It’s amazing how quickly my butt has adapted to life back in the hospital. I feel completely comfortable in the plastic, semi-reclining chair they’ve outfitted Ben’s room with. It’s almost as if these chairs are filled with memory foam. Seriously. I sat down and it pulled up the files from 2009 and said, “Ah, I remember that butt. That’s the female parental unit of kid #122502.” And then the chair goes on to lament that I’ll be leaving copious amounts of potato chip crumbs littered about. Because that’s what I do in the hospital… sit on my butt and eat potato chips.
So, last you heard from me, I was reveling in a post-17 hour nap while the kids were enjoying some time in Estes Park at Camp Wapiyapi. Yeah. Glad I got my 15 minutes to brag about all the rest I was getting, because later that day, around 5 PM, I received a call from Dr. Bruce at camp. He said that Ben had a fever and I needed to come get him. Actually, he told me to meet him at the hospital in Estes Park, which was a good hour and 45 minutes away from where I was currently sitting on my butt in Aurora. Dr. Bruce said that while Ben was smiling and chatting normally, he seemed to feel a little run down. His companion, Tanna, took him to the nurse’s station where they discovered him to have a temp of 101. That calls for automatic expulsion from camp. ANY fever exhibited and the kid gets kicked out because there are many kids on active therapy at camp. They have low counts, too. It wouldn’t be fair for Ben to spread his potential bugs to anyone else, even though his fever was most likely due to neutropenia (low blood counts).
So, I jumped in the car and took off for Estes Park. I rolled down the windows. I rolled them back up. I adjusted my seat a hundred times. I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried whatever radio station I could land on. Everything grated my nerves. Dear Lord! Where’s a freaking helicopter when you need one? It was going to take me FOREVER to get to my son. So, I went to my fall-back time-passer in the car: The Interview. Here’s how it goes: I pretend like I’m on a talk show. Usually it’s something like Ellen, or Jon Stewart, or Craig Ferguson, or any old talk show host. I rarely make an appearance on Springer or Maury, unless I’m really mad about something. Then, I ask myself questions. Usually the questions revolve around my newly published best-seller and where I found the inspiration for my characters. This time, however, I asked myself a different type of question, like how did I ever find the strength to help my son through his third round with neuroblastoma. So, that’s what I did for nearly two hours.
When I pulled into the parking lot of the teeny Estes Park hospital, it was about 7 PM. I rushed inside to find my kiddo, hoping that I’d just be able to scoop him up and take him back to Aurora. I even brought his dog, Yoshi, along so he could have some company on the way home. But I walked into the ER to find my sweet little boy with a complete look of horror on his face. Apparently, a nurse had just tried to access his port and had been unsuccessful. Now, I’m not a nurse, but these mediports are placed to take away the pain of being constantly poked and prodded. From my understanding, they are pretty user friendly. This nurse had no idea what she was doing. As soon as Ben saw me, the tears started flowing. He reached out to me to grab my hand and kinda whispered that “this nurse doesn’t know what she’s doing.” Now, in her defense, I’m sure she doesn’t see many cancer patients in such a small community, nor are they well equipped to deal with children. If you happen to hit an elk at a high speed on a rural road while not wearing your seatbelt, I bet she’d be your girl. But a pediatric cancer nurse she wasn’t. It was at that point that I was willing to bundle him in a blanket and just take him down the mountain myself. When I voiced this opinion to the ER doc, he said, “No, no, no, no… no.” I hadn’t heard that many no’s in a while. He informed me that Children’s in Denver said to give him some antibiotics, watch him for an hour, then send him down. In an ambulance. Shit. My overactive imagination immediately flew to an oversized meter in the front of the ambulance that was planning to charge $1000 a mile… and we were MANY miles away from Denver. I can drive and hold an emesis basin at the same time. I can even do that on a mountain road. Are you sure I can’t take him myself?
No, no, no, no… no.
Ben continued to throw up a bunch. They tried different drugs. They hooked up some oxygen in case the nausea was exacerbated by the higher altitude. They tried to push fluids. I even sang to him a bit. Nothing helped. He couldn’t rest because he was in pain. His sweet brow furrowed at even the tiniest bit of light or sound, like it was piercing his skull and shooting laser beams into the soft tissue of his brain. The ambulance drivers eventually came and gently loaded him up. By that point, Ben was ignoring everyone. He just wanted to be left alone. I got in my car, allowed Yoshi to sit on my lap, and drove the very expensive route to Denver Children’s.
SPECIAL PROPS: I posted a shout-out about Yoshi on Facebook, and through my friend, Sean, in North Carolina, he found someone in Colorado to watch my dog. Sometimes Facebook makes me cranky, but in times like this, it was such a help. Sean’s Denver friend, Nora, came to rescue Yoshi from an evening of my intermittent checks. I had no idea the evening was going to turn out the way it did or I would have never brought him along for the ride. Thanks, Nora, for meeting me at the ER and thanks, Sean, for helping out from about 2K miles away. Awesome!
Once Yoshi was squared away, I chilled with Bean in the ER. He had a fever. He kept vomiting. He had a headache. He couldn’t sleep. It was clear that his counts had dropped really really fast and was already neutropenic. We weren’t expecting that for at least a week. That’s why we felt okay with sending him to camp. Regardless, Ben was pretty darn sick and would have to be admitted. Around 2 AM, we moved to the oncology floor. We still couldn’t sleep. At one point, Ben was holding my hand and started singing to me. It was one of our special tunes that we sing back and forth to each other, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Tears softly rolled down my cheeks as I listened to his sweet but tired voice tell me:
“Don’t worry, about a thing. ‘Cuz every little thing is gonna be alright.”
And he’s right. It will be. None of this was in our plans and it makes for a really crappy entry for next school year’s “What I did over the Summer” essay. But we just have to keep in mind that every little thing is going to be alright. Sometimes it sucks big time though. But soon enough we’ll be on that talk show explaining just how we got through this trial, too.
And I bet it’ll be a hell of a story.