Thursday, July 5, 2018

Snap, Crackle, and Pop

We here at Casa Fries, as you know, don't believe in doing anything halfway. Buckle up, because we have another one of these.

This week, I'm out at my mom's. Mom is recovering from surgery to repair a full rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. The twins joined us on Monday this week, after Oldest went off to camp on Sunday and my mother-in-law went home Sunday evening. 

We had planned a relatively quiet Fourth of July. I would put out the flag at Mom's (she can't do it); Mom would go over to lunch at Sis and BIL's place; the twins and I would do something fun; and then Mom, the twins, and I would go over to the Lowe's parking lot and watch the fireworks from there.

Well, we all know what both Robert Burns and Solomon said about making your own plans...something about things going all agley when you think you've got it sorted out and the Lord making his own determinations.

The day started off as planned. I took Mom over to Sis and BIL's and then told the twins we'd go to Wendy's for lunch. I am not the grill master my father was, and I didn't feel like messing with my mother's broken gas grill, so Wendy's for cookery we went. Then we went to pick up some groceries that Mom had ordered through Walmart's website, and headed back home. Mom was still at Sis's, so we returned to watching Fixer Upper on HGTV (which we don't get at home).

Shortly after 3 p.m., while watching Pocahontas II with the twins, the phone rang. "Mrs. Auntie J, this is the camp director at Northwest Christian Camp. I have Oldest here, and she's hurt."


"She fell and tumbled down a short embankment and it looks like she might have dislocated her knee. We think she needs to be seen in the ER. Do you have a preference where we send her? We normally send them to Nearby Regional Hospital, but we can send her to Southern Hospital, if you prefer."

Given that I'm out at Mom's, Nearby Regional is closer. "I agree she needs to be seen. Go ahead and call the squad, and have them take her to Nearby Regional."

"Okay. Will do. We'll get things rolling here and call you back."

And so I waited for a bit, continuing to watch the movie with Middle and Youngest, and I sent a text to my mom around 3:30, explaining that I needed to leave. I also called Hubby to let him know the situation.

Mom responded about twenty minutes later, and the kids and I packed up to head out. I looked up Nearby Regional and figured I could get there without too much difficulty.

We were about twenty minutes into the drive and had arrived in Pickletown when my phone rang again. It was the camp director again. "The medics have been in touch with us and told us that they've felt they need to divert to Holy Ghost Medical."

"Where's that?"

"Mount Hill."

I whipped into the parking lot of of a church that's on the familiar route between Mom's and home, which had been the general route to Nearby Regional. "Okay. I'll find it."
"Please keep us informed about Oldest. We're all praying for her here."

I thanked him and hung up, and then did a search for Holy Ghost Medical and punched in directions. Fortunately, we weren't that far away.

Unfortunately, the skies opened up and God chose to celebrate the Fourth with us as I drove. The twins and I dashed through the rain to the Emergency Room entrance.

"My daughter Oldest Fry is here," I explained to the triage nurse. She frowned in concentration as she searched her system. "I may have beaten her here."

"Looks like you did," she confirmed. "Have a seat and I'll let you know when she arrives."

The twins and I settled down in the waiting room. They quickly got interested in America's Ninja Warrior and I pulled out the book I'd brought along, because, well, waiting rooms.

We waited about twenty minutes before being called over. We were led to a small room back behind the waiting room while the receptionist explained that Oldest had arrived and was being evaluated by their team, but we couldn't go see her yet. "She's getting the very best of care and being treated the fastest because she's in one of our trauma bays."

I had a flash of sudden understanding. I know what this room is for. Thankfully, I knew it wasn't for that purpose today, but it was still rattling, especially when the receptionist's departure coincided immediately with the arrival of a tiny woman wearing a habit. "Hi, I'm Sister Mary Joan, director of spiritual care."

We introduced ourselves, and Sister Mary Joan was quick to offer whatever assistance we needed. I only had a few moments to chat before I was called out to meet with the doctor.

"Hi. I'm Dr. Tall. You're mom?"

I nodded.

"Okay, what she has is a fracture of the growth plate here in her leg..." He turned to gesture at the x-ray, only to discover that it wasn't on a screen anywhere. "Okay, anyway, it's in the growth plate. That's orthopedics, and she really needs a pediatric orthopedist because of where the fracture is."

I nodded again and looked over at my daughter. Her injury was obvious, her left leg twisted and her knee swollen. I turned back to the doctor as he continued.

"So we are sending her to BigMed—did they tell you that?"

I shook my head.

"We're sending her to BigMed. They have a pediatric orthopedist there who's accepted her as a patient. So you don't have to go through any of the waiting or anything there; she's already a patient, so she skips the line. They're coming to transport at 6. Because she hit her head, we do need to do a CT to make sure she's okay. Any questions?"

That's a lot of information, awful fast. I looked at the clock. Twenty-two minutes until 6 p.m. "So what do you think we're looking at to treat this?"

"Probably surgery would be my guess. That's why she needs peds ortho. BigMed will take great care of her. You can go see her now."

I walked over, trying to avoid wires and cables and ER staff. "Hi, honey. Mom's here."

Oldest screamed and writhed in pain.

I reached for her hand. "It's okay."

"It's not okay!" she cried. "Why would you say that?"

Fair point. "I know. The doctors and nurses are going to help you, though. It's going to be okay."

That calmed her down some.

The nurses took her over to get her scan done, and I stood in the trauma bay and called Hubby at work. Again. Surprisingly, he answered the phone. I gave him the results of my two-minute conversation with the ER doc. After that, I called Mom and discussed what we were going to do with the fact that Oldest was going to be admitted forty-five minutes away, that Mom still needed help, and that I had to be with Oldest while the twins could not go stay with Sis and BIL.

Then I reviewed her history with the nurse. No weird diseases. These are her regular prescription meds (she takes two, and one OTC). She previously had her tonsils and adenoids out. No medication allergies that we know of. 

I stayed with her until the ambulance transport packed Oldest up and departed, promising to follow as soon as I could. Then I collected the twins, bid goodbye to Sister Mary Joan (who stayed with the twins the entire forty-five minutes I was gone; all the saints preserve her), and dashed through the rain to the car.

We drove back to Mom's, where we formed our game plan for the night: Sis would spend the night at Mom's with Mom and the twins. I would go be with Oldest. Reevaluate in the morning. I threw stuff
BigMed is very patriotic.
in a bag and drove to BigMed, where they were waiting for me. History review? Lather, rinse, repeat. No, I didn't see her injure herself. She was at camp. It was now about 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile I'd learned a bit more about the accident that brought us here. Oldest had safely navigated the zip line at camp and gotten unhooked from the harness, landing aground safely. But when the time came to run the rope back up the trail to the tower for the next camper, Oldest missed the trail and ran out of rope. She stumbled and landed on one knee, letting go of the rope. When she jumped to grab it again, she missed, and tumbled down a two-and-a-half foot embankment.

I met a wide association of doctors, nurses, techs, and was brought up to speed. The orthopedic fellows and one of the trauma docs and her admitting physician all decided that the best route to treat her was not surgery, but rather to sedate her in her room in the ER, set the fracture, cast it, then vent the cast by cutting slits in it to allow for swelling, then wrap the vented cast in a soft dressing. We'd come back and see them "in clinic" for follow-ups and go from there. Should be released in the morning after observation overnight.

So that's what happened. The admitting doctor thought they'd cleared her C-spine (x-rays showed no injury), but Oldest still complained her neck hurt at a level 4, so the collar stayed on, especially after she winced and cried after the doctor probed the back of her neck.

I stayed in the room until Oldest fell asleep under anesthesia so that the fracture could be properly set, and then I got punted to the waiting room. I bought the last bag of Smartfood popcorn from the vending machine and was bummed when I found there wasn't any more in the machine. (That was dinner.) 

The doctors proclaimed the procedure a success and I came back to wait with Oldest, who slept peacefully (thank goodness). Then they brought us up to her room. It was well past 2 a.m. when we finally got to fitful sleep.

Today dawned with Oldest waking me to read stuff on the television that's required for parents to read and acknowledge before they'll spring you from this joint.  I met with the social worker, who asked what she could to to help, and I explained my clothing dilemma: Oldest was at camp, all of her stuff is still at camp, home is ninety minutes away, and we are discharging to Gramma's home 50 minutes away. Yet more doctors came in, including the ones from last night. I wondered how much sleep the one whose name I originally thought was Dr. Quack (cell connection was poor because of the storm when Hubby called) had actually gotten, because it was almost criminal for him to look that good when I'd last seen him a scant four hours before. These young kids. I figured he was probably wearing yesterday's clothes like I was and felt better (before I went right back to sleep; he came in just before 6). A cheery Child Life volunteer came in around 9:30 and offered to have Oldest play Bingo via streaming video at 10:30 since she wasn't ambulatory. More nurses came in just at Bingo time and helped Oldest play, and she won the first of three games. (The roving Prize Patrol cart came to her.) Person #700 came and introduced himself as such, bringing some possible clothes for Oldest.

Of course, that's when we thought we were getting out of here today.

Because then Dr. Strong came in. He's the pediatric orthopedist who's really in charge here. He didn't like the way her leg was laying there in the cast, and determined he wanted to do what he hoped was a closed procedure to set the bone in precisely the right place so that she wouldn't end up knock-kneed. It was close enough, he said, that had she been 4, he would have left it alone. But because Oldest is almost 13 and the growth plate in her tibia (the bone she broke) stops growing at age 14, he didn't think she'd have enough time left to grow to have the bone straighten itself out. He gave me several options for what might need to be done in a traditionally closed procedure. 

Everything else today has been marching towards that procedure. Neuro came in, wanting to get an MRI done of her neck to make sure that there isn't anything wrong there that's causing pain and discomfort.

So I'm sitting here in a padded chair, in the very waiting room I was in almost exactly three weeks ago when Middle had her heart surgery. Not too long ago, last night's admitting doctor came out to talk to the family of another patient. He saw me and stopped before he went to talk to them, and asked if Oldest was in surgery, and if she was still in the collar. I explained Dr. Strong's reasoning, and he nodded, and we talked a little about last night before he moved on to his patient's family, but not before he gave me good wishes for Oldest's healing.

The receptionist informed me just now that Oldest is in surgery, and that Dr. Strong says they'll just be casting.

Sounds like good news to me, which means we should be out of here tomorrow. Whew.

If I'd had to pick which daughter would break a bone first, I would have said Middle, hands down. Agley is no respecter of a mother's intuition, I suppose.

To a less-adventurous Fourth next year!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

All Things New

I have been camping out at my mom's this week, taking over as chief cook, bottle washer, chauffeur, and nurse. Mom had surgery on Tuesday to repair a full tear on her right rotator cuff, and her surgeon wouldn't even schedule the procedure until he confirmed Mom had live-in help for two weeks post-op. Enter me.

The original plan called for the girls to come with me, and then Hubby would come out and pick up Oldest to pack her off to camp today. However, that changed last Friday, when my mother-in-law called and said she and Hubby's oldest sister and her husband were coming out a week earlier than expected.

Okay then. The girls got to stay with Gramma Bevvie, and I came to Mom's alone.

Which turned out to be a good thing all around, as it turned out. I love my mother-in-law, and I was sorry I couldn't spend more time with her than just a day, but Mom and I both agreed that having it just be the two of us in the immediate days following surgery was a good thing.


That's why I'm here.

Here, and scorching along with everyone else in the vicinity of the East Coast. We are all baking.

To that end, one of my daily tasks has been watering Mom's flowerbeds and tiny garden.

With temperatures soaring and the heat index skyrocketing, it was equally imperative that we get out to the cemetery and water the new tree Mom had planted on the plot where Dad's ashes are buried.

This is the part that requires a little history.

When Mom went looking for a cemetery plot, she specifically wanted a place that would allow her to plant a tree. Specifically, an oak tree, because oaks were special to my father, featured prominently in a poem he had written about his own father. Mom had gained permission from the cemetery my sister found, in a nice location, next to a small private airstrip (Dad also loved planes), and everything seemed perfect. We planted the tree and buried Dad's ashes.

And then things went sideways. Turns out, the owners of the cemetery—who also owned several cemeteries and properties in Ohio—were crooks. Mom was contacted by federal agents investigating the owners. The marker Mom ordered and paid for never arrived nor was installed. (As of this writing, Mom has seen the marker, and it's actually complete, but it still has not been installed, after three years.) Getting questions answered was next to impossible. The cemetery fell into disrepair, tended by only a few volunteers. Dad's tree was the only thing marking his grave.

Then I got a call from my mother in mid June last year, telling me that someone had cut the tree down.

Devastated doesn't begin to describe how we all felt.

The tree wasn't just cut down; it was chopped so low to the ground that it looked like it was never there.

Mom went and talked to the mother-in-law of the skeezy husband who owns the property, trying to find out what happened. This tree, after all, was tall enough and established enough to not just be a nut job planted by a forgetful squirrel. Of course, if they'd actually installed Dad's marker, then the tree wouldn't have just looked like it didn't belong in the middle of an expanse of plots. The mother-in-law said they never would have allowed a tree to be planted, while Mom argued that the owner said he loved the idea and wanted to plant more pin oaks in that section.

But with everything going on, and the owners in Ohio trying to wrap things up before beginning prison sentences, there was no way to get confirmation...and then the feds decided Mr. Martin was too much of a flight risk and scooped him up.

So. No tree. No marker.

My brother-in-law went out and hunted around, and found the very short stump, so at least we knew we could find the plot again.

Seasons changed, and Mom researched what she wanted to do.

This spring, she planted another oak tree. This one, she told me, was not a pin oak like the last one, just a regular oak with the more rounded leaves. And BIL had helped plant it, and he'd made sure that it would not be so hastily cut down. Mom mentioned that he'd also put up a cross with Dad's name and dates of birth and death.

Which brings me to today.

And our heat wave.

Hatchet proof.
Mom had wisely chosen to not attempt church, and after we had lunch and took a short walk, she decided she didn't truly need to go to the cemetery with me. I could go and water the tree alone.

I took five full gallon jugs of water and drove over, hoping that BIL's attempts to prevent another hackery were sufficient. I wasn't sure I could handle seeing another tree gone, and I hadn't been to the cemetery since the last time I'd gone, when I'd seen the awful truth for myself that the tree wasn't there.

I pulled up next to the section where Mom and Dad's plot is and smiled. The tree still stood, as did a small sturdy cross. I smiled. Well. That does discourage a quick hatchet job. BIL had constructed a cage support for the tree out of two-by-fours and chicken wire.

I grabbed the first two jugs and strode over. Huh. That's an awful lot of foliage near the ground there.

I set the jugs down when I got there, and dropped to my knees. It can't be! Shoots burst out of the ground. Actual branches. One threaded two and a half feet high, in through the chicken wire surrounding the new tree. I tugged it free.

I shoved aside the branches. They're saying poison oak is everywhere. Am I getting myself in a world of trouble? No, this is oak oak! I felt around. There it was--the stump, the jagged two-level cut that felled it that I remember.

This is Dad's tree!

I laughed in outright glee.

Death cannot stop true love.
I studied the leaves. Yes, these were pin oak leaves. They were clearly oak leaves, but also very clearly not the same as the oak leaves on the oak tree BIL had carefully caged. I shrieked and laughed some more. This is the coolest little resurrection story!

I dumped water on both trees—although admittedly the pin oak looked more like a bush than a tree—with glorious abandon.

See? I told you not to lose heart. I am making all things new. The words fed life into my soul. Thank you, Abba.

I messaged Waffle. I called Hubby, who was driving his mother back to meet his brother (the twins will be joining me tomorrow).

Then I plucked two leaves, one from each tree, and went home to tell Mom.

As I staggered into the house from the heat of the garage, she asked, "So, was it there?"

"Oh, it was there," I told her. "They were both there."

Mom whipped her head around as fast as she could. "Both?"

"Yes, both." I grinned. "Despite everything, that pin oak has grown back."

"Well, how about that."

How about that.