The mean little appendix

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My daughter watching TV from her hospital chair

My youngest daughter Jaycie was scheduled to have her appendix removed on October 4th, but the mean little appendix wouldn’t wait that long. On the night of Tuesday, September 13th, Jaycie woke up sick and had stomach pain. If she hadn’t already gone through the whole perforated appendicitis with abscesses episode back in August, I wouldn’t have worried about a stomach ache but after all that, I knew better.

She stayed home Wednesday with me and wasn’t feeling any better by mid morning so I called the surgeon’s office and they said to bring her in so the doctor could take a look. One thing led to another and we found ourselves in the emergency room getting Jaycie ready for a CT scan again. She really wasn’t happy about having to get another IV put in and I don’t blame her! Since we were close to home this time, I asked my mom to come hang out with us and she did. There was no TV in the emergency room but Jaycie had brought her tablet and there was wifi so she watched Netflix while we waited.

Jaycie had a CT scan around 5:30 p.m. and about a half hour later the doctor came and said that her appendix was inflamed again but they didn’t see any abscesses this time. So they said surgery to remove the appendix was the best course of action and I wholeheartedly agreed! Jaycie was very anxious and scared about having surgery that night but we all knew she’d do much better once the mean little appendix was out.

It was around 8 p.m. when they took Jaycie back for surgery and she was understandably scared. I kissed her and told her I loved her and my brave little girl was off to surgery. Although the surgery happened ahead of schedule, I was relieved that it was being performed by the surgeon that was supposed to do it in October. He was very nice and explained everything and I had complete faith in his abilities.

My mom, myself and Jaycie’s dad had been in the surgery waiting room for an hour watching TV when the surgeon came back to say it went well and she was all done. He told us that there had in fact been an abscess but it wasn’t visible on the CT scan because it was behind a wall of skin as Jaycie’s body tried to protect itself from it. He showed us pictures he’d of her insides during the surgery (they did it all endoscopically) and it was both interesting and somewhat disconcerting. The surgeon explained that they’d removed the appendix and done their best to clean out all the bacteria but that she’d have to be in the hospital on antibiotics for a day or two to make sure she healed properly. I thanked the surgeon for his work and was again so very relieved he’d been the one to perform the surgery.

We waited another hour before a nurse came and said we could go see Jaycie in recovery. We all followed her down a few hallways and then into the recovery room where Jaycie was the only patient. She was lying in the hospital bed covered with blankets and mostly out of it as the anesthesia slowly wore off. They had her legs in compression cuffs that would squeeze on leg and then the other to promote circulation and prevent blood clots. I was familiar with such cuffs because my father had to wear them a few times during his hospital stays. It was a somewhat scary thing seeing them on my 10 year old daughter.

Although mostly out of it, Jaycie was happy to see us and she said a loud “Yay!” that her appendix were finally gone. She was a bit silly from the drugs but still my tough little cookie and I was so happy the whole ordeal with her appendix was coming to an end. They moved her up to a private room within a half hour and by then it was after 11 p.m. and we were all exhausted. Jaycie’s emotions were out of sorts due to the surgery and the medications and tears started to run down her face when I kissed her goodbye. This about broke my heart even though I knew she was going to fall asleep soon and not even know if I was there. I kissed her goodbye a few more times before leaving and promised her I’d return early the next morning.

Driving home in the dark that night was not fun as I saw several deer and a few of them had the audacity to run out in front of exhausted me. I made it home safely and collapsed into bed, setting my alarm for 5:30 a.m. the next morning. For the next three days I woke up before the sun and arrived at the hospital just before the sunrise or just after. I was there when Jaycie woke up every day and my mom arrived around the same time I did or shortly after. My mom and I would spend the day at the hospital with Jaycie until her father and Jordan arrived to take the dinner time to bed time shift.

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Arriving at the hospital before sunrise

The first time I helped her get up to use the bathroom on Thursday morning she screamed in pain and that’s the most awful sound any mother can hear. She’s not fond of pain medications but they gave her some morphine that first morning and by the end of the day, tylenol was enough. She spent her days watching Disney Channel on the hospital TV and my mom and I would talk, read books or wander the hospital to keep our sanity.

Having endured the whole situation in MA when her appendicitis flared up, the days in her hospital as she recovered from her appendectomy were all too familiar. She was grumpy, not very talkative and didn’t want to eat the first day and then improve the second day and was eager to go home the third day on Saturday. The doctor who performed the surgery was one of the most attentive doctors I’ve ever encountered in all my times in hospitals (most of that when my father was ill) and he came in at least twice a day to check on Jaycie and talk to us about what they were doing and how things looked. With everything my father went through in hospitals, they’re not my favorite place, but this surgeon’s obvious care for his patients was very reassuring and comforting. He even came in earlier than he said Saturday morning so Jaycie would be discharged earlier and that meant the world to Jaycie, my mom and myself!

Jaycie was so happy to get out of the Saturday and to come home with me for the weekend. It was supposed to be her father’s weekend, but my house is much quieter than his since it’s just me and my animals so she came with me. Jaycie relaxed on my couch enjoying her favorite shows and tablet games and eventually transformed back into her usual talkative self. She had to stay home from school for all of last week and that was fine with her! I liked having so much time with her and seeing her heal and recover was extremely reassuring for me. She kept saying how happy she was that her appendix was out and she was out of the hospital and I understand completely!

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My youngest daughter returned to school this morning for the first time since having the emergency appendectomy and she’s back to her normal self. She had her follow-up appointment with the surgeon yesterday and he cleared her to resume everything she usually does including participating in gym and PT and playing in band. We’re all very relieved that the mean little appendix is finally gone and that life can return to the usual routine. This has all shown me what a blessing the usual routine is and I’m so grateful that my baby is healthy once again!

 

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Massachusetts Adventures with my Oldest Daughter

birthday brownie by JulieAnn Corbin

Jordan with her flaming birthday brownie on her birthday.

My oldest daughter Jordan turned 14 on August 8th and the week following her birthday was one none of us will ever forget.

My two daughters and I left on our vacation to Massachusetts the day after Jordan’s birthday and the day after that, her younger sister Jaycie was admitted to Beverly Hospital in MA with severe stomach pain. Everything that happened with Jaycie and her eventual diagnosis of appendicitis overshadowed what was supposed to be a fun family vacation, but my oldest daughter Jordan handled it all with a maturity, calmness and strength that made me extremely proud.

When Jordan and I left Beverly Hospital Wednesday night, the first thing she did was move stuff around so she could sit in the passenger sit. She always sits in the back with her sister when I have both of them in the car, but now and then when it’s just the two of us, she’ll sit up front with me. I was happy to have her riding “shotgun” especially since it was dark by that point and I don’t have the best night vision. Upon arriving back at the hotel, we walked next door to the Sonic and got a rather late dinner. We’d never been to a Sonic before and perhaps it was just the circumstances, but the food tasted soooo good after such a long day!

Jordan remained my loyal copilot for the remainder of our travels while Jaycie was in the hospital receiving treatment. As I don’t have the best sense of direction, it was Jordan who kept us from getting lost in first Beverly Hospital and then Boston Children’s Hospital. She was great company to me and always managed to help keep things light even while I was worried about and taking care of Jaycie in the hospital. Jordan tried to cheer up her sister as best she could, but for the first few days, Jaycie was in too much pain and discomfort for anything aside from TV to make her happy.

Jordan helped me pick out the purple striped cat from the Beverly Hospital gift shop that we gave to Jaycie as a get well gift. Jaycie clung to that stuffed cat quite a bit during her hospital stays. Jaycie loves dressing her stuffed animals up in doll clothes so I asked her if she wanted Jordan and I to find it a shirt to wear. She said yes, so Thursday night Jordan and I headed to a nearby Target after leaving the hospital.

It was after 9 p.m. when we arrived at Target and we were both a bit punchy, looped and tired. Even so, we managed to navigate through the large Target store, find some onesies for the stuffed cat and buy a few groceries we needed. My original plan had been to buy groceries at Market Basket the day after our arrival, but as we didn’t end up spending much time at the hotel room making meals, that didn’t happen. Target had everything we needed, including the Captain America Civil War action figure set and small Transformer toy we gave Jaycie the next day. Although it was not at all what I’d planned or intended Jordan and I had some great laughs trying to navigate Target late at night.

During this whole time, the Summer Olympics were happening in Rio so every night when Jordan and I returned to the hotel room, we’d watch an hour or so of Olympic coverage. Unfortunately, they mostly just showed things that didn’t interest us like swimming and track and field, but at least we got to see some of the Olympics. Watching the games was a good way to wind down after a stressful day at the hospital with Jaycie. Jordan only slept in the room’s sofa bed the first night when her sister was there with her. After that, she slept in the queen size bed with me. I haven’t slept with Jordan in my bed since she was a baby and I’m used to sleeping alone but she and I managed not to kick or roll over onto each other during the night.

While Jaycie was at Beverly Hospital, Jordan and I would leave the room every couple hours to stretch our legs and/or get food and drinks. Beverly was a very nice hospital with plenty of places to sit and view the landscaping and ample vending machines to grab snacks from. We went to the cafeteria for lunch or dinner a couple times and they had a great selection of food. We usually got whatever soup they had for the day and I was nice enough to eat the floating cooked onions off the top of Jordan’s soup during one lunch visit. The temperatures outside were quite hot but we got our daily dose of fresh air by going out the front hospital doors and sitting on the benches for a couple minutes until we couldn’t stand it anymore. One night when we left the hospital it was so humid there was moisture on the inside and outside of my windows, which made the drive back to the hotel trickier than usual.

The girls and I have taken many trips into Boston over the past few years so the city wasn’t new to Jordan when she and I had to start traveling their daily to be with Jaycie at Boston Children’s Hospital. What was new though was the amount of time and station navigation required to take the T to the hospital. I didn’t even venture into a city until I was years older than Jordan and I probably would have been overwhelmed at 14, but Jordan handled it quite well and we stuck together through it all. There were a few cooler days during our week in MA but most of the time it was summer heat and that meant dealing with sticky, hot subway stations. Jordan is prone to blisters on her feet when she walks a lot and while she did get blisters she soldiered on and continued to be my constant companion.

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Jordan resting on a station bench while we wait for the T.

I’m quite sure I would have become permanently lost in BCH were it not for Jordan always pointing me in the right direction. She and I walked outside the hospital for a bit during the one day when the weather cooled off and it felt wonderful to be out in the fresh air. I love Boston and even though the circumstances were light years from ideal, I was happy to be in the city and feel its energetic vibe. I think Jordan is happier in the country where it’s quieter and less hectic, but perhaps someday she’ll change her mind.

Since 2011 when my divorce was finalized and I started rediscovering who I was, I’ve exposed both my girls to much more than I experienced at their age and I think that’s a very good thing. I think it’s important for them to see that there’s so much more to the world than just the small area of New York State they spend most of their time in. Although Jordan may remain in NY for her entire life, Jaycie hopes to live in or near Boston someday and as that’s my goal as well, that’s fine by me!

The adventures with Jordan made me so proud of her and I feel honored that I’m her mother. The path she chooses for her life is entirely up to her but at least during the times I have her, I can open her eyes to the great potential of life.

Not the vacation we planned – Part 3 (conclusion)

BCH by JulieAnn Corbin

Jaycie looking much healthier at BCH!

Although I hadn’t expected that Jaycie would eventually end up at Boston Children’s Hospital, I knew that she was receiving the best possible care and that they would be able to do whatever it took to get her healthy again. Our original plans for vacation had involved spending a day in Boston, but we ended up spending much more time in the city than that and not under the fun circumstances I had planned.

I’d talked to my ex-husband a few times on the phone and he was going to drive out the night they transferred Jaycie to BCH (Friday) to be there Saturday morning. Knowing he was going to be there with Jaycie in the morning, Jordan and I didn’t feel as rushed to get back to the hospital and ate some breakfast at the hotel Saturday morning before heading to the Oak Grove T station to take the subway in. Driving into Boston in the late evening was one thing, trying to drive in on a Saturday morning was not something I was ready to try.

Using the subway took longer than I expected, but when we arrived at the hospital, Jaycie was sitting up in a recliner chair they’d brought in and happily watching TV. She looked the healthiest I’d seen her since picking her up the previous Sunday from her father’s house. My ex-husband was reading on the sofa bed by the window and Jordan was happy to see him.

Jaycie’s nurse for the weekend was named Chris and he was very friendly and informative. He encouraged us to get her up and walking around more and to make sure she kept eating and drinking. The doctors and nurses all explained to me that with perforated appendicitis with abscesses, they prefer to let the child heal before removing the appendix. They had Jaycie on antibiotics and fluids still and they said that they could drain the abscess if necessary, but that they didn’t always. As it turned out, the abscess or abscesses weren’t in a place that was easy to drain so they decided a course of antibiotics and waiting 6 weeks to remove the appendix was the best course of action.

Jordan and I spent some time in Jaycie’s and I updated my ex-husband on the situation and what had occurred up to that point. His fiancé was arriving by train that night and they were going to figure out a place to stay for the night. There was more color in Jaycie’s face and she was smiling and even laughing, which reassured me that she was finally on the road to recovery.

Satisfied that Jaycie would be fine in the company of her father and the care of the hospital staff, Jordan and I left the hospital and walked down the street to the food court we could see from Jaycie’s hospital room window. We picked up some lunch for ourselves and the girls’ father and returned to the room to eat. After a few more hours in the room helping Jaycie eat, drink, use the bathroom and walk around the hallways, I decided that Jordan and I should head out in search of food for dinner. I always go to Faneuil Hall Marketplace during my Boston visits so we hopped on the T and made our way there.

Going to the marketplace during the dinner hours was a bad idea and it took us almost two hours of waiting in line and riding the T to get back to the hospital. Even so, it was a nice change to be out of the hospital for a while and actually taking in some of Boston. I saw the horse drawn carriages lined up and decided to snap a picture to remind us that we hadn’t spent the entire time in BCH.

horse drawn carriages in Boston by JulieAnn Corbin

Once back in the room, we all ate our food hungrily and wiled away the time with what had become the usual hospital routine for Jordan and I. My ex-husband was going to stay at the hospital until he had to pick up his fiancé from the train station so around 8 p.m., Jordan and I decided to leave for the night. We knew another day of the similar routine awaited us tomorrow but that we’d have a bit of break now that the girls’ father was in the city.

The next day, Sunday, Jordan and I arrived at the hospital to find that they were cleaning Jaycie up with some wipes because she hadn’t wanted to shower. She doesn’t enjoy showering when she’s healthy so I can understand her not wanting to deal with it when she was unwell. After she was cleaned up, Jaycie put on clean hospital clothing and resumed her usual TV watching. Jordan and I brought her some Avengers action figures and a Transformer to play with a few days prior and she was actually interested in playing with them that day, which was a huge improvement!

I had promised Jordan we’d make it to a bookstore while in Boston and even though that promise had been part of the plans prior to Jaycie becoming sick, I was determined to make it happen. With my ex-husband and his fiancé keeping Jaycie company, Jordan and I set off after lunch to take the T to Barnes & Noble. As that falls under my future blog post detailing my adventures with Jordan, I’ll elaborate later.

We returned to the hospital with two new books for Jordan and a My Little Pony graphic novel for Jaycie. Jaycie immediately started looking through the comic book, which made me almost as happy as she was to receive it.

Jaycie had improved immensely over the past two days at Boston Children’s Hospital and the nurse had said she might be able to leave the following day, Monday. Jaycie was eating normally, including her favorite snack of goldfish, and they were switching her to oral antibiotics to get her off the IV version. My ex-husband and his fiancé decided to drive back to NY that evening and I admit that it was nice to get back to just the three of us. My girls are my world, we’re a triumphant trio no matter what shape we’re in and I’m just more comfortable when it’s me and my girls.

Jaycie spent one final night at Boston Children’s Hospital and we were finally able to take her back to the hotel Monday evening around rush hour. I’d driven into Boston Monday morning because I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle the T and that drive was not a fun experience. If one more person honked at me to run a light or pull through an intersection when it wasn’t safe, I was on the verge of getting out of my car to pummel them. I would never actually do something like that, but they were messing with the wrong mama at that point!

BCH by JulieAnn Corbin

Jaycie waiting for the valet to bring our car from the hospital parking garage.

We managed to get back safely to the hotel and Jaycie was finally able to enjoy the hotel pool, which was the main reason I’d decided to book a hotel instead of rent a cottage for our summer vacation. She spent almost an hour in the pool and she was the usual smiling and happy Jaycie that Jordan and I knew. I was glad she’d had some time in the pool finally but I still wished she hadn’t had to endure so much pain and discomfort over the past several days.

Jaycie finally in the hotel pool!

Jaycie finally in the hotel pool!

Our vacation was supposed to be a fun time filled with happy memories and instead it was stressful and exhausting for all of us. Although I know that life happens and things were beyond my control, I still felt like I had failed my girls somehow by not giving them the trip we’d planned on. I’m a mom first and foremost and the health and happiness of my girls is the most important thing in the world to me. I can’t do anything to change the past and all that matters is that Jaycie gets healthy, but I’ve vowed to make next year’s summer vacation a fun and memorable time for all of us.