Tag Archives: Bumrungrad

Conversations in hospitals

As you can probably imagine, Mike and I have talked about many things since Dominic’s accident. Much of what we’ve been mulling over is serious, hard stuff and nowhere near funny. These two snippets, however, I can share. They’re as close as we came to laughing this week.

In the doctor’s office, staring at Dominic’s X-rays on the computer screen while three specialists debated out in the hallway about whether Dominic needed surgery:

“I think I should quit the fruits of the spirit project,” I said.

“What?” Mike said.

“Think about it,” I said. “It took me more than a month after Dominic’s birth to untangle how I felt about the fact that maternal love hadn’t swamped me upon delivery. Then the month of joy was full of days that felt decidedly joyless. During the month of peace a friend dies and one of my worst fears fulfilled – now the month is ending with my baby in a cast. If I wanted to speak Christianese, I might say that I was under spiritual attack. Now, I sort of have to do the month of patience given what’s in front of us during Dominic’s recovery, but after that I think I should quit.”

Mike laughed.

“I wouldn’t laugh,” I said. “You know what comes after the month of patience? The month of kindness, then the month of faithfulness. I would want me to quit if I were you.”

Day three in the hospital. I’ve only left the room once each day, briefly, to go downstairs to the lobby and procure a caramel macchiato and a cream cheese muffin. Mike is trying to do some work and I’m on the bed pretending a toy bear is looking for honey in Dominic’s ear. When that stops working in about 23 seconds I will move on to fake sneezing, because that’s always good for a smile at the moment.

“Remember last time we were here?” I said.

“Yeah,” Mike said.

“I mean, I know you had an IV stuck in the back of your hand and all,” I said. “But once we knew the staph was under control it was sort of fun, wasn’t it? We ate French fries and ice cream sundaes. We got to hang together all week and work, then cuddle up in the evenings in the hospital bed and watch movies on the big screen TV.”

“And go for walks in the evening down to the nursery to look at all the babies,” Mike said. “And now we have one of our own.”

We both looked at our baby. He looked frustrated and needy.

“Last time was sort of like a little holiday, wasn’t it?” I said.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “It sort of was.”

Yes, folks. We were reminiscing about previous medical evacuations … wistfully. It was that sort of week.

We’re back in Laos now. Dominic seems to be doing OK. Not well, but OK. He still needs pain medication every couple of hours, which is a bit problematic because he’s decided he hates the taste of the infant nurofen (not that I blame him, it’s sickly sweet and orange-flavoured).

“You think I’m going to take that nurofen nicely? Think again.

Every time we try to dose him with nurofen it’s a trial that starts with locked lips and glaring and inevitably progresses to screaming and sticky orange goo all over his face and clothes. The strawberry-flavored panadol, however, he gulps down like a starving piglet and doesn’t let a single drop escape. This week has so ruined his taste buds for broccoli and carrots.

Now the countdown begins. We take Dominic back to Bangkok for more X-rays and (hopefully) the removal of his cast three weeks from yesterday. My parents will be in town then, so on that day we were hoping to land in Bangkok at 9:30, clear immigration and customs, get to the hospital, get X-rays, see the orthopedic specialists and get the cast off, see a pediatrician and get 6 month vaccinations (sorry little guy, you’re just having the worst run at the moment), and make it back to the airport by noon at the very latest so that we can fly back to Laos at 1:30 that afternoon rather than overnighting in Thailand.

After seeing the lines at Bangkok airport immigration yesterday I think our chances of all that unfolding on schedule are … (insert appropriate idiom here). I’m tempted to go with “a snowball’s chance in hell”, but Mike thinks we can do it. Anyone want to place a bet?

Finally, here’s how today’s introduction to rice cereal went:

“Oooh, what’s that? Maybe it’s strawberry-flavored Panadol!

“Yuck! Rice cereal tastes worse than nurofen!”

“Why are you torturing me like this? What did I ever do to you?”

“How many times do I have to say no?”

“Much better. You got any panadol around, though? Cuz I’m sorta hungry, you know.”

Heading back to Laos today

The doctors at the hospital felt confident enough to discharge us yesterday … until I mentioned that Dominic had started to cough and sneeze. As it turns out, he was coming down with his first major cold.

When the hospital relayed this information to the insurance company, they strongly recommended that we stay at least one more night. In fact, they stopped just short of telling us they wouldn’t fly us home yet even if we wanted to go. So we spent our third night in the hospital last night with the poor little fellow – this time trying to figure out how to prevent him from falling asleep only to wake up two or three minutes later gagging, choking, and coughing.

Why is it that in all the parenthood stories I’ve heard so far, I’ve never heard someone talk about how scary to watch a baby struggle to breathe when they have a cold? Or maybe I’m just finding everything scary at the moment.

Anyway, Dominic is breathing easier this morning and so are we. We’re still dosing him regularly with painkillers, but he seems to be fairly resigned to the cast on his leg and we’re seeing many more smiles.

And even some flapping…

We’re being discharged today and flying home this afternoon on the 1:30 flight. Thank you all again for all your comments on the blog and via facebook, as well as your emails. We haven’t been able to reply to many of these messages of support, but they have all been read and greatly appreciated!

More from Laos,

Lisa

Dominic’s leg: The ugly, the bad, and the good.

We’re here at Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok. I tried to organize this into some sort of coherent update by good, bad and ugly categories, but I not feeling coherent enough myself yet to pull that off. So, in no particular order and with no particular artistry, here’s what’s going on.

Good: Mike and I are overwhelmed by the amount of love and support people are directing our way from around the world. We are so touched and feel so loved. Dominic, of course, has no idea that so many people are thinking of him and praying for him, but we sure do.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Bad: Despite our insurer’s best efforts, it took us more than 30 hours to get Dominic to Bangkok after the break. During that time we splinted his leg using cardboard and gauze (Mike’s dad did most of that, actually) and kept him as still as possible. We slept him on the change-table mat on the floor and I fed him by kneeling over him. I also managed to feed him on the plane without taking him out of the car seat (which I think I should get some sort of acrobatics award for, and maybe an honorable mention for sacrificing dignity). During these last 48 hours there have been several times when I really wished I had not slacked off on yoga after Dominic’s birth.

Good: This is our second medevac with our medical insurance company, International SOS, and they continue to impress (and when I say “impress” I mean: I would like to kiss every single employee of that company plus anyone who sits on the board).

They made probably a dozen phone calls to Laos to keep us updated on their efforts and a doctor walked us through how to splint the leg ourselves. They flew a doctor up to Laos to escort us back to Bangkok on the flight. We were met at the gate and whisked through the diplomatic channel at immigration and customs and then met at the curb of the airport by an ambulance and two nurses.

Bad: In the ambulance the nurses and the doctor who’d travelled with us were in frequent communication with the team waiting for us at the hospital. They told me they didn’t want me to feed him after 4pm because they’d scheduled him for surgery at 8pm, and then they put the sirens on the ambulance in an effort to get us to the hospital faster so that I could feed before the deadline.

Running the ambulance sirens because the baby needed to kin nom (drink milk) would have been funny … except that it wasn’t. Also, the sirens were a nice try, but they didn’t make much of a difference in the middle of Bangkok traffic jams. We sat on the freeway within sight of the hospital for more than 30 minutes (which, if things have been dire, would have been mind-blowingly agonizing).

Good: Bumrungrad is the nicest hospital I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure of spending time in. The place looks more like a nice hotel than a hospital and the staff seem phenomenally efficient. With one exception (see the next “ugly” point) I’ve never had a moment’s doubt that we are receiving top of the line medical care here.

Good: Dominic had been X-rayed and seen by two specialists within an hour of walking into the hospital. During the first consult they told us that they would take Dominic to surgery, set the leg under a general anesthetic, and put him in a spica cast (a both-leg rib-height body cast). Then they changed their mind. They could set the leg without surgery, they told us. This initially seemed like good news, but…

Ugly: They didn’t mention anything about a game plan for pain relief. When I strongly requested they make such a game plan the nurse went away and came back with … oral paracetamol – the same thing I’d been giving him for the previous 36 hours. I argued that they should at the very least give him paracetamol and codeine, but the doctors told me that they only ever use paracetamol or a general anesthetic – nothing in between – and they had no experience with giving codeine to infants so they just wanted to “do it natural.” As if there is anything “natural” about breaking the end off your femur. I was so angry. Mike had to be the one to take Dominic in to get the leg set. I couldn’t face it.

Ugly: The break is bad and complicated – all the way through the femur, right above the knee and in the growth plate area. For those of you who haven’t had a crash course in orthopedics lately, that’s bad news when it happens to a baby at this stage because there’s a chance that it’ll disrupt normal growth patterns. Dominic will have to be monitored annually by X-ray for the next few years (1 yr, 2 yr), then every two years (4,6,8) and then annually again up through the teens.

Good: The break was set by 6:30pm (less than 2.5 hours after our arrival at the hospital). And in the end they did not have to put Dominic in a spica cast, just a hip to toe cast, and that will probably only have to stay on for three weeks. X-rays today reveal that the set helped realign – even my untrained eyes can see the difference and the doctors seem pleased. They also told us that the specialist team met again and they think the chance of us having ongoing problems has dropped slightly. They’re not sure, but they think the break occurred just above (by 1 cm or less) the growth plate. If that’s the case, the long-term prognosis is better.

Good: Dominic slept quite well last night, all things considered, and has been relatively content today with only a couple of crying jags. We’ve even had some smiles. It is a huge relief to see him in less pain.

Good: Despite how harrowing the last two days have been, we remain acutely grateful that we have the resources and the networks that allow us to receive such excellent medical attention. These have been some of the worst days of my life, I cannot really fathom how much harder they would have been without the resources that are available to us.

So that’s some of the good the bad and the ugly from this end. To finish, here’s the “lovely”. The insurance company had flowers and a teddy bear delivered to the hospital. Dominic was a fan … of the ferns, anyway.

Love and thanks from Bangkok,

Lisa, Mike & Dominic

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A three year “anniversary” in Bumrungrad

We are still in Bangkok in Bumrungrad hospital. Mike is still in those sexy green PJ’s with an IV line sticking out of the back of his hand and plastic bags full of Dalacin and Ceftriaxone hanging off a metal stand above his head. Periodically air bubbles get in the line and the machine emits a loud and obnoxious beeping that doesn’t stop until a nurse comes and sorts it out. Yesterday’s last course finished dripping into his veins at 11:20pm, and nurses came in this morning to take his blood pressure at 5:15am – which I think is a ridiculous practice. Why would you wake someone out of a restorative sleep every morning in the five’s just to take their blood pressure when they’re clearly in no imminent danger?

Yes, three days into this and our serene gratitude has started to disappear at odd moments. It’s like my good mood just takes off and wanders downstairs to the Starbucks to get a cup of coffee, then saunters back in some time later and acts all surprised to find that pissiness has taken up residence in its absence.

“What’s your problem?” my sensible and cheerful self asks in these moments, genuinely bewildered. “You’ve really got it very good. Mike’s getting much better, there’s a McDonalds downstairs, they sell Haagen Dazs in the gift shop, and the shower here is awesome.”

“Just shut up,” my pissy self answers. “You’re annoying.”

Sometimes my sensible and cheerful self gives pissiness the middle finger and reclaims the throne. Sometimes my sensible and cheerful self goes and sulks in the corner.

So here’s the update: Mike is getting much better – the infection seems to be disappearing rapidly, though we both had an expectations readjustment yesterday when the smiling doctor suggested we may not get discharged until Monday.

“We trust your judgment,” we told him yesterday. “If that’s what it takes we’ll stay until Monday.”

(Of course, we’ve spent much of the last day speculating as to whether we could possibly get released on Sunday, or maybe even Saturday.)

In the meantime we’re both trying to stay focused and working off our laptops (Mike is typing one-handed as I write this while the other is soaking up all those antibiotics). I’m really enjoying the French fries down in the food court. I had a crème brule latte this morning and wasn’t that impressed. I ventured out of the hospital last night for the first time to find a local spa – where I decided to get the traditional Thai massage because it was significantly cheaper than the Swedish oil massage. I won’t make that mistake again. She twisted my body into positions I hadn’t known I could achieve, and she yanked me into some of these positions while standing on me. It was like being mugged by yoga.

Today is an anniversary of sorts for us – three years ago today Mike emailed me for the third time. It was a lovely long letter that basically inquired as to whether I might like to embark upon a long distance relationship with a virtual stranger. We all know how that story ended. Or, rather, how it started.

So, tonight, if they let Mike off his plastic tubes at some stage, I’m going to take him on a surprise field trip date to the rooftop garden on the sixth floor to mark our “anniversary”. Then we might stop at the nursery and look at the babies. I spied a dozen babies yesterday through a giant glass window – all these impossibly tiny bundles neatly lined up, fast asleep. I stood for a couple of seconds and watched them. It was like visiting a pet store and watching the puppies, only much less entertaining. But, hey, good entertainment is a bit in short supply around here at the moment so wandering past the nursery will just have to do. That and Haagen Dazs ice cream bars.

Thank you all for your messages of support and apologies that I haven’t been able to get back to you all yet. We’ve been really touched by all the blog comments and facebook comments and emails that have flooded in. When you’re clothed in green PJs and far from home it’s really nice to know people are thinking of you. I sure hope you’re all having a good week and that your sensible and cheerful selves are reigning supreme in your own internal kingdom.

Greetings from Bangkok

About two hours after I posted A Tale of Two Right Legs I got a call from Mike at the office. Our emergency evacuation medical insurance company had gotten involved. Given Mike’s history with this particular set of bugs, they wanted him to go to Bangkok.

It all happened very quickly after that. We made the decision that I would come with him, and the insurance company made the reservations for both of us on the 2:20 flight to Bangkok. We packed in less than an hour, got to the airport, finished paying for my ticket with a credit card forty minutes before scheduled take-off, and we were on our way.

The hospital here is, well, lovely. We have a private room, there’s a couch in here I can sleep on, and if it weren’t for the fact that neatly dressed nurses keep coming in every couple of hours to take Mike’s blood pressure or hook up another bag of antibiotics to his IV, I might forget we were in a hospital – this place looks more like a particularly sterile hotel.

It’ll take a couple of days to get last night’s test results back, but Mike’s already on a cocktail of IV antibiotics that the doctors seem fairly confident will kill the staph.

I’ve found the last couple of days a little bit overwhelming. Not overwhelming in a bad sense, thankfully. But I have been overwhelmed by all the reminders inherent in this whole experience of how much Mike and I have to be grateful for in this life – how ridiculously blessed we are. We were talking in the taxi to the hospital about Sommai. He had the same problem Mike does now. He did not, however, have our options. We are profoundly grateful for our options.

We are also thankful for good medical insurance, and for co-workers and supervisors who prioritized caring for staff and strongly recommended we come straight to Thailand. Emails and comments on facebook and comments on the blog have poured in from all over the world to remind us that people are thinking about us and praying for us. We feel cared for in more ways than one.

Thanks all, I’ll keep you posted when I can.