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Royal University Hospital

Five Years

Oliver turning five

Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far.  Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy.  The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing.  She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home.  I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.

Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed.  I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.

As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs.  A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first.  It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”.  Sadly their child didn’t make it.

I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited.  Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was.  A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”.  There wasn’t much for me to say.  He asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.”  I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning.  I’ll be fine”.  At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.

The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.

We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand.  Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher.  Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.”  I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us.  Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.”  As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible.  She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee.  I took her up on her offer.

Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room.  A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.

The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs.  The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People.  There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby.  As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure.  As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA.  If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.

Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out.  I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on.  Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.

As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket.  I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.

I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU.  Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee.  Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly.  A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.

Oliver Scott CooperOliver Scott Cooper

Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008.  Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.

Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi.  Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature.  We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick.  It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.

So now he is five.  Time flies when you repress some of those memories.

Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:

  • Spiderman water bottle
  • Kick scooter
  • Green Army men
  • An NFL football (from Mark of course)
  • Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
  • Some new shirts
  • An Angry Bird hat

He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt.  He is off to take over the world.

Video: Reduce the lead time for Mental Health and Addictions patients in RUH Emergency

 

The Saskatoon Health Region is being driven by Lean Management.  Like any management theory it has a website, newsletters and even some videos.  While the video production quality is horrible, here is a video on how the Saskatoon Health Region is trying to improve intake and evaluation for Mental Health & Addiction Services at RUH.

This is my life now

It’s been a bad week, a really bad week but this was weirdest thing I have had to deal with.  At work yesterday my right arm really started to hurt.  I hadn’t done anything but it started to hurt a lot.  I took off early yesterday to meet Darren Friesen for coffee.  I couldn’t put my arm in my pocket, it hurt that bad.  I had to lift it up with my left arm and put it there.

While at The Collective Coffee, I ran into Saskatoon’s Fire Chief, Brian Bentley who introduced me to one of the other firemen there.  I shook his hand because you don’t want to look like a total wimp in front of the fire chief.  I thought I was going to die.  At that point I was starting to wonder a) that there might be something wrong b) how I could I do this wrapping up projects at work. 

I came home, took a couple of Advil, put some A535 (I am getting to the age where smelling like ointment is normal I guess) and tried to sleep it off.  That didn’t work either.  Wendy looks at it and it has this large bump on it.  She points out that it may be dislocated.  Now my left shoulder was dislocated hundreds of times and has been surgically repaired twice.  I know that there has be some sort of incident for a shoulder to pop out.  There was no incident but my shoulder is all screwed up and I can’t move my arm outward at all.

We finally headed over to RUH where I tell the triage nurse, “I think I may have dislocated my shoulder”.  The triage nurse starts asking about any other injuries because normally people don’t come in with a messed up shoulder and no other injuries.  The intake nurse said the same thing.  Now the weirdest thing happened.  Instead of sending me to a doctor, she ordered the X-Rays herself.  I walked up, got x-rays, walked downstairs and the doctor saw me.  No wait at all.  There are signs up at RUH with stopwatches saying they are timing patient wait times and evaluating how to get things done in fewer steps and it seems to have worked.  I was really, really impressed.

The doctor saw me and says, “Your shoulder isn’t separated but you have torn your rotator cuff”  Since I was pretty sure I hadn’t pitched any baseball games (and even if I had, I am left handed), I was somewhat shocked and surprised at that diagnosis.  The good news is that rest will help it heal.  The bad news is that I appear to have entered the stage of life described by Louis CK below.

Looking back at it, I am just glad I got out of RUH without them putting me down.  Today the shoulder is fine unless I move it the wrong which is pretty much in any direction.

My week in review

On Sunday I decided to take the family to Waskesiu for the day.  We drove up through Prince Albert, past the Prince Albert Penitentiary and Riverbend Institution (Wendy was curious over where the Salvation Army has our prison barbecue) and then to Waskesiu (Mark thought we were headed to the cabin via Regina but in his defense, I had purchased him an issue of Transworld Skateboarding and he may not have noticed the forest through the many trees).

After eating at The Angry Taco, we wandered around the beach, did some shopping, and some exploring.  During most of the day, I had chest pains which I have had for months but had been telling myself, they were stress.  I have stress at work and for those of you who read Wendy’s blog, I have a lot of stress at home, depending on the state of her depression.  For the last month, I would walk the fifteen blocks home and be totally exhausted.  I have walked  back and forth from home to the Salvation Army hundreds of times and while I am walking up Caswell Hill, it isn’t as if I need to use climbing ropes for safety.  It’s a pretty tame climb.

On Monday morning I woke up with pain and I decided to go to Royal University Hospital’s Emergency Room to get it checked out.  I was hoping they would tell me it was stress but after my chest X-Ray, they told me it something more serious and I was being admitted.  So off to the 6000 ward I was sent with all of the other cardiology patients where I awaited my angiogram.  The first night was just annoying.  Wendy brought my noise cancelling headphones which makes sense but I sleep on my side so I knocked them off my head where I was greeted with snoring, snoring, and more snoring.  As soon I would fall asleep, I would knock off one of the heart monitor points which would sent a nurse scrambling in to see if I was dead and/or fix the points.  If I wasn’t doing that, I was rolling over and jamming my intravenous.  I was also woken up blood work techs and of course they needed to wake me for my blood pressure and temperature.  On top of that the blood thinner they gave me made me cold which all adds up to under two hours of sleep.  I don’t know why but in the silence of Monday night, I felt scared for the first time since Wendy was giving labour to Oliver.  Death has never bothered me that much but the idea of giving up on life prematurely because of stupid diet decisions and choices really bothered me.  My mom declined to have chemotherapy when she was dying of cancer because she didn’t want to go through it and I have always questioned that decision.  I don’t want Mark and Oliver to think, “Why didn’t Dad cut the McDonalds out of his diet and choose to be with us for some more years?”  I felt quite disappointed in myself.

Tuesday was spent waiting.  I saw my cardiologist and other doctors who lectured me on my diet and weight.  Fair enough.  The other thing that hit me was they were on me because of how high my cholesterol and blood pressure was which was news to me.  They put me on Lipitor for probably the rest of my life and also Ramipril to help me deal with high blood pressure.   Wendy had to work Tuesday night so I was chilling out reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Post American World Release 2.0 when Cam Broten came by and chatted politics and life for a bit.  The best part of the visit was he brought up The Economist and a fantasy football magazine.  The next day this doctor comes in and looks at my reading material and says, “No wonder you are in here, you can’t relax reading The Economist  He picks it up and sees the football magazine and then without batting an eye goes, “Should I pick Manning as my QB with the neck problems or Brady with Ochocinco?”  Apparently global economic stress is bad while NFL fantasy league stress is good.  That’s why I am not a doctor.

Wednesday morning I was in for my angiogram.  They found a lesion on my heart as well as two partially blocked arteries and some blockage in another one.  The most concerning were the two arteries that are partially blocked as they aren’t bad enough to deal with.  Those mean that I need a drastic change to deal with or schedule myself a series of heart attacks, by-passes, and strokes in the coming years.

After having a 40 minute heart ultrasound and nurses tearing away connection point after connection point off my body, I was allowed to return home where I hung out with the boys before I fell asleep.  My right arm was useless as that is the artery they chose to get to my heart which resulted in some spilled milk but we survived as a family.  Mark fired up Netflix and showed Wendy the Arrested Development where GOB is CEO and going on and on about how much his suit cost.  At the hospital he goes to Wendy, “C’mon, I’m the guy in a $3700 t-shirt and you want me to get you a pop?!”.  It’s even funnier now that Wendy gets what he was talking about.  Even Oliver is going, “C’mon, look at my pants”.

Today I went to Indigo and bought a couple of cookbooks.  One is on eating Heart Smart, the other one was The Vegetarian Bible.  We have the Mayo Clinic cookbook and some other heart healthy eating books so I have some choices.  Low cholesterol diets can be summed up with one word, bland.  I had a chicken fajita tonight and they weren’t bad which is kind of pathetic but that is how food will be defined now.   After that I stopped by work to chat and after 30 minutes of that, I was too tired to wander over to the other side of the building.  Wendy drove me home (I can’t drive for a couple of days) and I have just been exhausted all day.  My proudest accomplishment has been writing this post and doing some dishes.  Other than that I have been sleeping and resting.  Oh yeah, thinking.  I have been thinking a lot as well.

Oliver

Just a quick update on Oliver

  • The medication he is on is working and he hasn’t had any seizures in a while.
  • EEG test He had his EEG on Thursday which is no small deal for Oliver as he hates hats.  At the lake this summer our biggest challenge was to put a hat on the kid.  It went something like this.  Hat goes on, hat comes off.  Hat goes on, hat goes off.  Hat goes on, hat gets tossed to the dog.  Soggy hat goes on, hat comes off.  Hat goes on, hat gets tossed out of the wagon.  You get the idea.  So the idea of a big hat with electrodes sticking out and then wrapped with gauze that Ollie could not take off was just about more than he could take.  That being said, the tech did a good job of keeping Oliver pre-occupied with a Dora the Explorer DVD until Oliver was  ready for a nap.
  • The medication has no side affects for Oliver except he goes to bed around 7:00 p.m. instead of 8:00 p.m.  It makes me wonder why they don’t sell this stuff to all parents :-)
  • Oliver meets with a specialist on Monday morning at Royal University Hospital.  The appointment is at 10:00 a.m. and with the current parking situation over there, Wendy will need to be there at 7:00 a.m.  For those of you who have not been there, the already inadequate parking lot is being totally redone and most of it has been unavailable all summer which means that parking is almost impossible to find.  Because the hospital is located in the middle of the University of Saskatchewan, it isn’t as if there is a lot of parking available nearby.  It has taken on average half an hour to find a spot.  Of course the latest plan is to build a children’s hospital attached to RUH which is only going to make the problem worse.

This is somewhat related…

  • While the food used to be quite tasty in the RUH mall, it has gotten just horrible.  When I was pastor of Lakeland Church, I used to spend time with the congregation in the hospital.  I used to stop by early in the morning (and drop off a copy of the Star Phoenix) and then over supper time and give the family a bit of a break.  I would eat supper with whoever was up there and it wasn’t bad.  Since then it has gotten both expensive and horrible.  Mark and I had a cold hot dog the other day while the doctors were looking at Oliver.  I brought Wendy back a wrap that she could not eat.  Does no one from the heath region eat that food?  I know it’s salt reduced but all of the salt in the world isn’t helping this food.

Oliver

Well Oliver is feeling a lot better today.  Well I don’t know how bad he felt yesterday but there hasn’t been any seizures.  He is currently hitting Mark with a plastic golf club.   I guess that means that a) the medication is working fine or b) I heard some stories of young children that staff knew of that had seizures that were never explained and never happened again so let’s hope that is what happened.  Of course we won’t know until we see the specialist.

This is a really fun coincidence but the pediatrician that saw Oliver last night is friends with Nashville’s Jim Palmer who among other things is famous for writing some really good books, getting attacked by sea lice with me in Bahamas, and for not stopping me from buying the ugliest shirt in the western world (which I need to take a photo of).  That’s only two degrees of separation.  I wonder how many degrees until we meet Kevin Bacon.

Seizure

Oliver and Wendy at Last Mountain Lake

Today’s events started innocently enough yesterday.  I was planning to stock up some office supplies at the Front Desk at the Centre and was going through the Staples/Corporate Express catalog.  I made my notes and realized that instead of making our Exec Assistant’s life miserable, I would just run to Office Depot and get them with the Centre’s card.  As I was leaving the house this morning, Wendy called and wanted to know if I needed our vehicle all day.  I said no and I told her that if she was  ready when I came by, she could grab it and drop me off at the office once I was done.

When we were over at Office Depot, she came over to Oliver and I realized immediately he was having a seizure.  I turned him on his side and we walked out of the store and the seizure continued for a couple more minutes.  He has choking, convulsing, and shaking violently with his eyes rolled back into his head.  I have seen a lot of seizures at the Centre but then again, this is the first one I have seen my son have.  While he was having it, I was thinking that it takes 15 minutes for an ambulance to get five blocks to the Centre (seriously, an EMT riding a slug could get there faster on many calls) and I realized we were only five minutes from Royal University Hospital.  So we drove over there and as Wendy took Oliver in, I tried to find a place to park (much of the RUH parking lot is out of commission).  By the time I got in, Wendy had been rushed past triage and was in the pediatric emergency room.  Oliver was pretty unresponsive and was really out of it.  He was acting strange and took over an hour to settle down while the entire time he seemed scared, disorientated, and confused.  Along the way he was seen by the resident, the pediatrician, and almost managed to escape the three nurses who had to hold him down while they took blood tests (I don’t think Oliver appreciated the rather cool Spider-Man band-aid they gave him either).  He eventually fell asleep and then when he woke up, was back to normal.   I know that a fever can cause kids (and adults) to have a seizure but Ollie’s temperature was totally normal.  All that is wrong with him is a bit of a cough and a runny nose.  After taking some more tests, they released him with instructions that if it happened again, we were to return.

He had another nap and woke up.   We had some errands to run and while Wendy has been passive aggressive about getting a cell phone for her, this convinced her that she needed to get one.  We went to Wal-Mart to take a look at some and while we were there, Oliver had another big and long seizure.  It was bad but not quite as bad as this morning but it still lasted for a couple of minutes.  We left Wal-Mart and it was back to RUH.  Triage took Wendy and Oliver right back to pediatric emergency room and while the same nurses were on, the resident was just finishing her shift.  She stayed behind and brought the evening pediatrician up to date which made the process smoother and I imagine a little quicker.  We weren’t there long and after a consultation with another specialist (a pediatric neurologist), we were sent home with a prescription for some medication to help stop the seizures, promises of an appointment with the pediatric neurologist, tests and instructions that if it happens again, we are to come back so he can be admitted.

I would have liked to walk out of there with a definite answer on what was happening to him but it wasn’t to be.  Oliver’s blood work came back normal and he didn’t have a fever.  The hope is that it is connected to a virus he has but I suppose that will come out in the tests.  The staff at RUH did everything they could and I didn’t really see the reason why Oliver could not go home.  It is rare that he would have a seizure at night (according to the doctor) and the medication that they gave him will help even more.  The doctor said it was “unlikely” he would have one tonight but I kind of work in the world of “unlikely” which makes me a little nervous but at the same time, it is pretty unlikely he will have one while sleeping.

Right now Oliver is both really cranky and groggy (from the medication) and is growling to himself upstairs as Wendy feeds him his medication.  She hid his medication in chocolate pudding which seems to be sending him a mixed message of “We don’t want you to have any more seizures but we may be bringing on diabetes at a young age…”

One story worth re-telling from the day.  While we were waiting this morning for tests to come back, I went upstairs to make a couple of phone calls and to get some Starbucks.  On my way down there were two doctors trying to get their swipe card to work on a locked door.  As I was walking past, the one doctor said to the other, “That’s your Starbucks card, you idiot”.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud which rather embarrassed the guy fumbling for his access card.