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Children’s Hospital Emergency Services Visit

Cinco de Mayo, a Super Moon and an ER Visit

Ever heard of a “SuperMoon?” Don’t feel astronomically challenged if you have not, over forty years old and I am just now hearing of this myself. In short, a “SuperMoon” is a term used to signify when the Moon appears to be closest to Earth. This past May fifth was one such astrological event and what I thought would be a fun Saturday night star and moon gazing activity with Kim and the kids but my good intentions turned eerily disastrous.

I’ll have to rewind the story to earlier in day… Not too far back tho… Early evening, I had mixed up a frozen batch of margaritas, it was Cinco de Mayo after all, and I had mentioned to Kim the coincidental fact that a super moon and the traditional south of the border springtime celebration coincided. (I’m not sure the history of Cinco de Mayo. Perhaps Mexico’s independence day? What I am sure of tho is that on this day we drink margaritas and eat Mexican cuisine). A plan was hatched to enjoy a couple frozen beverages, down a few tacos, dust off the telescope and find the binoculars for a fun night of sky watching. Harmless, right?

Around 8:30pm I scouted for the best spot to set up the telescope. The luminescent glow of a big bright moon was breaking the horizon line behind a row of tall trees directly across the cul-du-sac from our house. Attempting to find a decent lunar gazing location was frustrating, finding a clear shot of the ascending moon was impossible and it would take at least thirty to forty minutes for the moon to rise above the trees.

Higher ground is what we needed and I told the family that we must walk up the street to the elementary school for a clear unobstructed view, (ie, I begged Kim). Mobilizing quickly, the kids stayed in their pajamas and flash-like found flashlights. I cautiously disassembled the telescope and gently placed it in our green and red Little Tykes wagon with Sophie who was playing flashlight tag, my face being her target. Everyone except Hailey was excited for our sky watching expedition. She sometimes has issues with unanticipated change of plans, her main complaints being that she was in her nightgown and didn’t want to walk up the ‘big’ hill to the school. She had many other grievances as we marched toward our destination and I’m not even sure what those grumblings were; I let her cries drown in the bask of an ever brightening moon-lit sky.

Keeping track? It is now 9pm, we have four tired (one incendiary) yet excited little girls, a gargantuan full moon, Kim and I had consumed a pitcher of frozen Margaritas. What could possibly go wrong?

With flashlights brazened, we trudged up the “big” hill, (something we do almost every school day morning) to a steep narrow staircase that leads to a side entrance of the elementary school grounds. As we crested the last cement step the SuperMoon came into full view and it was strikingly magnificent.

Olivia (8) was fascinated, pressuring me to immediately get the telescope setup and I hastily chose a dark location, (better for viewing stars, but not so great for watching children) right behind the school at the apex of three terraced fields. Hailey (7) and Kim coldly bickered. Elizabeth (4) blasted into an elliptical orbit around Olivia and me while I was focusing the telescope on the oversized moon and in her exuberance she inadvertently enticed Sophie (2) from the Little Tykes wagon to join her in ring-around-the-telescope. Worried that the two little rockets would de-orbit and crash-land into the telescope I informed them that they were in a no-fly-zone and to jet “over there” gesturing with wave of my hand to a non-descript location.

In an instant, it happened: I had focused the moon into view and was making a slight adjustment for Olivia to have her first look. Hailey and Kim were still squabbling. Elizabeth darted down a steep shadowy incline that abruptly ends at a three foot retaining wall which drops down onto a black asphalt playground. Kim had hollered at Elizabeth as she was in mid-sprint down the hillside, “Elizabeth! Get back up here now!” Indifferent to Kim’s clear direction, Elizabeth defiantly did not stop, lunar crazed she kept on running down the hill with Sophie following closely in her contrail. Even with the reflective light of the massive moon they were both essentially flying blind. Elizabeth instantaneously stopped directly on top of the retaining wall, however Sophie did not stop and careened off the top of the wall disappearing into the darkness.

Silence, for a brief moment, frozen, for a split second and then an ear-splitting wail. My feet grew wings and carried me swiftly to Sophie. The crying was a good sign but she laid on the blacktop in a crumpled heap. I approached her cautiously reminding myself not to instantly scoop her up knowing that I could damage her little body even worse. She lay motionless for a minute and her cries were felt throughout the neighborhood. Rapidly scanning her body I couldn’t see anything dreadful although even with the radiant moonlight, it was too dark to see. She reached up for me and slowly drew herself into my arms. As she cuddled closer I softly felt her entire body for any breaks and gingerly carried her to the meager glow of the outdoor light fixture above the back door to the school. Using one of the kids flashlights, I noticed right away a large goose egg forming on her forehead, both elbows badly scraped up and her knees a bit scuffed. Intensely scrutinizing Sophies injured little body, if anyone had been talking to me I didn’t notice or acknowledge. I’m not even sure that I explained what my intentions or plans were to Kim or the kids, I didn’t speak a word, they instinctively followed my lead.

With Sophie cradled in a one arm football hold, I picked up the telescope, threw it into the wagon and pulled it behind me. “I got this. I got this.” Kim was trying to tell me she would tend to the wagon, but we still needed to get down the steep staircase so I pulled the wagons’ front two wheels over lip of the first step and waited for Kim to pick up the rear and we carried the wagon down the steps in silence listening to our baby scream.

Briskly walking home I still hadn’t said a word.  Sophie’s cries remained a constant ear shattering high pitch. Rapid fire questions from the kids were being ignored, “Will she be ok? Is she hurt? Is she bleeding? Does she have a broken bone? Etc. Etc. Etc.  I wanted to scream, “I don’t F-ing know! Shut the F-up!” Instead I bit my lip. The short walk back home felt like one of those dreams where you are running as fast as you can but going absolutely nowhere. Then Elizabeth asked, “what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened! Someone didn’t listen to their mother and now Sophie will probably have to go to the Hospital!” I regretted saying this as the words involuntarily exploded out of my mouth because at that moment, Elizabeth bared the blame and her older sisters let her know this too. “Yea Elizabeth, its all your fault Sophie got hurt!” Oye, sometime I say the worst things at the wrong times and this was definitely one of those moments. Elizabeth hung her head and slowed her pace. I wanted to tell her it was not her fault that Sophie fell, yet that would have to wait because I needed more than a flashlight to examine Sophie’s injuries.

Once home Kim and I quickly determined that an ER visit would be wise. Utilizing a couple stretchy hair/head band thingys I secured an ice pack to Sophie’s swollen head, made sure I had my ID and insurance card then strapped her into the five-point safety car seat. She was bewildered and crying but not as vocally. Before departing for the hospital, I talked to Elizabeth and told her again that what happened was not her fault, however by the look of regret and sadness in her eyes, our brief chat didn’t matter, she felt responsible and worried about her baby sister.

Hospitals are second nature to me; hockey injuries, childbirths, surgeries, illnesses, etc. I have plenty of expertise with emergency rooms although this was the first ER visit for any of my children. Fortunately, our home sits within a five mile radius of at least a half a dozen hospitals .Smartly, I chose (ie, Kim directed me) the children’s emergency room at the hospital where Sophie was born. Her medical information was already in the computer system which expedited the admitting process. All that I had to do before she could see a doctor was to fill out one standard medical history form, show my ID and insurance card.

This was my first experience with a Pediatric Emergency Center and the Children’s ER at St. John’s was great. The staff was quick and friendly however I was asked the same questions from the admitting attendant, the head nurse, Sophie’s nurse, an anesthesiologist and the physician. “Explain what happened?” ‘Umm… parental negligence.’ “Did she loose consciences?” ‘Umm… I almost did.’ “Did she vomit?” ‘Umm… pretty sure my wife hurled when she saw our baby disappear over a wall or maybe it was when she saw this nasty lump growing on her forehead.’

The doctor was confident that Sophie was going to be alright. The scrapes on her elbows indicated that she shielded herself and deflected some of the impact. “Better out than in,” is what the Doc said about the swollen bump on her head and “Better in then out,” regarding our taco dinner. No x-ray, no MRI, no CT scan. The prescription; Ice for the contusion on her noggin and elbows, ib profane for the pain and  polysporin for the abrasions. We were at the children’s ER for almost three hours, it was around midnight and before we departed Sophie was her inquisitive self again, playing with the toys and games that were available to us.

Kim was still awake when we arrived home from the hospital and overwhelmingly relieved to hear the optimistic prognosis. One odd coincidence tho; Elizabeth had vomited a few times while Sophie and I were at the pediatric emergency center. Strange, was Elizabeth sickened with grief? Or was it a metaphysical ‘twin-like’ sibling connection where the side effects of the accident transposed from one sibling to the other? I believe the former rather than the latter, although it was an ominously monster sized full moon and perhaps there is something supernatural about a SuperMoon.

 

Outpatient Surgery at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis – Department of Otolaryngology Pediatric

Hailey, almost five, needed a new set of ear-tubes and her adenoids removed at the request of ENT specialist Dr. Lieu, (Department of Otolaryngology-Pediatric). Hailey has toughed out five years of constant fluid trapped in her middle ears (even with first set of tubes) and countless infections, we’re hoping the procedure will help alleviate constant pain and sensitivity issues also prevent any long term hearing loss.

Extremely kid-friendly, Children’s Hospital in St. Louis is a great facility with the best care around. Dr. Lieu’s office is located at the hospital and between Olivia and Hailey, this would make our fourth out-patient procedure, so we have frequented “Children’s” many times prior to this, but nothing in our experience would have or could have prepared us for (although we should have expected), Hailey’s difficult recovery, I’ll get to that soon.

Kim had all the paperwork completed before our arrival so checking in was a snap. We just need to show picture ID’s and insurance card at the reception desk where a concierge was waiting to take us up to the surgical center. We were immediately placed into a spacious “family” room down the hall from the operating room where we waited for Hailey to be called. We did have a couple hours to wait too, luckily the room had cable TV, DVD, and a playstation. Right outside our room was a play area loaded with games, puzzles, books and non-messy art supplies. Hailey and Kim played Guess Who? Then it was time to send Hailey to the OR.

Dr. Lieu came in to see us right before the surgery and apologized for the wait. Dr. Lieu is highly personable and genuinely interested in her paitents health. Five plus years ago when searching for an ENT, Kim and I were lucky to have found Dr. Lieu from a pool of (in my opinion) mediocre doctors that were in our (then) insurance network and we did a few interviews too.

The cartoon print scrubs gurneyed Hailey off to the operating room, bravely she went, not looking back as Kim held in a tear. Kim and I went back to the room until they called us to the recovery area which only took an hour. I had some phone calls to make so the time went by quickly.

Approaching the recovery area we could hear Hailey shouting, “The medicine made me sick! I want to go home right now!” over and over again. She was surrounded by four attendants and thrashing around when we arrived. The fact that Kim and I showed up only made her scream louder, “Take me home right now! The medicine made me sick! I want to go home now!” I’m pretty sure the nurse administered (and I wasn’t rejecting) a sedative into Hailey’s IV more than one time over the course of a thirty minute Hailey scream feast, something I am used too, but probably nothing the nurses or techs had anticipated. A few surprised passer-byers gave us the look of ‘can’t you control your child?’ a few others gave us the look of ‘been there and glad it ain’t me’.  At one point, the stubby attending nurse told Hailey that she needed to try and be quiet because she was scaring all the other children, which I didn’t appreciate her saying to Hailey at that point in time. Hailey moved from the gurney to Kim’s arms where she shrieked and wailed “I told you blueberry! The strawberry medicine made me sick! It’s in my mouth! I can’t hear! Take me home now! I don’t like this! Etc…” for another twenty minutes before she finally started to calm down enough for the recovery team to get her out of their hair. Once back in the room Hailey cuddled up with me for a few more ear splitting cry’s and the nurses shut our door on us. Kim and I half-laughed at that and I added “well we should have expected this, [from Hailey].”

Hailey crashed in my arms for an hour or so then woke up vomiting on my lap which was no surprise and normal, (well, did not expect throw-up on me). She swallowed some apple juice which made an immediate return. Slept a bit more, then woke up and stomached half a 20oz bottle of grape Power Aid for a good amount of time. At this point we were ready to go, Hailey was calm enough to say that she was feeling better and wanted to go home and sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed. Kim had signed the release paperwork and picked up a couple prescriptions from the hospital’s pharmacy earlier while Hailey slept in my arms. I Hoisted up Hailey to leave when she vomited all over me again, this time on my shoulder and inside my shirt pocket where I had stashed my ID, insurance card and validated parking pass. I took off my button down and walked her out in crew neck t-shirt. The stuff on my pants had long dried.  She also hurled waiting for the elevator, lucky for the janitors she made it to the trash can. Kim and I were about to turn around and go back to the nurses station and ask to be re-admitted waiting out any further vomiting but from past experiences, we knew that this was just part of the process, figuring she would be ok soon and we were right. Hailey fell asleep on the ride home, slept even more once we got home, had no more stomach problems and woke up the next day feeling as if nothing even happened.

Lesson Learned:
1. Have all paperwork complete and sent to hospital before the day of surgery.
2. Get the kiddo familiar with hospital prior to day of surgery (most hospitals do tours).
3. Keep photo ID and insurance card handy.
4. Get parking validated.
5. Expect your kiddo to be disoriented after surgery and expect vomit.
6. Bring extra clothes for kiddo (and self).
7. Bring work or activity to fill an hour or two for yourself and spouse.
8. Have vomit bag ready for car ride home.
9. Kiddo will sleep a lot the rest of day and next.
10. Have quiet low energy activities planned the next couple days.

Good Sister Awards – Parenting Tip for Sibling Rivalry

If being mean spirited to your sister was an olympic sport then my girls would take the gold, silver and possibly the bronze. Expecting arguments and bickering, they aren’t immune to disagreements, but lately the hurtful things my children have been saying to each other, truthful or not, needs to be addressed and nullified. Yesterday, a Daddy Day, the teasing, squabbling and screaming eclipsed to the point where I wanted to say, “If you tell her three times to stop and she doesn’t stop then go ahead and hit her.” I’m not even sure what that specific issue was about, but I was not interested in solving every tiny argument between Olivia and Hailey, I was looking for a solution to the main problem which I might have solved or I may have made the problem worse, probably made it worse, you tell me.

The sibling rivalry between Olivia and Hailey is severe. Nothing Hailey does measures up to Olivia’s expectations. Hailey’s artwork is “worthless scribble scrabble.” Or, Hailey “doesn’t even know that.” Or “Hailey’s not even good at that.” Attempting to belittle Hailey’s accomplishments, Olivia feels more important and smarter about herself. I have tried to explain to her that this is a bad thing, “Making her feel bad doesn’t make you feel good.” It drives me crazy because among many things Hailey is quick minded and anticipates what is expected of her. And god forbid, if I ever try to praise Hailey for something, without Olivia whining, “What about me!? I am too!? or I did that too!? or I’m good too!?” And Olivia gets plenty of credit and praise when it is deserved. She just can’t stand to see Hailey succeed at anything.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not all Olivia, because Hailey can be just as mean to her sisters too, “I’m never going to play with you!” is her signature threat when she doesn’t get her way. Or storming off to her room to sulk when she doesn’t win or is losing at a game. Or screaming point blank in Elizabeth’s or Olivia’s face not to take her stuff. Or Hailey shaking her tooshie and teasing Olivia, to the tune of naner-naner boo-boo’s, “I have a play-date and you are a poopy-head.” Hailey’s raspberry song has been rattling around up there for a day or so.

Elizabeth is competing with her two older sisters too. For instance she jockey’s for a seat in Kim’s lap during story time throwing elbows to get the most comfortable spot. She complains at the dinner table feeling left out of conversations and tonight swiped the last pear slice from Olivia gloating as she gobbled it up. She can’t share or take turns with any of her six or seven prized baby dolls. But I guess this is all normal for a one year old.

After a busy daddy day morning of refereeing I had devised a rudimentary plan; use my princess’s competitive nature to enlighten them in good sisterhood skills. My bright idea: ‘Good Sister Awards’ and the timing could not have been better because as I was hashing out PB&Js for lunch Olivia noticed an Elmo cup at the top of her place setting. A simple mistake on my part really, because for the past year anything sesame street has been unacceptable, “that’s for babies” I should have known by the disdain for sesame street, except for when the show is actually playing, not to set the Elmo cup anywhere near Olivia and she whined and complained about the cup. I told her, “it is a cup with your water in it” she persisted and I replied, “you git what you git, and you don’t throw a fit.” Hailey joining chorus on the last part.

Olivia kept going on and on about the Elmo cup. I repeated “no” a half a dozen times, each “no” pushing me closer to going Alec Baldwin on her. I considered that for a split second before deciding to cave-in and offer her the opportunity to pick her own cup when suddenly Hailey volunteered to switch cups. The parenting gods had chosen this moment to merit the first “Good sister Award” right there on the spot to Hailey for her unselfishness and she was proud of herself. And what does Olivia do? She fusses, “What about me… I’m a good sister too?”

“Show me, don’t tell me.” I replied to Olivia which spurred her to break her string cheese precisely in half to share with Hailey. “That deserves a good sister award” I said finally pleasing her. During lunch we discussed how we were going to track the awards and came up with a plan to fill decorated plastic jars with ‘good sister award chips’. Then those chips could be cashed in for special prizes.

Good idea?  I’m not so sure yet myself, it may be a bit too competitive in nature, I’ll let you know how this one turns out.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

For every hundred failures one successful idea will prevail. About a year ago I had one of those successes. It is a great parenting tip and I want to share.

Contained within a dryly PhD written child development book which I can’t remember the title, I found an interesting factoid that stood out; three out of every four teenage girls has an unsatisfactory self image. When I read this I could see truth in that. Of course the professional child psychiatrist who recorded that fact had no solution to combat the ugly trend, pointing to external cultural influences as the cause.

That gloomy stat slowly began to creep up on my girls, In photographs Olivia would mimic cover model’s expressions that she’d seen from Glamour mags while waiting in line at the supermarket, Hailey started using words like “fat” or “ugly” to describe other people and Olivia desired to wear clothing emulating teenyboppers. Pop culture was stealing my children’s innocence. It was only a matter of time before Olivia’s and Hailey’s own inadequacies bound them into a suffocating comma of self doubt and uncertainty. I had to find a solid method to instill confidence in my young princesses and repel the damaging tide of filth spewing from every direction. That method came from another book. A book that I do remember: Get Real Get Rich by Farrah Gray, an inspirational read about a south-side Chicago kid who grew out of poverty to become wealthy in more ways than monetarily. Somewhere in that book I came across a confidence builder that worked for the author; looking in the mirror and reciting self affirmations. Yup, the perfect remedy to instill self-confidence in my girls.

Close to a year ago I got my girls into the habit of saying something nice about themselves or something that they are good at when they stood in front of the mirror while getting ready for preschool. Now, anytime they step in front of a mirror they automatically have something positive to say (or think) about themselves and both Olivia and Hailey appear to be more self assured, upbeat and less hypnotized by our glamified culture.

I can tell them a bazillion times (and I do) that they are beautiful or intelligent or good at something not making a dent in their psyche. However when they have convinced themselves that they are good or pretty or smart, a noticeable internal foundation of confidence is clearly evident. In three or five or ten or twenty years will my girls turn out to be overly confident even conceited? Maybe, but it’s better than the alternative.

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