Wednesday, April 23, 2014

To Appreciate the Summers

People often ask me how we can stand the dreadful Chicago winters.  Why would you ever want to put yourself through that?  What the heck are you trying to prove?

Because of the summers, that's why.  My word, if you haven't experienced a Chicago summer then you are missing something glorious.  The city absolutely wakes up and comes alive.  I know we are now in the burbs but the experience isn't much different.  Outdoor dining, lush green trees, parks filled with baseball and children's squeals.  Going to the zoo without sweating through clothes, playing on the lake shore without being miserable.  We do have our hot days, but they are nothing compared to those I grew up with in Mississippi.  And everyone seems so much nicer and happier.  I know that the more ferocious the winter is then the more I will appreciate the summer.

As I'm waiting for my car to be serviced right now, I finally have time to update the blog -- and I discovered that I had already begun a post that was too difficult for me to finish.  No words but just a lot of photos of this . . . the darkest part of my winter.   

One cold Saturday morning in January our little guy woke up grabbing his neck and crying.  He wouldn't talk, he wouldn't move, he wouldn't eat, and he wouldn't drink.  Maybe just a neck spasm so we watched him.  Not long after waking up he took a nap.  And when he woke up, we immediately knew something was very wrong.

He kept drifting in and out of sleep, wouldn't sit up, and felt sweaty and clammy and cold.  After a quick call to the pediatrician, I took him to the ER where he continued to lay limp in my arms.  While trying to stand him up for and x-ray, he fell over on me sound asleep.  

The nurses suddenly began covering their faces when coming into our room, and the resident confirmed my suspicions -- 

I have to be honest with you.  This looks a lot like meningitis.

Mack's temp was at 96, his white count was high, he was white as a ghost, he didn't want to be moved or touched, and he hadn't had a wet diaper in far too long.  He barely even protested as the nurses inserted the IV or as he was strapped into a stretcher for the ride to the children's hospital downtown in an ambulance.

And somehow I remained just a calm as I am while typing this right now.  I avoided updating anyone other than my husband because I didn't want to explain what this could mean, and I barely even updated him.  I asked a few close friends for prayers because I knew both Mack and my husband and I needed them.  I held Mack's hand and tried to keep my mind blank.  He was up to date on immunizations and that's the most I could have done.  Worrying couldn't change anything.  

A few years ago I heard a story about a baby girl in Memphis who went to bed a little fussy with a low grade fever and then didn't wake up the next morning.  Bacterial meningitis.  I remember a guy at my high school being in class one morning and no longer being alive the next day.  I wasn't stupid.  I just wanted to not think about that.

When we arrived at Lurie Children's Hospital, the residents had already been briefed on Mack and his sensory issues.  They spoke with me in quiet voices and squatted down to his level to attempt interaction with him.  They were patient and gentle and did exactly the right things.  A young resident with tattoos and a Captain America t-shirt asked me to join Mack during the spinal tap to keep him calm.  I did as I was instructed and luckily Mack fell asleep right before the procedure, which my pediatrician told me later was the most perfect lumbar puncture sample she's ever seen.

Throughout the night I snuggled up next to Mack and was awakened often by yellow gowns and masks that only exposed eyes.  The tattooed resident came in sometime and let me know that it was all clear.  There would be more tests to run but it was probably not bacterial meningitis.  

And this is when I could finally feel again.  Could finally cry.  Could finally think about what this could have meant.  How in the hell did I not lose it at the ER?  In the ambulance?  When I could barely keep his eyes open?  While a long needle was stuck into my 3-year-old son's spine?  How did I not completely explode?      

The prayers, the kind thoughts, the love.  I felt them all, y'all.  Thank you.  I knew about them and I felt God's presence.  I certainly have my doubts occasionally as every thinking human does, but I do have faith.  

Many more tests were run and he was given antibiotics just in case.  The fluids also helped, and Mack woke up smiling the next morning. 

After a few hours he was putting together puzzles on the floor and singing his ABC's.  

And showing Woody the city and the frozen lake.

He kept pointing to the tall buildings and saying, "A big, big house."  

He returned to crazy energy Mack way too soon.  The doctors and nurses kept telling me he was the most energetic kid they've ever had.  This is a big, busy hospital.  And I had the most energetic kid ever . . . someone should have given me a prize.  Oh, and they also said he had the best hair so there's that.

It was amazing to see how Mack tolerated this all so well.  He carried his monitors around the room like it was no big deal.  

Once the doctors felt there was nothing contagious going on, we were finally able to get out of the room (Thank. The. Lord.), and Mack took the play area by storm.

This little guy had everyone scared to death and then made a full recovery in no time.  We all agreed this was probably a bizarre virus and probably not something fatal or contagious.  I don't know what I would have done without the amazing residents and all the prayers.  Those residents were so thorough that it surprised the mess out of me.  You know I Googled like an insane mom does, and they had it all covered before I could even ask the questions.   

And this dark, scary moment in my life made me love and appreciate my little sunshine even more.  He's so cute and funny and sweet, and he loves me sooooo, sooooo much.  He relies on me and needs me.  And I have this scary memory to think about every time the going gets tough with his sensory issues.  

So I've chosen to appreciate this awful experience, this terrible time in winter.  I didn't have to clean the house or prepare meals or taxi my children around to school or therapies.  I was able to snuggle in a tiny bed and stare at his pretty little face.  It could have been much, much worse.  And it makes the good times even sweeter -- my winter made me appreciate my summer.

Finally home after five days . . .

. . . and then that night he had a terrible stomach virus.  Sheesh.  At least he had a little black puppy to comfort him.

Helping me appreciate the summer, right?