When You Can’t Be There: Madison’s Hospitalization

When You Can't Be There: Madison's Hospitalization

It’s the phone call you don’t want to get. Your loved one is on the way to the ER. The person on the other end of the phone explains that they are not sure what’s wrong, but they cannot remedy the problem. The hospital is the next step.

You clutch the phone tighter, pressing it hard to your ear to make sure you are hearing every word. Your stomach has already plummeted and is now twisting with uneasiness. You sit up straighter, leaning forward as if that will help your dazed mind connect better to the words your brain is struggling to decode and understand.

And you’re scared.

What happened? slips out of your mouth, as if somehow understanding the why of the situation will take away your fear and shorten the distance between you and your loved one.

More words come, but they are laced with doubts and uncertainties that indeed confirm the need for the trip to the ER.

For whatever reason, you can’t be there, so you enter this odd zone of hopeful trust. You trust that the professionals know what to do. You hope you can trust them to do what they know how to do.

And you wait. And pray.

Madison was hospitalized last week. Her left wrist was swollen and she was not using it as she normally does. At age twenty-five, Madison, my daughter severely impacted by autism, has a high threshold for pain and limited speech–not a good combination for assessing illness or injury. Her language consists of mostly scripted responses, taught to her through years of specialized therapies. She may be able to tell you the names of colors, shapes, numbers, and say her family members’ names when prompted, but she still cannot say, “That hurts.”

So, we rely on evidence. This time, an observant caregiver noticed that when she asked Madison for a “high five,” their customary greeting, she would not lift her left hand to respond. When the caregiver examined Madison’s wrist, she discovered the swelling. The staff nurse advised a trip to the ER.

“I’ll keep you updated,” the kind voice on the phone assured me.

And she did.

Even though she texted regularly over the next few hours, I still could not quite envision it. My recent hospital stay kept flooding back into my mind–the long wait in the ER, the bright lights, the beeping machines. The pokes, the prods, the sticks.

“How is she doing?” I texted back. “Is she having any behaviors?”

Long waits and noisy settings can often provoke Madison’s upsets; she becomes loud and unruly, sometimes hitting herself or others.

Then my phone lit up with this amazing photo:

What a relief! To see her engaging eyes. Her smile! To know she was where she needed to be and was tolerating it.

It reminded me of the same feeling I’d had a month ago when I received another phone call. My oldest daughter, Brittany, was calling to tell me that her three-month-old son, precious little Beckett, had a fever of 105.7! They were on the way to the ER.

I was horrified.

Again, I listened carefully to the details of the situation. Again, it was apparent that the little fella was indeed headed to the right place. Again, I entered that zone of hopeful trust and prayed.

When I couldn’t bear waiting any longer, I finally held my breath and texted, “How is he doing, Britty?”

And again, one photo provided incredible relief:

What a charmer, even with a fever!

Little Beckett, (yes, we’re honored Michael Phelps copied my grandson’s name for his second son), had the flu. Thankfully, he recovered quickly and fully. And my Madison is on the mend, too, progressing well in the treatment plan to address a suspected over-use condition.

And me? Well, I’m beyond grateful for the professionals who took good care of my beloved family, for those spirit-lifting pictures that provided such relief as they shortened the distance between our worlds, and for those who prayed with me and for my family. 

How about you? Have you ever received one of those phone calls? What helps you when you can’t be there with your loved one? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best – always,

Becky  (Neehah! Note the new name!)

P. S. Come see me! On Saturday, March 17, 1 – 4 pm, I’ll be at the Local Author Showcase at the Perry Hall Branch of the Baltimore County Library. I’ll be joining other authors to read, chat, sell, and sign our books. Hope you can drop by.

P.S.S. Thanks to those who supported Pathfinders for Autism at Ruth Shaw’s Joie DiGiovanni jewelry trunk show. Check out my new earrings below–all for a good cause! Our next event is our annual Pathfinders for Autism Golf Tournament on May 21 where I’ll be honoring Madison with a banner in her name. Click here to support her.

Beautiful and unique, just like Madison!