Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's An Emergency! An Unexpected Stay In Toowoomba

Did your Mum ever tell you to always wear clean underwear 'just in case'? I used to ask 'just in case of what'? And she'd say things like well if a bus or a car hit you, at least you'll be wearing nice underwear.
Whatever, I'd like to add always wash your hair when you feel the need.
Stay with me readers, because it's a long story.
One cold evening a few months ago, I really felt the need to wash my hair. Except it was chilly, my hair was long at the time, and if I go to sleep with it damp at any length, I wake up with 'boofy hair'. (That's the technical term I believe.)
So I didn't.
Instead, I set my alarm so I'd have time to do it in the morning.
Except there was no need for an alarm. And no time to wash my hair.
At midnight, Mr 16 woke me saying he had really bad stomach pain. Being a sensible young man, he'd already taken painkiller, but it hadn't touched the sides, and it was getting worse.
Now for Chase to wake me, it means he's feeling pretty awful. He's thoughtful like that. He also has a pretty high tolerance to pain, so my Mumma Intuition was on high alert. My thoughts immediately flicked to appendicitis - I'd had mine out when I was 9 and it came on suddenly too -  but I didn't want to assume the worst.
We were going to wait it out, but when he found it impossible to get comfortable in bed or sitting up, we quickly dressed and I took him to our local ER.
We live in the country so there was no doctor on duty at that time of the morning, but the triage nurse gave Chase priority and gave him a bed right away. He was given some anti-nausea medication and powerful painkiller while someone phoned the on-call doctor.
That's where the fun started.
"Mum, why are you wearing a Bill Nye necklace?" Chase said, staring intently at the 'Chase' and 'Harmonie' pendant I always wear around my neck. And then he held his hands up and said:"Woah, look at my fingers!"
It reminded me of one of those viral videos of people who have taken medication, but I was too worried to take one of my child while he was 'high.'
We laughed about it later, but all too soon the medication wore off. To their credit, the staff kept the drugs up, but they wouldn't give him anything to eat in case he might need a procedure later, which was an immediate red-flag to this worried mother.
The on-call doctor came in shortly afterwards and said appendicitis was a possibility as was mesenteric adenitis or a bug, but we'd know more later. However, I felt in my gut (pun not intended) that this was something more serious. He wanted to keep him in for longer, so he could run tests.
I asked if it was okay to organise Harmonie some breakfast and take her to school, and the staff said it was fine. On my return, Chase had been sent for an ultrasound, and I was told he needed to be admitted. Once I had signed the forms of course.

This was the view from his bed. No photo of Chase because #teenager. His pain was getting worse and he was Hangry too. His hunger almost put the doctor, a different one now, off. Chase could count down to the minute to the time when he'd last had something to eat (around 11 pm the night before, when he'd made himself a late-night snack. In spite of the pain.).
He didn't have a fever either, although apparently that's not unusual in appendix cases. Plus, during the scan they couldn't even see his appendix! However, all the lymph nodes on that side of his body were inflamed. The doctor wanted us to go to Toowoomba - where the nearest big hospitals are - for a second opinion. Immediately.
Normally, Chase would have been transferred by ambulance, but the doctor thought he'd be more comfortable if I took him by car. And, he said, he'd give him 'enough drugs to knock an elephant on its arse', so Chase should sleep most of the trip.
Helpful tip: If this ever happens to you, do not take the advice. Chase, it turned out, was seriously ill. I was not equipped to treat him on the way, and probably shouldn't have been driving whilst worrying about him and trying to keep him comfortable. Not to mention driving at speed on unfamiliar roads, having to stop suddenly and often and hitting peak hour traffic in the city. I'm still really upset that we were given this advice.
I had also been told there were no beds in the nearest pubic hospital and that we had to go private. I was told we wouldn't be sent any bills, but we were. But at that time, getting my son well was my first concern, so I did what the doctor told me to do.
I had no time to organise anywhere for Harmonie to stay, so I rushed home to throw together some clothes, organise the pets, fuel up the car (another delay), grab the kids, and we were off - on possibly The Worst Drive Of Our Lives.
Chase did not go to sleep on the journey and his pain was getting worse. We had to stop a few times because he kept feeling sick. He felt every bump in the road - and the road from our home town of Kingaroy to Toowoomba is very rough!
Poor Harmonie hadn't even had lunch and was starving but there was no time to stop, especially as someone from the Toowoomba hospital phoned to see where we were because we were taking longer than expected. I was dying to go to the loo, but again, there was no time, except for when Chase needed to try to throw up. I guess the anti-nausea drugs stopped that, but he kept dry-reaching. Or maybe it was because there was nothing in his tummy, as he kept reminding us! And as his pain increased, he started moaning.
I was worried sick and trying to focus on the traffic and finding where we had to go. I realised Chase was obviously much sicker than the doctor in Kingaroy had thought.
By the time we got to the hospital in Toowoomba, Chase couldn't walk. The hospital was being expanded so there was no drop off zone, and no one available to bring him in. I parked as close as possible, and bless her, Harmonie organised a wheelchair for Chase, and somehow got him into it and pushed him in, while I did the paperwork. And this was a private hospital!

We ended up here. The childrens' ward, much to Chase's disgust. The specialist came in, took one look at Chase, touched his tummy, and said it wasn't worth wasting time doing any further tests. His diagnosis was acute appendicitis, and it needed to come out ASAP. The surgeon went away to prepare, while a nurse and I helped Chase get ready.

Chase finally drifted off for about 10 minutes waiting for surgery. He looked so angelic, almost like he was praying.

We hadn't even been in his room for 30 minutes when Chase was whisked away. Outside theatre, a load of forms were thrust under my nose, and an anaesthetist put a cannular into him. I got to kiss him goodbye and he was gone. I didn't even have time to cry! 
The surgeon, who was obviously used to dealing with rural patients, poked his head out to tell us to go and grab something to eat; that he'd phone if Chase came out before we were back. So thoughtful. I hadn't eaten since I don't know when and the water bottle I had taken into Kingaroy Hospital in the wee hours hadn't been refilled for ages. Poor Harmonie was starving, and I hadn't even had time to explain everything to her, given I'd phoned school on the way from Kingaroy Hospital to say I'd need to pick her up to take her to Toowoomba, and could she be waiting with her bag, pretty please? 

We felt guilty, but there was nothing we could do, and we needed to eat and drink.
The only good place we knew of to eat at was a favourite Japanese-Korean restaurant we always go to at Toowoomba. We knew the service was quick there too. The food was delicious, but not surprisingly, neither of us could eat much after all! I think we were thirsty more than anything and just needed to stop and breathe for a few minutes.
We rushed back to  hospital, where Chase had just gone into recovery. The surgeon confirmed his diagnosis and explained that in fact, the pesky organ was rupturing at the point of surgery. No wonder he was so sick! The surgeon said Chase would be in recovery for a while, given his condition, and wouldn't be up to seeing us again that night. He suggested we go to our accommodation, get some sleep, and check in with him in the morning.
I resisted the urge to laugh hysterically, because that's when it hit me. I hadn't even had time to find somewhere to stay!
All day, everything had been a rush as decisions were made, and I tried to keep Chase's Dad and other family informed. I'd barely had time to think, let alone organise accommodation. By now it was late, and I knew most motel/hotel front desks would be closed. What to do?
Trying not to show Harmonie how worried I was - and this is a real issue for people who live in rural areas and have to travel to cities for medical appointments, God forbid emergencies - I quickly looked at one of those accommodation booking sites and was overwhelmed. I had no idea where any of the places were. And I needed the motel to be comfortable, safe and quiet with it being just the two of us. And affordable. I live on a tight budget and accommodation, petrol and meals hadn't been on the agenda that week.
And then I remembered. The day had been such a blur, but somehow, when I'd been sitting beside Chase's bed waiting for the Kingaroy doctor to make a decision that morning, I'd thought to message my very dear friend Karen McKinley, media and communications director of The Punch Group.
It had become clear we may be going to Toowoomba by then, and I knew Karen often stayed in the city on business. I'd quickly sent off an SOS asking if she knew of a good place to stay near the hospitals (I hadn't been sure which one we would be going to at that stage), that wouldn't cost the earth.
Now, I finally checked my messages - I'd been conserving my battery and saving it to keep the kids' Dad updated - there was a reply from Karen to say she'd made a provisional booking for us at Potter's Hotel Toowoomba, at a very reasonable rate. I checked the website and saw the front desk had indeed closed. I panicked about the time, but when I rang the number, a friendly voice said yes, they were expecting us; it was okay that we were late; told me how to collect my key; and to drive safely, there was no hurry. So nice. And when I looked at the map on my phone, the hotel was just a right turn, and then a left from where I was parked. I could have wept. I silently thanked God and the Universe for great friends. It looked perfect!

We found the hotel easily, but of course I had trouble working out how to get the key. One of the lovely managers came out to help me. Who should follow her out but Karen! As it happened, she'd had to go to Toowoomba for work, and was staying overnight herself! Which was lovely, but I hadn't seen her in years, and I was still in whatever I'd thrown on that morning, with unwashed hair, no make-up, and having been up since midnight, I was exhausted. I felt very daggy next to my glamorous friend, in her gorgeous outfit. Harmonie felt equally embarrassed, still wearing her school uniform.
However, Karen, the managers, and their guests insisted we join them at the very lovely on-site restaurant where they were finishing dinner. They even offered to re-open the kitchen for us, gave us a drink, and tried really hard to encourage Harmonie to order a dessert as a treat, but she declined.
We had a chat and a debrief , and honestly, although I felt frumpy, everyone made us feel at home. Even Harmonie felt welcome, and she can be shy, so that's a compliment to everyone.
I would have loved to have stayed up and chatted with Karen and her friends, but Harmonie and I were spent.
We loved our room, where the king-sized bed with loads of blissfully soft pillows and cushions was literally, a sight for sore eyes. (And I must say it was probably one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in). I can also say the hotel gives some luxury hotels in major cities and on the beaches a run for their money!

The room was well set-up with a table and chairs, a balcony, writing paper, kettle, sink and fridge.

There was an awesome selection of tea, including herbal. Just right for bedtime!

Which one to choose? I just wish I'd had time to stop and get us some chocolate. I think we both could have used it. Luckily, Harmonie had some dinner leftovers to snack on.

Fantastic, because I'd forgotten ours! And they smelled delicious too.

I couldn't wait to get into the shower! And wash my hair. Bliss!

Potter's Hotel has a lovely old-world feel about it, with lots of homely touches.

A home away from home...

I slept fitfully because of the events of the day, and I guess I was over-tired and worried. But I felt safe in the room and grateful we had somewhere warm and comforting to stay.
There were so many cushions and pillows that Harmonie and I didn't even feel like we were sharing a bed. I surrounded myself with pillows and every time I woke up, the softness of the bed enveloped me.
Even though Potter's Hotel is on a main road, the room was quiet. That was one of my concerns when it came to finding a place to stay because I know from experience that many hotel/motels in Toowoomba are on busy roads and can be noisy.
As a bonus, parking was included (right outside) as was wifi, and Netflix. All easy to operate.
I received a text sometime after midnight from Chase to say he was awake - and hungry! We exchanged a few texts and he reassured me he was okay. I felt better after that. What did we do before mobile phones?
Because Karen was staying too, she offered to keep an eye on Harmonie if I wanted to let her sleep in while I went to the hospital to catch the surgeon while he did his rounds in the morning. She told me to give Harmonie her number in case she needed anything.
Again, I thanked God for wonderful friends - and coincidences. Harmonie was still worn out and really happy to sleep-in.
I let the lovely ladies at reception know also, and they very kindly offered to delay cleaning our room  so Harmonie wasn't disturbed. They also reassured me that she would be fine and they would be around if she needed anything at all. They were also understanding about the fact that we didn't know exactly how long we were staying.

I got to the hospital early to find Chase sleeping. He'd obviously eaten some breakfast as there were remnants on his tray, but it was 'boring food' like cereal and cold toast, which he doesn't eat. He'd ticked bacon and eggs the night before, so I knew he wouldn't have been happy. (This became a common theme during his stay. He was not delivered the meals he had ordered, and the surgeon specifically said he did not have to be on a diet. All that he was told that they had 'run out' of the meals he'd ordered, like pizza and burgers, so they kept serving hims unappetising ones. This meant I had to keep bringing food up. Seriously he got chicken nuggets one night. He never even liked nuggets as a child!) 
I had to laugh when I saw his bag and clothes on the floor, even though I'd put them in the cupboard the evening before. It seems even in hospital teenagers will be teenagers!  

I took a selfie while I was waiting, because I didn't have the heart to wake Chase. If I look wrecked it's because I was! And I'd forgotten what Toowoomba water does to my hair (it makes it 'boofy'). I lived in Toowoomba for three years while I was studying for my Bachelor of Arts degree, and I always had big hair. Plus I'd gone to sleep while it was still damp, so double the boof!
After a while, the surgeon arrived. Although the operation had gone well, because Chase's appendix had been rupturing, he wanted him to stay another night so he could have a longer period on  intravenous antibiotics to ward off infection. Apparently these days, most appendectomy patients go home the first day!
Chase was pretty sore, especially with the 'wing tip' pain people often get after a laparoscopy. I've experienced that so I sympathised. When he got tired I went back to the hotel to pick up his sister, who was still fast asleep. I also said goodbye to Karen, who had to head back to Brisbane. Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick catch up, but it was better than nothing. 

Finally feeling relieved now my son was on the mend, I had a chance to appreciate Toowoomba's charms. It's such a beautiful city with old buildings, tree-lined streets, great street art, and loads of good cafes and restaurants.
When Harmonie and I went to visit Chase, he hadn't even remembered that that doctor and I had visited him that morning. Poor thing had either been still drugged up or worn out himself.
We spent some time hanging out with Chase and making sure he had enough fluids, food and painkiller, because he hadn't felt confident to ask for himself. 

We'd both missed breakfast, so we left at lunchtime. Toowoomba is one of the few places which still has a Sizzler. It was once one of the kids' favourite restaurants, so we went there for old times' sake. The famous toast was as we remembered. Delicious, but we didn't want to eat much of it, because I prefer A Big Salad (shades of Seinfeld) and Harmonie loves the savoury meals, the fruit and the dessert bar.

We taunted Chase by texting him a photo of the chocolate mousse ...

And the dessert bar!

He made us feel guilty by sending us a photo of his lunch. He doesn't eat roast meat or mashed vegetables! He had ordered a pizza that day.

So we stopped off at a Japanese takeaway and got him a bowl of his favourite chicken Katsu and a bottle of Ramune. 

While we were there, Chase was given a ball apparatus to help with his breathing, which in turn would help with his wing tip pain. We took great delight in telling him to remember to blow his balls! (Okay, that was just me. Mother Of The Year.)
We spent some more time watching TV with him, but when it reached after school time he started snapchatting and texting his friends so we figured we may as well head back to the hotel for some rest. The nurse who was on duty suggested he should get some too!

A message from the nurses...

Toowoomba isn't known as The Garden City for nothing. Even the hospital gardens were lovely.

Back at Potter's I decided to explore ...

Oh, time for a TV and tea break ...

Wherever I lay my hat ...

Loved the newspapers ...

The reception area ..

Guard dogs

Not so tired and stressed once I knew Chase was going to be okay ...

Just outside the restaurant at Potter's. I was really keen to eat in, because the restaurant is supposed to be fab and the menu had me salivating. However, Harmonie was either being very sensible and price conscious, or just felt like good Japanese/Korean food again, which we don't get where we live. This time we opted for a different takeaway, after a quick check on Chase. We certainly got a lot of exercise, parking the car, walking to his room, and walking back to the car!

A cute drink for Harmonie while we waited.

Ramen and udon to share, which was really delicious. And extremely cheap! We took it back to our room to enjoy it in comfort. We had some herbal tea in bed and I watched a movie on Netflix while Harmonie enjoyed some anime on her iPad, thanks to the free wifi.
If we'd had time and energy, Potter's Hotel is just a few steps away from Grand Central Shopping Centre, the major shopping area in Toowoomba. It was a Thursday night, and I could have done with a visit to K-Mart and some other retail therapy! But we were both too exhausted. Mentally and physically.
That night we slept really well, and I woke to another text from Chase. He was hungry again, and the doctor would be coming soon. I would have stopped to grab him breakfast, but I felt sure he couldn't be unlucky again, and I didn't want to miss the doctor. This time, there was better news -  Chase could go home.

So Harmonie and I quickly packed up while Chase was topped up with painkiller and anti-nausea meds, and prepared for discharge.
We bid the lovely staff at Potter's farewell - they felt like old friends by then!
Then we took one last visit to this place (above). We had walked up and down these stairs so many times the past few days (but we took the lift down with the patient!)
Chase was Hangry again - breakfast hadn't been good it seemed. (No matter that Harmonie and I had missed ours again in the rush!)
All he wanted was Hungry Jacks - another food we don't get at Kingaroy. I figured it would be medicinal, so I quickly googled the nearest one and made a detour. At least it hit the spot!
The trip home was almost as bad as the way there - almost. But this time, Chase wasn't in quite as much pain, he had a full tummy, we didn't have to rush, and I knew where I was going. He still felt nauseous and felt every bump though!
Unfortunately Chase ended up in hospital again with an internal infection a week or so later, so he probably came home a bit too early. But he's fine again now. Though still hungry!
I'd love to go back to Toowoomba again, AND stay at Potter's Hotel. But this time I'd actually take time to enjoy it, have a proper reunion with Karen, shop, see the sights, taste some delicious food with both my children, and stay as far away from a hospital as possible.
Oh - and I'd wash my hair first!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm so glad he is ok Bronnie! I think the doctor at Kingaroy sounds like he is almost negligent giving that advice for you to transport him! I'm not a doctor but the doctors I have dealt with are always more cautious than not. How lucky your have your friend there too!

Unknown said...

Thanks Lorraine. I will never work that out! I WAS grateful that the doctor at least made the decision to send us on to a bigger hospital where the surgery could be done. I remember him saying it didn't present as typical appendicitis, but his instincts were telling him that it was. So at least, making that call had us in the right place in the right time and I will be forever thankful to him for that. I had the chance to tell him that when he saw Chase again when he was readmitted a week or so later. But yes, transferring Chase myself after plucking a mystified Harmonie from school was pretty scary. It got to the stage where I wondered what I'd do if something serious happened to Chase along the way. We didn't even have mobile reception for parts of the trip, and let's face it, my car isn't exactly new or in good shape! And yes, it was so fortunate that my friend was there that first night and the second day. Someone was looking down on us I think.