Prescription for Disaster

Monday, 29 December 2014

Let it goooooooo! (erm... or not)

Alright, that one hurt. 

A lot.

For Christmas Paul gave me a Kindle - my first ever. I immediately loaded it with some new books and charged it up, ready to de-bulk my work bag that's usually holding one or two dog-eared paperbacks that I always blow through before my commute is quite finished, being left with nothing to do but stare creepily at the commuters across from me.

So I'm new to this whole Kindle thing and am so far LOVING how convenient it is. It's so small, so light, so convenient!  It's even somewhat discreet (more so than carrying around a Game of Thrones tome on the packed train), and I was able to get properly immersed in a book, reading it on the train, on the platform, on the stairs within the packed herd of commuters, on the escalator, on the sidewalk to work... I'll admit it was getting a tad inappropriate.

I was reading it again on my way home this evening, all throughout the tube ride and then out into the street. I saw that I had missed a call from my husband so I called him back - he needed me to stop by Sainsburys to pick up a few things for dinner. No worries, I had my Kindle and could keep reading on my way to the supermarket.

The problem was that the book was actually quite good. 

The book starts off a bit slowly, but picks up to the point that I was completely, utterly and totally inappropriately captivated. Zombified, I shuffled to the supermarket, barely registering the things going on around me. I came through the doors and reached down for a blue basket as though I was on autopilot - still captivated by the building climax of my book.

I was so engrossed in this part of the book as it built and built and couldn't get worse that I hadn't noticed that there was something slightly off about my basket. It felt a tiny bit heavier, but whatever. I made my way through the aisles, holding my basket with the pinky and ring finger of my left hand and clutching the Kindle with the same hand, positioned and gripped on top of the basket as I read hungrily, pulling items off of shelves with my right hand and staring at my Kindle. The supermarket sound system was playing 'Let it Go', which was a bit weird

I got to the soy milk right during the 'big reveal' - and in disgust I audibly gasped 'That bitch!' and threw down the soy milk into the basket, hard.

That's when things went South, fast. 

It turns out that there was another basket stuck to the bottom of mine, which I hadn't noticed. The slamming of the basket with the soy milk dislodged this stowaway basket and it dropped with a thud to the floor in-front of me. I was still engrossed in the book and looked down to see what had dropped as I simultaneously tried to step over it. 

Have you ever tried to change the size of a step mid-air? Once you've already started the step? You've already committed to a certain distance, there's no physical way to successfully change it in mid-air. You just can't. 

I tried.

I saw it all happening in slow motion - my foot landed just shy of over the basket, stepping completely onto the far edge of the basket and causing it to flip over with the other side of the basket crashing into the back of my knee. My knee buckled and I went down, slowly and almost in an upright position with my legs collapsing under me like a wobbly, flailing octopus. My basket went flying - soy milk and cottage cheese flying through the air. My airborne basket hit a child and I was nearly down, but tried to save myself by grabbing on to the metal racks of milk jugs, swinging around the side of it like a stripper pole and now wearing the offending stowaway basket like an oversized blue plastic boot.

It was one of those epic falls.

Panting and in shock I struggled to my feet just as Elsa was gearing up for her high note - 

And a guy walked past, who had seen the entire thing, and announced to the crowd of onlookers:

"Now she let it go!"

I'm... uhh... I'm going to put the Kindle away now.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Sweater X-Ray Incident

It's really not easy to screw up an X-ray as a patient, other than wiggling around or hiccuping when they tell you to hold your breath. This though, was one for the record books.

The X-Ray Sweater Incident

It never ceases to amaze me that medical professionals continue to fail to understand just how heebie-jeebie inducing IV’s are, especially if I have to walk around and do stuff with that thing in.

So the cannula went in, just inside my elbow – rendering my arm completely useless and my elbow unable to bend for fear of ripping out the needle and gushing blood all over the floor and walls like a scene from a horror film.  I was then directed to go for a chest X-ray all the way across the hospital – which was fine, it isn’t like I had anything better to do and a little walk would be nice. So off I went, babying my arm as though any wrong move might cause it to fall off. I couldn’t even look at the cannula.

I made it down to X-ray having had a pretty good time watching other people notice my arm in the elevator. People give you a wide berth when you’ve got those things and are wandering around freely – like they are afraid of a spraying incident as well. The radiologist led me away from the gawking crowd and to an area in the back lined with teeny tiny little yellow cubicles, each with a small bench and a door that doesn’t quite reach the floor or the ceiling. I’ll just say right here that the radiologist was a rather handsome young Australian and I wasn’t the only woman in there blushing. He handed me a gown and gestured to a cubicle. I was to take everything off from the waist up, including my necklace and then wait for him to come get me for my chest X-ray. No biggie, I can do this.

But the cannula was still in. How was I to get my shirt (and necklace) off without bending my arm? My bra I could do. I’ve done the great bra extraction under a sweater before, easy-peasy. But I couldn’t undo the strap in the back with only one hand. No matter, I would figure that out later – as I would have to figure my necklace out later as well. On to step one, getting out of this sweater.

I looked at the IV. I can totally do this.

I pulled on the sleeve of my immovable IV arm, trying to pull the sweater off in an attempt to back out of it slowly and surely, until I bumped into the side of the cubicle. I didn’t have a lot of space to do this and am not a small woman by any measure. Okay, change of plans, other arm first. I used my un-bendable arm to grip the sleeve of my good arm, holding it tight as I began again to back out of the sweater from the other side. It wasn’t budging. I pulled harder, still not gaining much ground. Gritting my teeth and letting loose a deep, guttural growl I gave a final violent tug and slammed myself into the side of the cubicle again. Gasps were heard from the cubicles beside me as well as the seating area across the way. A woman loudly asked me if I was alright and I responded that I was totally fine, nothing to worry about! Thanks!

Clearly I was lying.

I was stood there in my jeans with one arm successfully out of my sweater and the liberated sleeve flapping around my head like a wet noodle, panting heavily from the effort. I heard the radiologist in his beautiful Aussie drawl call in the woman in the cubicle next to me- I was running out of time. I had to keep going. Still I could not bend the IV arm, but I had to get this damn thing off! How hard could it be to just take off a sweater? I made to pull it over my head in a graceful swoop when everything suddenly became very dark and very tight. I had one arm free and the other, the unbendable arm, was pinned straight up in the air, wedged between my head and the sweater that was now stuck around my chest, shoulders and face.

I tugged. I pulled. Did this sweater somehow get smaller?! I realized something was seriously wrong as I grasped frantically with my one free arm at the sweater. I was trying desperately to pull it over my head to release myself from the sweater of death. I was sweating hard and panting like I was doing calisthenics in there. The radiologist returned to knock on my door, asking me if I was alright and did I need any help? I quickly bent my knees so that he couldn’t see my straight unbendable arm stuck up above the space in the door and told him that I just needed a few more minutes.

I was going to die in there. There would be no turning back. The sweater would have to be cut off of my body and I would have to ride the tube home in a hospital gown top. I became frantic, reaching around behind me only to find that the sweater had become hooked on my bra strap – and that I couldn’t unhook it with only one arm. Even if I could bend my IV arm and risk a CSI blood-spray crime scene in an X-ray cubicle there was no way I was getting it away from my ear. I looked at the IV line to see that the tube was quickly filling with dark red blood, was it supposed to do that? I felt woozy now – I needed to sit down. No, I needed to get this sweater off of me, then I could sit down.

I pulled. I tugged. I banged into walls and turned around in circles – all with a gaping audience watching my dancing arm flailing above the cubicle door and hearing my panicked breathing grow quicker and quicker. I was like an anxiety-riddled squirrel in there – at one point I audibly pleaded with the sweater. I was sweating profusely, causing the sweater to stick to my skin and feel even more like I was being eaten by a wooly anaconda.

Alright. I had worked up enough of a sweat. The radiologist has come back and I again declined his offer of help. An X-ray isn’t worth this, abort! Abort! If the sweater wasn’t going to come off I could at least get it back on and leave with a shred of dignity.

I slowly and painstakingly worked my arm back into the flapping sleeve of my sweater, gaining inch by inch until my wrist poked through to cool, breezy freedom with the plan of then spreading my arms and forcing the sweater back down. This plan would have worked had the thing not then caught on my necklace.

Oh, this was so, so much worse. I still had my IV arm stuck up by my ear, my head was still covered in sweater, I had one breast in the sweater and one wedged under it and now my only good arm was caught, elbow bent, also around my ear. I was stuck in every sense of the word and my cannula tube was full of my own blood.  There was no turning back.

I gently leaned forward toward the door, rapped it with my elbow and managed to squeak out a humiliated and defeated “help please” to whoever was out there. A moment of silence until a gentle rap was returned on my cubicle door as a sweet voice called out “how can we help you love?”

She fetched the outstandingly hot radiologist for me and brought him to my door. My arms were stuck, they would need someone from maintenance to bring a special key to let me out, could I just sit tight? So I sat down on my little bench with my arms pinned above my head, staring at the only thing in my line of vision – the cannula full of my blood. I started to feel woozy again and called for a nurse as well.

The kind women waiting across from the cubicles chatted to me through the door, as all they could see of me were my feet and my one hand stuck up above the door. They were sweet, but I could hear the giggles. I don’t even know how this kind of thing can happen, it just did. The radiologist returned with a maintenance man and a nurse and the three of them opened my door and burst into laughter, tears pouring down the hot radiologists’ face as he and the nurse attempted to liberate me from my sweater.

The necklace was really caught on the arm of the sweater and it was decided that the only way to get me out of it was to first remove the cannula line, but that couldn’t be done in the cubicle. Together they wrapped me in a gown and guided me, past the gawking waiting room, into the x-ray room so I could lay down on the table to make this easier for everybody.  Warning me that she was doing this blind, the nurse reached into the depths of the sweater to remove the cannula without actually being able to see it. For a needle-phobe like me the entire concept of anyone playing with a cannula line in my arm without being able to look at what they are doing is horrifying, but I was so humiliated and desperate to get out of that hot sweater that I didn’t care. I was so grateful to have that thing out that I barely noticed the blood running down my arm and dripping onto the table. I didn’t care, I was nearly free. The hot radiologist and nurse unhooked my sweater from my bra and necklace and with a mighty final heave pulled it off of my head.

I lay there, half naked and panting in the gloriously cool air on the cold, hard X-ray table, freed at last from the sweater of death.

When I got back upstairs, nearly an hour later, my chemotherapy nurse asked me why my cannula had been taken out. I told her that she was bound to hear about it later and just scurried back to my chair, burying my face into my book and gearing up for a second IV to be put in again.

I’m clearly going to have to change hospitals.


The Sweater Incident is an excerpt from Prescription for Disaster: The funny side of falling apart - the perfect book for that special sickly someone always stuck in a hospital this Christmas season!

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Exorcist CRV Incident

Sometimes I really doubt myself.

I honestly sit back on my heels and wonder, usually when I’m catching some sort of projectile bodily fluid with my bare hands, how other parents deal with these things. Maybe I’ve missed a manual somewhere along the way.

And I’ve asked.

I asked a good friend Janine. Oh for sure, she’s had her own incidents with her son. They just don’t quite escalate the way things do with me. Such as the poo slingshot diaper incident following which she came to live with me and my children for a week out of pity, and to make sure we survived.

I’ve asked Natalie, who works with young children and trains people to work with young children. “Nope. That’s all you.”

I’ve asked Liane – a psychotherapist. “Definitely you,” she said, “though you see the world a bit differently than most (agreed). Still not sure why these things keep happening to you though.”

We had driven our Honda CRV over to Ireland for a week for a work trip for me, bringing along my husband and kids. Well, he drove while I sat in the passenger seat and theorized the route to world peace, as you do on long car trips.

We arrived at our resort outside Dublin at around 8pm – a lovely site in which we had rented a 3 bedroom home for the week – but nothing was open. No restaurant, shop, anything. 

Starving, we drove around the nearest villages in the dark until we saw a bright, shining beacon of hope off in the distance – a late night supermarket, an ALDI.

ALDI is a German brand of budget supermarket – not a debilitating brain condition, as my mother in law assumed from a Facebook post earlier. With no other option we bought the necessary bits to make a meal back at the house.

Aldi tagliatale pasta, Aldi white sauce, Aldi red sauce, Aldi shredded cheese and Aldi yogurt.

We nearly f%&king died.

All of us, within an hour of eating that meal which is now referred to as ‘The Aldi Pasta’ came down with food poisoning so violent and horrible that were we strong enough to stand we would have packed up and driven back to the Ferry port to go home. That house had 3 bathrooms and it was still not enough. It was carnage.

We had no buckets, so each of the kids were assigned a cooking pot to carry around with them – which they even tried to clean themselves (that was not good. That was not good). I was spread out on the couch dying as Lochie walked past me carrying her pot and a roll of toilet paper ,went straight to the large bathroom by the front door and declared “This toilet is mine.”

Sounds came out of that bathroom that no 4 year old should be able to make. It was carnage.

Sleeping was worse – we put the twins to bed in their room yet an hour later they were both in bed with me and I was covered in the warm remnants of their stomach linings. Lochie woke up and gave me a conspiratorial grin – “I puked.”

Thanks tips. I’m wearing it.

Even worse was as the night went on and the clouds hid the moon the room became pitch dark. More hurling sounds came from the far side of the bed and both Lochlynn and I dove to the floor, scrambling around blindly on our hands and knees feeling for a pot for Kaitlynn – but it was far too late.

The bedside lamp caught most of the blow.

It went on like this for hours, Paul changing pots and holding hair – he was feeling awful as well but somewhat managing to keep things down. By morning, however, we all felt quite a bit better. Still moving a bit slowly and carefully, but better. Well, we were there to get things done so off to Dublin we went for the day, eating little bits of whatever blandness our stomachs could handle. Feeling pretty good, we rushed back that evening so the kids could go in the pool on-site – they were very excited.

Paul, however, had finally succumbed to the Aldi Pasta. Leaving him to die alone and well stocked with toilet paper and bottled water, I took the girls swimming in the pool next door. This went very well, nobody drowned and we nearly had the small pool to ourselves.

Now, the girls don’t yet quite know how to swim. We basically stick on some inflatable water-wings and toss them in the deep end. They then paddle around with me swimming behind them pulling and pushing to constantly keep both paddling kids within arms’ reach. They love it, and their little legs just go in that water like over-excited gerbils.

Which was not great for Lochie’s food-poisoning stomach.

About 20 minutes into our swim we were in the middle of the pool, paddling away and learning tricks when Lochie declared that she needed to use the loo. Okay, fine, can you hold it for a few minutes? We should get going soon anyway.

“Mummy, I can’t hold it.”

“Okay, let’s go guys, make your way over to the edge.”

“Mummy, it’s poop. It’s coming.”

“What do you mean it’s coming??”

“I have to goooooo!”

Oh my freaking God. Not in the pool. Please, just not in the pool.

“Get to the SIDE!”

And I pulled them around me and to the side of the pool. There was no shallow end in this pool, it was 1.3 meters deep the entire way around. She was panicking. I was panicking. We were flailing around trying to get out like someone had loosed a shark in there. Kaitie thought this was great.

Making it to the side I launched Lochie out of the pool and up onto the side, where she stood up straight and clenched like a penguin, waddling over toward the changing rooms while I tried to get Kaitlynn out of the pool. She wasn’t going to make it, we weren’t going to make it!

Yeah. She didn’t make it.

The poor kid completely shat her swimsuit beside the swimming pool.

At least it wasn’t in the pool though.

Total. Parenting. Win.
See – despite this I still thought that everyone was getting over the Aldi Pasta of Death, and the next day we went to visit a good friend we met in China, Leanne. We had a great time, the kids had a great time – and they ate the largest ice cream sundaes we’d ever seen. Maybe that would settle the Aldi Pasta of Death that was still possibly clinging to their innards.

That did not end well.

The Irish motto of ‘feck it’ seems to also have been applied to their major rural road planning. It’s like they have something against straight lines, in favor of dark, unlit winding paths of two lane roads with trees right up to the lanes. No shoulders, no straight shots – just ‘feck it, have at ‘er’. Now, this would normally be just fine, but not when you’ve got a food poisoned 4 year old sat in the seat behind you.

Lochie is normally our car-puker, so with that knowledge we put her in the seat behind the driver, so I in the passenger seat can have easy access to her if she starts to blow. But Kaitlynn got us by surprise that night (atta girl!) just to keep us on our toes – and from behind me we hear “I’m gonna puke.”

Oh. God. No.

She’s handed an orange plastic Sainsbury’s bag from the front seat – and she starts to heave. She needs help -  but she’s directly behind me. There is no place to pull over, we had to keep going. So, hurling down the dark, winding, two-lane road I take off my seatbelt and turn around in my seat, hugging the back of the passenger seat for dear life with my face mashed into the headrest. I stretch my arms around and grip the seat-back shoulder with my chin, trying to steady myself so I could use my hands to comfort Kaitie and hold open the plastic bag for her.

She filled it. I held the heavy bag rolled open in front of her in both hands while clinging backwards to the passenger seat, swaying with each turn and being pulled from side to side by the weight of the puke bag suspended in the air.

It was this swaying action that then wafted the smell of it throughout the car.

Lochlynn started making gagging noises and buried her face in her car-seat’s Batman cape. Paul, up in the driver’s seat, started to gag. I, of course, was laughing too hard to react properly. Kaitie seemed finished, was given a bottle of water to nurse and I turned to return to a normal sitting position, bringing the full bag up to the front of the car with me so I could tie it up.

The smell hit us like a tornado-flung cow.

It was like sour, sweaty kim-chee mixed with rotting badger.

Paul dryheaved. “What the hell is that smell?!”

It’s the puke bag – I just tied it, it shouldn’t smell anymore!”

“She’s FOUR! And a VEGETARIAN! How the hell does it smell like that?!”

“I DON’T KNOW! It’s-“ (blurrggghhhhhhhhurp) “Oh God, it’s hideous!”

We turned on the overhead light, still weaving through the dark back-roads of outer Dublin. Oh no. Oh noooooooooo. There was a hole in the bag.

“Well? What is it?” asked Paul, wretching and rolling down all of the windows.

“Oh man, don’t look Paul. It’s like a crime scene back there. Oh crap, it came all the way up here too.”

And it had. As I had brought the bag up to the front with me it had leaked a steady stream of chunky vomit allll through the car, over our middle console filled with drinks, chargers, phones, iPad’s and written directions. It was everywhere. We spent the next 20 minutes all dryheaving and freezing with the windows down and sunroof open.

When we got back to the resort and escaped from the car and into the fresh night air we stood back and assessed the damage – all doors open wide to air it out. We didn’t know if we should try to clean it or just light it on fire and buy a new car.

We decided to leave it overnight so it would freeze and be easier to clean the next morning.

There’s a good reason why my plans never work out. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

It's not for my protection, it's for yours

When your kid is sick you do whatever it takes to get them better. Suddenly your own issues don’t matter.

And you know how much I like to make a good scene.

My daughter, Kaitlynn, had been pretty sick since Ireland. We had all gotten food poisoning (that story is on its way!) yet all of us had more or less gotten over it but poor Kaitie. So, burning up and with a fever-bear sticker slapped on her forehead we took her in to the hospital on Sunday evening.

Now, I had just had chemotherapy on Friday, so a hospital full of hacking, coughing, ‘God knows what they’re carrying’ sick people is the last place I should be. But, you know. Sick kid. Parenting. All that jazz.

So Paul dropped the two of us off at the A&E (emergency room) doors and drove off to park the car – we could at least get things started. I walked in carrying Kaitie on my hip and burying my face in the neck of my sweater, trying to keep out the germs. Upon checking in I explained to the receptionist that I was severely immunosuppressed, so she kindly opened the lucrative emergency room doors for me so I could go ask a nurse for a face mask.

Now, to an emergency room full of people that have been waiting there for hours, waltzing directly from giving your name to the receptionist to the revered emergency room without waiting gets you some pretty dirty looks. Around 50 people in the waiting room and they all suddenly loathed me.

I know they did, because I feel the same when I see someone get to skip the queue and waltz in. There’s no compassion with thoughts of ‘wow, her daughter must be in awful shape, I’m glad she’s being seen so quickly.’ None of that nonsense.  None. It’s pure hatred.

And that’s okay, because when I walked back out 3 minutes later wearing a HAZMAT face mask the collective attitude of the waiting room changed from hatred to shock.

Especially during a world-wide Ebola scare.

See, the entire point of my treatments is to beat down my immune system. So, I pretty much don’t have one. Wearing a mask is awkward and uncomfortable but in that moment, it very well might just keep me alive. Looking like a complete idiot is actually a rather low price to pay.

I walked back to the children’s waiting area, still holding Kaitie on my hip. You could see the panic in the eyes of the other parents – the ebola woman was coming in here, this glass enclosed partition full of children. Some of them got up, grabbed their child and bolted out of there. Others just shifted uncomfortably in their seats. All of them stared.

Have you ever worn a face mask in public? It’s an odd experience. There are small things that we do, gestures that we make, to disarm people and to lighten a mood, such as offering a small smile.

See, while wearing a face mask I couldn’t do that. I didn’t quite realize it in time though, so I smiled at the other parents, only then realizing that they couldn’t see it. So I smiled with my eyes in a wise, knowing way. Well, that’s what I was trying to do. Instead I just opened my eyes wide and stared at them intensely from behind an Ebola face mask like some sort of serial killer.

Another parent picked up their child and left.

We were called right away, back up to the reception for triage. Never has an A&E waiting room been so silent as when I walked through the sea of people up to the desk. Moaning and coughing stopped. You could have heard a pin drop. It was… surreal.

The triage nurse hadn’t noticed me yet and when he looked up to see me standing there in my Ebola mask ‘smiling at him with my eyes’ like a creeper he shouted “Whoa!”. It took him a minute to compose himself before he continued. “Um… and what is the mask for exactly?”

“Oh.” I said. “I’ve just had chemo and am severely immunosuppressed.”

A collective sigh of relief flowed through the room like the Mexican Wave at a packed arena. Color returned to the nurse’s face as he leaned in toward me conspiratorially and stage-whispered “You know, if you were Japanese nobody would have batted an eye.”

We went through Kaitie’s condition, he gave her something to bring down her fever and then leaned in close. “You know, with the stuff you’re on you really shouldn’t be here.”

“I know,” I countered “still a mum, though. And when your kid’s sick…”

“Alright. Well, I’m going to list her as extremely urgent then. Not just because we really need to protect you given your condition, but also because you’re scaring the pants off of the other patients. It’s not a huge deal, but if you’re here much longer like this a news crew is going to show up.”

He then winked at me and in we went – this time nobody hating us for jumping the queue.

All around it was about the fastest A&E experience of our lives. Packed waiting room and we were in and out in just under an hour. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all wait our turns – especially in hospitals. I’m Canadian, I’m all about waiting my turn. And we’re almost British, so we do love to queue.

But slapping on a HAZMAT face-mask in a hospital doesn’t hurt if you need to speed things up.

Just saying.