Thanksgiving Day 1998
We were the most thankful parents on the planet that day! Our little boy was alive. He had survived the surgery and was beginning his slow healing process.
Although our Pediatric Neurosurgeon told us he would be in the hospital 3-5 days, his stay extended to sixteen days. Nearly loosing him twice. And fighting fever, pain and vomiting much of the time.
Taking the good advice of my friend Amy, who has her own “hospital experience”, I kept a journal of everything that he did, and was done to him. Everything he ate, drank and expelled. Every medication they gave him, the nurses names, his temp and blood pressure when they took it and how he said he was feeling.
I had been unable to read that journal until just recently! It is eye opening for me – since most of that time is a complete fog… reading the details is very interesting and yet heart wrenching. It makes me realize how good God is and how resilient we humans really are. You do what you have to do… no matter what it takes. It is amazing to me what we can go through.
Gerrit struggled. He just didn’t seem to be going in the right direction. He would have good moments, but then have bouts with fever and headaches – or writhe in pain so bad he seemed to not be coherent.
Medication seemed to be a problem. They had a hard time finding the ones that worked for him and it just seemed a constant battle. Many times he would throw up after the medication – that lead to headaches and more pain… which lead to not eating… which lead to throwing up again next time they gave the meds on an empty stomach, etc. It was awful to watch.
Most of the nurses were great. We had a couple that I felt shouldn’t be in the business, or they had terrible trials of their own going on, because they were not nice. But like I said, for the most part they were great. One thing they did for Gerrit that touched us, was they would usually take his blankie down to get washed when he had thrown up on it. He was not a happy camper if he didn’t have his blankie and they knew how much it meant to him. Thank you sweet nurses!
(Most of the nurses and the MRI crew knew Gare-Bear by his blankie… A patched up old blanked from his big brother. For months after this, nurses would come up to us when we were at the hospital getting an MRI and say that they saw the blankie on the gurney and wanted to come say hi to Gerrit! He was is a charmer… so naturally he always gave them a big cheesy grin!)
One day after talking to my husband on the phone, I kissed Gerrit’s forehead and said “that is from Daddy… and that is from Auntie… and that is from Papa… and that is from Grammie…” and so on, until I thought I had about covered everyone! He turned and halfway hollered at me, “get one from Bubba.” (That is what he called his big brother!
Gerrit was a car man! He LOVED to drive his cars on his blankie and his bed, but he would have nothing to do with stuffed animals! In fact they scared the bageebers out of him! My boss came by with a darling teddy bear and before I could stop it – they had put it up to his face for him to see it – he screamed bloody murder! He got over that a year or two later, but in the meantime, the nurses learned to put all the stuffed animals that came for him at the foot of the crib!
After ten days, they let us go home. Once again I am not feeling right about something. I told my husband and the nurses that I didn’t think he was ready. The physical therapist had said that he needed to be able to walk, holding a ball or something before he would be ready to leave. He still couldn’t do that. He was so weak and wobbly. But the doc said he was good to go… so, outnumbered and scared, we head home with him.
If my friend Arlene (Auntie), who had flown out take her shift at caring for JJ and Darren, had not been their that night… I don’t know what I would have done. My husband had returned to work and would be gone for the next four days. Gerrit was home a little more than 24 hours and he started to deteriorate very quickly. Without IV’s to keep him hydrated, every time he threw up he took a deeper dive into unconsciousness.
When I finally got a hold of “a” doctor, they told me to get him up to the emergency room as quick as I could. I didn’t think he would make it the 45 minutes up there.
As I am grabbing what I need and putting him in the car – telling to my friend Arlene what to do in regards to calling my husband – who was flying and probably couldn’t be reached – hoping the car would start (because that was a concern at the time) – Gerrit started throwing up again. I couldn’t take the time to clean him up… again. So, I hopped in and headed to the hospital.
I was barely out of my neighborhood when Gerrit passed out and laid his face in a puddle of vomit that had accumulated in his dear, beloved blankie. I reached over and held his head up.
“Dear God… get us through this please.” I begged.
I don’t know how I drove. I was crying so hard I could scarcely see the road. It was dark and I couldn’t tell if Gerrit was even breathing anymore. I couldn’t let go of his head or he would fall back into the pool of vomit. I didn’t dare take the time to pull over and fix his blankie to hold up his head… but looking back… I wish I had. I was panic stricken. All I could process was to get him there as quick as a could.
Once there, they stabilized him. It was a close call. But no one knew why he was having so much trouble. More MRI’s were taken. Tests done. But we would not know the answers until much later.
Thankfully, he started to improve. He would have longer periods of happiness and more time in between headaches. We were seeing signs of our old Gare-Bear again!
He loved his chips! Chips and Coffee! (decaf)
Gerrit rode the proverbial roller coaster of pain for the next six days after being readmitted. He continued to be a great mystery as to why the headaches persisted. But alas, he finally got to return home and was strong enough to deal with the changes. He was weak and skinny, but better. We had to train the now, almost 1 year old little brother, how to be more gentle with his big “brudder”. JJ was a rough little dude and could do some serious damage to fragile Gare-Bear.
A big sigh of relief… he did it! He made it through a sea of hurt and confusion, and he is still with us!
But… so were the headaches.
He was home just in time for Darren’s 11th and JJ’s 1st birthday’s, and Christmas.
we already had our Christmas present! And little did we know what a gift it really was to have him with us.
To be continued…