On our latest vacation, Ellis ended up getting hospitalized for abdominal migraine again. This happened the first day of our long-awaited trekk to Legoland, San Diego.
Fortunately our plan involved an overnight stay at my parent’s house, because at 1 a.m. I was frantically googling to find a new children’s hospital that had extensive experience working with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome kids. Throughout the day, we tried multiple home remedies but nothing worked: Motrin, prescribed anti-nausea medication, Pedialyte, tummy massage, and many piggy back rides to distract from the pain. It was time to go to the hospital when her breathing sped up and she couldn’t be consoled.
Car rides to the emergency room is especially horrendous in the middle of the night, and this night was no different. I couldn’t believe we were in this situation again, and all kinds of scary thoughts passed through my mind. Well-meaning friends and family tell me not to think of death, but it’s a constant worry for us.
Almost every night I dream of hospital corridors, waiting for doctors, feeding tubes, shots, patients in gurneys, operation rooms, me in her place; my fears project through these nightmares. Doctors told me it’s common for parents with heart children to struggle emotionally and have symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In these situations, you brace yourself for the worst and you stil continue to pray and pray for the best outcome.
At 2 a.m. we arrived at CHOC, the Children’s Hospital in Orange County. Before the car even stopped, my car door was already half open and my body ready to jump out. I walked up to the registration window with Ellis, holding a green barf bag, in my arms. I explained how she has a single ventricle, been vomiting continuously, and that she is breathing rapidly. Thankfully, the admitting nurses checked Ellis’ vitals right away and took her into the examination room. If we had to wait, I would’ve had a fit and made a scene although you could tell immediately looking at her that this was urgent. I’ve learned that making a lot of fuss speeds up the process…most of the time.
Our family tries to take these life interruptions in stride, but it’s difficult to accept when they happen. Guilt consumes me: maybe I could’ve done something to prevent her from getting sick; how is Elliot going to deal with this again?; and I feel the weight of Chris’ responsibility in carrying us through these emergencies.
After an initial check up and hours of waiting for test results in the examination room, the attending doctor said she’ll get admitted to treat dehydration and monitor her condition.
With lots of desperate prayer and encouragement from close friends who reminded me to avoid the “what if’s,” I reluctantly let go and decided to let God. He doesn’t take the situation away but He pulls us through. I have to remember that He has good plans for me, even though I don’t understand. I wish I could say that I trusted God from the beginning without all the kicking and screaming, but sadly it wasn’t so.
What I’m going to write next is bizarre. But some of my happiest memories include these hospital stays. It’s a different kind of existence where outside worries stay outside and it brings life’s priorities into perspective. Isolation rooms really make you think and bring you in closer relationship with your child. The bonding is special and I realize that God has given me an important job to take care of this little person.
I can only attribute it to God’s peace, the only kind of peace that passeth understanding (like the lyrics I used to sing in Sunday school).
The second day in the hospital fell on Mother’s Day. I forgot all about it until the nurses reminded me. That wasn’t the reason why I cried. My heart was breaking for Elliot who tries to act happy when he is scared or sad. He knows that we are stressed so he overcompensates with good behavior and kindness. Then, I look over and see Ellis slumped over in bed and I cry for her too. Ugh, so many emotions.
Elliot and I spent some quality time together when he visited with Chris the next morning. We took walks outside holding hands, talking about how he slept little because of daddy’s snoring, enjoying the fresh air together, searching for Starbucks, and of course, making a quick stop at the gift shop.
Midday our wonderful nurse Andrea informed us that we will be discharged the next day. We were in much better spirit with family who visited us, family waiting for us to come home, watching “Raven’s Home” on marathon, and freely taking Ellis on wagon rides around the hospital.
In the middle of washing her up before bed, she looks up and says, “Mommy, thank you. I know you’re trying your best to take care of me.” Her comment was unexpected and it took me aback. My goodness, she has matured so much. That’s an affirmation I will never forget.
Ellis was discharged the next afternoon. Diagnosis was abdominal migraine again. It’s hard to define it and it’s a cause that resulted after other possible causes were eliminated. She went through days of testing last December to find out what causes these bouts of cyclical vomiting and intense abdominal pain.
There’s not much you can do to control it except to avoid triggers. I asked the doctor what to do if this happens again, and the answer was a bit disheartening: bring her to the e.r. This means that we need to be in driving distance of a hospital wherever we go and our hope of camping outdoors for the first time this summer is definitely a bad idea. Oh well.
We adjust and make the best of our situation. It means we can’t easily do what others do and much more thought goes into making simple decisions, like deciding if we can go somewhere or do something out of our routine.
Although our vacation plans got off to a rocky start, we still got to do lots of fun activities. We also spent more time with family than expected and shared some wonderful conversations and meals together. We still made it to Legoland for the first time and revisited our favorite San Diego Zoo.
What a trekk! What memories! I assume our next vacation will be a staycation.