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My Kids’ Health Crisis, Part 2

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

I hate to see my kids sick. Who does? I hate it even more when they are diagnosed with something “rare,” which is exactly what happened to Fia after the Wednesday doctor visit.  I left my last post off with Em’s pneumonia and the removal of Fia’s alleged tonsil stone, which was followed by a 105.5 fever.

Thursday morning I had to take them both back in. Emmett’s lungs were still “wet,” but they thought he sounded a little better. One down, one to go.

Fia however, now had a huge patch of white on her left tonsil, and it was really swollen and red. A different doctor saw us and said she had a peritonsillar abscess– something that is uncommon in a young child. She said that Fia now needed the hospital-grade antibiotic shot–the same one Em had the day before.

Note to self: Never tell your kid they won’t get a shot before taking them to the doctor. Technically, I told her she probably wouldn’t need one, so I didn’t swear it. But that didn’t help the wailing. Now she had to endure what she gleefully witnessed her brother getting the day before. A butt shot. She walked out limping–which the doctor said happens. However, Fia managed to dramatically limp for the next 36 hours. She’s my girl.

The pediatrician said we had to come back the next day to see if the swelling was down. She seemed worried. She also said the white stuff we thought was a tonsil stone was actually pus. She said this could turn into a serious infection that would require an ENT to surgically drain the abscess. If it got worse, she would need to be hooked up on antibiotics at the hospital with an IV line. You know when you are on a flight with turbulence and you look to the flight attendant for reassurance and she looks just as frightened as you? Well that is how I felt.

I don’t know what it is, but I somehow worry about Fia more than Emmett. Maybe because he’s such a wild boy who is capable of large-scale destruction while remaining indestructible himself. Fia is so lithe, and while tough and fearless, has a fragile, ethereal way about her. And she’s so damn sweet. Her latest thing is she wants to be a Superhero so she can help people. She has an empathy that I think is pretty remarkable for her age. Sometimes I think she’s too good to be true. Self-indulgent and narcissistic, I know. But it’s how I feel. I was really worried with this infection.

I went home and Googled the abscess. Why is it rare in children and what causes it? Leukemia is what came up on one site. I felt a sinking, sick feeling in my stomach. I stopped Googling. We all know Google is the devil at a time like this.

I watched her like a hawk. I bribed her with television then, 6 hours later, with a lollipop, to look twice in her throat. The swollen, pus-covered bulge wasn’t changing. Neither was her fever. I kept hoping the antibiotics would work.

The next morning she was no better, though I felt calmer for some reason.  It was also Friday. Once again, I took them both back. Em was still on the right track, though he had now developed an ear infection, despite being on oral antibiotics. Cue yet another butt shot. This time Fia didn’t grin. She grimaced. She even got her limp back–for dramatic effect perhaps?

The pediatricians sent us to the head ENT doctor at Children’s Hospital. They wanted us to see a specialist before going into the weekend. I scrambled to get a sitter for Emmett in case Fia needed surgery on the spot.

I have never been so happy in my life to hear the beautiful word: tonsillitis. That’s what he said it was. He said it was swollen more on one side, which could have made the pediatricians think abscess. But the white stuff wasn’t pus–it actually was a tonsil stone. It had just grown. He said it would go away in time. Now whether my pediatricians had averted an abscess by injecting her with antibiotics or not, we won’t ever know. I stand by everything they did, but I was gleeful to hear the words, “Go on home.”

We celebrated with ice cream. Doc said it was okay.

“Just the girls,” she said as she licked her “icing-on-the-cake-with-sprinkles” cone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Em would still barely eat and only take a bottle. Of course this meant diarrhea. Which meant diaper rash. So I found myself back in the throes of newborn territory. I have given them both Culturelle like candy. The doctors told me that right now probiotics are my best friends.

Despite all this, by Sunday, both kids were doing much better. We decided some fresh beach air would do them good. Off we went.

We played in the sand and splashed at the edge of the tide. Phil and I exchanged looks of relief. But fate wasn’t done with us yet.  We changed Emmett’s diaper in the back of the car. As I went to put his pants on, the wild-child-who-can’t-sit-still turned around and flung himself forward, falling face first onto the seat back. He stood up shrieking. Blood was streaming from the outer corner of his right eye.  We thought he sliced his eyeball. We threw them both in their car seats and rushed to the closest ER. He missed his eyelid by 1/8th of an inch.

When the boy is sick, he’s super cuddly. When he’s not, you have to be on a constant death watch. He would find danger in a padded room.

Ending the epic week in the Marina Del Ray emergency room begs the question: How many gods did I piss off in my previous life? I am burning 7 twigs tonight, one for each day of the week. I will recite “Ill luck is broken as these words are spoken.”

Yes, I’m resorting to fairy-magic, hippie-dippy crazy crap at this point. Why not? Of course if my luck doesn’t turn around, my twigs could catch fire and burn the house down…

 

 

 

Cartoon pic of sick kids via Shutterstock

 

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My Kids’ Health Crisis, Part 1 = My Resolution Crisis

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Remind me to never make a New Year’s resolution for as long as I have kids under the age of 18. My resolutions were reasonable and tangible. For 5 minutes. At the top of my list: getting back on the blog. Posting at least twice a week. Followed by running 2 times a week and doing yoga at least once a week.

Then came the proverbial thunderstorm that sucked me into its vortex as it wreaked havoc on my week. Here is part 1 of my war story.*

Wednesday at 3 a.m.: Em coughs to the point of barfing. Fia wakes up complaining of something in her throat.

Em eventually falls back asleep, propped up in crib, humidifier at full speed, slathered in Vicks Vapor Rub, particularly on his feet (click here for more on this cough tip).

For Fia, I see a white “thing” almost like a skin tag on her tonsil. I give her Motrin.

Wednesday 9 a.m.: Em is doing awful. He can barely breathe because the cough is relentless. Fia is saying it’s hard to swallow. I rush both kids to the doctor. Em is diagnosed with full-blown pneumonia. They give him a hospital-grade antibiotic shot in the butt to try and avert an emergency room visit. I guess this is a super painful shot, and he screams bloody murder as big fat tears roll down his face. Fia can’t wait to tell everyone about this. She is almost giddy.

Meanwhile, she is diagnosed with a “tonsil stone“…which is when debris of food and bacteria build up on your tonsil, causing a hardened, white, almost scab-like spot. The doc doesn’t think it’s hardened yet though and is able to put a long Q-tip in her throat and knock it off. Or so he thinks. Problem solved. 

Wednesday 4 pm: Fia spikes a 105.5 fever. I’m suspect that the stone wasn’t the only issue.  Problem not solved. I give her Motrin, she seems fine and I am so preoccupied with Em, I don’t call the doctor. Em just wants to cuddle and sleep. For once the world’s most active (almost) 2-year old boy is passive.

Wednesday 11 pm: Em’s fever is 103 (love my thermometer because I don’t have to touch him to take his temp) and he is panting in his sleep at a rate of 70 breaths per minute. I speak to the on-call doctor. She said if we can give him Motrin and get his fever down, his breathing should slow to 30-35 bpm. If not, then we have to get him to the ER for oxygen.

Emmett is the worst child with taking medicine. Even at the doctor’s office the nurse gave up on helping me with Motrin when he barfed all over her. He is so stubborn, and he gargles it at the back of his throat until he pukes. But Phil and I had to get it down. So we get him up and pinch his cheeks so his mouth is open and the cheeks are between his teeth. That way the nurse said he can’t bite down because he’ll bite his cheeks. I get 1/5th of a dose in before he projectile vomits on us both. Fia is awake now screaming with a 104 fever.

I get Emmett in a cool bath, then try again once he’s dried off and a little calmer. I manage to get down about half a dosage. I decided not to push my luck, because I’d rather him have a little bit than barf all of it up.

Phil is with Motrin-medicated Fia, whose fever is down again. I’m with Emmett, waiting for him to fall asleep so I can count his breaths. 30 minutes later he is panting, but at a rate of 35-40 breaths per minute. I put him back in his crib and go to sleep on the spare bed.

It’s only been 20 hours since this all began…and that was just the beginning of my perfect shit-storm. And the end to my New Year’s resolutions. I’ll post the rest tomorrow.

*I realize in the grand-scheme of things, this is just a bad day/week. We are not battling a chronic illness or worse. But I like to put it all out there in case anyone else has experienced these same conditions or others. It’s parenting in the trenches. Thankfully I don’t have to do it often. Tell me your tips/stories.  It feels good to write it all down.

 

Yoga pose via Shutterstock

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Pope Francis Says Yes To Breastfeeding

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Finally the Catholic Church is getting some sense knocked into it via Pope Francis. It’s a long way from redemption, but this new Pope has been nothing short of impressive. On Sunday he baptized a bunch of babies and told the moms to feel free to breastfeed. In.The.Church. That’s a remarkable statement; especially considering the church bans women and gays (allegedly) from the priesthood and has too many settlements to count for child molestation by priests. Nevertheless, progress is progress. Or, as my late alcoholic mother would say when reciting AA doctrine, “Progress not perfection.”

I think Joe, my guest blogger, should tell his church to take a page from this Pope’s rulebook. In Joe’s church, toddlers are virtually banned from Mass. I’m sure moms would be kicked out for any boob action (I’m still confused as to why you go to that crazy place, Joe. But I’m also glad because your posts on it are beyond hilarious.)

So for the Pope and the members of the Catholic Church, I say keep moving forward. You may actually get out of the dark ages in Francis’ reign.

It’s probably pretty clear by now that I’m not Catholic. I wouldn’t push religion on anyone. But I do wish the Muslim country of Afghanistan could hear the Pope’s message. Or have one of their imams embrace it.  The headlines from the war-torn country last week were heartwrenching. There is a crisis of malnutrition, mostly in children and babies. Doctors are baffled. But one strong theory is that with the conservative Muslim culture so ingrained in the psyche–to the point where if you don’t follow the doctrine you could be killed–mothers aren’t breastfeeding their babies. I mean, it’s baffling. And this certainly isn’t the only country. There are plenty of places where there is a stigma to breastfeeding even when it means the difference between life and death. Hell, even in the first world country of England, Hollie McNish became an overnight sensation with her video poem, Embarrassed. 

Women: if there is a gospel we need to spread, it is the one the National Health Service in the UK coined (ironic given the above video from McNish), The Breast Is Best. Granted there is controversy even with that, but the bottom line is, I don’t care how it happens or what country coins what slogan. If women across the world were proud to provide food to their babies via their breasts, there would be a lot less death, heartache, suffering. Not to mention billions spent in aid to help babies survive, mostly against the odds.

Here’s an excerpt from the article in the New York Times in regards to the Afghanistan article:

Nearly every potential lifeline is strained or broken here. Efforts to educate people about nutrition and health care are often stymied by conservative traditions that cloister women away from anyone outside the family. 

In a country where access to clean water is difficult, and most milk is powdered, that is often a recipe for diarrhea and other conditions that can worsen malnutrition…Ahmed Wali, the 2-year-old Bost Hospital patient with kwashiorkor, is the ninth of 10 children of his mother, Baka Bebi, who is in her mid-30s. She weaned him onto powdered milk mixed with stream water as soon as she could.

 So while the outlook from Pope Francis should be celebrated and embraced, and we can hope for change….

“Today the choir will sing but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry,” he said in a familiar, relaxed tone to the parents.–Yahoo New Service

There is still preventable tragedy on a large scale that needs to happen:

Ahmed, at just 3 months old, looks bigger than his emaciated brother Mohammad, who is a year and a half and weighs 10 pounds…

“The main cause of malnutrition in Afghanistan is lack of breast feeding,” he said. “They see beautiful pictures of milk cartons, and they think it’s better.”New York Times

 

Pope baptizing via 10News/CTV

Malnourish pics of baby via The Bronx Papers 

Malnourish pics of children via Shutterstock and Gary Yim

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I’m Baacckkk

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Yes, I’m alive. Yes, this will sound like one of the countless form letters you received over the holidays, and no, it won’t be nearly as interesting. 

I just want to say that we finally moved 4 days before Christmas, which was 3 days after I got the stomach flu, 2 days after Phil got it, and 1 day before my sitter got it. I predicted my demise in my last post two weeks ago, so I can’t say I was surprised to wake up two midnight’s later barfing. Now it’s been a week since Emmett got pink eye and 5 days since Phil followed suit. I need to sage our new house for good health karma.

Despite some of these bumps, we managed to buy a real, live tree, decorate it, and settle into our house amid the cacophony of Christmas music competing with chain saws and sanders by our construction crew.

Now I am overcome with gratitude for the beautiful house we own and for an amazing crew who made it happen. I am so grateful for my health and that of my family’s. Whenever I get really sick, which isn’t often, it gives me such perspective on how people with chronic conditions have the will/stamina to fight.  I could barely move for at least a day, and I kept thinking, I don’t know how they do it. I think I would give up. I hope I never have to make that decision.

As I go into the year 2014, I plan on getting my writing back on track. I’ve missed it. I also want to make this a year in which I move a little slower. Not physically, because I happen to be a fast walker and I like to run. I’m talking more on a macro level. I don’t want to become so frazzled that I buy meat again from pseudo-Jesse on Breaking Bad, or that I get so stressed out that I come down with the stomach flu (though that may have happened no matter what). I feel really present with my kids, so they aren’t part of my resolution. But they are the reasons for them.

I plan on committing myself to yoga and running at least twice a week. I also want to commit to eating healthy in a way that I can reduce my cholesterol, which has gotten too high for my liking. I’m not a young parent, but I plan to be an old one. My mind body and spirit all need to be nurtured a little.

None of this out of reach. These are my realistic goals (and please tell me yours. It’s fun to hear).

Okay friends, this is where my boring Christmas letter ends and my New Year begins.

It’s good to be back.

(This picture was taken from our window on moving day. Pretty cool, huh?)

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How One Family Isn’t Letting Cancer Ruin Christmas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.


The Internet, if you weren’t aware, is a pretty remarkable thing. It allows you to read this without walking to the newsstand and picking up a magazine or even so much as leaving the comfort of your own bed. It also spawned the onset of social media, allowing us the previously unheard of ability to seamlessly connect with complete strangers with a single click and to form bonds with them without so much as being introduced. And those people could change our lives. In the spring of 2012, I was about to find out how.

When my mom passed away last April, I wrote a rather detailed blog about it and posted to Facebook. I realized pretty quickly how far-reaching an Internet community can be when several friends shared the blog on their timeline, and then some of their friends shared it. Before I knew it, hundreds of strangers were reading about my grief, and many of them had been through a similar experience. It was quite healing, actually. Easily one of the most remarkable people I met through this process was Matt Kabel. A friend of my brother-in-law’s and a parent himself, he and I became fast virtual friends, commenting on each other’s posts, making each other laugh with snarky comments, etc. I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit, and I always looked forward to Matt’s entertaining analysis of life.

Then, this past summer, I read a post from Matt that was anything but funny. His baby daughter, Sally, at only 10 months old, was diagnosed with Leukemia. As I read the words, I sat in stunned silence for a while. Like any parent would, I imagined receiving such news about one of my own children, and my eyes welled up with tears. And not only did he have to deal with his own sadness, but had the task (along with his wife, Nicole) of keeping it together for Sally’s two older brothers, Thomas (7) and William (4). I recently spoke with Matt about the situation, and specifically how he was planning to approach the upcoming holidays. But the overall tone was not one of defeat, but determination and hope. Here’s what Matt had to say about cancer, its effects on his family, and the resilient little girl known as “Sweet Sally Sunshine.”

 

The lovely “Sweet Sally Sunshine” striking a pose at home

 

How did you handle telling your sons about Sally’s condition?

MK: After we found out, MSK (Memorial Sloan Kettering) actually gave us a children’s book on cancer, so Nicole sat down with Thomas and explained it to him that way. He took to reading the book and actually knew more about cancer than either of us early on. William was too young to understand, and still is. All he knows is that Sally is “sick.” One time he was ill and asked if he was going to get a feeding tube, so we have to be careful what and how we communicate. The hospital told us not to use words like ‘medicine’ to refer to chemo as we have to keep a differentiation between chemo and the medicines the boys would take (Tylenol, etc.).

 

Thomas and William (top to bottom)

 

Do you feel that you’re keeping the spirit of Christmas going for your kids’ benefit, or your own?

MK: Both. We’ll never forget the day we arrived at MSK and a nurse told us that the kids with families who stayed positive and lived their lives are the ones that have a better chance of getting through this. Christmas has always been a big deal in our home, and celebrating it to its fullest is “normal” for the boys. It wouldn’t be right to not do it; it would feel like quitting. We have Christmas music playing in our kitchen all day and it adds a bounce to our steps.

 

The extremely festive Matt and Nicole as elves, Sally as a tree

How have Sally’s treatments stretched you as a family? And how important is it that you spend time together as a unit during the Christmas season?

MK: It’s hardest when Sally is admitted. Nicole and I vowed when this started that one of us would always be there with Sally at the hospital. At the same time, the boys need our attention as well, so it’s a constant juggling act trying to get them all the attention that they need. But when Sally is home, she requires more attention and maintenance. She has to take priority, so often the boys are told they need to wait when they want something.

Christmas is all about family, it is very important to Nicole and me that we are together Christmas week. Our hope is that we’ll be together as much as possible, and when we do have to separate, the boys are doing something Christmasy to enhance the holiday for them.
What would you like other parents to know who are dealing with a similar issue?

MK: Cancer is currently in the driver’s seat, and we’re often reminded of this. However, we can’t let that stop us from living our lives. We make mistakes like any parents, and do our best to learn from them. It’s our job as parents to give our kids a great childhood, and we simply can’t put that on hold while we deal with Sally’s current challenge. It’s also our job to remain positive and upbeat so that they will follow our lead. Cancer may alter our holiday, but in no way are we going to let it dampen our Christmas spirit. As Santa says in Miracle on 34th Street – “Christmas isn’t just a day; it’s a frame of mind.”

Days after this interview, the Kabel family received the gifts in the image above and a $5,000 check for Sally’s treatments from PS19 in Staten Island, NY, making Christmas that might brighter for Matt, Nicole and the kids. Also, a charitable organization known as Bay Ridge Cares has held a fundraiser for Sally Kabel, offer rides to and from the hospital for her family and have organized meal trains for them. It’s hard not to smile knowing there are people in our world doing this kind of selfless good for others.

If it isn’t obvious, I’m grateful to have crossed paths with a family like the Kabels. Whenever I’m missing my mother, doubting that I have the strength necessary to act as “ambassador of Christmas” for my kids, I think of the admirable manner in which the Kabels are rising up against adversity in the name of Santa for their children, and I’m that much more certain that it’s possible for all of us. I’ve never even met Matt in person. But he’s still one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever come across. In fact, he’s in many ways the father I aspire to be. And I hope that if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season, you will think of the Kabels and their tremendous example of perseverance and strength, personifying the true spirit of Christmas.

In closing, I’m happy to report that Matt and Nicole have been told by the nurses that they should be able to have Sally home for Christmas Day. But whether at home or huddled together in a cancer ward, I know for certain that the Christmas spirit will follow the Kabels, no matter the location. And if for whatever reason you still doubt Matt Kabel’s relentless devotion to his family’s happiness, check out his very public tribute below…

Matt competed in a triathlon in August, donning this tutu in honor of Sally.

That, my friends, is love.

For more information on Sally, go to www.facebook.com/sweetsallysunshine or for regular blog updates on her progress, go to www.sweetsallysunshine.com.  Also, you can make a contribution directly to Sally by clicking here.

For those who celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas. Hug often. And God bless Sally.

As always, feel entirely free to join the conversation by adding a comment below!

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