“Is he Autistic?”

Autistic

“Is he autistic? Is a question I get a lot. It is usually paired with a soft sad look and tilted head. These people have no idea how wonderful it is to have a child like John. Another autism mom wouldn’t even ask that question. They would just start sharing stories with me that I usually can relate to, like normal moms.

“That’s what they say. But, I’d be autistic too if I spent 8 years on a vent” Is usually my response. It really depends on the day with how I respond.  Some days I don’t want to deal with the follow up questions, “Why was he on a vent for 8yrs” “what was wrong with him, he looks fine”. Some days I do respond this way just so I can explain him out of his autism. Meanwhile, he sits chanting my name and pounding on something nearby.

In the ICU he is always autistic. I must answer for him, even though I don’t always need to. I must help him with toileting, dressing, eating and so on. Just as I do at home. But, when they start talking about sending him to the floor instead of discharging us from the ICU, that is when I say it, “he is autistic”.  I argue that he has to adapt to the change in environment again, get to know the nurses that will already be jumpy around him because of his medical history and how all that change will just be too hard on him. “Please please please discharge us from the ICU, you know me, I can handle this at home.” Is usually my last line.

Being discharged from the ICU versus the floor usually means we go home a day or two earlier.  It’s just one of the tricks of the trade that we learned in the last 12 years. Like when he was a baby he had MRSA colonized in his trach. Every time we went to the ER it was the first thing we mentioned. It meant we got a private room in the ER. MRSA is very dangerous if active and having him in the general population was not safe for others. We definitely took advantage of that. Having our own room meant quicker service and getting home or admitted sooner. Now that John is no longer MRSA we don’t enjoy that benefit when we go to the ER.

This hospital stay I am not even sure I want to argue about going to the floor. I just want out of this room. I’m thinking the floor might be the next stage in our life, a stage we may need to get used to. He is older, stronger and less critical medically. The ICU beds are full, they need the beds for others. As I write this we are here over 3 weeks. 4 children have passed away, one I know of from the flu. I can’t help but think that could be John. I need to get away from this energy that makes me feel sad and grateful at the same time. It’s like I am being pulled apart from both sides of my body, the pain goes right down the middle of my chest, the sadness lingers in my heart and the happiness is always on the edge trying not to show too much. I’m watching mothers and fathers leave here without their babies. Its emotionally and physically draining. I am so grateful that I do not know their pain. I am so grateful that I have my son with me.

Now If he would just eat his damn hot dog and stop chanting my name “Barbi, Barbi, barbi, barbi,  barbi…. I don’t want hot dog”. Thank God he’s alive!

 

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Every visit has a memory

Every visit has a memory

Worst night this time around…

Every time John has a hospital stay there is something horrible that happens that we will never forget.  The first 13-month stent has a bunch of bad memories.  Like the time they placed an IV in his head because they couldn’t find his veins, they were so narrow.  Or the time they called us into the hospital at 2am saying this might be it, we need to get in fast.  I remember the rooms we were in and the people standing there.  Their faces are a blur but I know how many people were standing around and what they were doing.  This time around I will never forget tonight 3/13/17.  John destated to the 40’s on his oxygen.  I haven’t seen him that blue since he was a baby.  The whole experience is making me question every decision I have made this trip to the ICU.  Nothing like a trip to the ICU to fester up that mother’s guilt.  What should I have done differently? Maybe I should have come sooner? You know, like any mother except my decisions are based on life and death.  Oh, the fucking pressure!!! No wonder I drank!

I think what keeps me from breaking down is the fact that Kevin is breaking down.  He can’t stand this and emotionally collapses.  I end up having to hold him up, talk him down and tell him everything will be all right.  Tonight, after he went home I wanted to cry. But, I didn’t because I had to take care of John, get him to sleep and make sure he got his meds.  Then, when he fell asleep I sent Kevin a text letting him know.  Kevin called me.  How grateful I am he calls me today.  He was crying saying this isn’t fair and how hard it is to see John like this.  I sit and listen, tell him I understand and recommend he takes a hot shower and sleep well tonight. But, don’t forget to say your prayers.  He agrees, calms down and we hang up.

It’s my insatiable need to be in control that prevents me from breaking down.  I need to be the one barking out orders and telling people what John likes and doesn’t like, making recommendations on what to do next, talking to the doctors. It’s my character defects working to my advantage. I’ve yet to see a parent sobbing while making medical plans with a doctor in the ICU. It just doesn’t work that way.  You hold your shit together and do what you need to do.

And you remember every single detail and pray that the next time it will work out the same way.  And when it doesn’t you panic inside but manage to brainstorm more ways to move forward. And each step you take forward there is a heart wrenching twist in your gut praying it works. When it does there is a victory dance in your stomach that is hard to explain. When it doesn’t it is like a loss, like you are one step closer to losing him.

People that cry

My son John has been in the hospital.  He has the flu which means he needs ventilator support and drugs that open his airway and more drugs to counter the side effects of those drugs.  It’s a vicious cycle with the drugs, scares me to think the damage it’s doing to his body.  But, extremely grateful for the good it does.  Wednesday and Thursday night I never left the hospital.  I closed the store Thursday night because no one could cover my shift.  The kids that work for me seem too busy to work at times between college, family and social obligations.  Friday morning, I had to go into the shop to clean a machine.  I figured while I was out I would catch lunch with Nora and her daughter Zoe. 

Zoe is a feisty, bossy little lady that is descend for great things.  She’s a princess on some days with her Frozen princess Ella dress and a regular little girl on other days with her Pajama wearing style. She loves to make people smile but she has to be fed first.  She’s a girl after my own heart.  Nora and I arrived at Fannies, our favorite BLT hot spot, at the same time.  She was walking from her car with little Zoe trotting beside her chatting while I crossed the street to meet them at the front door.  Something about Zoe’s spark made me emotional.  I started thinking about Johnny and how he loves to make people smile.  My heart was broken watching him struggle in the hospital.  The last three days he hasn’t smiled at all.  When Zoe seen me she walked right up to me and hugged my legs.  The top of her head reaches just above my knees.  Her skinny little arms grabbed hold of my knees and gave a big squeeze.  Then she looked up at me and handed me two stickers.  Nora explained that she wanted to share her stickers to make me happy while I am so sad. The water works came on so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and eat lunch. 

This scene lasted less than a minute but has forever been engraved in my mind.  It reminded me of my own childhood and how we dealt with tears and sadness.  As a child, if I saw someone cry I was like a deer in headlights.  I didn’t know what to do.  The thought of providing a sad person with a hug or pat on the back was completely awkward to me.  It still is sometimes today. 

My father never cried, other than when his mother died and my son was born. I believe the fact that he didn’t cry was a life accomplishment for him.  While my dad was dying from cancer I set up his bedroom in our living room, Sunshine Rehab he called it.  I was forced to enroll John back in school instead of homeschooling because I knew I couldn’t handle the pressures of caring for Dad and John at the same time.  The first day of John’s school I came home crying because I felt they didn’t want him there, I was almost 5years sober at this time so crying wasn’t a weakness anymore, it was my strength.  My dad just stared at me like a deer in headlights.  A few days later he confessed to me that when he seen me like that, crying and all, “I almost cried”.  Imagine that.  He said it like it was an accomplishment that he didn’t cry.  As if crying would have been a bad thing. 

The last time my dad cried was with me.  He told me he was sorry I had to go through this.  I asked, “This?  Go through what?”.  He said, “Having to watch me die. You had to watch your mother die and now you are watching me die and I’m sorry for that”.  I said, “Thank you for allowing me to be here to take care of you, I love you”. Then we cried with our foreheads touching each other. 

Dad said, “Im gonna miss you”

I said, “You’ll be gone, Im gonna miss you more”

And I do ❤