Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Scary Week

Sunday after church we came home to eat a bite of lunch then drove into town to an auction Mom was working. The kids wanted to go to Joplin to shop, but thank God Paul and I both felt that with the weather being iffy and storms forecasted to move in that evening we decided not to. We are totally big chickens when it comes to weather and don't stray too far from the 'fraidy hole when we know it's likely to get bad. We didn't even go to church that night, however Mom and Dad did. I called her while they were driving toward the church (which is about 2.5 miles from our house) and said, "Keep your phone on silent if you need to, but keep it where you can see it go off. I will text you if we go under any warnings. It takes less than five minutes to get here, so be ready." She assured me she would, but seeing as how she thinks I'm a nervous Nelly with weather I figured she wouldn't heed my warnings.

Paul and I had the kids pack their 'nader bags and put them underground, then we settled in to watch the storms roll in. We were watching the local NBC affiliate when the tornado warning for Joplin was issued and were also watching the tower cam when the tornado appeared on the screen seemingly unbeknownst to even the newscasters on the air live. They were showing graphics of tornado safety tips and the radar, but when they popped it over to the tower cam even they were feeling the same shock and awe we were as we saw a HUGE tornado hitting the city of Joplin. We could see the flashes as it took out power poles. We all five sat in horror and watched it slowly destroy everything in its path. I happened to be on the phone with Sis, who lives in Yukon, OK, and I kept saying, "You don't understand! It's happening RIGHT NOW! Even Jeremiah Cook and Caitlin McCardle didn't know it was there and THEY'RE THE METEOROLOGISTS!" She hung up with me to call her ex because he was on his way back here to Miami with my niece and nephew at the time. They weren't in danger, but she wanted him to be aware of what was going on.

Our NOAA radio was about to wear itself out it was going off over and over with various t-storm watches and warnings, followed by tornado warnings right and left. I text Mom and told her it was getting bad and we were going to the cellar. I was on Facebook and saw where someone said there was a tornado on the ground in Fairland. We are about five miles north of Fairland. That was when I called Mom. In church. She answered in a whisper and I said, "WHERE ARE YOU?" She said, "Hudson Creek. At church. Why?" I said, "Mom, I just heard there is a tornado on the ground in Fairland. Y'all need to take cover NOW."  Mom interrupted the preacher and told him. He said, "Oh. Okay, well, we should probably stop what we're doing then." About that time a first responder's radio went off and he ran out the door. He came back in moments later and said the tornado was in Ketchum, not Fairland, so the threat was somewhat less, but still imminent. They prayed and dismissed. Mom and Dad came here right after we came up from the cellar. We went in the house and watched in horror as the first pictures from Joplin started coming in.

Mike Bettes, with the Weather Channel, has been doing his Great Tornado Hunt this past week and drove into Joplin on the heels of the devastating twister. When a seasoned, veteran meterologist is rendered speechless and cries shamelessly on camera surveying the devastation and horror you know it's bad. We sat and cried as we saw the town we knew so well was now completely unrecognizeable. The surreality of it was stunning.

Monday we woke up to rain and the rain wouldn't stop. It rained so hard our main pond here at the ranch overflowed its banks and then some. Our driveway washed out to where I wasn't sure my van wouldn't get lost in it. Sam was supposed to go to basketball camp that morning, but his coach called me to see what I thought and also reassured me that they would take the kids to the safe room at the slightest hint of anything severe. It eased my mind and I decided to go ahead and take him. Then about 30 minutes later as I'm running my three kids and Conner to the cellar because there is rotation over my house, I text Coach and said we wouldn't be there. He already had kids in the safe room. By noon, the severe threat was over, however the rain just kept coming. I decided to go ahead and send Kady to the afternoon girls session of basketball camp and Sam stayed with her. At 12:30 the water was over our dirt road, but still passable. By 2:30 when Abby, Conner and I left the house to pick them up it was so high it was up the bottoms of the van doors. I called Paul and said, "You should probably come home as soon as you can. We're going to be flooded in soon." I turned out onto the highway and made it nearly a mile to the low water bridge and watched a car stall out trying to go through. I turned around and made a frantic call to my mother: "MY KIDS ARE IN FAIRLAND AND I CANNOT GET TO THEM!!" She tried to direct me down other dirt roads, but my van sits so low I didn't dare chance anything. I called Chad, Conner's daddy, and asked if he could get to the kids. He said he could and that he thought he could get through the low water bridge, too, seeing as how he drives a big ol' Dodge. Paul called to say he was in his Thunderbird and could I call Chad to see if he could wait for him, too? Poor Chad ran a taxi service that day, ferrying wandering Hoovers home. The Highway Department closed the low water bridge just as they got there and after an hour and a half of driving around trying to find passable roads, they made it here.

Miami canceled school the following day because of the widespread flooding and threat of severe weather the following day (Tuesday). By morning we were completely flooded in, so Courtney couldn't have made it anyway. Paul couldn't get out to go to work. By noon the rain had stopped, allowing the water to recede enough that we could get back into Fairland to pick up Paul's car, so we took Kady to afternoon ball camp and Paul spent the afternoon repairing our poor driveway while Abby, Sam and I put as much valuable stuff as we could fit into the cellar. We've made many a run to the ol' 'fraidy hole, but this past Tuesday was the first day I put baby pictures, the deed to the house and other important documents down there. I went to Paul and said, "The box isn't that big and if you think there is room, can you help me put the box of the kids' baby pictures in the cellar?" He got a mischievous grin on his face and started to make a joke. Then I busted into tears and said, "Paul, I'm scared. Please don't." He grabbed my hand and said, "Baby, go get the box. We'll get those pictures underground." We were completely and fully prepared to be blown away. The anticipation was horrible and I clenched my jaw so hard all day I was pretty sure my teeth were in danger of breaking. After picking Kady up from camp we just sat and waited, flipping the TV back and forth between local channels and TWC.

They closed the Canadian County courthouse early, which is where Tater works. She and her husband work in El Reno and live in Yukon and had planned to ride out the storm in their guest bathroom, but as they saw it making a path for El Reno they decided to head into the City where they rode out the storms in an underground parking garage. El Reno was hit and five were killed.

Back in the old days you ran for cover from the tornado when you saw it lifting off the neighbor's cows and silo, today we are given 24 hours warning, which is by all means a good thing, but still nerve-wracking. We went down into the cellar twice that night. Fortunately the storms didn't hit here like they did around us. Welch got some wicked winds, Grove had some tornados over the lake, but we managed to get by with some minor rain, moderate winds and not even a single hail stone. Praise God!

Today Paul is in Joplin helping some of his family's family empty what's left of their elderly uncle's house. The man is 97 years old and the house is demolished. The things left inside have been subject to theft the past few days. They are working furiously to empty what they can to keep the heartless looters away. I don't understand how people can be so low and I try to focus on the good I've seen coming to Joplin rather than the scammers and looters and heartless evildoers who plan to picket the town for their "wickedness" that caused the tornado. I try to think about the Tide Loads of Hope truck, the Duracell truck, the fact that Sam's Club is allowing anyone to shop there without membership, about the $1 million each that Home Depot, Walmart and Tamko Industries has donated to the cause, the KC Chiefs players who are clearing yards, the little girl in Texas who is sending her own personal belongings to Joplin, the doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and volunteers who are working tirelessly.

I pray and praise God in the midst of it all. I am very detached from it really, and everyone says seeing it in person is so much worse than what you see on TV and the internet. I hug my kids a little tighter. I am thankful. I am sad. I am proud. I am hopeful.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stoner (Part 2)

I made it to the hospital that Thursday morning by about 5 after 7, kissed my swollen and puffy husband's face then settled in with my iPod to partake of free WiFi while we waited for the Surgery nurses, also known to kidney stone patients as Angels of Mercy. Paul told me he had had a bad two hours during the night when the stone was trying to move again and he maxed out on pain meds and commenced to doing the Funky Chicken all over the room. His nighttime nurse was a Godsend and he said he's forever grateful to her. It must've been bad.

It was after 8 when the two gals from surgery came up, got his IV unhooked from the pump, put his cute little bootie socks on his feet and it was just as she pushed the Versed in his veins to make him a little groggy before they took him downstairs they realized he still had his Bermuda shorts on under his gown. (Dude is a little bit modest and said he didn't like his "junk" out there all flappin' in the breeze, so he wore his underwears and Bermudas under his gown. He is just precious.) The girls kind of giggled and said, "We'll step behind the curtain so you can slip everything off." I stepped over to the side of the bed to hold his IV line out of the way and quickly realized my husband was absolutely 100% drunk out of his ever-lovin' MIND already. We're talkin' like two minutes. I gently moved his hands from the zipper where he was trying to repeatedly unzip his already unzipped shorts and kept saying, "Come on, honey. Help me out here." I heard giggling from behind the curtain. I was not amused. Okay, I was kind of amused. I said, "Uhm....girls.....he's plumb goofy, could I get some help?" Just more giggles. So finally after several more minutes of me trying to get him to lift his rump I managed to get the Bermudas off him. I left the underwear for the team of professionals downstairs. I figured they were getting paid the big bucks, let them lift his rump from that point on.

I kissed his forehead and gathered my things from around the room and went down to the surgery waiting room. I checked what was going on around Facebook, glimpsed quickly at Twitter, but it was reading Testify Blog that soothed me and passed the time for me without nerves. About 30 minutes after they took him I saw Dr. Stout come around the corner. He sat down next to me and bluntly said, "I couldn't get it." I love this guy. Most of the time when you see him he looks like Paul Bunyan, usually with a full beard and a lot of hair (on his head and all over his body) and sometimes he wears flannel. In the office. He played the oldest brother, Ruben, in the local little theater's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat a few weeks ago. He's just an all-around neat guy. So there he was in his surgery scrubs, sitting in the chair next to me like we were old friends catching up, all relaxed and laid back, explaining that the stone was too high, as he had thought it might be, while I sat on the edge of my seat in horror that this ordeal was not over yet. He also said that the kidney they thought was fine and not blocked, was indeed blocked and when he placed the stent....well, I shan't describe it here as he described it to me. Suffice it to say....YUCK and EWWWW. Then he reminded me that he was leaving the following afternoon for Boston and wasn't going to be in town until early the next week. Oh the tears that wanted to spill at that moment.

He said, "I can send him home with that stent in place and we can schedule a lithotripsy (where they bust up the stone with sound waves) for when I get back if that's okay with you." Well, I had no choice, huh? I nodded dumbly and looked at my hands, feeling helpless and worried and knowing that Paul was not going to do well in that scenario. Dr. Stout patted me on the leg and told me I could go on upstairs and wait for Paul there. As I gathered my things, I glanced down at my iPod where the post on Testify I had been reading had quoted the old hymn I recall Tennessee Earnie Ford singing when I was kid, "It Is Well With My Soul". I blinked back the tears, took a deep breath and as I walked the long hallway toward the elevators I prayed. God, you are in control of this. You are the Great Physician and I can't worry any more. You have this. I know it. Paul is in the palm of Your hand and You are in control. It truly is well with my soul.

And I made it to that empty hospital room with a renewed spirit and no worry. And moments after I sat down in that hard-backed chair to await my Prince Charming the room phone rang. The nurse aide came screeching into my room hollering, "ANSWER THAT! ANSWER THAT! IT'S DR. STOUT!" I said hello with trepidition - had something happened to Paul in those few short moments between then and now? I pushed the thought away and listened as Dr. Stout told me he had called Oklahoma City, pleaded the case, arranged for them to send the mobile lithotripsy unit up the following morning and the procedure was scheduled for 8am. There would be no waiting the weekend, no dismissal to home with the stone still there, no having to wonder if another urologist was available in Dr. Stout's absence.

Talk about God's favor!

I took Paul a long time to come around what with him being a sedation lightweight and all and as he had when he had his EGD procedure back in March, he had some temporary amnesia and asked me questions over and over and over. It's cute at first. It gets less cute after you answer the same question for the 27th time. He was groggy and nauseated, in a lot of pain and just generally grumpy when it finally hit him that the stone had not been rolled away, so to speak. He refused to eat that day. He was depressed. Peeing was excruciating for him. Watching him under all of it was excruciating for me. He had a lot of pain medication in him. He was intensely nauseated. They were pumping the IV fluids in him like crazy and there was very little output. He swelled up like a poisoned pup.

I went home that afternoon to get the kids off the bus, let them re-pack their bags for another school night sleepover at Gram's and said I'd take them to Sonic after going to see Daddy. Abby caught me off to the side as soon as we walked in the hospital room and said, "Why does  Daddy look like that? Why is his face so FAT?" That had to be startling and I assured her he was fine, just retaining a lot of fluids, like PMS on steroids. She giggled. They visited with him for awhile, then hunger got the best of them. After kisses good-bye we headed to Sonic. As I puilled in my father called and said the storms headed our way looked bad, to get the kids to shelter and forget Sonic. They needed food and Sonic is fast and close to Mom's. We made it to Mom's, flipped on the TV, watching the radar show the storm go around us. Mom and Dad were eating dinner and with the weather iffy I decided not the leave the kids alone. I took that time to put my feet up since they were swollen from sitting in that dang hard backed chair for two days.

Dad dropped Mom off at the house and headed up to see Paul and take him some magazines. I loved on my babies awhile longer, visited with Mom and then headed to the hospital myself. He was in the shower when I got there and seemed to be feeling better, probably knowing the end was near and he was 12 mere hours away from relief. I went home again that night to sleep alone, no Little Joe to protect me from the big, bad coyotes and panthers and bobcats out here in the woods, but I was so exhausted Fitty could've waltzed in and hacked me to bits without me ever knowing.

I was back to the hospital by 7 the next morning, things were very delayed and x-ray didn't come get him until after 8. They had no sooner gotten him in the elevator the anesthesiologist walked in. He looked around with a confused look on his face and said, "Uhm.....your husband? He would be.......where?" When I said x-ray had just taken him he said, "Come on, we'll go catch him" and whisked me off to the surgery elevator. We missed him by moments and waited patiently outside the x-ray room door. The anesthesiologist also laughed when he said he was only giving Paul a half dose of Versed this time since he was hit pretty hard by the full dose the day before. I rolled my eyes and said, "Don't I know. You ought to have been the one trying to take off his shorts while the surgery nurses laughed at you behind a curtain! That's blog material for sure!" He laughed then assured me he would take good care of him and headed for the OR. I got to kiss Paul's face before the other surgery guy (far less giggling from him) whisked him away, I met Dad in the hallway and we waited together this time. The hour and 15 minute wait was made far easier with him being there.

Finally Dr. Stout made his grand appearance with specimen cup in hand. He showed us a stone fragment that had already passed when the stent had been removed. It was about the width of an unsharpened pencil lead. Ow. He said he had also managed to bust up some of the stones that were in the proper position in the left kidney, thus hopefully eliminating a few episodes in the future. I thanked him for all his string-pulling, mad stone removal skillz and wished him safe travels on his road trip to Boston.

And thanked God the ordeal was over. And praised him for his goodness and mercy and healing.

Paul was awake, alert and HUNGRY when he got back to the room this time. The nurse aide brought him a sandwich because it was still and hour and a half until lunch trays would be there. He ate and acted more like himself than he had in four days. And he ate part of the lunch on his tray when it got there. He put on his Sooner pajama pants and OSU hat - he is an enigma, that man - and said he was ready to go HOME.

By 2pm we were heading home with three prescriptions for antibiotics, pain and nausea meds. Our kids were insanely happy we were both there when they got off the bus that time. We were, too.


Fast forward to yesterday, one week after dismissal: Paul passsed SIX stones/fragments yesterday. They were all about the size of a match head. He never even knew he'd passed them until he saw them in the urinal. Talk about God's favor again. I can't fathom trying to pass something that size.

Sweet tea has not touched his lips since and he says it never will again. I doubt that. I mean, we live in Oklahoma, for cryin' out loud, that stuff is everywhere. He's been drinking a lot of water and since he heard lemonade helps to etch stones that are already formed, thus reducing them in size, he drinks a LOT of lemonade. Hey, I guess whatever floats his boat. Or his stones.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stoner (Part 1)

Two weeks ago Paul came about *this close* to rupturing a disk in his back. It was awful. I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard Sam say "She's in the shower. Okay, okay, I'll get her." My 12 year old son with eyes squeezed tightly shut, hand over his closed eyes and while holding the phone as far away from himself as possible slipped the phone through the bathroom door and said, "It's Dad." I grabbed the phone with my dripping hand, said hello and was greeted with the soft, panting voice (no, not that kind of soft, panting voice) of my husband saying, "You've *pant* got to *pant* come out here *pant* and help *pant* me. NOW. *pant*" I said, "Well, I'm dripping wet, I'll be out there as fast as I can! Where are you?" He replied with "*pant* The carport *pant*" and hung up.

I threw my shorts and shirt on while still drippy, squeezed excess water out of my hair and ran out the back door fully expecting to find my husband missing an arm or his leg bent awkwardly out behind him since the last time I had seen him earlier was as he flew down the driveway on a four-wheeler. I wasn't looking forward to what I thought I was going to see. Instead I just found him kind of bent over at the waist beside the lawnmower. He slowly turned his head toward me and said, "I threw out my back." My initial reaction was that I wanted to laugh, but then fortunately I caught myself as I realized he was really hurting. It took about 15 minutes, but we slowly, and I mean slowwwwwwwwwwwly, got him straightened up and I walked him in the house.

Three days of missed work, four chiropractor visits and a metric ton of ibuprofen and he finally felt like a human again.

Fast forward to 2am this past Tuesday morning. A tote fell off the cedar chest at the foot of our bed. I got up, put it back up and crawled back in bed. I had just settled in and felt Paul get up. He said, "My stomach's cramping" and kind of staggered sleepily out of the room. I figured there was nothing I could help him with there and promptly went back to sleep. About 45 minutes later I was awakened to him shaking the bed violently and saying, "Kristin, you've got to get up now and help me. I'm hurtin'. Bad." I grabbed my glasses and followed him to the living room where he took up pacing as he apparently had been doing for the previous 45 minutes while I snoozed away.

It was the dreaded kidney stone.

In 2008 he passed five of the little buggers and he recognized the pain of them moving all too well. Three years ago he was admitted to the hospital and was scheduled for basket retrieval surgery the following morning at 6am only to pass them all a few hours later.

Not so much this time.

I text his boss and told her he would not be coming in and what was going on. I rummaged around in the cabinet until I found the blessed bottle of Vicodin from three years ago knowing they were expired, but also knowing the dude needed some relief. At 5:30 I got up to start my day having not gone back to sleep.

He felt fine during the day that day (Tuesday), achey and sore on the side where the stone was, but not the horrible pain he had felt during the night. He figured the stone had dropped into his bladder and it was just a matter of passing it from there so he got down in the floor to put together a new ceiling fan for our bedroom. The crawling and squatting and bending got the stone moving again and within 30 minutes he was begging to be shot. I instead suggested the emergency room and while he insisted a bullet would've been better, he agreed to the hospital. Mom and Dad couldn't get there quick enough for his taste, so we left the two  younger kids in Abby's care and headed for Vinita, about 25 minutes away. There was a little girl with an ice pack on her arm ahead of us, so Paul took to pacing the floor. When he was finally called back to Triage the nurse and I struck up a conversation which included the game of "Don't I Know You From Somewhere?" and "Man, You Look Awful Familiar". Paul was not amused and kept giving me looks that essentially conveyed that I was heartless and shouldn't be allowed to continue living.

Two shots of Demerol and a shot of Morphine landed him on a heart monitor and oxygen because apparently they were concerned at the amount of drugs they were having to give him to even give him any semblance of relief. After the Morphine he finally quit doing the Funky Chicken all over the bed and settled down enough they could take him to CT where they announced he was the proud owner of a 5mm stone which was in the ureter and was certainly considered "passable". 20 minutes later the doctor came back in and said that upon further perusal of the films the stone was 7mm and right on the border of "passable" and "no way in Hell that baby is coming out on its own." He also announced there were six more stones in the left kidney and three more in the right which means we have the fabulous opportunity of potentially going through this NINE MORE TIMES. By 11pm the doctor was writing dismissal papers and said to drink until his eyeballs floated and if the pain came back and we couldn't control it at home to go to either Grove or Miami hospital because both of those hospitals have urologists and they didn't.

I didn't watch Conner that next day (Wednesday) considering neither of us had slept in two nights and he was still in pain and couldn't stop throwing up. By the time the kids got home he was pacing the floor and cursing, asking for a bullet in between barfing into a trashcan and draping himself over various pieces of furniture. At one point told Kady her voice was so annoying he couldn't stand hearing another thing from her mouth. Fortunately it didn't break her sensitive little heart and she didn't cry. She knew her daddy was hurtin' bad. I told the kids to pack an overnight bag and called Mom and said I was bringing them to her and we were headed to the ER. We dropped them off and he staggered into the ER where fortunately we didn't have to wait long to be triaged and sent to a room. More Morphine and Zofran for the nausea and the doctor said he was sending him home. Paul nearly started crying. He was exhausted from the pain and the vomiting, he was so dehydrated they had to stick him five times (after having stuck him seven the first time in the ER at the other hospital) and he just wanted some relief. I called and texted my best prayer warriors and put them on mercy-prayer detail - we needed favor in the form of a sympathetic ER doc and urologist.

It helps that the local urologist is a stone producer as well.

Another CT scan to see if the stone had moved in the past 24 hours (it hadn't considering it was the size of Manhattan) and the ER doc came in and said, "I can send you home with oral pain meds and we'll see if you pass this thing in a day or two or you can be admitted and Dr. Stout can do a basket retrieval procedure in the morning." We both at the same time said, "Admit!" Dr. Stout, the urologist, came by to see him while he was still in the ER and said the stone was kind of high, but he would try his best to retrieve it. By 8:30 he was being wheeled upstairs to his room where my sweet, exhausted husband just wanted to sleep. I went home around 10:30 that night to sleep and was so tired I just knew that no howling coyotes or even Fitty coming to hack me into itty bitty bits was going to keep me awake.

I finally fell asleep at nearly 1am. I was up by 5 to be back in there by 7 because the surgery was scheduled for 8. I was running on fumes and about eight hours sleep in three nights.

To be continued......

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...