Wednesday, May 19, 2010

flights of fancy...

So I have mentioned before that I live on an island off the coast of Maine. We are approximately 13 miles by ferry to the mainland. We do have a small, dirt, airstrip that small planes can fly in and out of, weather permitting. Our fair Isle cannot be reached in inclement weather. And vice verse. When the weather is really bad, we cannot get to the mainland.

As you can imagine, when the wind howls and the rain/sleet/snow is flying, I am super paranoid about The Toot's health. And for her part, my little angel prefers to get sick on the weekend, after office hours, when the weather report is reading like something out of a Stephen King novel.

This past winter and spring has been one crisis after another for our family with regards to Tessie's health. And don't be fooled. When one family member is in
crisis, the WHOLE family is in crisis. My older girls are unbelievable at handling it. I, honest to God, couldn't be more proud of Blake and Ellie. When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

But I I was saying, Tessie's overall health was getting very scary.

She began having uncontrollable seizures last September and they continued to get worse with each passing month despite all of our best efforts and three seizure medications in our arsenal.

Not to mention that Tess gets sick so easily with everything that is going around. Her immune system is shot.

One such instance comes to mind when I think back over this past winter. It was the beginning of February and Tess seemed like she was getting a cold. After day two of coughing and just not acting like herself, I took Tess to see our nurse practitioner on the island. The most amazing "Dr. Jen". Jen looked Tessie over and decided that she wanted another set of eyes on her so she called in the "official" doctor.

They decided to take a set of X-rays because they weren't loving her lung sounds. The X-rays showed and "infiltration" of the lungs but was it asthma? Pneumonia? They weren't sure and because Tessie can go downhill very fast, they gave her a shot of antibiotic and sent us home with an appointment for the next day to check in.

A few hours later Tessie had a coughing spell that I didn't think she was going to come out of. I am not exaggerating. She choked on a glob of phlegm and it got stuck in her windpipe and she couldn't breathe. I was watching her turn blue when I rolled her to her side and finger swiped inside her mouth/throat to remove the phlegm.

I was all alone and scared to death. I gave her oxygen and called our private duty nurse at home and reported everything that had just happened. She instructed me to put her pulse ox monitor on her and keep an eye on her heart rate and on her oxygen levels. Well, her oxygen levels were okay, not good, but okay, however her heart rate was in the high 170's. This was bad. Very bad. I started shrieking into the phone, "Sheila, it's 165, now it's 170, now it's 175!". Sheila very calmly told me to hang up, call the doctor and pack a bag.

When I called the doctor back it had only been three hours since we had seen him at the medical center. He did not like what he was hearing at all and called out the ambulance to my house as well as the airplane to get us to the mainland hospital as fast as possible.

Now this is a small island and naturally I know quite well most of the ambulance crew. One of the guys that day was a classmate of mine from high school, not to mention the father of Ellie's best friend and the other guy is married to a relative.

While I was very scared about Tessie, the sight of them helped calm me. Plus, they are professional without being cold. When I am that stressed I need to joke around, that is how I handle it without breaking down. These two let me joke and joked back without making me feel like I was a bad mom for laughing at such a serious time. I think they knew that I needed the outlet and besides, I assume it is better for them that I laugh (if even a bit hysterically) then be falling apart or even worse, in their way trying to tell them how to do their job.

Anyway, we got to the airstrip and the plane was waiting.

Oh wait, I'm sorry, did I call it a plane? I meant the Tonka Toy that was supposed to somehow get us safely to the mainland. I am not kidding. This looked like something the Wright brothers would have passed over as unsafe.

Okay, I'll be honest here. I am a nervous flier under perfect conditions so you can imagine my horror.

So, we got me into the plane, The Toots on my lap, and the EMT next to us with a jump bag for Tessie in case she needed suctioning, oxygen, etc while in the air. The plane revs up to begin take off and it backfires. I swear to God. BANG!! Like a gunshot. I grabbed even tighter on to The Toodle Bug and looked at Burke (EMT) and said, "I don't like this! That is not an encouraging sound!". I think my eyes must have been bugging out of my head because he just kind of looked at me and laughed and said "We're fine.".

And did I mention the smell inside the plane? It was like when your grandpa is working in his tool shed on the lawn mower. Kind of a gas and oil mixture. As if they has just performed some type of major engine repair. We were gonna die. Oh my God.

We somehow managed to get up in the air and the pilot is on course for the mainland when I decide that clearly someone needs to be ready to crash land this death trap so I start looking out of my little window for islands that we might possibly be able to land on.

Burke is keeping an eye on Tess but, not knowing her that well, he needs me to tell him how she is acting. "Is she having a seizure?", he asks me, "Do you think she is doing okay?". I wanted to scream at him that couldn't he see I was busy trying to figure out a way to crash land this hunk of junk, or worse, trying to prepare for a fiery midair explosion. What I said instead was, "I don't think so. I think she is okay but you may want to check out the pilot. He doesn't look so hot. Like maybe he is well on his way to passing out." Burke was cracking up at me but I was only half kidding. The other half of me was trying to finalize my plan of handing Tessie over to Burke, throwing the passed out pilot out of the cockpit, and flying this bird myself.

No, I do not know how to fly a plane. That did not factor into my plan however. My plan was to grab the yoke (see, I do know something about planes) and grab the mike and yell for help and directions. I was all over it.

And you can probably guess what The Toots was doing during all of this...yep, she was giggling. Sick as she was, she just loved the plane ride and, also, I think she was getting quite a kick out of my fear.

At any rate, as you must have figured out by now, since I am writing this not from the great beyond but from my living room sofa, we made it. The pilot did not pass out. There was no need to crash land on a small island and there was most definitely no fiery explosion.

An ambulance met us at the airport and whisked us off to the hospital. The Toots was admitted into the special care unit for four days with aspiration pneumonia and RSV. She was a very sick little girl.

I was still terrorized by my near death experience and tried to tell my hubby about the very close call we had had in the plane. His response? "Yeah, all small planes smell like that. You were really scared?".

Well thanks for the love.

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