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It's Ugly in Here Today

Posted Dec 20 2009 12:00am
Warning: This is not a happy-go-lucky, feel-good post.

I know it's Christmas, but I am not in a place of tolerance, acceptance, love and openness. Today, I'm angry. Make that livid. If you've vowed to stick with our little story through thick or thin, this would be the part where I'm wearing a little thin.

This weekend we're in the thick of yet another respiratory episode for Ty and the fourth month of nearly continuous earaches for McKay. The inversion has really settled in the Salt Lake Valley and as a result Ty's had a progressively harder time breathing. By Saturday morning, it was obvious Ty needed to see a doctor. Lucky for us, we had our regular 10-day follow up scheduled with the boys' pediatrician to take yet another look at McKay's ears at the conclusion of yet another round of antibiotics. So I called the doctor's office and let them know we would require a double header and loaded the boys into the car.

They immediately hooked Ty up to the pulse oxygen machine where he posted between 88-91. In my mind I pleaded: Please no ambulance, please. After all, letting it get to that point once is somewhat forgivable, but twice? Even I would question my ability to properly care for my child.

"He's borderline," the doctor said. "Let's give him a breathing treatment and see how he responds."

Ten minutes later, Ty's numbers looked slightly better (94-95) and the doc had backed down a bit. "Albuteral treatments every four hours and a steroid pill twice a day for five days. And I want to see him again on Monday."

I can do that. Now for McKay.

As the doctor took out his otoscope I was so ready to hear that everything looked great I about fell on the floor when he said his ears were worse than ever. The antibiotics aren't even touching his infections anymore.

"Now what?" I asked.

"There is one last, intensive treatment we need to try--Rocephin injections," he said. "Two shots, once a day for three consecutive days."

Two shots because Rocephin, in addition to being a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic, is like peanut butter and they have to mix it with a numbing agent to make it tolerable. The dose is so big and the shot so slow, they break it up into two shots given simultaneously to the backdrop of the most intense screaming I've ever seen McKay do. We got the first dose, I held him on my lap, his arms against his chest. I watched the medicine go in and I wept.

"If he can't clear this infection by Monday, I need to consult with Cardiology about putting tubes in his ears," said the doc. "I've seen McKay change over the past few months and it's obvious the infections have changed his disposition. Couple that with the fact that he has no language, no words yet, and I am very concerned. Both are most likely side effects of the chronic infections."

Yesterday broke my heart.

What is going on with my little men? Everyone hesitates to label Ty's distress asthma just yet, because he had NO asthmatic symptoms until the H1N1 hit. Instead they say he has "reactive airways" at least until he has enough episodes to warrant another diagnosis. Whatever you call it, he can't breathe sometimes and it's scary.

Today, I mustered up the courage to take McKay back for shot #2. I picked and packed an early Christmas present for our trip, trying somehow to make it up to him. But the visit was less than stellar.

Of course, because it's Sunday his regular doctor was not there. No big deal, I thought. It's the nurses who give him the shots anyway. However when the nurse who called us back gasped mid-lobby at the sight of McKay's oxygen tubes, I could feel the fire in my heart ignite.

"Oh my gosh, what's wrong with him?" she blurted out. "He really is so sick. Poor, poor baby."

Really? That's how you react to a parent and child in your office? How discreet. I bit my tongue.

I tolerated her forced pouty face and her continuous expression of the phrase, "poor, poor, baby" through the weight and temperature taking. But by the time I got back to the exam room I could not look at her for fear I would let it fly.

"I just hate giving these shots to little kids. They are so painful."

She needed to stop talking. Now.

I met for a very brief visit with a doctor we've never seen before who then sent the previously mentioned nurse and her I-swear-she-was-12-years-old sidekick back into the office to administer the shots.

I held Mac on my lap again, they both took a leg, counted to three, and jammed the needles into Mac's legs (a small distance from the bruises the shots created yesterday). One nurse pulled up quickly while the other continued to give her shot.

The 12-year-old then shared a choice expletive as she looked at her still half-full syringe.

"I thought it was done, this stuff is so thick."

She walked toward him to stick the needle in his leg again. I pulled back.

"Don't you need to clean the injection site?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah," she answered.

She took out another alcohol swab, wiped his leg in yet another spot, and jammed the needle in again.

I could feel my face getting hot. I went silent and cradled McKay encouraging him to breathe and assuring him they were done now.

"He'll probably be in a lot of pain tonight, you should give him some ibuprofen."

Really? A lot of pain from your incompetence? A lot of pain from the fact he just got three injections instead of two? I thought I might drop her right there.

I am mad. I don't want to be, but I am. And I don't really care if I'm overreacting at this point. It's just all adding up to a little more than I can take.

McKay has started fussing every time I put him in the car. Why? Because he knows he's headed for more pain. He goes nearly nowhere else but to doctor's appointments and it's robbing me of what should be a blissfully giggly toddler. Layer Ty's troubles, a bit of claustrophobia from feeling more cooped up than I'd like, the fact that today was among the very rare times since Nov. 1 that we've been together as a family outside the walls of our home, put it all on top of an already tippy cake, and it's definitely beginning to crumble.

I don't pretend that we're picked on. I feel deeply the "Why us?" game should be "Why not us?" when I look at the big picture of all the care and love we've been able to provide. I think my anger comes from expectations. I expect to feel a certain way this time of year. I expect to have things go our way more often than not. I expect to be able to DO something for my babies. Instead, I feel more than a little helpless today.

So that's it. I'm done. It's uglier than usual today, but it's real. Tomorrow we'll do it all over again and hope for better nurses and a divinely-forgiving baby with a short memory. Until then I invite you to feel a little more in the season and read here about how I hope to be feeling soon.
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