A Train Wreck of a Week: Surgery, Stomach Flu and Super Bowl

Written February 6, 2012

Grandma Grace, my husband’s 86-year-old grandma, has been known most of her life as a quick-witted woman who usually had a joke or funny story fitting most any occasion. One of her favorite jokes centers around a harried mom of little kids. In the joke, when the husband returns home after a day at work, she tells him in exasperation with kids at her heels, “I have had a hell of a D-A-Y.” That punchline popped into my head a few days ago, but I think more appropriately for me is, “I have had a hell of a W-E-E-K.”

First and foremost, our two-year-old that had surgery last Sunday is doing great. He had an incarcerated hernia, which means that part of his lower intestine (bowels) pushed out of the hernia opening, getting strangulated. Because he is young and otherwise healthy, the surgeon made the judgment call to not remove that part of his intestines, guessing they would recover from their deep purple oxygen-deprived state. We stayed in the hospital two nights so he could be monitored for his recovery progress. If he didn’t show improvement, our little guy would have needed a second surgery to remove the damaged bowel. Luckily, that did not happen.

Three days after hernia surgery, our two-year-old can do headstands.

On Monday, after a night of no sleep with a boy post-op and a baby girl not sleeping well in a hospital crib, I asked my husband to take our baby girl home for the day so I could be with our two-year-old without the demands of a baby at the same time. Jarred was still too sick from stomach flu to want to drive 30 miles home and then care for a baby, so they instead went to his aunt’s house, just three blocks from the hospital. Jarred rested while our baby enjoyed the affection of her great aunt, and they both returned to the hospital for Monday night.

I spent most of Monday right next to our two-year-old, holding him, talking to him, and snoozing next to him in between a steady stream of hospital staff poking, prodding, and measuring any number of things, making vitals checks, and fixing the constantly beeping IV machine. Hospitals are not exactly a place of rest.

By Tuesday morning, our little guy was well on the road of recovery. Instead of laying still in the hospital bed, he perked up enough to make a full-time job out of running the bed control buttons, turning his bed into a carnival ride. On the pediatric floor they also have a little ride-on Power Wheels Humvee, and he happily drove that around the hallways, crashing into the rolling computer stations and slamming into doorways. Shortly after lunch, the doctor finally cleared him to go home. Two days in the hospital plus another spent in the ER felt like an eternity to the four of us. Returning home, seeing our two older kids again, and hanging out in a big pile of six on the couch watching the movie THOR together was a great end to a long few days.

I wish I could say that was the end of the medical shenanigans for the week, but just a day later, the next round began. The stomach flu that knocked out Jarred moved on to me. Jarred’s mom saved the day on Wednesday night when she came over and fed our four hungry kids supper as I made trips back and forth from the couch to the bathroom, where I heaved up everything from the depth of my soul.

Details of it all run together, but I know that I was sick enough to not really notice what the kids were doing for a solid day. While I slept, Jarred worked from home, doing load-bearing engineering analysis for a bulk grain storage system in between changing diapers and feeding kids. As one might expect, engineering and childcare are a challenging combination.

By Thursday night, I began to have that peaceful, easy feeling of finally beating the worst of the flu and coming out on the other side. I cooked supper for the first time in several days, and we all sat down together, everyone happy to have Mom back in mommy mode again. Just as the meal ended, though, I heard a gurgling sound. Looking over at our baby girl, I saw all of her chicken and noodles coming right back out of her mouth again. The stomach flu struck again. Halfway through another busy night and several pajamas and blanket washings later, she made it through the worst of the flu. By 4 AM on Friday, she nursed again and thankfully kept it all down.

Friday night rolled around, and Jarred returned home from an afternoon on site working on the bulk storage system with a big bottle of Chardonnay. Yes, it definitely had been that kind of week. We got the kids to bed, and settled down to a happy night of a few glasses of wine and a little This Old House. As we kicked back, we cracked ourselves up with our witty New England accents and our highly entertaining suggestions for the mystery tool segment they always have on that show.

Ah, we were blissfully ignorant of the Saturday night to come. All of our kids got their customary Saturday night baths, and squirreled away in their beds, all seemed well. Around midnight, though, our two-year-old, just six days after hernia surgery, came down with the stomach flu. I found him crying in his bed, telling me he “bahfed all ovey”. And he did. Clean jammies, sheets, a plastic bucket, and a few hugs later, he settled back down. Three more rounds for him ensued.

Around 4 AM Sunday, we heard the tell-tale coughing sound again, but this time it was his four-year- old brother. I went into the boys’ bedroom to find our four-year-old apologetically saying he just puked a little on his blankets and pajamas (little being understatement). And at the same time, our 2-year-old proudly announced that he just threw up in his plastic container. Yes, synchronized puking. Somehow, I don’t think that will become an Olympic event, but I know that I could use a medal. I tallied nine episodes through the night and into the early morning. We had intentions of going to church and maybe giving a few prayers of thanksgiving for a successful hernia surgery, but instead we spared everyone from our lovely germs and sat on the couch in a daze from the constant clean-up of the night before.

In the midst of this train wreck of a week, I have so much to be thankful for. Jarred’s sister, pregnant with their fourth child, without hesitation took our two oldest kids for two nights. His mom arranged for a local girl to clean our house while we were at the hospital, so we came home to an amazing gift of clean dishes and no kid clutter on the living room floor. And off at our new house in Minnesota, a flock of about eight of my family spent their weekend cleaning and painting.

By Super Bowl kickoff, the sickness was over. We spent time at Jarred’s parents’ house and rotated to our friends’ house just across the street, where we hung out with a dozen couples as 20 kids distributed bits of Cheetos across every room of the house. I got to catch up on the local gossip and have a little girl time, and definitely had a chance to take in a little of the best medicine. (Laughter, of course.) Hopefully, the next week will bring less adventure in health issues and a little more normalcy to life at our house. That is, if packing up everything and planning to uproot everyone’s lives in a few weeks is “normal.” Stay tuned folks, the adventure is just beginning.

© 2012

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