Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014 in the ER

We no longer have small children in the house to wake us up early on Christmas morning. To keep our adrenalin flowing and to make sure we are always alert and ready to swing into action to handle whatever emergency presents itself, we rely on random phone calls from our sons' group home. 

At 8 a.m. the phone rang.  It was the group home: Danny was having seizures, the ambulance was on its way to the hospital with him in it, and one of the group home staff was driving over there to meet him when the ambulance arrived.

There’s nothing unusual here - just another holiday in the life of the Barker boys. If anything can go wrong, it is more than likely to happen on a big holiday when no one is available to handle an emergency other than a fully equipped and staffed emergency room attached to a gigantic medical center.

There was the Christmas Eve more than ten years ago, when my husband picked Danny up at his group for our big Christmas Eve dinner celebration. John pulled into our garage with Danny in the van in his wheelchair. Then he opened the van door, lowered the lift to the floor, and absent mindedly climbed back in and unhooked the wheelchair. He then proceeded to launch poor Danny straight out of the van and onto the floor of the garage, a fall of about three feet. Danny hit his head on the floor but was somewhat protected by the angle of the fall and his wheelchair.

The goose egg on Danny’s head was not nearly as alarming as the fact that he did not cry out or complain. He just looked ashen and was very quiet (he was probably thinking “I can’t believe what just happened”). We put him back in the van and John took off for the ER. He was torn between feelings of guilt that he had been so careless and and anger at the long wait in the ER with a Christmas ham waiting at home. As is usually the case, everyone survived and everything returned to life as we know it.

This morning, Danny had a repeat of an episode with seizures from six months ago: he was having 15-second seizures about once a minute, a scary scenario for the staff who had not seen this happen more than once, if at all. He probably did not need to come to the ER to stop the seizures – the group home was supposed to have extra seizure medication on hand for such occasions, but it turned out to be a good thing that he ended up in the ER. An X-ray of his lungs showed the beginnings of pneumonia; he also had an elevated sodium level that was probably from dehydration - he was getting sick and needed more fluids. All this  lowered his threshold for seizures.

Danny had been given medication by the ambulance crew to stop the seizures and was mostly sleeping or very subdued for a long time. It soon became clear that he could go home with antibiotics. As he gradually woke up and became his usual wild man self, flailing around, making rude noises, and expressing his exuberance for life, the nurse came in and said, “Oh, no! He’s having a seizure!” Fortunately, his caregiver from the group home was able to confirm that he was just getting back to normal.

The only other time he had pneumonia, was many years ago on - you guessed it - Thanksgiving. Then, as now, everyone survived and life went on.

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