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The present is a gift… November 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 7:35 PM
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Every day starts out just another day. Upon waking you never think today will be the day your lover leaves you, your dog dies, your mother gets diagnosed with cancer, or your boss will hand you the pink slip. Sure, you might have an intuition or inkling. You can assume or plan ahead, and of course hindsight is always 20/20. But let’s face it, we have little control over the universe. Then add to the mix times that we slip off a stair and end up in a cast for four months, or nearly slice a thumb off making Chicken Tetrazzini. There’s just no planning for dumb luck. Regardless if the happenings of the day are big or small – we never know for sure what’s going to happen until it actually happens – and even then, fate can take a turn to prove us stone cold wrong.

A few weeks ago, my son complained of sore ribs on his left side. It’s no wonder really – the backpacks they carry weigh as much as they do. Between math books and metal water bottles filled to the rim, between indoor shoes and other odd stuff they cram in there – the backpacks render them turtled. They aren’t accustomed to traveling around with a house on their back like our slow-moving amphibian friends, but they’ve been burdened with this kind of baggage since junior kindergarten.  So I could only assume as he lumbered off the bus and trudged up the 400 foot driveway, he wrenched his back a bit and wound up with a sore side. After taking it easy over the weekend though, he still didn’t get any better.

I thought he was  milking it just to get Monday off school –which in my defence – is something he tries to do quite often. If he can get a day to hang out at home, go on a family day trip, or even sit around on the computer all day – he’s up for it. So when I sent him back to school Monday morning, I gave him a pep talk and an Advil and sent him on his way. Same deal Tuesday.  That day was a class trip – we went to the Barrie Film Festival to see “Being Kind” a documentary about bullying (that’s a whole other blog post). By the time the film was done, his Advil had worn off and Sam still wasn’t right – we needed to make the trip into the doctor to check on this rib pain situation.

Of course because I thought the doctor would confirm it was a pulled muscle and just tell him to take it easy, I took Sam out to lunch first (Mucho Burrito – his favourite – but of which he only ate a quarter of), then out to buy his Halloween costume (Harry Potter – which, by the way – he totally looks like with those little glasses on). We got into the doctor’s office and he did his stuff: listened, poked, prodded, pondered and x-rayed, then decided Sam had pneumonia.

Pneumonia? But – he wasn’t sick. Sure he wasn’t eating much,  was a bit more tired, had pain in his back and repeatedly tried to get out of school, but….damn it…he was sick. Cue the mother of the year award.

So Sam stayed home from school the rest of the week, took his antibiotics, and rested a lot. He didn’t eat, and hardly drank other than what I demanded he get down. Even dad bringing his favourite (Haagen-Dazs rocky road) didn’t do the trick.  The biggest tip-off that he was in fact sick was that he had no interest in his I-pod, computer games, music or TV. He did a lot of sleeping and a good share of staring out into space. By Friday I couldn’t keep his temperature managed below 103 even with Tylenol, so I took him back in to the doctor.

I didn’t expect him to say he needed to get over to emergency, and once there – I didn’t expect them to say he was being admitted and being hooked up to oxygen.  After more x-rays and ultrasounds I was shocked that they were admitting him for the night and moved him up to the pediatrics ward.  Even after he was settled in – oxygen tubs in nose, IV in place for fluids, and hooked up to monitors like a Christmas tree – I still was surprised to hear the doctor say he’d be there for the weekend at the very least, but that I should expect it to run into the next week.  Then Sam didn’t get any better. Then we were transferred to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

On transit to Sick KidsBut – he wasn’t sick!

Needless to say, I feel like a total dud of a mom. It’s bad enough that I didn’t see the signs, but – keepin’ it real here – I thought he was faking it in order to get out of school. Thought he was breathing short, rapid little breaths and flaring his nostrils to annoy me a little and convince me that he shouldn’t go back to class. I figured we’d be back to normal once the doctor gave him antibiotics.  I guess not.

The x-ray showed a scary, hazy mass over his complete left side – and his oxygen level was really low – which means he couldn’t breathe. Not faking at all…he really couldn’t breathe. They told me it would get worse because he had to rid his body of that congealed crap around his lungs by hacking it up – which is painful and exhausting, but is the only way out.  Unless of course they insert a chest tube – which is exactly what Sick Kids did. So, I set up camp on a hard-as-rock couch in his room and spent his wake-time reading aloud to him (his new one – The Son of Neptune). His sleep time I spent looking at his monitors and pouring my guilt out on the page – as I often do – to my loyal readers, who I know will have compassion for my lack of good judgement on this round of mommy-hood.  Pnemonia + pleurisy = scary stuff.

Damn, just when I was getting cocky that I ruled as super-mom.

When do the hard parts end? I hear the echo now…N-E-V-E-R –R–R!    I’ll blog later this week about our Sick Kids stay. Until then…hugs your kids.


22 Responses to “The present is a gift…”

  1. Dale Long Says:

    Noelle, don’t beat yourself up. Pneumonia is a stealthy beast and not something we normally associate with older children in the tail end of summer. It doesn’t always reveal it’s symptoms all at once. Add to that that kids either understate or overexagerate and we have to decypher it all.

    I am glad it all worked out and Sam is on the mend. Scary as all hell and definitely makes you look at things differently, but then you always looked at things differently 😉

    Glad to hear you voice again.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Only another writer could get the fact that at the very least it gave me writing material. 🙂

      Glad to have a voice again.

  2. Annie Says:

    Wow…just like Dale, I think you shouldn’t beat yourself up. No one could have known. How often my kids tried to stay home from school, complaining of some pain somewhere. It is common and I think many of us would have handled it the same way. I hope that all turns out fine and he will soon be eating Rocky Road ice cream and playing video games. Take care.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      We aren’t back to eating great yet – he lost ten pounds during the ordeal – but he is sitting before me today with his fingers flying across his I-Pod. Kids are resilient…they have great bounce. Thanks Annie.

  3. Cryssa Says:

    You need a HUGE hug! He’ll be fine. Don’t give up the supermom title , you certainly did nothing wrong.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      I’ll take the hug, thank you. As life gets back to normal – as my son feels better and starts fighting with his sister and making snide remarks – my guilt is fading…lol. One benefit of getting back to normal – the guilt is gone.

  4. Sherry Hinman Says:

    Noelle, this breaks my heart to read–for your son and for you. Nothing will take away your “mommy guilt,” but as a mom with a son who has medical problems, I can tell you I would have reacted in EXACTLY the way you did. I hope, in your private moments, you can call yourself Supermom, because, of course, you absolutely are.

    I’ve always said it: parenting is by far the hardest job I’ve ever done. Nothing prepares you, eh? I hope your son keeps getting better quickly. Thanks for sharing your story, Noelle.
    Sherry Hinman

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Thanks, Sherry. Parenting is the hardest job by far. As I mentioned in another comment, this experience has opened my eyes to parents who go through this not as a crisis, but as part of their regular lives. I can’t imagine how you find the strength, but if you could bottle the formula, you’d be rich.

  5. Guilt – comes with the roll of being a mother Noelle, it’s intrinsic in our nature. You will beat yourself up about this one until you’re 84, maybe longer. At some point in his teenage years (probably when you won’t let him borrow the car) Sam will say: “Remember when you almost let me DIE mum?” You’ll hand him the keys and an extra $50 for gas. At that moment in time, remember this!!!

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Guilt and manipulation – it comes with their inner training manual I guess. I’ll take your advice and tuck it in my memory pocket!

  6. Thankfully, we’ve only been there once with our kids, and that was a scary time, but Noelle, like all the others have said, you couldn’t have known. This stuff creeps up on the child and they don’t always adequately explain the issue. Add to the fact that you’ve likely allowed them to stay home before because they “felt sick” and they were bouncing off the walls by 10:30 (God knows I’ve fallen for that one many a time). So there’s a history of healthy (pardon the pun) skepticism there as well.

    I also know there was a time when I, as a fully grown 25-year-old, felt a “little sick” and went and got some antibiotics. By the end of the second week, my mother called me, didn’t recognize my voice and I essentially had no idea what I was doing or where I was. She drove three and a half hours to find me so sick that all I could tell her is I just wanted to die.

    I only remember much of this because she described it all back to me later and it jibed with the hazy memories I have. So if a fully grown adult can not even know when they’re getting that sick, how can a child…or their parents?

    What matters is the end. He’s fine. You spent the entire time with him being a good mom. That’s what he’s going to remember. And it’s what you should remember too.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Thanks Tobin. This whole thing gives me an amazing amount of respect for parents of chronically ill or disabled children – my god, how do they do it? A huge, shiny, sparkly medal needs to go to all of those parents.

      My kids are fighting like crazy today, so things are officially back to normal.

  7. Noelle. I’m so glad to hear Sam is on the mend. That is scary stuff. And damn it all, my kids have cried wolf enough times that I’ve questioned myself too.

    But, your mom instincts gave you a solid kick on Tuesday, right when they needed to – when there was still time to go through several bed transfers. You’re toes inched up to a very thin line, but they didn’t slide over.

    Hugs to all for the stress, the illness and recovery from both.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Kids crying wolf…we never did that as children, right? I probably can’t get away with that fib considering my mom reads this blog…lol.

  8. Lisa Llamrei Says:

    What everybody else said. Don’t beat yourself up about not noticing right away. When my infant had meningitis, I knew something was off, but I thought it was just a mild fever. A registered nurse looked her over and said it was nothing to worry about. If medical personnel can miss things, how can parents be expected to know what’s going on?

    The important thing is that once you knew, you were there. You never left his side. You held it together for him when I’m sure all you wanted to do was collapse on the floor. In my book, that puts you in the running for mother of the year.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Thank you. My son thanked me no less than half a dozen times for staying with him the whole time. (truth be told, he got jittery if I took more than 15 minutes to get a tea from downstairs). It was scary for him for sure, and I felt bad for the little ones (and bigger ones) who didn’t have parents by their side. It was a wakeup call for me to be thankful that I have the resources and support that I do have in order to drop out of life to be there with him. Glad we are home and settled now!

  9. Dave Jones Says:

    Wow. I’m with the others but ya know what shook me? The ambulance picture. Hard to picture one of your kids being loaded into one. Scary.

    Noelle, you’re a good Mom; maybe Super even.

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      I’ll take super, thank you. Yes – watching him get loaded into the back of the ambulance was surreal. Each moment of the whole hospital situation a weird dream acutually. Weird and scary indeed.

  10. deepamwadds Says:

    You ARE a good mom. Trying to determine whether one’s child is crying wolf requires the skills of a high-level detective. With the symptoms you describe, how could you possibly know? I am so relieved and happy that he is home now and recovering… as is the entire family, I’m sure.
    What an incredible story… I can’t imagine the roller coaster of emotion and stress. Welcome back to earth.

  11. Janet Boccone Says:

    There is NOTHING like “mother’s guilt.” I’ve felt it on more occasions than I want to admit. And if you asked me, I could recount every single time I “failed” as a mother and felt that horrible feeling that starts with the lump in your throat, passes through the ache in your heart and rests in the pit of your stomach. Be kind to yourself. xoxo

    • Noelle Bickle Says:

      Well, someone has to be the excuse in future therapy, right? Trying to be kind – slept in until a ridiculous 10 am today!

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