Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sean is just fine

Let me start off this story by saying Sean is fine

And okay, maybe I should have called you and told you what was going on
Or called and asked for help but frankly, everything happened so fast and was so overwhelming
I’m lucky I am even able to recount it for you

Sean was admitted to the Hospital early Christmas morning

And by Christmas morning I mean at 5:45am, I was screaming through the streets of Woburn/Winchester trying to get to the Emergency Room before Sean passed out in the front seat

I’m getting ahead of myself
Let me set it up for you

I love Christmas – always have
Sean loves it as much as I do
And since Lucy arrived, we make a bigger deal out of it than we used to
I don’t mean by way of lots of gifts (though there was this)
I mean that we play Christmas carols for her and teach her the words
We watch specials and movies
We decorate the house, inside and out
Lucy helps bake the cookies and decorates
We do Elf on the Shelf (and love doing it)
She leaves snacks out for Santa and the reindeer
We make decorations and gifts for family and friends
We drive around to see all the lights, we have a cake for Baby Jesus, we sing Happy Birthday and yes, there are gifts
We write to Santa and he writes back
There are so many gifts…..tangible and intangible……

And it always starts when we go to Rockport to see Santa come in on the boat and light the tree

We returned from England November 30th
December 1st, we went to Rockport to see Santa light the tree as we have done for many years now
December 2nd, I came down with a horrid cold and it hung around right up until Christmas
Lucy was fighting same cold and we kept waiting for her to come down with something
She never did
So Lucy and I limped our way to Christmas but by the weekend before Christmas, we both felt fine
Sean had a couple days where he did not feel great but overall, he was fine

December 22nd, we went to Rockport again for the live Nativity
We have spent this weekend with Cynthia and her family and our mutual friends since 2005 and it is something we both look forward to every year
A couple times we’ve missed the live Nativity itself but we always make it to Cynthia’s house for the food, the love and the laughs
This year was no different

(side note: as we stood watching the Nativity, Lucy kept a running commentary about Baby Jesus, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, the animals, how cold it was, was Baby Jesus okay, does he know it’s his Birthday? There was a couple behind us who heard every word clear as a bell and would occasionally stifle a chuckle and muttered at least twice “bless her.” As the scene came to a close, we turned around to wish them a Merry Christmas….they responded by telling us what a delight and a blessing Lucy was! How much they enjoyed listening to her comments and observations! What a bright and spunky child you have they told us all the while grinning, laughing and smiling at Lucy)

Sunday morning, December 23rd, Sean woke up (read Sean was woken by Ziggy) as he does just about every day around 5:15/5:30 to feed Ziggy
He woke up, fed Ziggy, came back to bed, felt fine
By 7am, I awoke to his chattering teeth and the bed shaking

Honey, what is wrong I ask
I’m cold he says, I’m hot……I feel horrible
I took his temperature and it was 102.8
I fed him some Tylenol, re-filled his water glass, fetched another blanket, tucked him in and told him to go back to sleep

Lucy and I went about our day (cleaning, made a couple cookie trays for neighbors, visited with neighbors)

At 11, I went up and took Sean’s temperature
It was still around 102
I gave him Tylenol, made him drink and sent him back to sleep
An hour later, I heard him get in the shower
He wandered downstairs and did in fact look a bit better but was still quite warm to the touch
His temperature was down a bit but he said he was achy
He was moving awfully slowly
And said the muscle in his leg really hurt
I must have had a Charlie Horse last night he observed

We both assumed he had the flu and decided he would skip Kristen’s Christmas Party,          
I checked on him every hour or so
His fever was up and down, never below 101
He was still achy and slept fitfully

At one point, Sunday afternoon he told me he was sorry he was sick and he hoped this would not ruin Christmas

Honey, it’s okay!
Just rest and I’m sure you’ll feel better by Tuesday
Well, he said, as long as I feel good enough by Wednesday to drive

Our vacation was supposed to start Monday, Christmas Eve and would not end until January 2
We would spend Christmas Eve day together – deliver cookies to neighbors, go to Church, stop by and see my Cousins, maybe my Great Uncle
Christmas Eve would be early to bed for Lucy, a movie for Sean and I
Christmas Day would be spent in our PJs playing with new toys, eating a breakfast way too big for the three of us, and having birthday cake for Baby Jesus
We’d read books, maybe take a nap, and go to Cousin Patsy’s for dinner
Then, our plan was to head to Maine Wednesday afternoon as my parents had called and said a storm was moving in Thursday (which was our original departure date)
Lucy was just as excited about going to see Noni and Papa as she was about Santa coming to her house

Monday, Christmas Eve, Sean’s temperature still had not come down
It was still hovering at 102, 102.5
I suggested he go to the Clinic
No, it’s just the flu he said
I had to go to work for a couple hours and promised I’d be back
At 10:15, he called me

Can you come home, I have to go back to bed – I feel awful

I went racing home and put Sean to bed straight away
Lucy and I sort of puttered the rest of the day and I cancelled all plans we had made

Monday afternoon, I think Lucy may have been taking a nap, Sean emerged from the bedroom
He wandered downstairs and sat at the table while I made him tea
He commented that he must have banged his ankle on something as there was a mark on it and it was really tender

Let me see I demand
He rolled up his pant leg and sure enough, there was a little circle just above his ankle bone
It was hot to the touch and his leg was a bit swollen
Honey, I think something is wrong
No, I just banged it he said
Sean, when you bang your ankle, it bruises, it does not get hot!
Now I’m getting impatient
Honey! Hot is bad! Something is wrong! Let’s take a run up to the Clinic, they are still open
No he says with a roll of his eyes and his head
I’m not going to the Clinic! I’m sure it’s fine and I don’t want to ruin Lucy’s Christmas
Sean! I really think…
I said no
Maria, I don’t want to ruin Christmas….besides, he insisted, I’m feeling better
 Sean, please, I really…
No….I’m just going back to bed

Sean hates being nagged
He went back to bed

Lucy and I had dinner with Kristen
When we got home, Sean was up and about and waited while Lucy made her trays for Santa (all the green cookies and a cup of eggnog ‘cause green is Daddy’s favorite color and Daddy likes eggnog) and the reindeer (2 apples, 2 celery stalks, and 2 carrots)
We bade Peter the Elf on the Shelf a farewell as he would be heading back to the North Pole with Santa and off to bed went Lucy

Sean was a trooper and made it until 10pm, then called it quits
He went to bed and was sound asleep, and sweating, by the time I went up
I felt his face and he was burning up but when he felt my hand, he told me he was cold
I got another blanket and climbed into bed
My prayers included asking God to please not let this be anything serious and to pass by morning

Christmas morning, Sean awoke at between 3 and 3:30am with the chills and feeling worse than ever
By 5:15, I could feel him flopping around in the bed trying to get comfortable and settled back down
I fetched the thermometer and took his temperature, it was 102.9

Sean, I need you to sit up and take some Tylenol
I can’t he said
Honey, I need you to
I can’t

I pulled him up and got him to take the Tylenol and drink
He laid back down and started shivering
I stood there not knowing what to do when he says through bared teeth with a grimace

My leg hurts… hurts so much…the blankets hurt on it….
What do you mean honey?
It hurts he moaned
I eased back the covers (ok, read threw back because now I am approaching a panic)

His ankle was covered with horrible crimson "blemishes" (almost like bruises) surrounding his ankle bone
The lower log was swollen…it looked like the skin was so tightly wrapped around it that it would burst at the seams
It looked like someone hit him over and over with a baseball bat
I leaned down for a closer look and noticed…..

Track marks
He had red lines running up his leg, not quite to his knee but really close

Honey, we have to go to the hospital
Sean! We have to go – NOW
I got cleaned up, called Kristen and asked her to come sit with Lucy (who was still sound asleep) and started to get Sean dressed

Don’t touch me he said, everything hurts
Ok honey, I’m trying not to

I load Sean in the car, cover him in blankets, promise Kristen I’ll call
I pulled out of the Circcle......only to draw a blank on how to get to the hospital

Sean was leaning against the door and every bump I hit causes him to moan
I regain my senses, point the car in the right direction, calm myself and drive as fast as I can towards the hospital
I talk to Sean the whole time because I’m afraid to let him go to sleep…I kept asking him questions so he would have to answer me

Honey, please stay awake
I’m tired
I know Sean but I don’t know how to get to the hospital, I need you to help me
My leg hurts
I know honey
I drive faster

At 5:55, we pulled up to the ER entrance
I settle Sean in a chair and run to the Admittance Desk
Initially, she looked up as if I were interrupting her – and then when I pointed out my husband to her, she moved quicker and called a nurse
3 minutes later, we were in Triage

Sean’s temperature was taken
I showed the nurse his leg

Sir, she says, could you please put on one of those blue masks?

I help Sean put the mask on
My hands are shaking, I put it on wrong
Sean rolls his eyes at me and fixes it
We lower him into a wheelchair and are moved into a room in the ER
The door is closed……they never close the doors
The nurse and I move Sean to the bed and she tells me to get his clothes off

Uhh, the lines are moving I say
I show her the lines on his leg
When we left the house they were here I say pointing
Ok, she says, don’t touch his leg; I’m going to get him on an IV drip

She ducks out and is back in less than a minute

This is Josh she says pointing to the young man (and by young I mean like Doogie Howser with a full beard) who walked in with her, He’s going to help us take care of you Sean

I figure Josh is another nurse or a CNA – until he starts telling the nurse what to give Sean and starts asking questions
I realize he’s the doctor
Between Sean and me, we answer his questions and I watch him the whole time
He slides a mask on and won’t go near Sean without gloves on
He must have asked three or four times when the lines started and how fast they were moving
I gave him the same answer three or four times
Sean was sort of drifting off to sleep but his eyes would jerk open every time someone touched him or jostled the bed

Josh says to me
You gave him Tylenol?
5:20 I say
This morning?
Well yeah
His temperature was what?
102.9 I say
And now it’s what? Josh asks to the nurse
103.7 She says
I thought it was 103.5?
It went up
Have you been out of the country recently?
Have you been traveling?
Uhh, we were in Rockport Saturday (why did I just say that?!?) and England in November
Anywhere else?
I almost said Target but realized that was probably not what he was looking for
Any exposure to anything new? Any new foods, animals…..?
New?  Exposure…..??

I can actually hear my heart beating and my breathing is getting shallow

Uhh, we have a cat……
I know that is not what he means but I have no idea what to say

No I say firmly – he has not been exposed to anything new, not eaten anything new, or old for that matter, no
He woke up Sunday morning with a fever, we noticed the mark yesterday, late afternoon, and when he woke up this morning, this is what it looked like

Josh continued to look at Sean’s leg, now and then touching it but not getting too close

Wellll, Josh draws out his word, I've never really seen anything like this
Ok, so what do we do?
Has he cut himself? Does he have any open wounds? Sores?
Cut himself? What you mean like on purpose? No!

The nurse is sensing my frustration and fear and I’m sure has picked up on the panic in my voice

What the doctor means Maria, what he’s trying to figure out is if Sean has any open wounds that dirt and bacteria could have gotten into
Oh……no…We’ve not been anywhere, done anything or been exposed to anything
He’s not cut himself or hurt himself in the past few days – we went to bed Saturday, he was fine
We woke up Sunday, he had a fever
Monday, he had a spot, this morning… voice started to crack and I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes were wet and I was….I was scared
Ok says the nurse, it’s okay

Josh pipes up

Welll, I’ve started him on a pretty strong antibiotic and some fluids just to keep him hydrated…Josh trails off and leaves the room without saying anything else

He’s the doctor? I ask the nurse
He is she says….
It’ll be okay she says, you are here now, it’ll be okay
I need to make a call I say
Go ahead she says

Its 6:30am, I call my parents – I know it’s early and I’ll probably wake them up but I don’t know what else to do and I scared

Mum picks up on the fifth ring

Mum? I croak
She’s half asleep
Mum? Sean’s in the hospital
What? Hello?
Mum, Sean is in the hospital – its Maria
John who?
Mum! Its Maria, Sean is in the hospital, Sean my husband!

I start to cry


I recount the morning
Mum’s awake now

What do you need us to do?
I just needed someone to know I respond
Where’s Lucy she asks
Home, with Kristen

We talk for a couple more minutes and I promise to call when I know something

I call Kristen – Lucy is still sleeping

I step back into Sean’s room and the nurse tells me she’ll be right back and I’m left alone to pace the room

Sean opens his eyes and says, it’s okay honey, and I feel better

Part of me wanted to slap him but a bigger part of me knew he was saying that because he was trying to make me feel better
I stood next to him and held his hand
And tears welled up in my eyes

The nurse and Josh came back in

What do you think it is I ask?
Welll (I seriously want to hit him in the back of the head to make his word some out quicker, smoother…) I’ve never really seen anything like this……it looks pretty bad

Holy craps are you kidding me I think?!? It looks pretty bad…that is what the doctor just said to me
It looks pretty bad?!?!
At this point, I almost scream no fucking shit Sherlock but what is it?!?
I know it looks bad because at this point, his lower leg is covered in what looks like a zillion little bubbling blisters which may burst open at any moment!
The lines are moving up his leg pretty fucking fast if you ask me and if you have not noticed yet, it is fast approaching his groin!!!
He has a big red mark up on his inner thigh, he is in pain and is burning up so what the fuck is wrong with him and can you fix it?!?!?!

But instead I say weakly

Yes, it looks pretty bad but do you have any idea what it is? I mean might Sean make the New England Journal of Medicine?

The nurse and the ER doctor shoot each a knowing glance
My stomach plummeted

Well, says Josh stroking his beard but not making eye contact, I’m thinking Necrotizing fasciitis…he trails off
What? You think my husband has necrophilia?!?!
No, necrotizing fasciitis…
I don’t, I, what.....? I don’t even know what that means I say to Josh
It’s a flesh eating bacteria
What? A flesh eating bacteria? A what?!? Where does one even get that? I don’t..What does that even do (am I really this stupid)?.......I don’t…
Wellll, says Josh, that’s what it may be but I’m hoping its cellulitis…a flesh eating bacteria would be pretty bad….
Ok well, how do we figure out what it is?
An MRI of the leg
Because….(do I seriously need to drag this out of him)
If it is a flesh eating bacteria, there will be air in the blood because they produce gas…
And if it’s a flesh eating bacteria…what happens?
Well, let’s see what the MRI says
Ok but if it is…..
Let’s get the MRI; depending on what that says, we’ll either admit Sean here and treat him or send you to Mass General – and frankly, I’m leaning towards sending you into Boston but let’s get the MRI first

When they left the room, I paced around trying to wrap my head around what was happening
I settled down in the chair next to Sean, looked over at him in the bed hooked up to an IV and a blood pressure cuff, wearing a blue surgical mask and in an attempt to break the tension say

Yeah? He rolls his head over to look at me
You look like you have the God damn SARS…..
(any Bob Marley the comedian fans in the crowd? You know what I’m talking about)
Sean chuckled and then proceeded to recite a better part of the bit in a spot on imitation of Bob Marley as his Dad

The nurses continue to move in and out of the room checking Sean’s temperature, his blood pressure, the movement of the tracks and bruises up his leg along with the drip of antibiotics through his IV
Sean dozed
I called my mother to let her know what was going
Your Dad’s bag is packed she said, you tell us what to do, what you need, where to be and we’ll be there
I called Kristen
Lucy was awake and playing with her Santa toys and somewhat oblivious to the fact Sean and I were missing (frankly, I think it was because Kristen did a great job of distracting her)
We’re here for awhile I said
Don’t worry said Kristen, Lucy can just hang with me and my family
I hung up and cried

Another nurse walked in trailed by Josh and an older doctor
The older doctor looked at Sean’s leg, asked a couple questions and they left the room
Someone came and took Sean for the MRI
I sat by myself
20 minutes passed and a nurse came in

You okay she asked?
Yeah I say, just a bit anxious
Well, Sean will definitely be checked in either here or at Mass General
I nod
And if we send you to Mass General, they’ll probably want to do surgery straight away
Surgery I say, why?
Well, to see if they can save the leg…
Save the leg….see if they can save the leg

And you know what runs through my mind at this, moment?
Remember the show Heroes?
All that runs through my mind is…

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World

Mass General is the best place to be she says
Right I say, Mass General…..okay

Sean is wheeled back in and we continue to wait
Another hour has gone by
Sean is dozing
We chat when he opens his eyes but I’m pretty sure he has no idea what is going on; he is so tired
I call Lucy; she’s gone to Karen’s house with Kristen
Another half hour goes by
I’m getting antsy and keep poking my head out the door
The doctor and nurses come back in again

Any results I ask?
Not yet
It’s the older doctor and he asks me some of the same questions Josh asked
They take more blood and check his temperature
Holding steady at 102.8
They leave
I wait

Next thing I know, an entourage enters the room
Two nurses, Josh, the older doctor and an even older doctor walk in
They are talking amongst themselves and I hear facts about Sean being dropped (age, temperature, when things appeared, progression of marks and lines on leg)
The new doctor is introduced as Dr Adler, The Infectious Disease Doctor
I almost passed out

The other two doctors are speaking in quick hushed tones and the nurses are bustling
Dr Adler is keeping everyone in his line of vision and seems to be listening to everything being said
He’s poking Sean’s leg, running his hand up and down it – he’s the only one who has not put on gloves nor has a mask hanging around his neck

All of a sudden, he stand ups, raises his arms in the air and announces in a much louder and deeper voice than I expected from such a smallish older man

Everyone relax! This is not, I repeat, this is NOT, with a capital N or a capital K if you prefer - this is NOT a flesh eating bacteria – it is, however, a pretty bad case of ascending lymphangitis and cellulitis
So my husband does not have necrophilia?
What? No! He does not have that or necrotizing fasciitis….he has cellulitis and ascending lymphangitis, admit him, keep him on the antibiotics, he will be just fine
And with that, he turned, threw back the curtain and strode out of the room
I think if we had not been there, the doctors and nurses probably would have applauded and dropped down on one knee as he walked by – as it was, I wanted to hug him but he was gone
The other two doctors turned back to us

So I don’t need a Silkwood shower? I asked
Uhh, I don’t get it one of them responded
Never mind I said what now?
Now, Sean gets a chest x-ray to make sure there is no fluid in his lungs (standard procedure they assure me) and then someone from admitting will be done and then he’ll be moved upstairs
Ok I say finally breathing, okay


Sean is not going to get eaten up by anything, worse case, he’s hospitalized for a couple days
I step out and call my folks and Kristen, let them know it will be okay
Sean goes off for his x-ray and Dr Adler sees me sitting alone
He stops by and asks if I have any questions
I just stare at him not really sure what to ask

Well, he says, I’ve been doing this a long time you know, probably longer than you’ve been around
And I have to say, your husband has one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen…’ll take some time but he’ll be fine
Thanks I say
Merry Christmas he responds

We may have more of an exchange but frankly, all I heard was “he’ll be fine”

Another hour passes and we are told Sean’s room is ready
A young woman arrives to take us up to the third floor
I clumsily gather all of Sean’s clothes and his fleece and vest and try to shove them in my purse (yeah, I know)

You want a bag Hun?
That would be great I say
Long morning huh?
A bit I say

As we’re getting ready to go, Sean starts to move around a bit and says he’s cold, his teeth chatter a bit
She pulls out another blanket and covers Sean up
We get up to the third floor and Sean’s room is not quite ready so we stand in the hall way waiting Sean starts to move around a bit again and just keeps saying he’s cold and his leg hurts….then he drifts off

At some point, Sean regained composure and became aware of what was going on and realized he was now in a room and in a bed
He may or may not have asked what time it was what day it was,
I may or may not have told him it was January 2013 and he had been in a coma

What about Lucy he asks
She’s okay I say, I’m going to head home now to see her and then I’ll come back
But what will we do about today and tomorrow…..
I’ll figure it out Sean, don’t worry…’ll be fine
I’m sorry he says
Don’t worry about it honey, its okay now, its fine…..Merry Christmas….

He falls asleep and I leave

And we did figure it out

Kristen was a life line that week – for Lucy and for me – I could never eloquently state how much her help, support and presence meant to us that week
Our other neighbors and friends, Tracey, Lindsey and Callyn took Lucy when I needed them to so I could go to the hospital
My sister Mikel drove back from Maine and after being in the car for 4 hours, still came over after stopping at her house really quick to stay with Lucy so I could go see Sean…then she stayed and just talked to me
I had Cousins and a co-worker of Sean’s on stand-by
My parents would have driven down in a heartbeat along with any one of the sisters still in Maine; all I had to do was ask
I called Day Care and even though I had told them Lucy was out for the week, when I explained the situation, they told me not to think twice – drop her off – she can stay as long as you need her to – Danielle and Rosie even offered to pick her up and bring her home – Miss Barbara called me three times over the weekend looking for updates

And there were still so many more people I know I could have called….but frankly, I was overwhelmed

The worst call was telling Sean’s parents he was in the hospital – imagine being a parent an ocean away and getting a phone call that your child, no matter how old or young, is in the hospital – and even though Sean was in good hands and was getting the treatment he needed, no parent wants to hear their child is in the hospital

Sean was in the hospital until Saturday
We picked him up after lunch
Lucy could not have been more excited and was right over the moon
Poor Sean was just tired

We arrived home and they both promptly fell asleep
I spent the afternoon reading while listening to the two of them snore – it was the best afternoon I’ve had in a long time

Sean stayed home from work the following week – he slept a lot and was slow moving but he was home

Now, his leg looks almost normal
It is still pretty tender, there is still some bruising and it still looks a bit swollen
But he’s fine

He’s just fine

Maria the Mum