Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Latest Experience With the CDC

We've had a challenging couple of weeks. Thankfully we weren't surprised, because we're actually overdue for some fun new "oh crap" moments, but still I like to complain about it, so I will.

Today I'm only going to focus on one event, but it's a good one. Somehow my 9 year old managed to contract MRSA. For those of you who don't know what MRSA is, it's an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that is highly contagious and can be very, very serious and even fatal. If it becomes systemic, and you survive it, you can have lifelong difficulties. And I've heard from several people recently who were hospitalized for weeks or even months while they were fighting it. Yes, that's the latest thing my daughter decided to challenge herself with. Here's how it went down.

It's last Tuesday (January 18th). Kaitlyn says: Mom, I have a bump on my arm that hurts.

Me: Then leave it alone.

Kaitlyn: But it really hurts.

Me: (Exasperated sigh) Ok, let me see it.

I run my fingernail over the nearly microscopic bump and it breaks open

Me: It's just a little bump. You'll be fine. Here's a bandaid. Now go to school.

I then get Ashton on the bus, deep clean the kitchen including refrigerator and pantry, clean all the windows and window tracks in my house, take down the blinds and scrub them in the tub, sanitize all my bathrooms, vacuum and steam clean all my carpets, re-iron all the sheets and towels in the linen closet because I don't like how I did them Monday, cook and freeze two weeks worth of meals and bread, shovel my driveway and the driveway and sidewalks up and down my street, run 20 miles in preparation for the marathon I'm running next week, and take a shower. In other words, a normal Tuesday afternoon.

And it's purely coincidental that all of the levels on Angry Birds are finished and I'm about halfway through getting three stars on every level.

So then Kaitlyn and Ashton get home from school and we do the normal after school dinking around. I haven't given the bump on her arm a second thought.

At about 6:00 Kaitlyn starts complaining about the bump again.

Kaitlyn: Mom, the bump on my arm hurts.

Me: I'm sorry. Please clean the yogurt off the cat.

Kaitlyn: But it really hurts.

Me: If your arm falls off we'll take you to the doctor. Please get your Theraputty out of the spaghetti sauce. *


Me: Then get one! And please get your brother out of the garbage can!

At this point Kaitlyn gives up on me and starts on her dad. I hear him suck in his breath.

Mike: Steph, you probably want to come look at this.

Me: I'll be there as soon as I get the grape juice off the ceiling.

Mike: No, you should probably come now.

I stomp over there, look at her arm, and pass out.

1 minute later

Me: Why am I soaking wet? And why is there snow up my shirt?

Mike: I needed to wake you up fast. And the snow up your shirt was Ashton's reward for only having one meltdown at school today. **

I then remember the last 2 minutes, which included looking at one of the most disgusting things I've seen in a long time. I start to get woozy again, but Mike is standing over me with a grin on his face and a glass of water in his hand, and Ashton is standing over me with a grin on his face and a snowball in his hand, and since we don't want to reward Ashtond too much for only having one meltdown, I manage to cling to consciousness.

I took a picture, but very unfortunately it didn't turn out. I'll describe. In the few hours she was at school, the tiny bump had turned into a crater about the size of a nickel. It was black inside, red outside, and was oozing yellowish-green pus. The description doesn't do it justice. Just believe me when I say that it was something I hope never to see again.

Me: That looks pretty gross. We should probably take her to a doctor.

Mike: Good idea.

So Kaitlyn and I take a trip to Instacare. The doctor looks at it and says it's a staph infection, which has me nervous but not too nervous. She swabs it for a culture and tells me she'll call back if it turns out to be anything else, then gives us a prescription for 2 antibiotics, tells us to keep the wound covered and keep her hands clean, and sends us on our way.




Friday night. It's about 8:00 and the kids are getting ready for bed.

Ashton: Mom, will you stop playing Angry Birds and put my pajamas in the dryer?

Me: Just a minute, dear. Another 50 or so tries and all those stupid pigs will be MINE.

Ashton: Oh, so we can say stupid now? Will you put my stupid pajamas in the stupid dryer so I can go to stupid bed because I'm stupid tired?

Me: Crap.

Ashton: Oh, so we can say crap now too? Will you put my stupid crap pajamas in the stupid crap dryer so I can....

Luckily, just then the phone rings.

Me: Hello?

Person on the phone: Hello. This is Dr. Someoneorother. I'm calling because we got the results of Kaitlyn's culture, and she doesn't have staph. She has MRSA.

Person on the phone: Hello?

Person on the phone: Are you there?

Me: Blurgulumkulurp

Person on the phone: Is there someone else there I can talk to?

I take 3 deep, cleansing breaths and try it again.

Me: Um, what does she have? I thought you said MRSA, but you can't have said that, because that's what my friend's father in law died from and what put my other friend's mom in the hospital for 3 months, so MRSA is unacceptable. Please go back and try again.

Person on the phone: No, she really does have MRSA. She'll be fine. Just stop giving her the stuff I prescribed on Tuesday and start giving her this new stuff. And don't let her touch you or anyone else in your family or anything in the house. And if she gets any kind of fever or develops any new sores take her straight to the ER. Oh, and you'll have to hose down your entire house with Lysol, so I hope you really like the smell. And every sheet, blanket, towel, and article of clothing she's touched in the past month will have to be burned and the ashes buried under an elm tree during a lunar eclipse. Good luck.

Me: It can't be repeated because this is a family show.

Person on the phone: SLAM

The following days include two missed birthday parties and lots of phone calls from various health organizations, including the Center for Infectious Diseases and the CDC. Let me just tell you what a treat it is to talk to those organizations. If you're ever feeling like you have too much self esteem and need to be knocked down a notch or two, I highly recommend giving them a call. I won't go into detail, but you can trust me on that one. I also got to call her teacher and explain that I had sent my daughter to school for 4 days with one of the most infectious diseases known to man. She got to spend her Friday night driving to the school, getting the phone numbers of all the kids in both of her classes, and making 35 phone calls to warn the parents. If we weren't popular before, we certainly are now.

So the good news is that she responded well to the antibiotic and didn't have any complications. She went back to school today and hopefully this is all behind us now. And the very BEST news is that this latest adventure didn't add another specialist to our ever-growing list. It was just your everyday run-of-the-mill deadly infection. Whew.

* If you don't know what Theraputty is, good for you. I'd suggest keeping it that way. You know how convenient and fun Play-Doh is to clean up? Pretend your Play-Doh is super sticky and never gets dry and stains everything it comes in contact with. Then allow your 7 year old to put it between the couch cushions so he can "see what happens." That's another one of the fun things that happened at our house this week. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the bright green to coordinate with our light brown couch, since it will never come out. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

** Ashton has decided to start having meltdowns at school. Since I can't talk about this with any degree of humor right now, I'm going to wait to post about it. You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cheer Up! It Could Be Worse! Part 2

One of my New Year's resolutions is to make sure I update my blog at least once a week. We'll see how long it lasts.

Today's blog is going to be a bit different than the others. I'm going to dedicate it to a little girl I've never met and to her mom who (whom? I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) I met briefly and who is one of the nicest people I've talked to in quite a while.

A few days before Christmas my sister told me about a family in her neighborhood who was going through one of the worst situations imaginable. Their 4 year old daughter had been complaining about a stomach ache for a week or so, so the mom took her to the doctor to see what was up. What should have been a run-of-the-mill trip (it's just a virus, nothing you can do, keep her hydrated and it'll go away) turned into a hellish nightmare that is just beginning to unfold.

After poking and prodding and testing, the doctor told the mom that her daughter likely had some kind of cancer and that it was probably at stage 4. The doctor wanted to arrange for Life Flight to pick up the girl to fly her to Primary Children's Hospital because the cancer appeared to have spread to her lung and he was worried about her breathing. So four days before Christmas this sweet family, whose lives had been pretty normal up to this point, found themselves flying to a hospital in a city several hours away so they could start fighting for their daughter's life.

It turns out this little girl has a form of kidney cancer known as Wilms Tumor. It has metastasized to one of her lungs along with other places in her abdomen. She is undergoing an aggressive 6 to 8 week course of chemotherapy, after which the doctors will reevaluate the situation to see if the tumors have shrunk enough that they can be safely removed. She could be in the hospital the entire time, depending on how she responds.

Kaitlyn had a doctor's appointment yesterday so we stopped at the PICU to take the girl a small gift. I spoke with her mom for quite a while, but instead of talking about how horrible her daughter's situation was or how stressful things were for her, she talked nonstop about how wonderful people had been to her family and how great the hospital was and how beautiful my daughter was and how kind we were to go up there to see them. Now I'm sure she has her moments when she falls apart, or at least I hope she allows herself to do that, but when I met her she was positive and kind and sweet and, most of all, GRATEFUL.

I truly believe that when you're given a challenge you're almost always strong enough to endure it. And sometimes enduring is all you can hope for, and to be honest, sometimes it's enough. But to be right in the middle of the trial and to be able to leave your self-pity long enough to not only be kind to a stranger, but also to show GRATITUDE, is pretty amazing.

So although I hate the phrase "it could be worse" more than I hate rude drivers, there are situations where it truly applies. This is one of them. As hard as our challenges are at times, I'd still take them gladly, over and over, if it meant I didn't have to go through the heartbreak this family is experiencing. And I know that at this point in my life I'm not even close to having the attitude this mom has. So thank you, Chandra, for sharing your beautiful daughter with me, and for allowing me to see what true kindness and gratitude look like.

Now I'd like to ask a favor. If you believe in prayer or positive thoughts or healing light or something I can't think of, please send some to this family. They have a long road ahead of them and can use all the strength and encouragement they can get.

You can follow their story here: