One day Anni was twirling and singing one of her original compositions.
"It's my gift!" she declared.
Dizzy, she fell with spectacular gracelessness.
Laying on her back on the tile floor she began flapping her arms and legs
as if she were making a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

just because it's another day

I'll post. But there've been no changes. Our nurse described her condition as "critically stable." But we have passed the crucial 24-hour mark, when we would have had some indication if the infection in her tummy still had the upper-hand. Although she has not been fever-free, and there is still blood in the stools that she passes (uncomfortably), she has not required any more blood or extra fluids. The dressing on her tummy is a bit gory with infected fluid draining out of the unclosed wound and soaking the pads pressed against her side, but when she awakes briefly from the sedation she shakes her head when we ask if she hurts. The doctors have had to go up on her ventilator support, but no one is surprised about that, nor the fact that her morphine and versed requirements have skyrocketed. Her main issues right now are:
  • anger at awaking to find a breathing tube down her throat (and taped so thoroughly her mouth is nearly completely obscured - I guess her adventure in self-extubation was duly noted back in the O.R. For extra security, her arms are in immobilizers so that she cannot bend at the elbow to reach the breathing tube.)
  • itching, the morphine and dry air are likely culprits
  • a nearly irresistible urge to roll over. She's never much for sleeping on her back, and having a tummy full of fluid does naturally predispose you to roll over and relieve the pressure on the back. Obviously, though, a 12-inch wide open incision across your belly means back-sleeping is the only option. The nurse yesterday arranged a super-cool airbed for her, which is supposed to help avoid pressure points and offers the added bonus of adjustable temperature and built-in weight scale. She still struggles to turn over, though, and I'm not sure how much sense our attempts to calm her and explain the situation make through her morphine/versed haze. At one point I commiserated with her aloud, "Your tummy's getting better, Annika. But it's really hard work getting better, isn't it?" To my surprise, she nodded her head vigorously in agreement.
Most importantly, though, her doctors are all very pleased with her condition right now. I toyed with the idea of driving home after Jörg returned today with his exams to grade. Since she seemed to be doing well, and the plan was to keep her completely asleep, we thought maybe this would be my chance to get back home to see Frankie, engage in some therapeutic cat-petting, grab some clothes, and generally reassure myself that life outside the hospital was puttering along as usual. But of course, Annika, bursting with energy in her usual daily life and then confounding her medical team by sitting up and playing in bed despite a massive abdominal abscess and a perforated bowel, is never easy to keep sedated. Around 5 a.m. she started thrashing and reaching for me when she heard my voice. She settled down again briefly, only to have another fit, longer this time, at around 10:30. So I will stay, since I cannot stand the thought that she might awake, confused and looking for me, and not be able to hear me respond to her. So more watching Annika breathe, now with the smoothly regimented regularity of the ventilator. The ventilator is such an amazing machine, but it tempts me into thinking about my own breathing way too closely. I put my hand on my chest and feel it rise and fall, and somehow it no longer feels like a natural activity. It seems exhausting, all this continuous effort of pushing in and out, over and over without fail. And this leads to that kind of vertiginously weird feeling that I remember vividly from the year I began kindergarten, when I became so self-conscious that I could make myself dizzy simply by imagining myself sitting somewhere behind my eyes, like a little mini-Moreena homunculus completely separate from the body that everyone else saw. Yes, reliving kindergarten memories is a clear sign that some mental distraction is needed before I burn a hole through my belly-button with my own x-ray vision. Usually there is very little time to read in the hospital, given that Annika might gently be classified as "highly interactive," even when confined to bed. I could use this time to catch up on reading my sidebar links, and finding new links to add, but there's no internet connection in this PICU room, where I'm now writing on Jörg's laptop. So last night I blazed my way through all the New Yorkers that Jörg brought from home, and then I discovered this morning that Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness was in the Kohl's House book lending box, so now I'll finally have a chance to read a book that's been on my list for, oh, years now. We don't expect much happening around here tomorrow, but are waiting anxiously for the findings on Monday, when the surgeons will go back in to inspect her progress. So I may spend tomorrow improving my brain with Le Guin rather than indulging my navel-gazing with more entries contemplating ventilators.
And thanks to those who've sent cards and packages. If you've not heard back from me, it's probably because we haven't opened them yet. I've been planning on waiting until she's awake and feeling good enough to really enjoy the feeling of ripping open the envelopes and peering inside. So there hasn't been much opportunity since she's gone in for her shunt surgery on November 29, although she had been opening them one or two at a time in the days before she went back to surgery last week. Mostly I have just decided that Christmas will just have to be postponed this year. I've never been one for standing on tradition, anyway, so I'm thinking that putting up the Christmas tree when we get home in, say, February is a fine idea. Meanwhile, I'm going to put up a big sign on our door forbidding anyone to say "Merry Christmas" or anything along those lines, especially if she's still intubated. It's clear that she hears us, and I don't want her fearing that she's missing out on all the fun because of that damned tube. And thanks for visits from friends: Jennifer and Becca and Sarah are fantastic mothers, whose quick visits remind me of all those who understand too well life with liver disease, and a visit from Running2Ks after she donated blood at the hospital offered proof that the internet friends I've met here really do exist. Really, really. I hope I'm saying "thank you" enough right now, to my dad and my mom, who's been caring for Frankie and the cats; and my sister, who brought me a soft sweater in that way that says "love" and thrilled Frankie with her hugs and attention and voice that sounds so comfortingly like mine; and to the amazing doctors and devoted nurses caring for Anni round the clock; and for the lovely emails I've gotten, with personal stories intertwined with words of encouragement. So, thanks.
And, finally, Jörg received word, in a letter so laudatory that I'm going to have to send a copy off to his mother and father knowing full well that parental pride knows no age limits, that he has been accepted for tenure and promotion at his university. Whew.


Blogger Amanda M said...

Congrats to Jorg!! dad was a sociology professor (now retired) and my ex is now a planning prof (no, I had no idea that's what he wanted to do when we started dating - we were young!) so I really do know what that tenure means. Hopefully a year from now all the intubation will be a small memory and the big deal will be that Jorg got his tenure!! Woo hoo!

12/17/2005 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big congrats to Jorg! That's great!

I do hope you so enjoy that book you're planning on will almost seem like you're doing something for yourself--AND YOU NEED IT!!!! Enjoy it Moreena.

Critically stable seems like a good thing to me..I'll be thankful for that and continue to pray for Annika's matter how slow it may be.

Take care.

12/17/2005 6:58 PM  
Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

How wonderful about Jorg's tenure--a bright spot in all you are enduring!

Annika and you remain in my prayers.

12/17/2005 8:53 PM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Thanks for the update -- we appreciate it.

Congratulations to Jörg on tenure and the promotion.

I'd imagine that if you say the word, you will be inundated with boxes of paperbacks from your legions of well-wishers around the web. We'd hate to see you burning a hole in your belly button like that...

12/17/2005 8:55 PM  
Anonymous peripateticpolarbear said...

Well, at least Jorg has good news.
I hope you'll take some of this time to read ---I think postponing Christmas is a perfectly fine idea. Frankie isn't old enough to call you on it, so no one will be the wiser!

12/17/2005 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Beanie Baby said...

Congratulations to Jorg! That's wonderful news. And I'm so happy to hear that Anni is staying strong and doing so well.

Christmas in February sounds fabulous. A wonderful way to celebrate the end of an exhausting ordeal for all of you.

12/17/2005 9:48 PM  
Blogger Jane Dark said...

Congratulations to Jörg! What fantastic news. And thank you, Moreena, for the update. It was lovely.

12/17/2005 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Irene(CLASS) said...

Oh Moreena, I wish so much I was closer so I could give youa shoulder to lean on. Although it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job holding up. I pray your stength continues. I think that is an absolutely wonderful idea of postponing Christmas and putting a sign on the door. That would be to crushing for a 5 yr old to feel like they were missing Christmas.
Congratulations to Jorg!
Prayers for complete (and quick) healing for darling Annika!

12/17/2005 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I hope my post finds you in a peaceful place. We had many of our own ups and downs with Savannah, so we know too well what you are going through. I just wanted to let you know that there is nothing wrong with delaying Christmas. We celebrated Christmas of 2004 in February of 2005. In fact it was just after Valentine's Day. Sometimes you can't help it, you can only do waht you are able to do. I give you props for staying so strong and being able to stay there as long as you have. I know it was rough on me staying all night, every night. And yes, I know the feelings and thoughts you are having and dealing with as you sit and watch the ventilator for hours on end. I did that many times myself, and just prayed to God that she would just take ONE breathe on her own. She will get better, as will Savannah. We just have to keep our faith and trust in the Lord. Anyway, we are all praying for you, Renee', our mom, and myself. It will get better and you will be home before you know it. Love T (Savannah's aunt, )

12/17/2005 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

Oh, I'm so glad that Jorg got tenure. What a relief! And big time congrats!

Sending smiles and prayers...

12/18/2005 12:08 AM  
Blogger Running2Ks said...

Congratulations on so many fronts--that Anni is doing well, as the doctors are please with her condition, that Jörg has had job success. And that you have been such a rock for your family. You amaze me. Truly. I think your Christmas plan is a good one, too.

12/18/2005 3:10 AM  
Anonymous Robyn, Emma's mom said...

Glad to hear Annika is stable. Also happy about making tenure.

12/18/2005 7:39 AM  
Blogger Shelli said...

Congrats to Jorg and you. I am still praying for Anni and your family. I think about you all the time.

12/19/2005 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moreena - I'm just catching up on a few days posts today. Many tears flow after reading the posts. My prayers continue for healing for Anni and for comfort for all of you. Bless her - her will is SO STRONG. And you, don't worry about if you are thanking people enough - you are. What we most want to see if Anni - well and back home. Don't worry about anything else. I'm so happy to hear you've had some visits from internet friends and it is so cool of Running2k to donate blood. I wish I were closer.

Hoping Anni has a calm, restful day and that the doctors are pleased with what they find. (((hugs))) to each of you.


12/19/2005 6:55 AM  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Congratulations to Jorg! I think his parents will be thrilled to receive the letter!

And here is hoping that today brings wonderful news. I think that postponing Christmas is a wonderful idea. In high school I had pneumonia and literally slept through Christmas. As in, woke up and it was two days later. I was relieved and grateful when we just did Christmas late. Why not?

12/19/2005 7:55 AM  

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