When I turned 21, I had a massive bladder infection and couldn’t drink. I thought that was the worst birthday ever. And really, at 21, it probably seemed like the end of the world to have my plans suddenly get shattered by a raging infection.
HA! I didn’t know having plans shattered by raging infections back then.
Tomorrow is my 40th birthday. But tonight, we are back in the ER — Grace has gangrene.
I kept her home from school today after our shenanigans last night. I was working from home anyway, and it seemed prudent to let her rest and keep an eye on her for a day before sending her back to school. She was lethargic and not very hungry today, but otherwise fairly cheerful. I kept her fingertip bandaged, and kept an eye on the red streak on her arm. Everything seemed to be the same—not worse than the night before, but not better either. We went through our day with only a minor change in plans; Grace stayed home with Chad while I took Jackson to dance, rather than going with for her own dance class.
The kids ate dinner after dance, and when they were done with dinner I started to get Grace ready for an early bedtime. I happened to notice that the redness had expanded beyond the outlines I drew on her arm last night, so I decided to take off the fingertip bandage. As soon as I did, I knew we were heading back to the ER. Her fingertip was a blackish, purplish, gangrenous mess.
In the shock of it all, Chad and I discussed that Grace’s fingertip would need to be amputated. “AMPUTATED?? What does that mean?” Grace cried. She was horrified to learn that she would likely lose another piece of her finger. When I said she’d be in a cast again, she wailed. “Nooooo!!! Not another cast! I’ll have to write with my other hand again!” It was the first time she has had a negative reaction to the prospect of a hospital stay. It broke our hearts.
Jackson was the most heartbroken of all. He sobbed and sobbed, worried about his sister and already missing me even before I was gone. He let Grace watch his iPad—a sure sign that he was feeling worried about her, since he usually won’t let her anywhere near it—and gave me hug after hug after hug. I tasked him with taking care of the dogs, and tried to encourage him to be strong. It’s a lot to ask of a not-yet-10-year-old. I went through his schedule for tomorrow, for his sake and Chad’s, but when I mentioned that it was my 40th birthday, he sobbed even more. He couldn’t stand the thought of me spending my birthday in the hospital. Sweet child…
I held it together for everyone else. I tried to encourage Grace to remember all the things she likes about the hospital so that she wouldn’t feel sad. I tried to get Chad to start planning his day for tomorrow so he would get wrapped up in his schedule and maybe forget this bone-crushing sadness for a while. I tried to give Jackson as much love as I could; my sweet sensitive boy just needed to cry it out.
I knew that if I couldn’t hold it together, everyone would be despondent. I am the glue, the rock, the stronghold. When I am weak, everyone falls apart. Now that Grace and I are here at the hospital, I’m trying to hold it together so the nurses and doctors don’t see me crying. Later, once we’re up in a room, and after the initial flood of nurses and doctors, I’ll lock myself in the bathroom and let the sadness wash over me.
I have been feeling a little depressed lately, anyway. It seems like nothing is going right these days… my job that I used to love has become a nightmare, I’ve had a cold for weeks, I never get enough sleep and can’t stop gaining weight, Chad has been driving me up the wall, and it seems like everyone cares about what I do for them but no one cares to do anything for me. (Not “no one” — I have very awesome friends and one amazing sister — but sometimes it feels like “no one” even though I know folks are out there.) I’ve got big real-world stresses about my career and my future that I can’t really say on the internet, and it makes me wonder where this path is taking me. It seems like every waking moment is spent working, taking care of the kids, or doing housework. There are no minutes left for me to take care of myself… I’m already only getting a few hours of sleep a night as it is, and that’s the only corner I can cut.
So it’s almost not surprising that I’ll spend my 40th birthday in this hellhole. When everything is going badly, it makes more sense for more things to go wrong than for things to go right.
But I do wish it weren’t at Gracie’s expense. My poor sweet girl. She didn’t ask for this. She doesn’t mean to ruin every vacation or holiday. She certainly doesn’t want to lose her finger. And I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to make me spend my birthday in the hospital, either.
Crappy birthday to me.
Ah sweet, sweet friend. Wish I could take this cloud off your shoulders. It will pass, I promise. Being strong for others is debilitating to us who have no other choice. Cry in the bathroom…in your car, find a pillow to beat the crap out of it…and BREATHE. Hug a critter, hug a kid. I am there with you in spirit. Love love love you… Jody