throat and was told they are not seeing sick patients - we should go to the Urgent Care. What? Yep, doctors not seeing sick people due to covid fear.   It was evening by now and we were comfortable treating the fever and going in on Tuesday.  Allie still had a fever on Tuesday and so we went to urgent care.

 Would you believe the doc was a personal friend? His family was part of our produce co-op in San Angelo, TX. They loaned the kids their trailer when we moved up here until we could move into the house. He has retired from the Air Force and was our urgent care doctor. What a small world. Allie was in good hands. We were dealing with the sore throat. I told him we were getting her set up with a primary doc in January and we did have a health issue we'd like to investigate at that point.  Allie was tested for covid, strep, flu and mono. It was determined Allie has Strep. We discussed her family medical history and came home with Allie's first ever antibiotics (and I stopped off for some top-of-the-line pro-biotics, too).  Her throat felt better. She handled the meds fine. 

Something unexpected happened. Allie had one of her episodes late Wednesday night.  She told me they always pass - usually within 20 - 30 minutes.  I gave her a heating pad, and we waited. At lunch she was still in pain.  Michael was out, we had an appointment to check this out in January, but it was acting up NOW.  It seemed maybe God was answering prayers to get to the bottom of Allie's medical concern. I called Michael and told him I wanted to take Allie to urgent care as her episode wasn't resolving.  Michael knows I don't rush to doctors and if I was saying she needed to be seen, he agreed. He came home and stayed with Grandpa. He observed Allie and told us he thought it may be her appendix. I suspected the same or an ovarian cyst. 

We saw a new doc, as one often does at Urgent Care.  We had to work through the typical assumptions before they began to really listen to what we were saying, Allie wasn't talking much at this point. He examined her and asked when her last food had been eaten. He then told me she shouldn't eat or drink and he wanted to transfer her for "expert evaluation." I knew at that point what he was thinking. I called Michael and told him we were heading to the hospital. He said he'd call Allie's parents, we sent a text to Pastor and her older brother. She and I read the doc's findings on the way to the ER and confirmed he thought it was most likely appendicitis and not an ovarian cyst, but those were his two thoughts. 

Our first encounter at the ER was with a triage nurse who was more concerned at Allie's unvaccinated state than her current pain. I tried to redirect her twice and she just kept on with questions about vaccines and saying it is important for Allie to get vaccinated. I finally got firm. "I've told you this is her first experience with a doctor appointment, when do you think she would have had vaccines? We aren't here to talk about vaccines, we have been referred to have your doctor look at her appendix." 

In preparation for our doctor visit in January Allie has been watching a you tube doctor.  She has picked up the fact that good medical personnel will look you in the eyes and listen to what you say. Rob, Matt and the nurses at the Urgent Care had done this. Nurse X did not. She never looked at either of us and certainly was reluctant to listen. 

We moved on to a waiting room.  The doc, active-duty doc who does rotations at the local ERs, came in and met Allie. He explained he was ordering labs and a CAT scan. He told her it may be nothing serious but needed to be thoroughly checked out. He looked us both in the eyes. He listened when we shared what she has experienced, and he read the referral and exam findings from the past week at urgent care.

The nurse came bustling in and began to set up an IV. I stopped her and explained this was Allie's first medical experience. I told her until recently she'd never visited a doctor, and this was all new. I asked her to please explain everything she was going to do. She was WONDERFUL. She asked Allie questions to determine what I shared was true. From that point on they all took the time to explain everything they were going to do - from blood draws to IVs and CAT scans to surgery. 

Michael arranged someone to stay with Grandpa and arrived to wait with us. Allie was given a gown.  Remember, Allie is a young woman who is having pain...she was a bit worried about losing her clothes. I agreed she could simply remove her shirt and put on her gown. She felt better leaving her jeans and boots on. So, she did. We discussed she would probably need to pull her jeans down or remove them for the CAT scan. I told her I thought they would be able to see everything they needed without an exam, but I couldn't guarantee this. I told her we wouldn't consent to an exam without a really good reason. 

The team arrived to do the CAT scan. We waited some more.  The doc came back in and told us we, "Get a gold star for diagnosis." Chronic appendicitis, a grumpy appendix, can flare up and settle down. At some point it usually becomes acute. Allie's situation had become acute. They like to remove the appendix before one reaches this stage - the concern is rupture. He told us he wasn't sure when they would operate but they'd want her in the hospital, being observed and having her pain controlled until surgery. I asked if one of us could stay with her. He said they were pretty strict, and we should ask the surgeon, but he didn't think they would let us stay. 

We talked the situation over while we waited for the surgeon. The surgeon bustled in quickly. She had been warming her car when she got a message there was a minor with a swollen, angry appendix in the ER. She listened to Allie (and looked her and us in the eyes), we asked if at least one of us could stay with her and remain during her hospital stay. Allie advocated for herself,  we are so proud of her. The surgeon said we could BOTH stay with her all the way until she went back for surgery. She said we could wait outside in the surgical waiting room, and they would call us back into recovery. We could stay with her through recovery and if all went well, we could take her home if we would do care every 3 hours for 36 hours. SOUNDED GREAT TO ALL OF US! She didn't want to wait for morning, the team was on the way in, and they wanted to take this out before it could rupture. 

Within an hour of appendicitis being confirmed Allie was having surgery.  Michael went off to find the one lone vending machine at the was 9 p.m. and I was ready for my missed breakfast and lunch.  We got a kick out of this sign on the way into the single stall bathroom. 
Be sure to social distance in the restroom

In about an hour the surgeon was back. Everything went well.  She gave us pictures...the appendix was enlarged, angry, pus was starting to collect...she was very pleased they were able to remove it all and said it would have ruptured if we hadn't gotten her in when we did.  She explained the photos and told us everything else looks great.  Once again Michael's adage about pain being a messenger and indicator that something is not right, proves to be true. 

Everyone I have met tends to be uncomfortable worrying what they will say while under the influence of anesthesia. Allie worried, not about swearing but about what she may share of her life. She was worried enough we talked it over with the anesthesia doc to confirm nothing Allie said would shock her. When we went back to recovery Allie was laying still. They said she hadn't talked. I took her hand, she squeezed and then I noticed...Allie was SIGNING UP A STORM. I told them she was communicating - check out her hands. They asked if they needed a Deaf Interpreter. "Oh NO! She wasn't deaf when she went into surgery! What did you DO to her? Someone slipped!" ::snort:: 

"No, she's saying, I love you.  Thank you. I'm a unicorn. Wait... that is... I'm fine."

Michael and I have learned a few signs. Allie was moved to a new room and continued to sign.  We discovered Michael can do finger spelling. Allie smiled each time we got something right. It was a great game.  She hadn't consciously made the decision to sign, it's just a part of her and her hands were working way better than her throat. Eventually, we were told we couldn't take her home until her eyes were open, and she was talking.  

Allie's throat hurt from strep and from being intubated. She was content to sign. I hated to force her, but leaned close to her ear and told her, "Allie, I need you to use your words now so we can go home." She opened her eyes and began whispering. It counted and we were able to bring her home. 

GG's chair lift is a God-send

Stacia was worried she wouldn't wake up if Allie needed help. We were worried Millie would try to climb into bed with Allie. She's sensitive to the girls' emotions. Stacia and Millie moved to the living room, and I moved into Stacia's bed. This made it easy to give her meds every 3 hours. Allie said it was like a girl's sleepover. LOL 

Before surgery Allie was sure she'd be up to attend this evenings Christmas Eve service. I told her we'd see how she felt when the time came. We missed the service, but Allie is handling recovery well.  She's been up in a recliner, which feels better on her shoulder and back. 

This Christmas the fun girls' trip to Anchorage didn't happen, the youth coming over to make gingerbread didn't happen, stocking stuffers aren't all purchased and wrapped, a traditional Christmas dinner morphed to Tacos...and yet we are incredibly thankful! Thankful for grown kids who arranged a Taco dinner and said being together was more important than traditions. Thankful for the awareness to listen to that still small voice and take Allie back in (Michael tends to be quick to doctor's, I'm slower - we balance each other out). Michael is proud of having the right diagnosis before any of the rest of us. ::snort:: We are thankful things were handled at home so Michael could be with us at the hospital. We are humbled and grateful when we realize how God has protected Allie through her past episodes to surgery. We are incredibly grateful for all the prayer, care and love shown to Allie and our family over the past couple of days. 

Even when our plans don't turn out as expected, God remains faithful and true. The important things fall into place...God with us. What a great time of the year to be reminded how very much we humans need God to be with us.