Turns out my instincts were right after all. He did have something very wrong with his leg, and there wasn't an accident or something that I missed.
The story starts Thursday night. He started limping again and complaining that he was sore. Since the ER had said it was probably a muscle strain and they could do nothing we decided on Friday to call and make an appointment with a chiropractor. The appointment was set for Tuesday. But by Saturday morning it was still sore and we thought it seemed more serious than just a muscle pain. So we took him to the walk in clinic.
A few hours of chasing incredibly ansty kids around the waiting room later and an uncomfortable blood test later we were sent home with a prescription for amoxycilin.
By Sunday he couldn't bare weight on it and it was swelling and red and hot and he was getting fevers which came and went. We watched him carefully all day and by evening we decided it was just getting worse, so we took him in to the ER.
ER was busy. Zoe and busy ER waiting rooms don't go well together, so we learned. We got there at 6.30 pm and he was finally taken through to be seen at 9pm. In the interim Zoe had crawled under chairs, messed with people's catheters, ran out the front doors, jumped off of tables, upturned tables, climbed up walls, rattled door handles, pulled emergency cables in the bathroom, screamed her head off and continuously bolted down the hospital corridor. She is much faster than her fat, unfit mother and it must be highly amusing to watch me flop around with a red frustrated face while I do my very darnest to run as fast as I can down this very long corridor, reaching my hand out in front of me, inches away from catching her, Zoe flying a couple paces ahead of me with a look of utter excitement and laughing an evil laugh, soaking up the thrill of the chase all the while.
When they called "Glenn" at 9pm we were so relieved. Rene had the privilege of remaining with the 3 girls in the waiting room while I sat in the chair in the ER ward with a sleeping baby, waiting for the Drs to come. They did some more xrays and took some more blood, then at midnight they told us we'd have to transfer to the ER at the Children's hospital in Omaha. I was a little shocked to be honest.
We carted 3 exhausted, hungry (hadn't had supper), confused kids in the car and started our 75 minute journey into Omaha. When we got there, Rene sat with the girls in the waiting room again, but this time they were all sleeping and it was much easier!! By 4am we were admitted and the other half of my family went to spend the night in the rainbow house nearby.
Turns out he has a violent bacterial infection in his knee. They were concerned that it had been going on for 3 weeks and one major worry was that he'd have permanent damage to his cartilage. Monday afternoon he went under general anesthetic and they did an MRI on his tissue and then cut open his knee to remove as much pus as they could and then inserted a drainage tube.
Rene and the kids were back in Lincoln gathering some supplies. He had the day off on Monday but his PTO is all used up. So we knew he'd have to return to work. I was hoping at first that this would be like an outpatient thing, they'd drain it then send us home. I sat in the waiting room while he had the surgery. I haven't felt so alone in a long time. I am used to constantly having a huge to do list with usually 4-5 things on that list at any given time that are of utmost urgency, or at least appear that way to young children. I am used to always having a sock to pick up or a drink to pour or a bum to wipe or someone who needs a hug or a fight to break up or a spilled box of cereal to sweep up...you get the picture.
Suddenly my girls weren't there. My soul mate wasn't there. And my boy was being cut open. He had been poked and prodded so much by this point and had looked up at me with begging eyes while men and women with coats poked and prodded and hurt him, and we were both starting to grow slightly desensitized to that palaver. They had given him a relaxant before they took him away and it made him "drunk". He gazed up at me and laughed his head off. His laughter was contagious. He had no idea what was about to happen to him and my laughter was accompanied by involuntary tears. But his giggling, happy, woozy face was beautiful. And then I had to walk away. Walk away from my handsome, little, euphoric comedian, walk through the double doors, around the corner down the elevator and into a waiting room and sit. And wait. There was a TV on which irritated me, so I sat at the other side of the room, with a fish tank and I made many cups of coffee (Yes, I hate coffee, but I was tired and I needed something to mess with) and watched the fish and tried to let my mind go numb. I heard other families talk about the horrible things they are going through with their kids' long term conditions and I was so thankful that this is not as serious. And I was in awe at their strength. They all talked so matter of fact while their kids were in surgery for the umpteenth time and here I felt like the lonliness and fear and lack of control in this situation was crushing my lungs.
I paced the floor a couple of times in the few hours I was down there, but mostly, I just sat and watched the fish. I prayed. And I waited. And then the surgeon came to talk to me. He took me into the little room and explained how the procedure went. They think they got all the pus but they are not sure, there are some pockets left. I stared into the surgeon's clear eyes while he explained it to me in a velvety, hypnotic voice and I nodded. It all seemed to make sense. We won't be certain for a while, but it looks as though there is no cartilage damage. That's very good news. There were excessive amounts of white blood cells and the infection looks aggressive. They are suspicious it might be STAPH/MRSA (superbug) but it might possibly be kingella. It will take a few days to get cultures back until we know for certain, so we will treat for both just now. I flinched a little at hearing MRSA. I nodded and took it all in and figured I'd deal with the emotion aspect later on, when I'm alone again. Suddenly I really wanted to be alone. He continued speaking about plans of action and technicalities that I tried to grasp but the words were flying all over the place by now and my internal dialog was getting obnoxiously loud.
And then he said, "so he'll be staying here for 4-5 days minimum, ok?". My cool, calm, monotone "OK" was automatic but came out so fast and forcedly that it was obviously a lie. I was not ok. My head started to spin and the previous night's lack of sleep all hit me at once. The room was very bright and I was suddenly aware of the rhythm of my heart pounding through my chest. I focussed all my energy on getting through the rest of the conversation. Just make it through this discussion without looking like a fool. I couldn't really hear anything else he said. He got up and held to door for me. I thanked him and walked towards to box of tissues on the desk at the other side of the room. As soon as I had taken 3 steps the tears started rolling, silently. I felt eyes burning into me from all over the waiting room. Eyes of parents who are going through far worse than we are, and are holding it together much better than I am. I finally made it to the tissues, forcing my gullet to be silent and putting my energy into keeping my lungs from heaving. The box was empty. "There's another box over there maam", said the Dad who was waiting to hear if his daughter has Cycstic Fibrosis. "Keep it in perspective Niecey", I told myself.
I grabbed a handful of tissues from the other box and bolted to the ladies room where I cried my eyes out. The kind of cry that feels like an abdominal work out. It's not just from the eyes or the lungs. The kind of cry that makes other people in the ladies room wonder what the heck is going on in there. The kind of cry that leaves your eyes looking like someone removed them, dropped them in acid for a few minutes them put them back in place and it takes at least an hour before they go back to their normal color. I cried and I contemplated who we could ask to look after my girls while Rene was at work. I imagined them going to bed without their customary kisses and cuddles and stories from Mum. I asked God to help me get through the next 4-5 days only seeing my beautiful girls for 1-2 hours in the evening. Then I toughened myself up and committed to just coping with this an hour at a time.
And that's where we're at now. The kids are with our awesome, amazing neighbor through the day, then Daddy picks them up, grabs supper and comes out to see us for about 1.5 hours before heading home and crashing out. Everyone is tired. We are still waiting for cultures to see if this is MRSA or not. He is in isolation here, so everyone has to wear masks and vests. They are going to put a PICC IV in him, but haven't been able to get his temp low enough to do it yet. And he might need another MRI and drainage surgery tomorrow.
Ever since we turned the calendar page to February, Zoe has been counting down the days until her birthday. She had the order of events all planned out and told me about it multiple times a day. "I will wake up then open my pwesents. Then we going to a pirate show, then we can come home and have Strawberry Shortcake cake with Strawberry Shortcake and Custard and Friends and a rock." She's been so excited and I've been playing it up big time too. I wanted to make a huge deal out of it to help her know how special she is to me. And now I might not even be there. She turns 3 on Sunday. We are considering postponing her birthday without letting her know. I'm not sure ethically how that would sit....
I miss them so badly, I long to be running around pulling my hair out over Zoe and her mischief. It drives me wild sometimes, but the girls are my life.
Turtle is in very high spirits today. They took him off fluids because he's keeping foods down and he's no longer on all the monitors. If he gets the surgery again tomorrow he'll be hooked up to everything again, but for now he's free and I can hold him and feed him. He has a huge cast thing on his leg so it's awkward, but it's not hurting him too bad. And we're just waiting. Waiting to find out which bacteria it is for sure. Waiting to see if the treatment is working or if the bacteria is spreading. Waiting to see when we get to go home.
Prayers would be much appreciated. They are not too worried about him, he's certainly not in critical care. But it could get serious. It's aggressive and they are treating it aggressively. Specifically I'd love prayers that the antibiotics will work, that he won't have any more fever today so he can get the PICC line in tomorrow (otherwise they have to wait and each day means an extra day we have to stay here), that I will be able to handle the hospital stay, emotionally and that Rene and the girls will be happy and sleep well.
Thanks for reading this. I mostly typed it up for my own benefit. To help me process it. I see so many sick kids around me and I am reminded how blessed we are to have the health we have. I hate missing the girls and I hate seeing my poor boy as helpless as he is here.
But we'll get through. He's a tough kid, and has such a gentle spirit. It will help him heal. And so will the prayers and the love. I am not leaving his side.