back to normal

Wednesday night, we were discharged from the hospital, directly from the ICU unit, which, we learned, is unusual. One nurse who had been there for 30-some years said she’s only ever discharged one patient. I credit our nurse for getting us out. He advocated pretty hard on our behalf, pushing the doctors to communicate and get on the same page. He was pretty excited that we were leaving at the same time he was going off his shift (our son was the second patient he’s seen discharged directly from ICU), so he walked us out to the car himself.

Speaking of nurses, we had excellent care throughout our stay. Like, really excellent care. One nurse had trained at John Hopkins and went out of her way to explain all the procedures and why they mattered. Our first nurse was the one who saw to it that we got moved to a better room so we could sleep. Other nurses went out of their way to offer to get us drinks, blankets, pillows, shaving cream, whatever. They told us stories about the types of illnesses they see in their particular ICU: Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, smash face (that’s what they call it!), etc. Our ICU unit was the one that has medical-grade leeches and maggots on hand for burn patients, and the unit is certified (or whatever) to treat the president should the need arise. One of our nurses said that the coolest thing she had ever seen was a bladder made from a sheep’s intestine. A good nurse is never to be taken for granted. Never ever ever. They make all the difference in the world.

A personalized pain pump also makes all the difference: punching the button.

The frustrating part was the specialists. They were kind and capable, but they didn’t communicate efficiently with each other. We’d get an MRI and then have to wait 18 hours for the results. The results for the spine x-rays took another 18 hours. What irked me most was that they didn’t want our son to eat because there was a chance he might need surgery, so there he was, flat on his back, pumped up on painkillers and with no nutrition. No wonder, come Tuesday morning, he got disoriented and agitated. He didn’t know where he was and kept trying to pull off the leads. They ordered a sedative, but we didn’t end up using it because he settled down after I sponge-bathed his hands, feet and face.

Tuesday afternoon, after strapping him into his made-to-order brace, they got him to his feet. He got light-headed and threw up in the giant condom puke bag. So they let him rest for a couple hours before trying again.

The second time around, he did fine, so they took him for x-rays (he had to be able to stand by himself for a couple minutes for the x-rays) to see if his spine was stable. Apparently, he passed the test, and that evening they cleared him to eat. He said his two saltine crackers tasted superb.

Wednesday’s physical and occupational therapy went great, and we got cleared to go home mid-afternoon.

an ICU hair wash

But then the doctors got concerned about his double vision and we had to wait while a whole chain of them took turns coming up to examine him. (He’s fine, probably. PT gave him an eye patch to ease the eye strain, arr matey. If he still sees double in six weeks, we’ll go back.) It wasn’t until bedtime that we finally got off the floor. Home at ten.

And thus concludes all things hospital. YAY.

The first thing we did our first morning at home (after I went running, glory be!), was lay the kid down on the dining room table and shave off his hair. We had done two of the shower cap washes while in the hospital, but they were a complete joke. The kid’s hair was beyond disgusting. So off it went.

Day One was spent lounging in his new sleeping quarters, hanging out with his siblings, eating and drinking and peeing (never take for granted the basics!), and reading a whole pack of hilarious get-well cards from his cousins. His sister fashioned a computer station out of his walker and a piece of wood, and that evening his father and I introduced him to Sherlock.

Last night, my son had his first shower, and my husband and I argued nonstop throughout the changing of the braces. (Being a solid team for three days in a row is wearing—who knew how refreshing it is to argue over stupid stuff once again!) My son was like, No! You do it this way! and Let me check that brace before you put it on, and Geez, you guys. All my training gone to waste. I can’t believe I have to just lay here while you figure it all out, and Look, I’LL hold c-spine myself, and No! Don’t roll me until I say! Don’t you know the person holding c-spine in the one to count? Okay, one, two, three! I about peed myself laughing.

To summarize: we are doing well! I slept a full eight hours last night (the first full night of sleep in weeks, since I didn’t sleep much while working on the play) and went running again this morning. My younger daughter has a friend over to spend the night; they’re making chocolate cupcakes as I type. My husband is back at work, and, for today, my older daughter is working with him. Right now, my older son is actually out on a leisurely drive with a friend from church.

Oh, right. The treatment plan! He’ll wear the neck brace for six weeks, and ninja warrior/turtle shell/clamshell brace for six to eight weeks. The neck brace is to stay on at all times (we can change the foam pads when he’s laying down), and the clamshell can come off if he’s laying flat, to give his skin a break. He’s not to lift more than ten pounds. Physical therapy will start when the braces come off. (We also noticed a chipped tooth, so I want to have a dentist check his teeth. Plus, there’s the vision problem and the concussion after-effects to monitor.) My guess is—because they wouldn’t give me any specifics—that he’ll be at average functioning (singing, studying, walking, doing household chores, feeling good) in three months and fully back to normal (construction work, running, lifting weights, biking, etc) by the sixth month mark.

And thus concludes this series of medical posts. (The kid has hogged entirely too much air time.) Next posts will be about non-traumatic topics like pixie cuts, salad, and post-play depression. Normal life is beautiful.

This same time, years previous: creamed honey, let’s pretend this isn’t happening, taking off, the quotidian (4.27.15), coffee crumb cake, the quotidian (4.28.14), Sally Fallon’s pancakes, out and aboutmango banana helados, and better brownies.    


  • Queenie

    "A good nurse is never to be taken for granted. Never ever ever. They make all the difference in the world." AMEN. Could not agree more. To all nurses, everywhere: Thank you!

  • Margo

    I am so so so glad to read this! Your pluck, his pluck, the wonderful nurses, the adjustment to normal at home, the bickering. And hello, pixie cut?!

  • Karren

    Wow, I'm just worn out from reading it all. You're coping in such an inspiring way with it all, and maintaining the care and affection the whole time. There are so many out here thinking of you and holding you in our thoughts. This recovery plan is obviously a whole family operation. Well done so far. Hoping it goes forward as well.

  • Unknown

    Normal life is indeed beautiful. So very glad you are all home and recovering! This reader's thoughts are still with you all. Be well.

  • Mama Pea

    Nurses should be paid as much as doctors.

    It must feel WONDERFUL to everyone to be home. I have a feeling your taller-than-he-was son is going to heal very, very quickly. Praise be!

    Keep us up-to-date on his progress. It will be interesting to hear.

  • jennifer

    Oh wow. What a Ride!!! I was shocked as I read the initial post about his accident. Goosebumps. It's funny- as you read a blog longer and longer you feel like you know a family (why? You wouldn't recognize me!) But from afar, I always think if the similarities between our families– your oldest and my oldest would get along well. And hearing about the biking accident was just another part of that connection. My son bikes A Lot. (He and his dad + some friends once biked home, to Long Beach CA from San Fransisco, over 500 miles!)
    I'm so sorry he (and you!) had to go through all of this. How scary that was, I'm sure. I admire your strength! I'm thankful you were well care for (yes! God bless those nurses!) And I hope the recovery process happens like clockwork.
    Cheers from sunny Ca!

  • Unknown

    I'm so so glad this is how this chapter in your life (and his) went. As with all things, don't count on recovery adhering to a schedule, because that is life. Prayers for things to go well.

  • Melissa @ thelittlegrayhouse

    So so so glad to hear you are home. Still holding your family in my prayers. The good thing about the young ones is that they seem to heal quickly!

  • Lana

    There's no place like home after the hospital! I will continue to pray for healing, wisdom for those who need it and a teenage boy who cannot do what he wants to do.

  • Ellies Wonder

    Shew, what a journey!! Parts of it were like a Greys Anatomy episode to read. So interesting! Thanks for sharing the details. Your attitude has seemed very upbeat and positive. Way to be, Jen!! 🙂

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