Days 72-92: Failure

Days 72-92: Failure

In the days following our medical emergency I had neither the urge nor the where-with-all to blog. We were still on vacation in Canada and that’s what it became for my blogging: a break from writing.

Now I am back and trying to figure out how to report on the 21 days I let slip by. I definitely failed in the “no unnecessary spending” arena. Maybe it was the relief from being out of hospital, or the sense that I was on vacation, but I did spend: on a few tourist T-shirts, on coffee and a few gifts from my sister and brother-in-law’s coffee shop. I also just came home and immediately spent money on two books that relate to different natural healing modalities that I am interested in investigating. Oh, and on some soil and some flowers and herbs to add to my garden ( I was inspired by my mom and sister’s gardens and my toddlers delight in them ).

So there you have it, my “confession” of sorts.

I’ve considered outright quitting this whole self-imposed challenge. I am the type of person whom, upon discovering she is not doing something well, just wants to call the whole thing off. But, when I started this, I knew that I would come up against challenges, and that I would have to work through them. So here I am trying to work through the fact that I have had wavering resolve with not spending.

I wrote in my list of rules that, were I to spend on something unnecessarily, I would need to either return that item or give away three items for every item I kept. Well, I can’t exactly say that all items were completely unnecessary ( I am still struggling with that definition and what that means for me), but I will do better than that stipulation. I’m planning a big house purge.

One of the benefits of being away from home for a big chunk of time is that, when you return, for a brief time, you have a new “stranger’s eye” view of your own home. I’ve tried to take advantage of that to help me see how I might improve things. The number one thing is that I need a whole lot less stuff. I knew this already, of course, but I have now a renewed sense of what is clutter and what is needed. I will have to resolve myself to being absolutely brutal and unwaffling in my approach. So, in the days to come I hope to be able to report about the stuff I’ve gotten rid of.

It’s good to be typing again. As I type, my hands ache, because no, I have not cured my eczema either. I’m working on it and will report on that later.

For now, it’s good to just be getting back on track.


Days 66-71: Normal

Days 66-71: Normal

Slowly, every day, little C has returned to herself. It was touch and go for a while. The first day back from the hospital (Monday) I watched her like a hawk and she seemed to be in so much pain still. I almost called emerg back to check if her continuing pain was normal. At night she would whimper and cry out. I couldn’t tell if it was from pain or nightmares (of the hospital?) but she wouldn’t (and won’t) tell me because she is afraid that more will be done to her. I feared something had been missed, but ultimately I went with my gut, because so far it has served me well, and I decided to wait. The next day, she was still whimpering from pain, but better. Every day, three doses of oral antibiotics and Tylenol as needed. So much Tylenol. Hard to see her consume almost an entire bottle when I have only ever given her such a drug once before this illness. But then, finally, she didn’t need it. Today, Friday, she is much skinnier than she was a week ago, but she is definitely herself…throwing challenging tantrums, being her charming hilarious self, making us negotiate every damn thing because she is stubborn as all get-out. Ahhh. Back to normal. Deep breath and appreciate this.

As for not spending…well, I have definitely failed. I have thrown caution to the wind and spent on things at my sister and brother-in-laws coffee shop, Engine House Coffee, bought T-shirts at the caves we went and visited yesterday, splurged on poutine and other treats. I am trying not to go over-board as a “thank god we are back to normal, lets spend to celebrate” kind of way…even though that is definitely an impulse I am feeling and trying to examine.

I also happen to be on “holiday” as harrowing as it was this past week, so I feel like a tourist in this town and want to enjoy it.

So, yeah, I’ve failed on the no frivolous spending front. But I am not going to quit. What I am going to do is assess these feelings, these impulses, try to reign them in and also atone for them when I get back. That means, I am planning to do a lot more paring down when I get home. We live with excess. I had begun a KonMari inspired cleansing of my home, but failed to complete it. I think I will renew those efforts to eliminate.

My hand eczema has calmed in direct relation to the drama of a health crisis calming down too. While C was in hospital, the inflammation, weeping and drying was so bad my hand was an unbending claw. Since then, the layers have peeled off and my hand is mostly back to normal, though quite red and occasionally itchy. The treatment plan, with the help of my mom, is to do green clay compresses almost every night, followed by a coating of castor oil before putting cotton gloves on for the night. Also, several times a day, after washing my hands, I splash nano-silver all over the affected areas and air dry as it is antibacterial and helps quickly seal open wounds. I am not following any specific diet, other than avoiding shell fish and citrus as recommended by TeeMing, the Chinese doc I saw in Toronto.

So far so good. I am afraid of a re-occurrance, but one day at a time. One day at a time.

Enjoying having my hubby here for a few more days as C fully recovers. Hopefully we can get a beach day in and a bit more sight seeing. Though it was not the nicest way to get daddy here (via an emergency), we are sure glad he’s here for part of our vacation.


Days 64 & 65: Improvement

Days 64 & 65: Improvement

Daddy arrived and it marked a huge improvement in all of our outlooks. Little C perked up and ate and wanted to play. I finally had someone who could comfort my infant and allow my mom and sister much needed relief from all the endless wailing. Everything started to feel less traumatic. We all caught ourselves having moments where we were not rushing to help or tag team and wondered: what am I not doing? Why do I have a moment of nothing to do?

The news is good too, this Sunday morning. The docs say that tomorrow we take out the IV and switch to oral antibiotics. This means we get to go home. Though, where “home” is will need to be determined. I would love to stay on and finish our visit here in Canada, but if a one week or even two week follow up is required, we will have to fly back to California since it will no longer be covered under “emergency” care.

We have a whopper of a bill coming our way. I’m trying not to think about it. I am so grateful for the care that C received. I do find it ironic that this blog was about cutting out needless spending and I had hoped to see a lot of savings as a result…instead, we’ve had a bout of very necessary spending that will leave us…well…I don’t really want to go into that right now.

As I type, I am trying to convince C to lie still. We’ve been working at trying to nap for over an hour. I am feeling very frustrated by trying to negotiate with her to lie still and rest. But it’s also a very good sign, because this is how all nap times go down when she’s happy and healthy. Hopefully I will be able to hold onto this and remind myself, in moments of frustration, that I would rather have these challenges a million times over, than the submissive, moaning, half conscious toddler I had only a few days ago.

My itchy eczema outbreak has also calmed, though now I am dealing with the dry, stiff skin on my hands that make it impossible to bend my fingers without pain. My whole face is also like leather and peeling. I’ll take it over the itching though. I’m afraid that I will not be able to find a resolution for this. I just long for C to be healthy and for me to be healthy.

At the same time this whole experience has reminded me how lucky we have been thus far, and how easily life can change. I am reminded to appreciate every moment, every dull, hum drum day, when nothing is happening and we are experiencing the ordinary….those are the days that are extraordinary and a gift. To have health, youth, no discomfort. I must absorb those moments, because we all age, we all will experience ill health and death.

Today marks a mass killing in Orlando Florida, the biggest one yet. Not a record to be proud of. The details are splashed across every news outlet, so I need not go into details. I am so angry, terrified and sad. Again, this is a reminder that the hum drum of life is what we want, not the horrors  of hate and violence and ignorance. I must not sink into fear. Having kids makes fear and worry that much closer to the surface. I find myself seriously considering moving back to Canada, where universal health care is the norm, where hate filled, bigoted, racist clowns like Trump aren’t currently  being considered for the biggest leadership role in the country, and gun ownership is actually controlled to the extent that mass killings are not the norm. How can I continue to live in a country that so blindly and passionately defends their right to bear arms even as these mass killings occur on a sickeningly regular basis. Obama, in his address to the Nation today almost had no words. He’s had to make this speech a ridiculous amount of times. America, the world is watching, and you are coming off as fools.

Anyway, I could go on, but I’ll stop.

Let me return to the fact that  I am grateful. Grateful that we are leaving here, and that C has her health, and that there is still hope for me to recover from eczema even if it takes some doing.

Love to all.20160612_114245.jpg

Days 59-63: A Major Change of Perspective

Days 59-63: A Major Change of Perspective

I started this blog to help me overcome my urge to spend needlessly on useless things (thus the day count in every title), then it became about a sudden outbreak of what appeared to be eczema and my quest to heal it…while also not spending needlessly. It became a detox of both my mental and physical self.

Then on Monday these priorities in my life fell by the wayside.

After a lovely weekend, we continued our family vacation by heading to the Ottawa Valley to stay with my mom and dad. It was a long 5 hour drive, but the kids slept most of the way. I felt such joy pulling into my parents driveway. My toddler was complaining about her tummy, and I figured she was dealing with some car sickness.

We got in, hugs all around, and my kiddo headed straight for the couch whimpering about her tummy. And then she vomited. And vomited again. And again.

We’d had some questionable roadside food, and my stomach was a little off, so I figured she was suffering from mild food poisoning. We got her to bed where she continued to vomit until nothing was coming out…and yet still she retched. To the point where I started to wonder when it was going to be over. We’ve had stomach stuff before, and usually after about 5 rounds, the stomach is empty and the retching subsides. But this kept going from about 6pm to 1am. She kept saying her tummy hurt and started to point to one spot. Then she’d sleep for about 15 minutes, then wake and repeat the whole thing. She also kept assuming a position where she crouched with her butt in the air with her head down on the pillow…she kind of looked like me in labour.

When I was a kid, I vomited so hard that I got a hernia. I thought, due to the endless retching, she must have abdominal pain. We stuck it out through the night; me catching a few winks between her bouts. At 4 am I felt a mild temperature increase.

At 6 am she had a fever and my mommy senses were going off. I am not one to jump to going to the hospital. I believe the body can deal with fevers etc. and resolve it. But this was all wrong. A fever AFTER vomiting all night, continued pain and restlessness. Her complaint was continuously the same, and she was pointing to her lower right abdominal area. I did a bunch of googling but couldn’t go by what I saw. I decided to call the Tellahealth nurse line that they have here in Ontario, even though we are non-residents. The nurse had me get little C out of bed to assess. She asked for me to have her stand up. C could not stand on her right leg or even straighten it and she was shaking. The nurse said to go to the hospital.

We headed to Barry’s Bay, an hour away, which has a small hospital but a shorter wait time than Pembroke or Renfrew which were both a half hour away. Also, it is the hospital where my family doctor (when I was a resident of Canada) works. Turned out he wasn’t there, but we ended up with a very wonderful doctor who observed her, thank god, very carefully and listened to our careful descriptions of her symptoms.

Before we went in though, I had to call Kaiser, my health care provider at home in the States to let them know we were seeking emergency care outside of the US. The advice nurse listened to my description of symptoms and she said yes, immediately, take her in.

At the point we were signing in at emergency, C was limp and whining in my arms. I was now extremely worried. When we finally were seen, within an hour (but which felt like 10) they thought initially that it was dehydration. So we stayed for several hours trying to get her to drink a prescribed amount of fluid every 10 minutes. They put in a Motrin suppository and thus began the complete but necessary violation of C’s carefully protected personal space. I started to feel sheepish, like maybe I was being a foolish, trigger happy mom. When we told the doc about how she couldn’t stand, he asked to see, and, of course, she stood on both legs without shaking. So, in the moment he looked skeptical. But, half way through forcing liquids, she vomited again. She did not perk up as they expected. The doc ordered an X-ray that was inconclusive. He said we needed more imaging, and that would have to happen in Ottawa or Peterborough many hours away. Holy jeez.

Then they inserted the needle for an IV, but they had to fish. Oh God. And in that moment, mom was holding her hand while I was on the phone with my sister, and as I looked around the curtain and saw her face flushed red, looking shocked and screaming from the pain, I broke down entirely. My ‘Big Girl’ looked so tiny in that bed. All her innocence seemed to be fleeing in that moment. She was being hurt and I couldn’t stop it or make it better. This is the girl who won’t even let me rub cream on her owie, or give her ear drops when her ear hurts or remove a splinter when she’s got one. Now, she couldn’t say no and be heard.

It was decided that an ambulance ride was necessary. They dosed her with morphine, anti nausea medicine and antibiotics. And my baby, little M, was separated from me so that I could go with C. The first of many separations that has lead her to cry inconsolably any time I set her down now.

The drive was long. In the last hour the morphine wore off and C was in PAIN. The paramedics were not able to give her anything else, so we used an old school method of distraction by wiping her brow with a really cold towel. We weren’t cleared to use the sirens, so we had to inch through rush hour traffic. The last half hour was torture. I thought about how much pain she had been in for such a  long time. For a kid, it must have been interminable.

Finally we were in emerg at CHEO the children’s hospital in Ottawa. A top notch place. Word had been sent ahead about us being out of country. As we got her in a room and on pain meds, the finance department came. I had to give them my visa and sign my life away to receive service. God how I wish I were still a Canadian resident and covered by OHIP. Growing up with universal health care made it such that I never had to think about money when receiving care. But this, I am now a Canadian citizen residing in the States…I don’t have health care coverage in Canada…I do in the States, but we pay for it. Apparently we are covered for emergency…but we have to pay out first and then we can apply for reimbursement ( not for all of it thought) later. That means a massive pulling together of funds. I was trying to do the math: first hospital emerg: $550 approx. Additional stuff like X-ray and drugs:??? Ambulance ride:??? CHEO emerg: $900. One day at the hospital once admitted: $5,300 with promise of at least a 7 days stay.

I know that the only thing that matters is C’s health. So we will do what we need to do. I just never thought I’d have to worry about money along with dealing with the emotions of a medical emergency.

We got an ultrasound. The doctor finally came to talk to us: Her appendix had ruptured. This is extremely rare in children her age (she’s just over 2.5 years old) but it is normal that they come into the hospital when it has already ruptured because they are not equipped with the ability to express what they are feeling in their body. My gosh. What kind of pains was she experiencing but not telling me? What did I miss? When she says her tummy hurts, it usually means she’s about to have a bowel movement. It seemed to come out of the blue, because she’d been eating relatively well and was having so much fun playing with her aunties. Any slight differences could be chalked up to the fact that we were travelling and our routines were all off….but apparently not.

The course of treatment, now that is has ruptured is antibiotics. Three different kinds. Her beautiful intestinal biome that she has built since birth is being nuked. But I can’t think about that. What needs to happen is the infected areas where puss has formed, needs to to heal. So we are doing all the conventional treatments and are grateful for it…somewhat ironic as I’ve been so focused on avoiding conventional in my eczema struggle. But this is on a whole other level. Though I believe in the natural, I have always believed there is a place for Western medicine, and this is a case in point.

So, we are five days in. She is improving. It has been stressful, awful, exhausting, emotionally draining. But through it all my mom and sister have been here tag teaming, watching the baby, holding her while she screams for mommy, then taking over with C while I nurse or sleep with the baby. They are the heroes of this story.

The other heroes are the staff here. They know kids. Everyone is amazing. And not only do they care for the patient, they care for the parent to. I have had a social worker come and talk to me to help ease any stress I might have around the cost, acting as a liaison between me and Finance. There is an amazing lounge room and play room where those of us not in the ward can hang out, essentially camping there during the day, so that little M is always near…I can run back and forth as needed. All the nurses are so kind and understanding, so thoughtful. When I am hair trigger with the call button, showing them any changes in her appearance or complaints, they say “thank you” for letting them know and don’t role their eyes. They trust the parent to know their child best.

And C, she’s my hero. In a way she had to grow up really quickly. She had to learn some harsh realities in a very strange and ever changing environment. It was impossibly hard to watch her in pain. But day by day, her personality, lively, imaginative and stubborn, return. She was happily bossing my sister around and refusing her medication today. Tough for us, but a good sign. Through it all I’ve tried to just keep talking, letting her know what everything is for, to the best of my own ability. It’s the mystery of things that can be frightening. All of this is new to her and I let her know it’s new to me too.

My concern is that there will be some trauma to overcome once we leave here. But we will take that in stride. And I’ve been able to talk about that with another staff member who was able to give me ideas about how to work through it with her when and if it crops up.

So, it’s Friday now. This all started Monday. We are not through the woods, but we are through the densest part. Daddy arrives tonight. We couldn’t be happier. Just the news that he is coming marked a huge change in C’s energy.

To top it all off, my eczema which had been healing amazingly, flared up with a vengeance. It has been awful. It is the last thing I want distracting me right now. I’ve had moments of almost losing it with the itching and pain, but I remind myself that this is not about me. I’ve been eating when I can, and when I can, it isn’t really food…certainly not what I’ve been eating this past month. All of it’s out the window. The stress has been intense. Also, the excessive use of hand sanitizer (required in a hospital) and foreign motel sheets have probably been a big trigger. I will power through.

C is sleeping right now as I type. It feels good to be blogging again. For the first while, that was not the priority as this laptop was a video player for C. Distraction is the name of the game. True to her preferences, though, more popular than movies, has been books. It has been her coping mechanism to have us read to her, hour after hour, stack after stack. Thank god they have a library down the hall. They are running out of books!

I will sign off right now. A moment of calm before I dash out to comfort little M who, no doubt has cried herself out and surrendered once again to being with ‘not-mommy’, but a safe family member. When she sees me, her eyes will open wide and she will cry, again, out of relief and struggle to get into my arms. She will not let me put her down. She will eventually relax and then smile, and then play, keeping me in her sight. I will try to shower her with my love and attention to fortify her for our next separation.


C whimpers in her sleep. I am helpless to stop the nightmares she may have as she incorporates her experience. We will figure this out. I am very hopeful.