Monday, March 17, 2014

Hope in the Midst of Crisis: Chemical Burns & Children's Hospital

Hope. Crisis. Heartbreak. Hope. Chemical burns. Hope. Catharsis. Hope. 

Children's Hospital. Columbus Ohio. Burn Unit. Room B531. The corner of 18th Ave & Livingston Avenue..... actually, in reality we are together here in our little cubicle, the three of us, granddaughter, mother, grandmother, closer to the corner of Livingston Avenue and Parsons Avenue. What's with all of these 'avenues'? Avenue sounds rather grand. Even Grande! Hardly descriptive of this actual neighborhood. I digress. I don't really want to get to the beginning of the story. 

Our window-to-the-world looks out over Parsons AVENUE, where some brilliantly insightful artist has sculpted tubes of light that stretch into the dark night and provide relief from the burden of what lies here behind our window pane. Pain. Pane. {Today is about pain.} So much of my life is at the other corner, though. This is one INCREDIBLE block. Small world. Back to the beginning of time. I was hired by THE Childhood League Center on 18th Avenue in another century, pretty much right out of college, back in 1979. 18th Avenue. We go WAY back. I mean the WAY back machine. This corner and I?This corner and me? This corner and moi! 

This corner feels so strangely like home. Professionally. Professionally I have had so much growth on 18th Ave. Now I will be tested to grow personally on 18th Avenue. 

For ten years I worked at THE center, granted those ten years were in chunks of time: before motherhood and after motherhood, in two different decades. Back in the OLD days we were WAY down 18th. Before the new building that graces the corner, here, on the campus at Children's Hospital. Yup. That was before I was a mother. Before I had my heart walk outside of my body. What is the equivalent for when you are a grandmother? When your heart walking outside your body, is carried by a five year old?  

I sit typing in the recliner of Room B531.  I flew in yesterday from Denver and the mile HIGH experience of presenting at both RMECC & JCCCA {Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference & Jefferson County Child Care Association} over the last two weeks. If you scroll back you'll see that we actually had a road trip advenutre in the week in between and went to the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Phoenix. Not only that, but we camped in with our Rocky Mountain WonderPeep Tribe for all those happy days in between all of the excitement. 

So I have arrived to the Burn Unit filled with AWE (views of Red Rocks from a helicopter) and ADORATION (like none other.) 

I don't want to start the story. 

If I keep telling you the back-story, maybe I can put off THINKING about all of this for a few more minutes. Let me just say, in one more stall tactic, that I'd like to nominate my curbside Southwest Airlines baggage handler for an award of humanitarian excellence. Seriously. Had I been able to see through my tears at the time of saying goodbye to my superlative husband, I might know that angel's name..... but I couldn't read his name tag, my eyes were overflowing by that point. Not only did he, angel baggage carrier, give me the most heart-felt hug I have ever received from a total and complete stranger, but he promised he would continue to pray for me all day. I trusted him on his word. His prayer got me through security. His final words? "Be strong. They need you. I'll pray for you all day. You can do this. Keep crying. Cry BEFORE you get there. Then be strong for them." Then he nodded to his professional colleague and said, "We need to pray for Debbie Jo today. Got it? ALL day." To which I received a nod, wink, thumb's up and double heart pat, from behind the next computer terminal. True dat. Can someone thank SWA? I have a feeling I'll forget. 

Yes. I tell total strangers my story. Believe it or not I had summarized and said it outloud. For the first time. 

"My granddaughter is in the Burn Unit." 

Which brings us back to the story. Doesn't it? Seven words. That's the whole story right there. 


Let me just say it out loud. MORPHINE. Pain medication. Let's thank that scientist, too, while we're thanking people. 
I arrived at the hospital two minutes before 5:00, exactly when the gift shop closes on a Sunday. By the time I navigated the halls, elevator and HUGE electrified doors that accommodate entire beds be wheeled about, it was indeed five. My granddaughter had received her morphine through the IV into her arm at 4:00. Have you ever wondered what a five year old looks like on morphine?

Are you ready for this? 

I have a picture that pretty much captures the entire scene. This is kindergarten Mckenna and her kindergarten friend boy. Please do NOT call him a boyfriend. This is us at about 5:11. They are OLD friends. Yes. I have been invited to climb into her bed immediately upon arrival. They've known each other for ages, these two. They go WAY back. BEFORE kindergarten!

Are you ready? A Kindergarten Kiddo on Morphine?

Do you think you're ready?  

Photo: Evan and McKenna being silly....he got to see his girl so he was happy!

Classic, right? 

I can't take my eyes off of her. He can. 

He seriously doesn't know what to think of this whole situation. He, too, doesn't want to contemplate the elephant in the room. His rather quiet buddy is on drugs. Right there in the same room. Not herself. He doesn't utter one word out loud the entire length of his stay, but he has come to make certain that she is OK. Heroic. It is heroic to navigate the phenomenal halls of this amazing labyrinth on behalf of your friend. Especially so when you are five. WHAT are we doing here? Burn unit.

I am holding his card. One that sings. She loves this card and has had me 'open' it and listen to it sing a few more dozen hundred times.

The card. It's the tune of the old "Munsters" TV show: "Da-da-da-dunt: Get Well, Da-da-da-dunt: Get WELL..... and then it gets faster and faster and faster, as only kindergartners can appreciate..... "da-da-da-dunt, da-da-da-dant, 
da-da-da-dunt: GET WELL!"

It is the last sound I hear before she crashes into last night, into the twilight darkness of the hospital room. How many 'plays' do you get out of these musical greeting cards? It will undoubtedly be the theme song for our time here together. GET WELL. 

Here's the thing. It's not like she's sick. 

She's burned. The burn unit. Chemical burn. A chemical burn in reaction to a prescribed topical ointment. 

Thank goodness for morphine. 

Now it seems that I am actually at the beginning of the story. The story I don't want to tell. The story I don't want to be a part of. The story I don't want to witness. The story that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. 

Let me tell you that as I sat at the gate in Denver, quietly crying as many tears as I felt that TSA would allow before they wouldn't let me fly unsupervised, I had to figure out some way to give myself some hope. BTW: I will admit. I am a crier. Hallmark can get my tears organized in their sixty second heart-string broadcasts. I could be hired as a professional crier, should that need ever arise. I have a store house of sadness over previous train wrecks in my life. For the most part, I just put on my big girl polka-dots and carry on. Truth be told I am one good cry away from TSA taking me to the back room.

So there I sat at gate C28 trying to conjure up some hope. Manufacture hope for myself. I kept saying, "What if this has a happy ending?" My underlying scripture verse has been on auto-pilot since Thursday night. "We know that for those who love Him, for those called in agreement with HIS purpose, God makes ALL things work together for good." So I just kept saying, "What if this all works out?" 

I was pretending to be hopeful. Also? I am easily amused. 

However, I was not delirious.

I knew sitting at gate C28, that this was going to be difficult. This visit was going to be hard. Challenging. Soul rattling tough. Sitting at Gate C28 I had not yet heard my granddaughter screaming in the midst of her dressings being changed, but I could imagine that sound. Even then. But what if there was a happy ending? 

Sitting at Gate C28, I didn't know enough to prepare myself for the sight of my granddaughter's attempts to walk. Steeling herself against the pain, I had no idea that her gait would conscript her knees against each other so tight, with all those dressings, that she would have rubbed those interior knee pads (I can't think how else to describe it -- the intersection of two knees against each other) raw by my arrival Sunday. Her knees are seemingly welded together in something of a "Tootie-Tah" permanency (kindergarten reference) and yet she is walking on her tip toes in that duck like waddle. Her heels don't seem to remember where the ground is.

I wasn't prepared for that contortion. 

The child who loves to ride her bike at the speed of sound. Mangled.

With sufficient morphine she apparently isn't even aware that this hasn't been her typical motor modality. So she had her first physical therapy session yesterday. We are to remind her that her heels are to touch the ground. No amount of suggesting could coax her to open that knee lock steel grip. Not Sunday. Not on our rounds of the hallways in the twilight. 

But back to Gate C28. Heaven's lightning bolt idea. Through my tears, I kept thinking, "I am not going to see the happy ending of this story in my allotted four days of rearranged flights." It ain't likely to be happy in four days. I knew that much going in. Four days is not going to get us to the happy part of Little Red's story. Somehow.  A whole new concept came into my brain. Thank you Saint. I could PRETEND {I promise that I'm still kinda-sorta in control of reality} that I was flying to Mckenna's WEDDING. Think how joyous that flight. Think how amazing to consider ALL that had transpired from this day, as you're sitting at the Gate to fly to your granddaughter's wedding (!!!) 

So I sat there at C28, on something of a fast-forward, time traveling, crystal ball, back-to-the-Future episode, of WOW! Our God is an awesome God; just LOOK at how He made that horrifying chapter on the burn unit work together for good. Never in my wildest imagining could I have dreamt up this AWESOMENESS. Just like there's no possible way to describe the Grand Canyon with words. You have to be there. I have recently beheld the power of God. I have recently seen what can happen with time and persistence. 

So instead of reality, I sat there at Gate C28 preparing myself for the flight to my granddaughter's destination wedding. TSA did not take me to the padded white room you see in the movies. I got on the plane. Through my quiet tears, I put one foot in front of the other. ***I knew that sobbing was out of the question. I will save a serious sobbing for later. Funny how you can do that. Save the sobbing. Schedule it for later. I already have that tactic in my self-management skill set. Funny how one tragedy overcome prepares you for the next. I have had preparation. 

Is it just slightly hilarious that I would depart there conjuring up the details of Little Red's destination wedding, only to arrive HERE and be greeted with this image?

Photo: Evan and McKenna being silly....he got to see his girl so he was happy!

Is this proof positive, beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that our God has a sense of humor? Wouldn't it be truly HILARIOUS if these two.............. OK. We won't put that much pressure on them. Not in kindergarten. Not as five year olds. However. I have the evidence for the rehearsal dinner should it ever be needed. Prom? How many times will I get to use this? 

Truth be told, i had even more support for this journey. The recently elected President of my Texas fanclub sat in Texas, while I was at Gate 28 in Colorado and she taught me how to add emoticon images to my private messages on Facebook, from my new fancy schmancy iPhone. Not the cheesie smiley faced ones, but the more accurate-for-THIS situation ones.  

I had reached out to this one who shall remain nameless, because she is good at swearing. I kid you not. In fact? She has a whole philosophy about swearing! She says that they are ONLY words. She really cussed up a storm on my behalf at our very first meeting last month. It's a long story, but she proved to me that she is truly stellar at swearing. She is a kindergarten teacher and a REALLY capable swear word flinger. Quite the combo! She sat in the front row then. She literally held my hand during that awkward moment when the person introducing me for the keynote, continued to speak longer than the minutes remaining in my keynote time allotment. She swore and swore and cursed then, under her breath of course. She is a pro. She finally convinced me that I had to just JUMP up and take the stage in that moment. A person who swears capably engenders boldness in their immediate surrounding. Just like that, I was on my feet. 

I have enlisted her as my official 'swearing/cursing' person of record for this story, the burn unit Children's Hospital story, returning to the corner of your professional career, Tootie-Tah walking like a duck, granddaughter suddenly needing physical therapy story, chemical burn, screaming during dressing-changing, envisioning destination wedding, HOPE filled story. Cuz I KNOW that I have LOTS of people who have jumped in with prayer support. I count on them. Remember? I attract baggage handlers willing to enlist fellow baggage checking professionals to pray. There is power in prayer. I believe that. I don't know exactly how it works exactly. I know it doesn't necessarily work on MY timetable, but I have beheld the results on more occasions than I can recount. This current saga of my life is a testament to the power of prayer. 

Prayer. I have seen it on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. I have read it with my whole heart, the prayer support people are marshalling. In their marshalling I have made it from Point A to Point B. Quite literally. Believe me I have needed that support. Trust me, I didn't walk into this room, room 531B, without it. I couldn't. I am not that strong. 

Fact of the matter? I also need one professional-grade cursing person involved. This story is worthy of professional grade swear words. I don't have that expertise. Yet. Though I may develop it. Time will tell. 

This story started last Thursday. I'm just not ready to tell it yet. Monday is now dawning under the blinds. Looks like the proverbial gray midwest March morning of my memories. No matter. I have stored up sunshine. Breakfast carts will be rattling in the halls shortly. I am here for the Rounds of the day. I have slept several hours in a row in my recliner. That should be sufficient, right? I have an international squad of people-of-faith-and-prayer lined up and calling to others willing to add their voice begging, beseeching the heavens, for clemency from this nightmare. I have a parallel symmetrical squad of angels already IN heaven who hold me up when the going gets rough. This rough sledding, angel calling territory. I have called on them. Plus. As an added bonus I have my own professional grade swearing/cursing supervisor in a place of responsibility. I am ready for this red headed, morphine riddled, pain ridden WonderPeep to wake up and face the reckoning. A new day dawns.

It is not going to be a quick story people. I know that I won't see the happy ending part in my four days here. Was it honest-to-goodness exactly ONE month ago today that we filmed video in this very same city? Shazam. What can happen in a month. Wonder what April 17th will look like? How's about a birthday party for WonderBoy? Time marches on. Bleep happens. (I'm working up to more powerful language.)  

In a true blogging epiphany. I just went searching for this particular photo. Inserting it, this photo, seeing it, feeling that day's euphoria. Impossible to describe........ and now the quiet tears return. The kind that come from the deep well of sorrow. Look at how she is standing. Today she needs a therapist to get her knees to part the first inch. Plop. Plop. Plop. My keyboard is actually wet and my screen is misty now. 

There are better days behind us. For that I am grateful. There will be better days ahead. You can bet on that! I've just gotta believe in that power of God to resurrect the current portion of this sad, sad, sad chapter. 

This is going to be a very long, ongoing, continuing story. How long can you be supportive? Somehow it was easier to say those seven words of this story to an absolute stranger, than attempt to expound on it for you here. Enough for today. We welcome your prayers. We welcome your encouragement however you express it. 

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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