Monday, March 31, 2014

The Year of Living Dangerously

In this week's episode in the saga of the LaJoy family and The Year of Living Dangerously, tonight's program features Angela LaJoy as she finds herself lying helplessly in a bed in the local ER as she battles for coherence and fights terrible abdominal pain.  Is it a glorified stomach ache?  Or is it something more sinister?  Stay tuned!

Yes folks, after an optimistically cheerful Facebook post that started out, "It's a Happy Monday!", later this morning I found myself wheeling our daughter into the local Emergency Room after she collapsed while we were volunteering at the Food Bank.  There was no hint of trouble, not more than a single moment's notice as she crossed the room to come speak to me, told me quickly, "Mom, I don't feel so good, my stomach hurts...", then proceeded to turn ashen as her legs buckled beneath her.  Fortunately, I was able to grab her and keep her head from crashing into the concrete floor.  Of course, it created quite a ruckus, which I was not paying any attention to as I was trying to remain calm in the face of what was clearly a true medical emergency.  Others around me were not quite so capable of reigning in their concern, and proceeded to push their way in offering unsolicited advice as they got in my face, raised their voices, and panicked, shouting out odd directives that proved they had little experience with first aid.

Knowing I needed to get as much information as I could from Angela while she was still sightly alert and able to clue me in, I calmly and quietly asked her to be as specific as she could about what she was feeling and where it hurt. She was able to answer vaguely, but it was enough to know we needed to immediately get her to the ER.  Angela is absolutely no Drama Mama, and has always been the last to complain about pain or to try and evoke sympathy from others.  This was serious. Our dear Miss Mary was present and was a huge help in making certain that our helpful but misguided co-workers were kept at a distance (She, the Peaceful Princess almost decked one of them!), and quickly rushed to get her little Prius and let me borrow it, and we thought to exchange keys so she would have a large enough vehicle to haul around the rest of our crew.

We struggled to get Angela into the car, as she was wobbly and almost unconscious.  Our hospital was literally 3 minutes away, so no need to wait for an ambulance, I just rushed her over there, where we were ushered in without a stint in the waiting room.

Once she was in a room, there were the questions one gets when you have a medical emergency with a 15 year old adopted daughter.  Who am I to her?  (Let's ignore the fact she had called me mom no less than 3 times in front of the Admissions person)  What is her family medical history?  Was she sexually active and did I know for certain she wasn't pregnant?  Did her biological mom have a history of ovarian or uterine issues?  (Did I not just tell you we had no history?  Let's make this even more insensitive because you are not paying attention.)

Three hours, two ultrasounds, one IV and four doses of fentanyl later, it was determined that the diagnosis was a ruptured ovarian cyst.  We were sent home with instructions, and our sweetie is resting peacefully tonight after a day of incredible pain.

Both Dominick and I heaved a huge sigh of relief over a couple of things. Of course, we were thrilled it wasn't something requiring surgery, as a ruptured appendix was on the short list of possibilities.  Another, perhaps more controversial point was we were so happy that with the recent changes in health care, the kids qualified for a state plan that meant we didn't have a $10,000 deductible staring us in the face, meaning we would be paying for literally the next few years for today's visit.  I was so grateful that I could simply rush my daughter to the ER as she needed with no concern in my mind over how this was event was going to effect us financially for years to come.  I didn't hesitate, as we have done in the past over other more minor medical issues, to go see a doctor.

I know people hate Obamacare.  I also know we were one of those family's for whom the cost of health insurance was slowly squeezing the life out of us, and our solvency was in question, as was our health.  We were delaying much needed medical care simply because our premiums were so high, we had to decide between continuing to carry catastrophic coverage with a $10,000 deductible, or actually pay for the health care we needed...but we sure couldn't do both.  It was a nightmare to go through the process, truly more frustrating than adoption paperwork, but we finally have a little breathing room and can now get some things taken care of that we put off so we could pay for "health care" we could never receive.

For example, the kids all went to the dentist last week, and  we actually had cleanings for them.  Dental care alone for kids that come from backgrounds like our kids come from can be overwhelming.  For example, Joshie has yet another tooth rotting from the inside out, an unusual anomaly that he already suffered painfully through once before.  Poor nutrition changes things.  Angela has already had three root canals, and we discovered one was not fully successful, so we now have a tough choice to make as the two teeth that surround this molar also have cavities.   Do we try to save it, knowing odds are low it can be saved long term, or do we pull it so the fillings on the other two can be done very well and be more likely to be saved long term?  Olesya had a gum infection, and another cavity.  Kenny, surprisingly, is in good shape for the very first time but orthodontia is another story, as the two rounds of braces for two years and the beautiful straight teeth he had after this last round find his teeth now totally awry.  All his teeth have shifted back into the wrong place, and it looks like we never had braces in his mouth, much to our utter dismay.  We learn more next week.

I think if we added it up, we have paid out of pocket no less than $15,000+ in dental care for our kids, no joke.  We are easily at $10,000 just for Kenny's braces alone.  I know other adoptive families have faced similar expenses...ones none of us ever anticipated to the degree we have found.  Poor or non-existent early dental care combined with malnutrition beyond what many might understand leads to mouths full of decaying teeth with weak enamel.  The dentist last week told me Josh was doing a terrific job brushing, so I shouldn't get upset with him about this tooth.  However, he said we are lucky we are catching it now, as he expects when he does the work tomorrow, the tooth will crumble while he is working on it.  He couldn't see a single bad spot on it upon visual inspection, but the xray clearly shows the entire tooth is rotten inside.  We are hoping we can save it, but we won't know for sure until tomorrow.

So tonight, I am writing with gratitude.  Sure, I have been feeling a little like I have been run over by a Mack truck these past several weeks, with three hospital episodes for the family, being gone with my mom, and trying to get back to some routine here until I travel back out to be with her as she transitions hopefully back to her home.  But there is so much to be thankful for, in spite of it all.  I could be at Angela's bedside post-surgery this evening, instead she is tucked away in bed with Vicodin as her friend.  Dominick's facial cellulitis several weeks ago could have meant his wide smile was literally eaten away by bacteria.  Mom, though recovering slowly, is making gradual progress back toward independence when the outcome could have been far worse. Teeth will be fixed somehow, eyes (at least one set) have glasses on them, and food is in the cupboard.

We are together, and we are managing with the help of beloved friends who come alongside us each and every time...even though I worry about Friendship Fatigue at this point.  It seems we are in the midst of some weird Vortex of Adversity that isn't allowing us to catch our breath or, more importantly, offer assistance and encouragement to others in the way we are receiving it in such abundance.  We never seem to be able to offer to others as much as we have been given, but it is important to us that we try to do what we can.  We can't even stop the roller coaster long enough to jump off right now, let alone sit alongside others we care about as they have their share of a ride.

So, tomorrow we start the week all over again, but I am definitely NOT posting "It's a Happy Tuesday!"...I feel at this point it is better not to tempt Fate!


Anonymous said...

Goodness! I am so glad Angela will be okay!
When it rains it pours. I still don't understand why it all happens at once. Maybe so we can appeciate those momments when things are a bit smoother?

On the rotting teeth. My bio kids all had this happen to their baby teeth. After much research, I found that they are lacking magnesium. Mag is essential for teeth and bone strength and allows the body to absorb calcium. It also helps calm the nerves and promotes sleep. I found this out just in time to stop the youngest's tooth decay. He had already lost 6 teeth to crumbling, but the other two stopped deaying and have filled in with a hard substance.

Prayers for you all.

Jane said...

I hope Angela recovers well and quickly. I have watched the debate about Obamacare with interest. I live in England and love the blessings of our National Health Service. I have never had to consider finances when deciding whether or not to take my children to see a doctor, and we have prescription drugs for them without charge too. Our family G.P. (general practitioner) is excellent and does not hesitate to refer to consultants if needed. The NHS is not perfect but it has always been there for me and mine and I am thankful for it.