Today’s edition of Jennifer’s Journal is going to be a bit different. No fancy photos, no writing for the best SEO. This is probably the hardest post I have written.
Remember last week’s edition when I was SO excited about my son coming home from his Summer classes? Well, sometimes the best laid plans don’t go like you expect. I am sharing this story with his permission, because he is 18 now.
The phone call no parent wants to get:
So imagine this: A nice Sunday morning comes along, and you are going to a birthday party for a family member. You Skype your son when you reach the party so he can say hi to everyone.
You have a nice meal, you are sitting around talking to family. Suddenly, the phone rings, it’s your son. My husband answered it, since the call was to his phone. Husband gets up and walks away and you hear little bits of conversation. Suddenly your ears pick up emergency room. Heart drops into stomach.
Husband walks back over and says that he was swimming and he hurt his back after doing a pencil dive into the water. They are just going to check him and do some x-rays.
Meanwhile, you are watching the baby girl open her gifts for her first birthday party. Phone rings again, only it is not your son, but the hospital itself. Husband walks away again as I sit and watch his face. And I am not liking what I am seeing one bit. He calls me over and all I hear are words like fracture, surgery. At this point he is so overwhelmed that he puts me on the phone since I have critical care/trauma training. So I listen to said doctor and he explained that my son fractured a bone in his spine.
Said hospital does not have trauma or neurosurgery(doctors that operate on spines and nerves), so he needs to be transferred to a larger facility. Doctor explained to me in medical terms that at that point there was no neurological deficits(fancy talk for he could move all his arms and legs and had no numbness or tingling).
So immediately I shift into long-forgotten nursing mode and ask the doctor if he was stable enough to make the trip back home where our hospital is a Level 1 trauma unit. More fancy talk for they take the most critical patients. Doctor agrees that yes, he can be transferred. Just needed to decide if he needed to be airlifted or ambulanced. In the meantime while we wait for news, we update family on situation. Not fun.
Head home to await what they decide. Get the phone call from the hospital that he was stabile enough to come by ambulance for the 3 hour ride. So after puttering around the house, we head to our local hospital to wait for his arrival.
He arrives shortly after we did, gets admitted to the trauma ICU, and we wait to hear what the doctors have to say. When neurosurgeon finally comes in and explains everything, she strongly recommends surgery. Again, my medical training already knew that was the best possible treatment. There was the option of trying to brace it, but at his age, surgery was the best way to go.
So we agree to surgery, and wait for a date to be set. His neurosurgeon, highly ranked in 3 states, comes in and sets surgery for this past Wednesday. Keep in mind, my son has been laying completely flat for 3 days already. Later when the assistant came in to get consent, she showed me his CT scan of the back. His vertebrae was more than shattered. The most amazing thing was the bone fragments pushed out and away from his spine. A little bit closer, and there was the distinct possibility he could have paralyzed.
Wednesday came, and the surgeon had done a very successful laminectomy with spinal fusion. It is a procedure where they remove the broken fragments and put rods and screws in the spine to stabilize it. Longest four hours of my life, let me tell you. I knew immediately when I saw her face that everything went well, but didn’t let go until she said the words. After a few minutes of time with him in the recovery room(I couldn’t believe how awake he was, even if he was a little silly from the anesthesia), we went up and waited in his room.
After a few rough days post-op, I am happy to say that he is improving every day. Pain is mostly under control, he is up and moving a bit, starting therapy, and doing the usual recovery grumping. Lucky for him, Mom understands and isn’t taking it personally. In a few days, she may even give it right back. Said with love, of course.
So the moral of this post is to always be ready for the unexpected. Never stop believing, and never stop praying.