If you missed the beginning, parts I and II of WORST VACATION EVER are here.
Dwelling on this whole trip is making me have flashes of post traumatic stress, so let's get this story done and over with so we never have to speak of it again.
We left off from the story when Gabe was discharged from the hospital at 2am, with surgery on his hand scheduled for 6am the following morning. Gabe was asleep before we left the parking lot, and Josh carried him into my parents house, changed him, and put him to bed without him ever waking up. My parents house is small, so the idea was for me to sleep on the couch and Josh on the twin bed on the floor of Gabe's room, but both of us were so anxious and upset, we opted to sleep together on that tiny twin bed on the floor. Neither one of us slept. I couldn't stop dwelling on the surgery to come, and envisioning horrible scenarios where Gabe died under general anesthesia for something as stupid as a hurt finger.
By the way, I can't believe I left out how it happened. My parents have a heavy door between the garage and the house, and it slams automatically. We've never paid any attention to the door, except to keep it from slamming because it wakes up the kids. My mom and Gabe were leaving the house on Friday afternoon to run a quick errand, so my mom held the door open for Gabe, and then realized she'd forgotten the car keys. She turned back to grab them, the door slammed, and at the last moment, Gabe stuck his hand into the closing door. The door slammed on his finger, and it was heavy enough to partially amputate the top part. My mom said Gabe started screaming, and when she turned around and pulled open the door, there was blood everywhere. (shudder)
So Josh and I spent a miserable and unhappy night on the floor, both of us sitting upright at the faintest sound, both afraid Gabe was in pain, and afraid we might sleep through the alarm (not a chance) and both terrified of what was to come. In particular, I couldn't stop getting myself riled up over the possibility of an iv. I was DONE with Gabe being in pain, and I was ready to go to the mat with anyone who disagreed with me. There was even one moment where I honest to goodness hallucinated my mom coming into the room. It was totally crazy.
I finally got up around 4am, jumped in the shower, woke Josh up, he got dressed (same clothes since our bags were still at the hotel in Napa), and got the car ready to go. We woke Gabe up at the last possible second, lifted him from the bed to the car- totally asleep. We drove to the hospital, lifted him out of the car, carried him through the hospital, checked in at admitting, argued at the desk for 20 minutes because the paperwork wasn't complete- totally asleep. The surgeon finally called down to admitting and threw a fit because they wouldn't let us up and he was afraid an emergency surgery with more precedence might take our slot, so they let us go upstairs to pre-op while my mom kept arguing downstairs.
We made it upstairs, and in the one shining moment of mercy throughout this whole nightmare, we got an anesthesiologist who also had a 3 year old, and she told us she would put Gabe under before doing anything else since he was asleep. Josh laid Gabe gently down on the gurney, and somehow, impossibly, he stayed asleep. We did the whole pre-op preparation with the nurses and the anesthesiologist and the surgeon, and he stayed asleep. They actually WHEELED HIM IN to the operating room, put the mask on him and put him under, and he never woke up. I cried big fat hot tears of relief for that, and actually got on my knees to thank God later for that small gift.
The surgery took about an hour, so he was intubated and had an iv once he was already under anesthesia, and thankfully the iv was done after he was asleep because they later told us it took multiple tries to get the needle into a vein.
I was strangely calm during the actual surgery, although I did have plenty of moments of envisioning that surgeon walking through the door with horrible news- you know, the nightmares you see on television. I went downstairs for a coffee, tried to be calm and reasonable and told myself this was the best thing for Gabe. I wasn't prepared for the surgery to take as long as it did, though, so after 45 minutes, I became pretty antsy. Finally, the surgeon came out and said everything had gone well, and it was as he'd expected.
The cut had gone almost all the way through, down to the bone, so he'd examined the growth plate at the end of the finger, cleaned it, sewn multiple layers of stitches through the skin, repaired the nail bed, removed the nail, and inserted an aluminum nail to protect the nail bed until it was healed. He said the bone was actually broken, despite the ER doctor's assertion that it was not. The whole finger was wrapped up and bandaged around the hand, and Gabe would be out of commission with that finger for 4-6 weeks, with follow-ups for the next 4 months to make sure everything was healing. I was pretty surprised by the length of time for recovery, to be honest. We have swim lessons scheduled at a nearby lake for the end of June, and the surgeon said he couldn't get his hand wet for closer to 6 weeks.
We were allowed back, and Gabe looked fine. His tongue was swollen and protruding through his lips from the intubation, but besides that, he just looked asleep and I was so thrilled to see him whole and safe and alive, I could have cared less about anything else. The surgeon had been kind enough to get Gabe a large blue bandage with cars all over it, and then accent the bandages with Toy Story band-aids so Gabe would be sure to love it.
It took a while for Gabe to wake up, and I think Josh and I were a little nervous because the anesthesiologist kept hovering around him and checking on him and running her hands across his head to see how he was doing, but eventually, he snapped awake and sat up, just like that. He looked totally and utterly confused, because remember, he had no recollection of even coming to the hospital, so why all these people were around him and he was hooked up to tubes and monitors, he had no idea.
The removal of the iv went off without a hitch, and I carried him out of the hospital to the waiting car, and that was that. I could have kissed the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, I was so thrilled to be done and for my baby to be safe and finger repaired. For the rest of the day, Gabe was in a stupor, acting drunk and falling over his feet, and lying dazed on the couch. We put him down for his nap, and while he slept, Josh and I talked about what to do about all our stuff still in Sonoma.
We had no clothing or toiletries or shoes or anything, and after all, we'd come to the Napa/Sonoma area principally to see our dear friend T get married. We didn't want to miss the actual wedding, so we decided to start packing up the kids, rent my parents a room at the same hotel, and leave that same evening. Gabe could continue to recover at the hotel, armed with dvd players and toys and food. My parents could watch the kids while we attended the wedding, but we'd be close by in case something happened. So we did.
The next couple of days were rough, I'm not going to lie. We were all terrified Gabe would hurt his finger again, and the four of us (Josh and I and my parents) did a lot of yelling to keep Gabe from jumping or climbing, especially because the painkillers made him unsteady on his feet. Worst of all, the painkillers seemed to remove his inhibitions (who even KNEW three year olds have inhibitions, but I am here to tell you- THEY DO) and Gabe was incapable of listening to anything we said. He was acting like a maniac, and we were so terrified and stressed that any further injury to the finger might cause permanent damage or undo the surgery. Not to mention, the four of us shared a hotel room and let's not even TALK about how that worked out. We were all a mess. I know my parents were thrilled to drop us off at the airport hotel in San Francisco because they were done being stressed, and were sick and feeling guilty over the whole experience.
We did make it to the wedding, though, and even to a late Saturday night event, and we had a great time. I tried to put the weekend's events out of my mind for one night and enjoy seeing all of my girlfriends during that time period and for the most part, I was successful. I rarely drink, but I did consent to a few margaritas during the wedding, and truthfully, it probably helped.
On Monday afternoon, we left the Napa/Sonoma area, and drove to one of the San Francisco airport hotels for our flight on Tuesday morning. The hotel was fabulous, we turned in early, and Josh and I breathed a sigh of relief to be heading home. Josh turned to me at one point and said he needed a vacation from this vacation, and I agreed. The kids actually slept through the night even though we were sharing a room, and the next day, bright and early we headed to the airport for our flight home.
On the shuttle bus on the way to the airport, Josh got a text message from Delta saying our flight was delayed. I was concerned we'd miss our connection, but Josh assured me we wouldn't. We checked in at the front counters, sent off our luggage, asked about the connections and the agent assured us we were fine. We stood in line for security and got another text message saying the flight was further delayed and we were definitely missing the connection. We decided to go through anyway, and spent the next 3 hours arguing with gate agents and over the phone because according to them, we were stuck in San Francisco with absolutely no options for getting home.
We finally exited the terminal and went back to the front counters to argue and were seated on an overnight flight departing at midnight that night. With two kids, one of whom was drugged and acting crazy, and we were totally and completely sleep-deprived. When I tell you the Delta agents were horribly rude and unhelpful, it is an understatement. I almost started crying while standing at the counter when the agent told me I was lying about our 19 hour flight from Boston to San Francisco, and when he said that because we'd booked our flights with mileage, we were pretty much screwed because there was nothing they could do for us (which by the way, WHAT? So I am a loyal customer and you reward that loyalty by screwing us over?).
In desperation, I finally called the hotel back in tears and told her what was happening and asked if there was any way we could have our hotel room back (it had already been cleaned and checked out) for a few hours so the kids could nap and we didn't have to stay at the airport for another 12+ hours. Would you believe they said yes? She told us we were welcome to come back and she would set the room up again with a pack and play and we could stay as long as we needed to. That, my friends, is good customer service, and you better bet I will go out of my way to stay at that hotel chain again.
We returned to the hotel with just our carry-ons and car seat and jackets, and I let the kids sleep for the afternoon before the flight home. Thankfully I'd packed a pair of pajamas for each of them in the carry-on suitcases, so I dressed them in those for the flight back to Boston. We returned to the airport at 9pm, grabbed a couple snacks in the airport, and finally started our trip home at midnight.
It was AWFUL. We had a stop along the way, and Josie pretty much cried the whole way home (6+ hours) because she was too exhausted and uncomfortable to sleep, and Gabe couldn't get comfortable either, and after sleeping 3 hours, decided he was up for the day. Josh and I propped our eyelids up with toothpicks and did the best we could to manage the two of them. We finally landed in Boston at 11am, at which time Josh had to head straight into the office and I had a message from our pediatrician that I had an appointment with a hand surgeon that afternoon at 2pm, and I had to make it, because he didn't have another appointment for 3 weeks.
We rushed home, I dressed and fed the kids (dry cereal, since we had no food in the house) and we headed out to the hand surgeon appointment. On no sleep, with one drugged child and one sleep-deprived and screaming child. The appointment took 2 hours, and honestly, I have never been more mortified as a parent. Josie cried for the entire 2 hours, and Gabe was completely and utterly freaked because this was another doctor looking at his finger and trying to touch it and do x-rays and he was clinging to me like a spider monkey and crying and begging me to take him home while Josie clung to my legs and cried and gnawed on the bone models they had in the office.
I wish I were joking, it was beyond awful.
Thankfully, the surgeon said the surgery looked great and was healing well. It was exactly what he would have done, he said. We had a quick chat where he recommended casting the arm because he said little boys are notoriously untrustworthy with stitches and surgical sites. I agreed, but when the nurse who did the actual casting came in, she poo-pooed his suggestion and said she'd rather try to splint it. I was skeptical, but when she said it would be much easier for me to have a splint, I agreed. She did a half-assed splint, which I quickly made her re-do, we got our follow-up appointment, and I promised the kids cookies in the cafeteria on the way out.
I pushed the two of them in the stroller through the halls and got into the busy cafeteria where I tried to buy cookies and a grilled cheese so they'd have actual substance in their stomachs, while Gabe and Josie cried and argued, and somehow in the midst of the commotion, Josie got back and RIPPED THE SPLINT off of Gabe's finger, gauze, metal splint, bandages and all.
I swear to God, I almost left the two of them in the middle of the aisle.
My second thought was to sit on the floor and cry.
I did neither, but as best I could, calmly walked them back to the hand surgeon's office, waded through the crowds of waiting patients with the stroller, and told the front desk receptionist that I couldn't possibly do the splint and needed to talk to the doctor again. I was brought back, where we had another quick chat and after examining his finger, we decided to go for the cast after all.
I had several hours of horrible guilt that night when we got home because the cast is massive, from beyond the tips of his fingers to his shoulder. I had some kind of crazy post-traumatic stress anxiety attack where I started crying and couldn't stop and became convinced I was ruining his life because his arm was going to become atrophied underneath the cast and he'd never play sports again. It got so bad at around 3am that I started trying to figure out what I could do to cut the cast off myself. In the end (and after assurances from Josh and a few hours of sleep), I really do believe it is better. Gabe said to me as soon as she'd wrapped up his arm, "Now no one can hurt me! Now my finger is safe," so I think he is happier too.
So that's that. This Wednesday, we go back in to the surgeon's office and hopefully the cast comes off and a splint comes back on. Gabe is managing beautifully with the cast and has impressed all his little friends with it and gets lots of attention. He is definitely having some lingering issues about me leaving him and has been particularly teary and clingy lately, and will burst into tears and ask me not to leave him out of the blue. I'm also having some anxiety and especially have had some strange moments where I'll start thinking about everything that happened and break out in a cold sweat. It's been stressful, and as soon as we got home Josh had to leave on a business trip and both Gabe and Josie have been sick. It's been a little crazy, to say the least.
But, and it is a big but, Gabe is going to be fine. We're all fine, and I have a renewed appreciation for parents who have to deal with seriously ill or injured children. This seemed like such a nightmare to us, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a minor injury and we'll all recover and one day we'll hopefully laugh about it. Well, maybe my mom won't, but hopefully we'll look back and not want to cry. I don't know how parents keep it together and advocate for their children day after day and keep it together. My hat is off to you.
Thanks for all your kind thoughts and words. As always, they are great to hear, and make me feel better.