Caring Bridge


Did you ever have one of those days where nothing seemed to go right?

Today was that day for me (you could argue that the last 380+ days have been like that for me, but I’ll put that aside for today’s story).  Today’s story actually started on Friday afternoon.  That was when I discovered that Maura had a fever of 103.  The good news was that the fever responded to the Tylenol and she was in relatively good spirits.   Friday night her fever spiked up to 105 in one ear and 103 in the other ear (yeah, go figure, I decided to take the average of the two).

On Saturday I decided to take Maura to the pediatricians just to rule out strep and see if they could pinpoint a diagnosis.   Well, strep wasn’t likely and the flu was ruled out.  So, she just has your run of the mill virus for which there is no medicine.  Yeah!

Sometime on Sunday, Maura decides that she doesn’t like Tylenol any more.  Grand.  Her fever has been vacillating between normal and 103 throughout the day.  She sleeps several times during the day at one and a half hour stints.  Bed time comes early for my little darling.

Did I say darling?  Oh no, I must be mistaken.  Someone swapped my charming little angel for a Toddlersaurous Rex from – eh, hem – Newark.  She didn’t want a bath.  Understandable given her fever, but she cried through it to beat the band (and my ear drums).  She didn’t want the eye medication prescribed to reduce the gunk that was building up.  In fact, she screamed a scream from the 9th circle of you-know-where that just about peeled the skin off my face.  Then she refused to take the Tylenol thereby dashing any hope that my sweet little girl might return and that I would be getting any sleep.

Well, I got Maura to bed and came downstairs to find Malcolm drawing on himself with a black marker.  “Look, Daddy!”  I stood there briefly with my mouth hanging open spewing nonsense about what I should do with my children, when finally Meredith knocks some sense into me and tells me to take the marker away.  I take it away, he cries.  Victory for the parents.

Fast forward to 10:30pm.  Maura “spills” in her bed.  Spill is Maura’s word for vomit.  At first I panic and wrongly assume that the end of the world would be coming shortly and that I was woefully underdressed.  Then after surveying the situation it appeared that Maura had merely coughed her way into “spilling”.  I did a superficial cleaning and put her back to bed.

Fast forward to 1:30am.  Malcolm comes trundling down the stairs*and whimpers something about not sleeping.  Mommy hears him, tries to console him, and tries to get him to come into our room, but he is stunned by the darkness that he meets at the bottom of the stairs.  I wake up halfway through this exchange thinking something is dreadfully wrong and I spring out of bed (like a well worn set of shocks, I might add), and dash toward the stairs without really knowing what’s taking place.  Well, fortunately for Malcolm, it took me several tries to get my glasses on my face properly and at least twice to get my crocs on without breaking my ankles otherwise I might have bowled him over on the way up the stairs.  By the time I arranged myself in some manner of midnight manliness, I realized what was going on and was able to approach my whimpering 3-year-old with some degree of 1am tenderness.

Muttering something about the dark and not sleeping in his room, I brought Malcolm back up stairs and tried to get him back to sleep.  He wanted nothing to do with staying up in his room for some reason.  I told him that I was going to sleep on the bottom bunk while he figured out what he was going to do.  He promptly climbed into his crib and went back to sleep.  Of course, I didn’t want to leave right away for fear of setting off a cry of alarm, so I stayed put in the bottom bunk.  Tucked in nicely.  An extra blanket on top.  Mmm…

Fast forward to 3:30.  Malcolm is asleep.  And so is daddy…in Malcolm’s room, on the bottom bunk.  I lay my head back down to sleep some more when I realize that I wouldn’t be able to hear Meredith if she needed to use the bathroom.  So I got up quietly and glided down the stairs so as to attract the least amount of attention to me departure.

As soon as I hit the bottom step, I hear Meredith calling out for me to help her to the bathroom.  Fortunately, she just started asking for me and was not stricken with a bladder infection from holding it for the two hours that I had fallen asleep upstairs.

The next day…well, my classes are a joy (sarcasm alert), I can barely contain my enthusiasm for teaching (sarcasm alert), and I spilled chicken noodle soup on one of my nicest shirts (just the facts).  Gah!

The good news…our Federal Income Tax return came in the mail, today (the bad news about that is that I hate the fact that I loaned the government any of my money in the first place); Malcolm and Maura ate a reasonable dinner considering their battles with the fever; everyone is in bed except me and I will be there soon.

I know that you have days like these, too.  My advice to you?  Open the soup lid away from you.

Marc

*I have a story to share about Malcolm and his crib, but that will have to wait.  As I mentioned, I need to be in bed soon, or else Tuesday will very likely be a repeat of Monday.

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Good morning.

Yes, it is only seven minutes after 5 on Friday morning.  Do you ever have one of those days when you wake up at 3 or 4 and for some reason you just can’t fall back to sleep?  Well, today is one of those days for me.  The worst part is that right around 8am, when I need be at work, is when I’ll feel ready to go back to sleep.  Oh well.

Things are well in the Whitman house.  Speaking of wells…

I mentioned the hole in our basement in the previous update. Yes, there is a hole. My dad came up on Tuesday night last week and jack-hammered a hole around the pipes that have been causing the sewage backup problems. So there is a 2 foot deep, 6-8 square foot hole between the drier and the hot water heater.

It was entirely possible that the next update I would give you would be coming from the Hampton Inn in Rutland Town because a vast sinkhole appeared and swallowed up our house (and the three immediate surrounding it), but that is not the case and I write to you from the comfort of my 65° dining room (at 5 in the morning).

So the good news is that the drain people have come and solved the backup problem (at least that is what they claim). [Aside: the drain people are like the pod people, only scarier and dirtier.] Other than the big hole in my basement floor, the inability to use the washer and drier, and three or four days of laundry piled up we’re doing just swell. (In college, it was a badge of honor to go at least seven days without doing your laundry. In fact, the longer the better. That meant that you not only had endurance, but you also had ingenuity in how to make one pair of underwear last multiple days.)

Meredith continues to make small steps forward. Her memory problems are becoming a little more obviously focused in the area of short term memory loss. It is not uncommon for her to ask me the same question a dozen times in the span of an hour before she either remembers the answer or loses interest in the answer. Most other memories are coming back, or are rebuild-able. She and her aide (Shannon) take daily trips to the mall in order for Meredith to propel herself in her wheelchair. It’s good exercise for her and bad for my wallet.

Additionally, Meredith will be moving out of the hospital style bed that she has been in since she moved home and she’ll be moving back to our matrimonial bed. The insurance coverage was expiring because the medical necessity for the bed was diminishing. I succumbed to consumerism and purchased a king-sized bed for the occasion because I want to make sure there is room for both of us to sleep well through the night. When we’ve experimented with sleeping in our current bed, Meredith slept fine. Me…not so much. So, Merry Christmas to us.

The kids are fine. There seem to be an increasing number of times that they play very well together. In fact, it’s very cute. Malcolm runs around dictating the storyline and Maura runs around right behind him shouting, “Okay!” Of course, the times when they don’t play well together are akin to the fiercest battles of modern warfare. Maura has begun to realize that she can strike back. This could get interesting.

I am finishing up my last day of teaching for the year 2008, today. No excitement there.

We still don’t have a Christmas tree. I’m getting close to throwing lights on the fichus tree and calling it a day. Either way, we’re looking forward to Christmas. In the event that I don’t get caught up with a new journal entry, look for the star and have a Merry Christmas.

Marc

Good Monday Morning and Happy December.

I keep meaning to write a little something especially for those people who we may see while Meredith is out and about.

It occurred to me that some of you may be nervous, or tentative, when approaching Meredith because you aren’t sure what to say or how to say it. Let me see if I can help you out a little bit.

The first thing is don’t be worried about talking to Meredith. She enjoys meeting people and talking with people. She may be shy, but I think it helps her to feel “normal” to talk to people who aren’t with her 24/7.

Secondly, be sure to introduce yourself. If I’m with Meredith I try to casually let her know who is coming to talk to her. This works fine except, um, when I can’t remember a name. Besides, it would be a good opportunity to get your conversation going. The reason for the introduction is that she can’t see very well and even though she recognizes voices, she isn’t likely going to remember everyone’s voice.

Third, act normal. If you would normally talk about the weather, then talk about the weather. If you would normally talk about music, then talk about music. If you’re normally a dingbat, then talk like a dingbat. (Did I say that last one out loud?)

Fourth, she has a brain tumor, not stupidity. While you may not feel comfortable talking about the tumor, try to avoid dancing around the subject. She is sharper than you might be inclined to think and she will pick up on things. Besides, the stupidity is reserved for me. It is okay to talk to me like I am stupid.

Fifth, she is a stroke victim, not deaf. There is no need to shout, unless you are in fellowship hall at church and competing with the volume of the echo chamber.

Sixth, her memory is improving, but not perfect (like many of us). This will most likely come into play when you see her more than once. Don’t expect her to remember visiting with you. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if she does remember visiting you. Her memory problems will be most obvious in a prolonged conversation. It is not uncommon for her to ask the same question repeatedly. Try not to be exasperated and simply answer the question again.

Seventh, as I mentioned before, don’t be anxious about talking to Meredith. If you feel like you’ve made some silly remark, or spoken inappropriately to her, then you will be quickly forgiven. I know that the people that she sees on the street (so to speak) are not going to converse effortlessly with Meredith and I don’t think you should worry about what you say.

She does appreciate the encouragement that comes from people telling her how far she has come since February. Now that we are out and about more, you may even notice some of the improvements without having to get updates from me or her parents. If you notice something, don’t hesitate to point it out.

I hope this helps give you some ideas about what you can do to interact with Meredith when you see her. Mostly, I want you to keep in mind that she is loved by God no matter what her current condition and because of that, she is deserving of our love as well.

Take care and God bless.

Marc

Good morning.

I wanted to give you a brief update about what’s been going on here on 10 Harvard Street. For some of the exciting goings on, I’ll refer you back to my Thanksgiving Eve post. There is one story that I haven’t shared because I’ve been trying to find the most exciting way to tell it. I haven’t found an exciting way of telling it, so you’ll get the boring, ho hum version of the story and I’ll let the facts be the excitement.

First, Meredith is doing well. I was able to get to her therapies on Friday for the first time since she started as an outpatient at the hospital (Rutland Regional Medical Center). It has become clear to me that Meredith is able to do more than we “allow” her to do. I know from my perspective I don’t have her do things because of time and expediency (with two little kids running around that isn’t hard to understand why). But she is probably able to do more and should do more, so now I just need to figure out a way to make that happen when I’m home. Of course, in order to facilitate Meredith doing more things on her own she should be doing a regular exercise routine. Again, not a problem for Shannon (her aide) during the week, but it is a problem for me when it’s just me.

That brings me to a little aside. I am very grateful for all of the help many people have given me throughout this ordeal, especially my mom, my family and my in-laws. I certainly would have many more gray hairs if I didn’t have the help that they have provided. I am also very grateful for the community of cookers that Marty Barclay has been arranging for us. They’ve provided me two nights a week of delicious food (and more importantly, time not to worry about what to make for dinner).

Well, the sewage continued to spill out of the trap in the basement floor. Greg finally called the drain service people for me while we were visiting my Dad and step-mom (which was a great visit). I was reluctant to call them because, well, probably because I’m stubborn, but also because they’ve been to the house twice already back in August and the problem has not gone away. I was also hoping to time it so that I didn’t have to pay double time for their services on a holiday or weekend. No such luck. I haven’t used the toilet since he was here, but I’m not holding my breath.

Maura is very congested, but she seems to be otherwise fine. Malcolm is still whiny, but I still love him ( (I never stopped, in case you doubted). Merlin, well…

Enter two little visitors that showed up on my door. Literally, my chest and my arm. Oh, a couple of weeks back, I noticed something on my chest right below my left collar bone. It looked to me like a blood blister that had ballooned up from my skin. I didn’t think much of it because when I wrestle with the kids I get pinched and poked and pounced on all over. I just figured it was one of those pinchings that resulted in a blood blister. A few days later I noticed another one on the back of my right arm (actually, Malcolm is the one to have discovered that one for me).

(Too much information warning)

So, I’m sitting on the toilet one afternoon after school, minding my own business (doing my business if you prefer) and I felt something fall down my back. Huh? I thought to myself, I wonder what that was. I proceed to wrap up what I’m doing (not literally, of course) and I spot something on the toilet seat. Huh? What is that? I picked it up and to my curiosity I discovered that it was the “blood blister” that was from my chest. After looking at it up close, my curiosity turned to horror as I realized that it was no blood blister. It was a tick! A TICK!

Of course, out of a morbid curiosity (and an overwhelming desire to squish the little monster) I looked closely at the creature and squeezed it. Sure enough, the sack of my digested blood explodes violently and splatters all over my face. Well, the rest of the story is a little fuzzy, but it went something like this:

I exclaimed disgust.

I squirmed.

I exclaimed disgust.

I took of my shirt and inspected the other tick. I carefully removed the tick, took pictures of it, and put him in a plastic bag to die a slow death of suffocation.

I squirmed.

I called my father-in-law, the dentist. Not really sure what he was going to tell me, I figured he would have advice for me as my skin was crawling with imaginary ticks.

Reassured, but not satisfied, I called my sister-in-law, the physician’s assistant and woods dweller (i.e. tick connoisseur). I asked her to assure me that I wouldn’t die, I told her my story. I realized that I didn’t need to go to the emergency room (even though I very much wanted to so that I could take a hazmat bath).

I squirmed. My skin continued to crawl with imaginary ticks sucking my very real blood. In fact, I didn’t don another shirt for at least an hour. I was constantly looking over my shoulder and in the mirror, convinced that the ticks had bred like rabbits and I was covered with them. I squirmed some more.

I have since visited the doctors and we are pursuing a course of blood screening before we try any antibiotics. If I do have Lyme disease, then because we caught it early (and crushed and suffocated the little buggers) it is very treatable with a three-week course of antibiotics. That is very reassuring, of course, but I’m still squirming.

I have posted a picture of my little friend on my other blog. Follow the link at it at your own peril. It will cause your skin to crawl as it did mine.

Happy first Sunday in Advent!

Take care and God bless.

Marc

Well, well…there was something I was supposed to wish you all, but I can’t remember what it is. It’ll come to me. In the meantime, here are some more goings on in the Whitman house.

The day started off well enough, that is unless you count the broken picture frame above Malcolm’s bed. I’m not sure how it happened, and I decided right away that it wasn’t going to bother me, but an 8×10″ picture of Malcolm, Mommy, and Daddy on Malcolm’s first birthday (compliments of the Dinnany’s – thanks guys!) was off the wall, glass smashed, picture torn, and lying in Malcolm’s crib. Obviously, the most frustrating part was that the picture itself was torn (pretty much beyond repair) and that we have no duplicate of that image. I did check to make sure Malcolm wasn’t hurt and proceeded to spend the next 10-20 minutes cleaning up the mess he had made while he and Maura ran around downstairs.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we ran out of diapers and the only thing we had was pull-ups (which for you uninitiated folk are diaper-lites: good transition to underwear but weak on the absorption, and definitely not poop conducive). No problem, right? After all, we’re trying to train Malcolm to be diaper free and potty trained so what a perfect excuse to promote using the toilet for our peeps and poops. Stayed tuned…

So after I clean up from the picture fiasco, I proceed to make breakfast. Keep in mind, it’s gotten rather late. Blast, no more cereal that the kids like! Now what? Well, thanks to Grandma, we’ve got some cinnamon bread in the house and it appeals to young taste buds quite nicely. Everyone has breakfast and walks away content.

Mommy and I rush to get ready because I have a doctor’s appointment at 11am and by the time breakfast is cleared up it’s getting rather late. I brought Meredith over to her parents’ house and left the kids with Stephanie (who was eager to see them on break from school) and then headed to my appointment. (I should say that the kids were excited to see Stephanie, too.) I managed to get to the doctor’s appointment within a half an hour of the actual time (and you know the way the doctor’s office works…that means I was actually early for my appointment!).

Well, the rest of the day proceeded in relative calm. Meredith got to visit with two of her friends from high school, Cara and Rachel, and I was told they talked “girl stuff” and that I wouldn’t understand. I told her that I’m a father of a girl and to try me for understanding, but I could get no more information. Oh, and remember the potty training thing I mentioned earlier…well, let’s just say we’re still working on it.

Enter bed time…

Maura and I ventured upstairs for bath and bed time. She seemed a little out of sorts and possibly a little warm, but we proceeded as usual with our routine. When I took her out of the tub she was shaking and shivering so much that she made the changing table rattle, so I decided to take her temperature to see what it was. Well, little Miss Maura does not like the rectal thermometer (can’t say I blame her). She cried, and cried, and squirmed, and cried. After the thermometer revealed that her temperature was 102.5, she proceeded to vomit on the changing table. I was dodging chunks of Clementine oranges while trying to minimize the collateral damage and provide some degree of solace for my poor little girl.

I cleaned her up, gave her some Tylenol, and proceeded to get her ready for bed. By this time, Malcolm was most interested in why Maura was throwing up. So, he had to come upstairs with us to read stories to Maura before she went to bed. Well, Sir Malcolm smelled a little ripe, but when asked if he had something in his diaper (it was a real diaper at this point, because I managed to get to the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving which is almost as stupid as trying to shop for Christmas presents the day after Thanksgiving) Malcolm claimed not to have anything in there. Yet when he jumped up to my lap to read a story with Maura and me he refused to sit on his bum. Sure there’s nothing in there, buddy.

Anyway, Maura went to sleep fine, and as I listen on the monitor, I don’t hear her making any unusual sounds (like fish tap dancing on marble floors). Now we shift our focus to Fruit One. He does well right up until the point where I take out the nail clippers. He does fine with his fingers and after a considerable amount of coaxing, cajoling, and outright threatening, he managed to get all but the big toe on his right foot cut. Sadly, I had to resort to brute force to subdue the squirming foot long enough to get two effective snips. He calmed down, but neither one of us was terribly pleased with the exchange.

I went downstairs to finish cleaning up after Maura’s vomiting episode only to discover a gurgling sound coming from the shower after I flushed the toilet. That could mean only one thing: our drain pipes were backing up. Slowly I made my way downstairs unsure of what I would find. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the third step before I realized there was water on the basement floor. Sure enough, the drain pipe had indeed backed up, poop and all. (There is more to the story of seeping sewage and perhaps I’ll get around to writing about it…If I haven’t already…)

So, after about an hour of sucking up the water with a wet/dry shopvac (which arrived at our house during the great basement flood of the spring of ’08 – thanks Dad!), I moseyed upstairs to get ready for bed. Of course, I couldn’t sleep so here I am, remembering what it was that I was supposed to wish you at the beginning of this note…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good morning.

It has been almost a week since Meredith had her shunt removed, and praise God she has had no symptoms indicating a regression of any kind. It is still possible for swelling to occur but God willing that won’t happen. Everything seems to be headed in the right direction.

When compared to the progress she made when she first came home the progress that she’s making now seems to be in larger strides. She is still a long way off from where we all want her to be, but between the therapies, time at home in a “normal” environment, and a lot of blessings from God she is moving in the right direction.

We are also in the process of tapering the last of her medications. She has been on some form of steroid for about 9 months. I don’t know a whole lot about steroids and their effects on the human body, but from people who know more than me they say it is not a good thing to be on steroids if you can help it. So, hopefully by early December (if not sooner), she will have weaned off of the steroid and she will essentially be medication free.

Considering that she still has the tumor (as of the last MRI scan in August) and she still has a long road to neuromuscular recovery, I think that it’s pretty darn amazing that she doesn’t need any medication.

On another note…Malcolm has developed a fever that got as high as 103.8 last night. The good news is that it responds to Tylenol, so I haven’t panicked yet (I was considering an ice bath instead of medication, but thought better of it).

Maura continues to learn words at a typical almost-two-year-old pace. So, if you happen to see her, be sure to watch what you say. Or, if you prefer a challenge, I would love for my children to have a rich vocabulary and an inquisitive mind, so use plenty of multi-syllabic words with complex meanings. Of course, if you do that, be prepared to do a lot of explaining to an attention-challenged 21-month-old.

Merlin…well, he and I went to the dump yesterday. He loves the dump (who doesn’t?). He scored because not only did he get a treat when we brought our trash, but he got another one when we brought Papa’s office trash. Lucky dog.

Your prayers, thoughts, and generosity have been tremendous and I pray that God will bless you each in a mighty way. Take care and God bless.

Marc

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