Today marks one year that our four year old baby, MaciBelle, got sick and went in for the fight of her life. Literally. We had no way of knowing that taking her to the ER would result in a 3 day stay figuring out labs. We had no way of knowing that a few days later on August 1, 2012 that our baby would have to be emergency transported to OU Children’s due to an undiagnosed and ruptured appendix. We had no way of knowing that on August 1, 2012 the doctor would come out and utter the words:
“The best I can give you right now Mrs. Vanpool is that we are doing everything we can, but she’s not out of danger. It was worse than we anticipated.”
I swear on everything there is to swear on that I do not wish any parent to ever hear those words. Ever. We had no way of knowing that two days later on August 3, 2012 that her little lung would not be able to hold up and would require a chest tube and a move into the PICU. We had no way of knowing that a few days after that on August 8, 2012 that I’d finally feel ‘safe’ enough to leave her to take a bath at the Ronald McDonald House just to return to find my baby’s room empty and her missing because during my bath they discovered 5 abscesses and 2 were the size of her stomach, requiring emergency surgery. We had no way of knowing that she would not survive that surgery if she had not received blood from heroic strangers willing and able to give. We had no way of knowing that we’d spend 28 days in the hospital this time battling for her life. We had no way of knowing that a few months later in December, she’d have residual complications that would require 6 inches of her small intestine to be removed in another fight for her life. We had no way of knowing that we’d open our holiday presents in a hospital in between Maci’s rest.
We had no way of knowing that the day we brought her home we’d hear a loud noise that was a friend of Kaitlin’s, who lived down the street, mom who could no longer cope with life. We had no way of knowing that the next morning home from the hospital, our daughters would never get to see their grandma Helen Vanpool again. We had no way of knowing that a few months later in February we’d be fighting again, this time with two small bowel obstructions, one which ruptured as she was being taken in to surgery and the other that was bigger than the Dr.’s fist and required 12 inches of her small bowel to be removed.
I had no way of knowing that seemingly mundane things I have previously overlooked would flash like neon lights in front of me as I took in everything that was keeping my baby alive. It never occurred to me before to look at GermX, antibacterial soap, trash bags, light bulbs, electrical outlets, the adjustable IV pole, the plastic that made the many pieces of machinery and tools that created Xray, Ct Scan, the operating monitors, the disposable scrubs, the containers for blood, the IV fluids, the thought that went in to making appropriate needle sizes, the discovery of sanitizing metal components in the surgical area, the inventor of gauze, the nutritionists who ensured Maci did not deplete her vitamins while healing, the inventor of the breathing apparatus that helped her lungs get stronger, the janitors who take the time to scrub the floors and have significantly cut down on the spread of infection that without them, our summer would have been very different for sure due to Maci having to have her open appendectomy opened as it healed, the creation of portable food containers that allowed staff to bring my meals up to me so that I would not have to leave my baby, the people who take their time and energy to bring their therapy dogs up to cheer up the children who would rather be at home, the led lights that allow nurses to check on patients without having to wake them up, the inventor of calculators that allow medical staff to quickly determine the amount of medicine/fluid needed, refrigeration for certain medications, the people who drive new and improved ways of separating blood in order to isolate potential problems, the nonporous flooring, the computer images so that doctors can have a better visual in order to prepare their plan of action and so much more that I can’t begin to list.Some have asked ‘how did we do it’?
Sometimes, if we know in advance what will come our way it can seem overwhelming, scary and even impossible to survive. The truth is that once you’re hit with it, you don’t have much of a choice but to either give up or fight like hell. We had many friends and family who gave us so much love and support, whether it was helping shuttle our other daughters, bringing food for our family, running errands we weren’t able to do at the time, stopping by for a friendly visit, calling/texting or sending messages of love, support and well wishes, sending the beautiful flowers and presents for Maci and offer of kindness that exceeded anything we could have ever dreamed of. In the end, we did it because nobody will fight harder for their child than a desperate parent in fear of losing them. We did it because when we chose to become parents we chose to go to whatever lengths we need to ensure our children are safe and healthy and I dare anything to come between my children’s welfare, even a ruptured appendix.
Dr. Newton (Reynolds’s Army Community Hospital), Dr. Mantor, Dr. Alex, Dr. Dingledeimer, Dr. Kelly, Dr. Letton and all the nurses, janitors, maintenance, kitchen staff, security and volunteers at Children’s hospital can never have enough thanks from us. Really, how do you thank someone who saved your child’s life? Without compassionate people dedicated to humanity, science, education, medicine and pride in doing the best they can, our summer would have ended in a way I still cannot bring myself to think about.
If you are reading this and feel compelled and are able, please donate blood. If you have a few extra movies you don’t watch, donate them to a local Children’s hospital. If you have extra books, gift cards, games, unopened presents that are appropriate, please consider donating them to your local children’s hospital. If you can pick up just an extra movie from the $5 bin at Walmart and donate it, I promise there are some very thankful families out there. These all came in tremendously helpful to us and there are many more families who have longer stays than we did.
The final thing you can do is take a seriously hard look at bills that you vote for or against. In a period of a few days our daughter went from being a normal, active and healthy 4 year old, to on her death bed. Literally. We happen to have very good insurance because of the military. In roughly 6 months time our daughter’s hospital bills piled up to well over $500, 000.00. We do not have to pay a dime because of our insurance.
During our time there I saw parents who had to ‘tag team’ in and out because neither had jobs they could afford to leave work without jeopardizing their pay, which in turn would affect their ability to feed, clothe and shelter their other children. I saw parents who were sad because they couldn’t stay with their sick child because of work and insurance. There were parents who have to ‘give’ custody over to DHS so the state can cover needed medical care, not because they didn’t love their children, but because they loved their children. They made too much for state insurance, but by no means make enough to pay premiums and hospital bills (1 bag of nutrients via IV was $1,500 and my daughter got about 12-15 just in the first stay). This is not a political platform, I just hope that everyone takes a harder look at how we can help. Be it blood, donations or voting. Thank you for taking the time to read about our family’s near heart break.