Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Whadda Ya Do When Mamma Can't Pray....

From Poland via Skype
I was on my own 2 feet again and happy to look physical therapy in the rear view mirror. My focus shifted back to the idea of moving. We again began to turn things over to see how to make it happen. We asked Realtors for new evaluations. It had only been 9 months, but maybe we'd be lucky. The news was not as grim. Our property value had improved by several thousand dollars. It wasn't even close tho'. Close only counts in horseshoes. Back up and start again. Again. We contacted a property management service and set up an appointment to turn it over to them. We were on the move again....finally. 

Off and on over the ¾ of a year he'd been away, it was apparent that Jeff's health was getting more and more problematic. No big surprise only now it seemed as if the respiratory issues were snowballing and impacting other body systems. There were special tests like CAT scans and specialty medical consults. He was in Poland for a month and became violently ill with what seemed to be a parasite. He flew to California on business and became ill shortly after the plane took off. When they landed, it was several hours before he could leave the airport bathroom. He was barely able to make it to his room and managed to make only ½ day of a 2 day meeting. In between all these episodes, the relentless upper respiratory stuff ramped up exponentially. The antibiotics got stronger, and the rounds of asthma meds and steroids longer. Nothing made any difference.

Polish Locks of Love
Not long after I could walk well enough to walk quickly, the boys and I contracted the Norovirus strain of a GI bug. I wonder what I would have done had I still been on that walker. Will came close to admission for dehydration after losing 14 pounds in 3 days. Jeff arrived home as we were on the mend. I had used Clorox wipes on every surface he might possibly touch. I had washed every linen and all the dirty clothes. I had done everything but zip the 3 of us in a bubble. Jeff was sick within 10 hours of arriving home and was also nearly admitted for dehydration. By the time it let up, he looked like he'd been in a bar fight and suffered blackened eyes. As he drove away headed back for his job in Tennessee, I would have sobbed, but my heart wasn't in it. I just did the next thing.

As in 1999-2001, he seemed to be slipping away before my eyes...when he was before my eyes which was not often. I supposed it was the stress of living with a foot in 2 states and maybe the guilt over not being able to be here for me during my difficult days. Surely, once we were all under the same roof again, things would even out. He'd improve enough to be his normal sick vs unrelentingly sick.

March began to flirt with April. He was home preparing for a month long trip to France for business. I was scared to death of his leaving wondering what we'd do if he became incapacitated while there. His BFF, a globetrotter who flies internationally on average of once a month, reminded me somewhat drolly that France was not a 3rd world country. It is telling that the 1st thing Jeff did upon receiving his itinerary was to locate the nearest hospital and sort out how our insurance would cover international medical treatment. Other families look for tourist sites. We look for medical facilities. That's how we roll.

He wanted to move to Poland
His energy level seemed to be too good to be true when he got home that weekend before the trip. We sat up till after midnight laughing and talking. It was almost like he'd never been gone and almost like I'd never lost my heart in a fall. If he gets too tired, he gets fragile and infection overwhelms him. I was nervous that he would suffer for our careless use of time. It was close to 1am. At 5:30am, I became vaguely aware that he was digging in the freezer for ice. At first, I assumed it was a migraine from having been up too late. Something nudged me more widely awake. I joined him in the kitchen.

I think I have the flu....I'm burning up. My leg hurts. Will you look to see if I have a bite of some sort?” We couldn't find a thermometer, but he was on fire. Shivering overwhelmed him. I examined his leg closely but saw nothing to explain the fever. I did what I could for him, threw on some clothes, and ran out into the dark to the 24-hour drug store for anything that might alleviate his suffering.

In 30 minutes or so I was back with a thermometer. His temp was 104F even tho' I had given him 2 extra strength Tylenol and ice packs before I left. He finally dozed off, but heat radiated unabated from his side of the bed. Daylight came. Still his leg looked normal. Finally about 11a, I saw a red patch about the size of a quarter. By 12:30p, it was the size of a dollar bill. The fever remained unchecked. It was time to move.

Like Father Like Son
The urgent care office recognized us and realized something more than his usual mystery infection as in play. Within 2 minutes we were in an exam room and a blood draw was under way. He was barely responsive. The dollar bill was now the size of my palm, and if a hand got near it, he jerked away in reflex and cried out. I heard the word I dreaded begin to echo up the hall: “sepsis, sepsis, sepsis,” as one person told another. A normal white blood cell count is about 9,000. His was 34,000. The doctor ran back in the room to say EMS was on the way and ask which hospital I preferred. They gave him a shot of antibiotic. The palm-sized angry, hot, red spot now spanned the area from his knee to ankle and was as wide as my spread fingers. It was outlined with a black sharpie marker. The doctor pulled me aside and told me to expect it to double in size again in the next few hours. It was as if we could literally watch it spread between blinks.

As the van pulled away, the doctor ran alongside pounding to get our attention. ER at our hospital of choice had waved him away because he was too sick. For the 2nd time in a year, I would enter the downtown hospital in an ambulance. Practice makes perfect. In less than 2 months, I would accompany my mother as she entered to spend the last 8 weeks of her life.

The ER doc shook Jeff. Hard. He yelled at him. Jeff opened his eyes just a slit. Things happened not quickly enough and yet with lightening speed for an ER. The fella showed up to start the IV. Jeff's veins had dried up as he dehydrated. He reacted to the pain and jerked. It seemed he would fight back if they tried again. The IV tec yelled at him to be still. 
I wanted to cry, “Leave him alone...he's out of it. “ I knew they were yelling because he was virtually unresponsive to anything but pain. So, I collected myself, got down in his ear, and said, “Jeff, Jeff...he isn't being mean. He is just trying to do his job. He has to stick you to start the IV. You are dehydrated, and the stick is not going to be easy. Try to be still.” He quieted. As he grimaced and stiffened with the next stick, I sighed, “Once they get the IV started and your veins open up, this will get easier. Hang on.”

I tried to pray. I knew enough to know that things could go either way. He could turn a corner if we acted quickly enough. Things would quickly get very much worse if we had not. I was relieved we did not end up in ICU but uneasy that nurses appeared at the door in a steady stream eying his monitors. We all watched his blood pressure and pulse like a collective flock of hawks. The prayers would not come. All I could do was watch and wait and stare.I waited for the next thing to do. 

2 Cor 1:4 (NLT)
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

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