Friday, February 4, 2011


Justin and Lane ~ a few days
before the hospital.

Justin and his true blue friend, elephant.

The cut and drain tubes.

Post op, in Moses Lake and on morphine the weekend before Spokane.


As the evening settled in, we were jolted into a few realizations.
Spokane is a lot farther away from our home, family and friends.
Having a private room in a hospital is a blessing. Sharing a room with a whiny, spoiled, not really sick (basic tonsillectomy early in the morning) four year old and his needy, inconvenienced parents made me seriously question if I had the strength to do this. (By do this, I mean NOT jerk the red headed brat bald headed). This may not be my most flattering post; the truth hurts, as they say. I was not happy, Justin was not happy; we cried.
The hospital staff was great in helping us get set up in a motel room; Darin had gone for the night. The sofa in the hospital made down into a pretty ok bed. Justin and I gave it our best shot to try and get sleep. Even the nurses, who I have never met a more patient group of people, were starting to have their fill of "Eric, our neighbor". They seriously called the nurses station more times than our monitors beeped. They even called when Justin's i.v. ran out and was beeping! One nurse, bless her heart, finally asked that they take the balloons out of the room so "Eric" would stop beating them on the ceiling. At about eleven, the staff asked "Eric's" dad if they wanted to go home; dad didn't think they had enough pain medicine to get through the night and he was really too tired to drive home; I thought to myself ***you can add your own part here***. The night ended, morning came, "Eric" and family were released and peace on Earth was felt throughout the halls.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monday, Monday

Monday in the hospital starts off as busy as any other. Dr. Murray is in first, same speech. Dr. Hourigan is in a while later, he leaves with a " I will talk to you soon." I am too tired to read between the lines. Same routine with Justin, they bring in a tray for breakfast, we try to be excited but he wants nothing. They make him stand up and walk to the scale to weigh, no weight gain yet. A nurse comes in and asks if I can take a phone call at the desk, I am already confused, now what? Dr. Hourigan is on the line, he is apologizing for doing this over the phone but he has already consulted with Dr. Murray and with a pediatric surgeon in Spokane and wants us to prepare right away....
I am trying to focus on what he is saying but at the same time, I can hear Justin in the room, now he is getting louder, I put down the phone and tell the nurse to explain to Dr. Hourigan....
Back on the phone, he continues, we are not going home, Justin has to go to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Spokane, the ambulance is on the way. He asked when Darin will be here, he asks if I am ok, he then promises that this is the best thing for Justin. He will be with doctors and staff that have a lot of experience with this. He will be able to have a pic line put in for medication and nutrition. He has to get stronger, he is slipping by staying here.
I go back to the room and start making the phone calls, I hate to have to tell Darin. The next forty-five minutes are a whirlwind, I was packing, filling out papers for the hospital, answering calls. It seemed like all at the same time, the paramedics, Darin and my mom show up in the room. We are trying to sort things to go back to Royal, things for Darin to bring to Spokane for us and prepare Justin for the ambulance ride. I can't stop flying around the room, my mom gave me a hug, she was crying, I was numb. I couldn't start to cry, I knew it would be a complete melt-down, there wasn't time for that and Justin couldn't see that.
Justin is being strapped on to the gurney, he has blue elephant and my hand. Amazingly the ride went by quickly, not comfortable though. By the way, if you are ever bored, try holding the pee cup for a six year old boy strapped to a gurney in a moving ambulance going seventy + down the interstate.
We arrive in Spokane and try to find our way through the maze of halls and elevators and find Darin. Once in our room, it is another round of new i.v.'s, new bed, new hospital gown, new people. But best of all was our nurse, Tawnee. She made the difference in the chaos for Justin. She was tiny, quiet and spoke to Justin with pure love. He trusted her immediately.
It would be a long day of waiting. We felt like everyone was bustling around with something to do and someone to tend to and we were sitting in the corner watching. The staff was very helpful in talking to us about where we could stay, eating arrangements, parking; all the not-important stuff that makes the whole experience easier. We got to finally meet the doctor; she was very supportive in assuring us that Justin was on the right track, it was just going to be a long road. She stressed that looking at his information he was very lucky to be in the condition he was in now, everything had gone according to plan. Now, he needed a little help in fighting any infection that may be left and getting the criticial nutrition that he needed. Tomorrow would be a big day for Justin, he would get his pic line and another phase of this journey would start.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The First Week Comes to an End

The weekend is here, no signs we will be going home but no one is saying we won't be going home either. Justin's drain tubes will need to come out; he will be taken to surgery, put under anesthesia and those annoying 18" of tubing will be taken out. No wonder he hates to move and there can't be any room for food with all of that stuffed in him. Time is vague in a hospital, of course when it is time for Justin to go downstairs for surgery, Darin is not here yet. I know I can do this but I sure wish he was here. As we are wheeling Justin's bed into the elevator he begins to get agitated, he knows something big is about to happen. We hold hands all the time, I know it doesn't hurt him for me to squeeze his little paw. An anesthesiologist, a nurse, Justin, me, and a very long, empty hall. Justin has had a stuffed, blue elephant for years; he is here with us too. I don't know how much Justin understands when they are talking to us, but I know he can feel things. We squeeze harder, please let him be asleep before I leave......they say "this won't take very long, we will bring him back up to his room, you can wait there." How can I wait there if I am holding his hand here? They are pushing the bed away, Justin is reaching for me, my heart hurts, the doors swing close. I try to focus on the maze to get back to his room. Oh, thank you God, Darin is here.
They bring Justin back, he is still sedated and on morphine so the rest of the day is spent sleeping. I think he already looks better. Finally, progress!

The kids and family have made it through the week. Everyone has made it to school, homework done, practices made, food keeps appearing at our house and everyone seems to be doing ok. It is not easy for Justin's siblings to come visit; he is not himself, it is unsettling for all of us. The weekend is here, we are all waiting for good news from the doctors.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Long Week

Justin was starting to stay awake for longer periods of time. He was obviously uncomfortable. The incision was left open, a gauze pad covered it. The drain tubes were taped to his stomach. Everything hurt, the surgery had involved moving all his internal organs and flushing out as much infection as they could. The inflammation was everywhere. He had no appetite. He cried when the lab techs would come into the room, he yelled for me when the x-ray machine loomed in the doorway. He could not get up to use the bathroom. He was scared. He would ask for the pain medicine himself. He would turn his head to the side when people were in the room. He would stare blankly at the tv when the doctors would come in to talk to us. His mom or dad was always in the room with him, he was not getting better.
Dr. Murray, boots and all, came in to check the incision. It would be the first time we had seen it. We failed Justin in preparing him for the sight, we were not prepared ourselves. We cried as they were pulling the tape off, Justin was trying to push them away. At first we see the drain tubes coming out of his stomach, three 10"-12" tubes with clear, plastic bulbs on the end. A thick yellow/pink fluid filled the tubes. They would need to take out the gauze that was in the opening; I had pictured in my mind the small roll the dentist has you bite on when you get a tooth pulled, I was wrong. The gauze that was stuffed inside Justin looked like two pairs of rolled up tube socks. Dr. Murray is touching, peering and says "It looks really good." I do not believe the gaping slash in his stomach looks good. Justin looks down. Horrified, he yells at the doctor, "that's not good, YOU CUT ME!"
*Note to parents: six year olds do not know what the word "incision" means*
They would leave the wounds open to heal from the inside out, letting the infection escape. Through all of this, Justin would only have one stitch. After seeing this and without the gauze, Justin was more timid in his movements. The tubes were still in, three tubes 6"-8" each wrapped up inside of him, irritated and tugged with his every movement.
Dr. Murray, was directing us from the surgeon's standpoint. "Try to get Justin up more, have him sit in a chair, have him walk, get him to eat." Dr. Hourigan, was cautious from the family doctor standpoint. "Don't get your hopes up, we are not out of the woods, I am concerned about his weight loss, hang in there." We were still hoping to go home Sunday. Justin still did not have a fever; his white blood count was elevated but not spiking, he still showed signs of inflammation, he was still on morphine and he had no appetite.
Each day of that week was also filled with many visitors, calls, texts and scheduling shifts to go home for a shower, a few moments of quiet, and some much needed time with our kids. Lane continued to sleep with one of his sisters, Dani was keeping things running, and the grandma's were at our call for anything we needed. We would see the sadness on people's faces when they would visit Justin; I would listen to the beeping of the machines so I wouldn't break down during those times. Darin had to witness the saddest littlest visitor of all. Justin's buddy, Jett and his mom came to visit. Hospitals are intimidating to a lot of people, for wild, rambunctious boys they are haunting. Jett came in and like so many others was overcome by sadness, words escaped him. He held on to his mama, tears filled the room.

The Other Pieces

There were so many other things that were going on at this same time; a few other pieces of the story that will make it complete.
*Dani had been away at college since August; we were all adjusting, things were different when she came home from Christmas. The minute I called her on that Sunday night, her heart was broken. She needed to be home she said, we convinced her to wait until Monday morning when we knew more. She packed, made class arrangements and her "sisters" at Pi Phi helped her get on the road. Having Dani home settled my "mom" brain, she knew everyone's routine, their activities, habits, and unique needs. She stepped in not because we asked but we needed her and she needed to be here with us.
*The time you spend with the hospital staff is brief, you don't learn a lot about the person but you do have a feeling when you meet and talk with them. Justin's favorite nurse was Jenny, she referred to herself as Ginormous, like the girl from the movie "Monsters vs Aliens" (she was not ginormous just tall!) Nurse Jenny was actually a nursing student, a young, single mom who will be a fabulous nurse because she is a fabulous person. We had days where we would have four-six nurses, two lab techs, two xray techs, two-three aides, housekeeping, the dietitian, two doctors, and other hospital staff. We learned that this was Justin's experience, he had fears and needs that we would have to verbalize for him. We learned it is ok to tell staff and guests when he needed to be alone, to come back later, to close the door, and when to say we needed assistance.
*If you need sleep, do not stay in a hospital. There is no difference between day and night, the same beepers, buzzers, poking and prodding go on 24/7. There is a chair that lies flat, if you can get it to fit between the hospital bed and the window, and stay out of the way of the I.V., sink, bedpan, and monitors.
*Twins are special. Unless you are one, you will never understand the bond. Lane was thrown into his own situation of loneliness and fear. He had never slept alone since conception, he had always had a wingman; now he was flying solo.
*We live and love in a Christian community. Matthew 22:36-40 "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Our "neighbors", friends and family of all religions showed their love to our family in so many ways during this time. We have forever been touched by this.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Monday passed quickly, we were so tired and everything that was happening was new. We were trying to understand everything that was being told to us and everything that was being done to Justin. We were meeting dozens of hospital staff and learning the routines of the hospital.
From this point on, days and nights would start to run together. Justin was sleeping most of the time. Now I realize that even when he was awake, the morphine was controlling him. We would get little rest in between the constant beeping of his monitors, blood draws, vital checks and Justin's occasional cries. Darin and I were making plans for work, the kids, going back and forth to home.
Early Tuesday morning, Dr. Hourigan came in to check on Justin. After a few minutes, he asked me to go into the hall with him. I was alone, not only was Darin not there, Dr. Warner was not there and I was feeling lost at what he would need to talk to me about.
Reality, Dr. Hourigan is a kind, knowledgeable man. He put his hand on my shoulder and explained to me the seriousness of Justin's condition.
Justin's appendix had burst, probably about 10-14 days before surgery. The infection had formed abscesses in his abdomen during that time; atleast one of the abscesses had also burst. His quick decent from "not feeling well" to Sunday night was actually a long battle his body had been fighting. Sunday's symptoms were the signs of his body shutting down from the massive amount of infection in his system. Dr. Hourigan's opinion was that on Sunday we were just a few hours away from having a different outcome. Justin was better, but we were a long way from being ok. We would watch his white blood count, the drainage tubes and his temperature very close for the next few days.
I was crushed, not only was I beyond scared for my baby but the guilt of not taking care of one of your children was beyond what I could take. The overwhelming burden of failure would and does linger; thankfully there was not time for that, we had to hold everything together for the rest of our family. And more than ever before we had to be Justin's voice in his healing process now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Part III

What I remember the most about the recovery room was how cold and empty it seemed. There was one nurse tending to Justin, another doing paperwork in the hall, Darin and myself. We were scared, we had never seen any of our kids so sick and lifeless looking.

There was one defining moment that changed a lot of things about us. In Darin's profession he has seen and will see more than most of us could ever handle or should have to see. He has always amazed me with his ability to handle the experiences of trauma and death he has witnessed. In that room, in a flash, all of reasoning was gone. He looked at Justin and saw not our little boy but another boy that he had given CPR to a few months before. At the time I didn't know what was going on, but I looked at Darin and could see he was not there with us, I was so scared he knew something about Justin that I could not see. It would be several days before I would know what Darin had seen this night; it would be several months before we could talk about the depth his experiences have affected him.

Justin was gray, sweaty, and restless; he had three open incisions, two had drain tubes coming out of him. He was still under anesthesia and they had given him morphine. His body was fighting a battle we did not fully understand.

We were finally taken to a hospital room around 4:00 a.m. Justin was incredibly unsettled, trying to pull the tubes out and get out of bed. That morning would start the routine of the hospital staff taking blood, checking the i.v., temperature, blood pressure, oxygen , tube drainage monitoring and pain medication. This first night we didn't sleep, by mid-morning Justin had finally settled and was in a medicated sleep. The day had started for us, as we had family and friends to keep updated, kids to keep organized, medical staff to talk to and Justin to pray with.
Our first discussions with the doctors were general information; mostly what a normal appendectomy surgery and recovery look like; a short surgery, small incision, possible hospital stay. So far we had not experienced any of that. The discussions would always end with a "but we are watching him closely because the appendix did rupture, let's see how his blood work is" The seriousness had not set in yet.

Sometime during that first morning I realized how lost we felt because Dr. Warner (our doctor for the last 19 years) had moved in December. Dr. Hourigan, who is in the same clinic has been Darin's physician, had agreed to take our entire family; little did he know what our first interaction would be like.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Part II

Emergency Room usually means a long wait without a lot of urgency.

This was not the case this time. Everyone was very attentive and compassionate with us on this night. I think they could sense the seriousness of the situation and yet see that we had not yet come to that realization.

I stated the facts to everyone we talked to: Justin did not have a fever, he was walking and alert this morning, he has never complained of pain, and now he was pale and not responding to us. In a blitz, he was given an i.v., poked, tested, measured, xrayed, had an ultrasound and then sent off for a ct scan. Right before the scan, a nurse told us they were looking for appendicitis. We were shocked, Justin had not complained of any kind of pain, or showed signs of pain. At the scan the tech was very quick to point out that the appendix had already burst, he then looked at us and said the surgery team was on their way.

In a matter of minutes, Justin was being prepared for surgery. Looking under the curtain in his room, we saw what would become a friendly sight to us...cowboy boots. Our surgeon, Dr. Murray, was not like any doctor I had met before. Not only was he 6'5" plus he was dressed in baggie jeans, a sweatshirt, and cowboy boots. The nurse was kind enough to reassure us that he was a good guy.

Justin was taken into emergency surgery around midnight. By now, we had called the rest of the family and was just asking that everyone sit tight, help take care of the kids and we would know more in the morning. The staff had said we should just wait in the e.r. waiting room and the surgery usually only takes thirty minutes to an hour.
Darin's friend, a Moses Lake officer, just happened to be in the e.r. on a case; he sat and visited with us to help keep our minds off of the situation. After three and a half hours, surgery was over and we were taken back to wait in the recovery room with Justin.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Part I

The weekend was fast approaching and we were so looking forward to it. Darin and I had planned a quick weekend get-away, we were going to Moscow for Saturday night, combining a trip to see Dani (I had not been to her house yet) with an extended date night.
Friday morning before school Justin comes in to our room and says "I don't feel good" followed by a quick trip to the bathroom to throw up. Let's just say throwing up at our house is not a big deal, it is a weekly occurrence. I stay home with him that day and he is mostly laying on the couch and throws up again later that day.
Saturday morning comes around and he is actually up and walking around, still says he doesn't feel that great, but still wanting to drink juice and watch cartoons. After a VERY lengthy discussion, we decide that I will still go up to Moscow with Katrina and her mom, Rhonda to visit Dani and come home first thing Sunday morning. Hopefully to be back before anyone else gets the "flu" that Justin has.
Sunday morning I talk to Darin, he says Justin is not feeling better and is laying around a lot more. By noon, I am back in Royal. Darin goes out to watch his favorite Vikings play in the football game as I get settled back at the house. After a little while, I notice Justin is just not "right". Having a little bit of experience with sick kids, I convinced myself he was dehydrated. He didn't have a fever and had lost interest in trying to eat or drink.
On a whim, I called the nurse hotline through our insurance, just to see if this was an emergency room run or take him to our regular doctor in the morning for dehydration. After a lot of questions, the nurse agrees that since he has no fever he is probably just run down from this flu. A final question she says, has he spit up anything that looks like coffee grounds? I said no and she replied good because that would mean he has internal bleeding.
Meanwhile I keep checking on Justin and he is becoming more and more lethargic. I call Darin and tell him I am taking Justin in, I can't wait until morning. He says he is on his way and we can go together. By the time Darin gets here, Justin is now somewhat unresponsive at times. I mention the nurse's question about coffee grounds to Darin, he stops and says well yes he did have a little of that this morning. Our hearts sink, we are on our way to the emergency room.