The Icing on the Cake

Getting all of Sam’s medical equipment and supplies situated on an airplane takes quite a bit of patience. One of the bummers when flying with someone who has oxygen, is they have to sit at a window seat. This makes things a bit more difficult for us, but thankfully Sam has done really well flying.

We got all of our stuff situated and sighed a big sigh of relief. Right away, I smelled a familiar smell. No, not now Sam. Remember when I told you our only option for diapers was a size too small? Yeah. When I turned to look, “it” was already coming out the back of his diaper. Oh great. What do you do with a five year old who’s pooped on an airplane?!

We were still on the ground so I unbuckled Sam and carefully picked him up. Sean followed me to the front of the plane with the diaper bag.

I explained the situation to the fight attendants. “Can we just lay him down right here?”, I asked. It was the only place I didn’t see carpet and knew this was going to be a messy situation. They politely obliged.

A messy situation might have been an understatement. As we started to change him, there was poop EVERYWHERE. We ran out of wipes. Of course we did. At this point, there was one flight attendant holding open a garbage bag, another one wetting and handing me paper towels from the bathroom, and another giving us moral support. Sean was helping wipe the poop off Sam and that, was everywhere. Bless all their hearts.

After we wiped the poop off the floor and were about to pull Sam up to put new pants on him, Sean stopped me. “Jamie, look at your arm.” For real?!?! There was literally poop from my wrist to my shoulder, on ALL sides of my arm! You cannot make this stuff up!!! You know your husband loves you when he’s holding your hand and wiping poop off your entire arm.

We remedied the situation as much as we could, obnoxiously thanked the flight attendants, and trudged back to our seats. I’m pretty sure we held the plane up a bit longer. Okay Lord, I’m done with the mishaps. Get us home safely and smoothly.

We hooked Sam up to his oxygen once we got into the air and he fell asleep shortly after. My sweet little boy was clearly exhausted. He slept for almost the entire flight. Thank you Lord. I needed that.

All tuckered out.

We were all very happy to be home, even if it was below freezing.

Like I said, we made lemonade, out of quite a few lemons on this trip. Would I do it again to not miss out on the good parts I had with my family? Absolutely.

THE END.

Going Home

We had one more full day with our family.

Our flight was not scheduled to leave until 8:00 p.m. the next day. Since we had to check out of our rental by 10:00 a.m., we spent the day at the Tampa Zoo. We had a great day at the zoo and celebrated Will’s fifteenth birthday. How is he fifteen already?!

We returned our rental vehicle at the airport early in the evening. Not only did the rental company not charge us for the upgrade, they took a good chunk of money off of our total bill for the inconveniences. We took the tram to check our luggage.

As we were waiting in line, a staff member from the airlines called everyone who was flying to Minnesota up to the check in desk. She informed us, “I’m so sorry everyone, but this flight has been cancelled.” Are you serious?!?! All fifteen of our family members made it home today! Not that I didn’t want them to make it home. Why us?!?! I’d be lying if I said these thoughts didn’t come into my mind. Now, pull yourself together, Jamie, and never mind the “why’s”. Do I have enough medical supplies for Sam?! You can’t buy suction catheters at Target!

After four hours of waiting in the airport, the airline booked everyone on the flight a room at a nearby hotel. We waited at least another hour for the shuttle to come get us. Thankfully, I had already drawn up Sam’s nighttime meds that morning. His nighttime nebs would have to wait. To say we were all getting cranky at this point would also be another lie.

The airline was very accommodating to Sam and his medical needs. We were the first to get on the shuttle to the hotel. We were getting some major dirty looks, which made me feel sad and a little annoyed. Most people take one look at Sam, us, and all that comes with us and give us looks of sympathy. If they only knew.

It was pretty late (for us) when we finally made it into the hotel room. We were very grateful, the airline booked us two adjoining rooms. As we came into the first room, we discovered if we didn’t get two rooms, we would have had a very difficult time getting all of our luggage and Sam’s medical supplies in one room! After we got Sam’s nighttime nebs (thankfully I had packed a few extra neb cups) done, we sandwiched him in between Sean and I, and tried to go to sleep. He still sleeps in a crib so he thought this sleeping arrangement was very funny. After about forty-five minutes of me grabbing his ankle to slide him back onto the bed, he finally fell asleep.

The next morning, we got ready and packed up our obnoxious amount of stuff for the airport again. We realized we wouldn’t have enough diapers to last us through the day. Sean tried the gas station across the street from the hotel. No such luck, and the attendant told him unless you have a car, there’s nowhere close to get diapers. Great. The hotel had them, but they were going to cost us a pretty penny. Fourteen dollars for four diapers! For real?! It’s important to note for the last mishap, the diapers were a size too small.

The shuttle took us back to the airport and we checked our bags. The airline gave us meal vouchers so we ate very well for lunch.

We headed for security. We were without a TSA agent to help us this time. Going through security with Sam’s oxygen, emergency bag, suction machine, med bag, diaper bag, feeding bag, and our things is quite the ordeal. They have to check every med and test every liquid, which includes his sterile water for suctioning and all of his formula. If people stare, I wouldn’t know because my focus is on Sam and getting us through as quick as possible.

We were almost through security when a woman walked up to us. She said, ”You guys are amazing. You must do this often.” I laughed and told her, ”No, it’s only our second time traveling with him, but thank you so much for the encouragement.” She responded, ”Well you make it look flawless.” With much sincerity, I thanked her, she smiled with all her heart and walked away. It felt like an angel was sent from God in that moment. After the last twenty-four hours, she had no idea what that did for my soul. I call these little moments in life, God winks.

Sam and I had wandered off. Sam is a very busy little boy. Although he’s five, I would say he functions more at the level of an eighteen month old. That being said, we tried to let him be as busy as possible before the plane ride. We wandered back towards our boarding gate.

Sean and Will were walking towards us on a mission with somber looks on their faces. Oh no, what now?! “The flight is cancelled.”, they informed me. You have got to be kidding me!?!? No!!!!! They instantly started laughing. Hahaha, real funny you two. I think I might have cried at this point. Actually, with the lump in my throat that built up instantly, I know I would have cried. Although the flight was not cancelled, they did tell me it would be delayed another hour. Now that doesn’t seem so bad.

We were all extremely happy to board the plane and get situated in our seats about an hour later.

To be continued…

The Wedding

The next day was my niece’s wedding. This mishap is not ours, but I couldn’t leave it out of the story.

The wedding was suppose to start at 5:00. My sister-in-law had ordered flowers that were suppose to be delivered at 2:00. At 3:00, the flowers had still not arrived. After failed attempts of trying to get a hold of someone at the flower shop, it was time to figure something else out.

By looking at the beautiful flowers, that matched perfectly, you would never know this mishap even happened. The original flowers showed up during the wedding ceremony. They made for some more pretty décor and thankfully my sister-in-law did not have to pay for them.

The weather was perfect, as was the wedding.

The Grant Family

To be continued…

Our Car At Home

The next morning Sean had a voicemail left from the middle of the night. Hmmmm, that’s weird.

As he listened to the voicemail, his facial expressions told me something was not right. Oh boy, now what?!

The call was from the sheriffs department at home. The officer explained Sean’s car was in the impound. Say what?! Overnight, the police found it crashed and deserted in a snow bank on the side of the road. They had to impound our car because it was blocking traffic. Is this really happening?!

Yep, it was really happening. We were in Florida, what could we do?! We did what we could by calling the police and our insurance company explaining we were in Florida. We tried not to think about it after that. We’ll deal with it when we get home. And, we still are. Thank you Lord for insurance!

We weren’t going to let that stop us from enjoying this beautiful day.

To be continued…

The Rental Car

We had a fantastic week at our first destination. We were able to spend a few days with my mom and my sister’s family. The weather was close to perfect. We mostly hung out at the ocean and went on long walks.

The little boy with a hole in his neck loves the sand and the ocean, of course. Sand and water might be a pulmonologists worst nightmare for a trached kid, but look at this guy! How can you not?!

On Day 6, we were headed to a different destination to spend the rest of our trip with Sean’s side of the family. We packed some stuff the night before. We wanted to try and make a somewhat early start the next day. There was about a four hour drive ahead of us.

We had to play quite a bit of Tetris to get all of our luggage and Sam’s medical supplies in the rental minivan. We were all packed and ready to leave by nine-thirty in the morning.

I pressed the start button. Nothing. It’s not like back in the day when you put the key in the ignition and turned it to start your car. I tried again. Nothing, not even a sound. Sean, Will, Abby, and I looked at each other and instantly started laughing. Is this for real!?

Sean and Will got out of the van and popped the hood. Abby and I thought this was pretty funny stuff. Um, what are you guys gonna do?! Neither of you know anything about cars. Gotta give them credit for trying. Hehehe. All four of us had another good laugh about that.

I called the rental car company and after we tried a few tricks they gave us, they decided it was time to send us a tow truck. Bummer. We had to wait for the tow truck to come, which of course, was going to take at least an hour. We decided to get something to eat. The place we wanted to go to was closed. Fitting. We went to the little café in our condo which also had lots of convenient store items right at Sam’s eye level. Oh boy. Not the best place to bring a very busy little boy with special needs. Sorry to everyone else in the café, I’m doing my best.

About an hour and a half later, we walked back to the parking lot where the rental van was. Because we had so much stuff, the rental car company was going to send us two Ubers to bring us to get a new rental vehicle. The more we thought about it, we figured two probably wouldn’t even be enough. We decided I would go to the rental car place myself, get the new vehicle and come back to pick everyone up. This way, we wouldn’t have to unload, load, unload, and load again.

On the way to the rental car place, I got a call from Will telling me the tow truck driver jumped the van and it started. We contemplated keeping the van. The tow truck driver told them, ”It will get you to wherever you need to go, but don’t shut it off.” Hmmmm, probably not a good idea to keep it.

Shorty after, I got to the rental car company. I waited my turn in line and explained our situation. The manager looked at me with a bummed look on his face and said, ”I’m sorry, I already told them on the phone, I don’t have anything big enough here for you. The biggest vehicle I have is that.” He pointed to a very small blue SUV. Ummm, yeah, that’s not going to work. I kindly explained, how unfortunately, it wouldn’t work. Now what?!

The manager told me the airport is the only place that will have a vehicle big enough to accommodate us. Oh no, how far is that?! Thankfully, the airport was only twenty plus minutes away. Thank you Lord!

Soon after, the fam arrived in the van. I could see them laughing when I came out. Apparently, Sean and Will quit playing Tetris. They quickly jammed everything back into the van, which meant Abby and I had to share one seat. Hopefully we can make it to the airport without getting pulled over! Don’t worry, we did. Whew.

We got to the airport and jumped through a few hoops to finally get to the company we rented a vehicle through. A sweet pregnant gal told me to walk through the lot and pick any car I wanted. She said after I picked one, I should grab the keys out of the console and bring them to her. I searched for the biggest vehicle I could find on that lot and quickly grabbed the keys! There was no playing Tetris in this vehicle. We quickly loaded our luggage and Sam’s medical supplies easily into the new vehicle. Five hours later, we were finally on the road to our next beach destination.

We made it there after dark. Our family happily greeted us and helped unload our obnoxious amount of stuff. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law rented a beautiful mansion on the water. No lie, it was literally a mansion, with an elevator and all! It easily accommodated all twenty of us.

We got somewhat settled, did all the Sam stuff, and went to bed.

To be continued…

The Medical Emergency

Okay, the suspense is finally over, partially anyway. I decided to tell each mishap separately. I thought it would be much more fun this way. Like I said, you seriously can’t make this stuff up and it makes for a good story…later anyway!

Don’t worry, the medical emergency was not Sam.

We set off to Florida very early in the morning. TSA Cares is a wonderful program and definitely makes going through security with a complex child a much more smooth process. I would highly recommend taking advantage of this service if you are traveling with a medically complex child.

All was going well. We had just got into the air. All of the sudden, I hear screams coming from the back of the plane. My instant thought, looking at Sam’s nurse, ”You’re a nurse, you should go back there!”

Come to find out an older man had passed out. They were about to lay him on the floor and start chest compressions, but thankfully he came to. Sam’s pulse oximeter came in handy. We took it off Sam for a few minutes and Sam’s nurse was able to use it to check the ”patient’s” oxygen level and heart rate. His numbers showed he would hopefully be okay.

They turned the plane around to go back to Minneapolis. After we landed, the ambulance got the passenger, and who I assume was his wife, off the plane, we sat on the runway for a very long time. During all of this, we were not allowed to “move about the cabin”.

Sam did great on the almost six and a half hour flight we were not planning for. Like when we went to Cincinnati, he needed a little oxygen in the air. This VERY busy little boy surprised us for how well behaved he was. Thank you Lord for IPads!

Once we finally got there, got all of our luggage, and the rental car, we were all pretty hungry at this point, except for Sam, of course. After searching for a bit, we found a great place right on the ocean. We had some time, or so we thought. It was around 3:00 and check-in wasn’t until 4:00. We got our food and I began to get text messages from two different people about checking into our condo.

The message that took me by surprise, and the only message I remember is, ”The office closes at 5:00.” Say what?!?!

I knew we couldn’t check in until 4:00, but I had no idea we only had a one hour window! Uh oh! Everyone, eat fast because we have to go! Sam’s activeness didn’t leave much food in the bellies of Sean and I. Oh well, we gotta go!

We made to it our condo and that’s another story in and of itself. There was A LOT of confusion and a language barrier. We rented two different condo’s with different owners. Thinking this had something to do with the confusion.

After things had mostly been figured out, I asked the about the packages I had delivered and where we could get them. The security officer, responded, “Sorry, the office closes at 5:00, you’ll have to get them tomorrow.” Um….yeah, that’s not going to work. This isn’t extra clothes I sent. My son needs the things in those boxes to live. I politely explained the packages were for my son who is medically complex and needs the supplies in the boxes in order to live. For real. Their eyebrows went up and all of the sudden, we were able to get the packages. Whew.

Once we finally got all of our luggage and Sam’s medical supplies to our condo, we were all pretty tired and hungry, but weren’t going to let that ocean wait another day for us! It might have been dark, but it was still beautiful!

To be continued…

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!!

We it made home from Florida, Sam stayed healthy and out of the hospitals there. Overall, we had an amazing time and awesome weather.

We’re off!

It’s seriously insane the events that took place from the beginning of our trip to the end, but I wasn’t sure how to title this post so I figured I’d keep you in suspense for a few days and throw out each title I thought applicable.

To be continued…

As Promised

I have been writing this post off and on since July. Where did the summer go?! And now we’ve already been in school a few months?!

Since our last hospital stay WAY back in May, life was overall good for Sam until August hit. He was mostly healthy and doing all the things. And when I say, all the things, I mean ALL the things. That being said, I will update on the not so great stuff and end with the great things we did this past summer.

I think the reason I have been struggling to continue writing this post is because I was so excited to have only good news. I’ll try be a bit brief with the not so great stuff so we can focus on the super fun summer we had with Sam.

We’ve known since Sam was a baby, he “might” need an eye surgery to correct his lazy eyes. Yes, that’s plural for Sam. We have tried patching off and on over the years. His ophthalmologist let us know at his last appointment, Sam will need the eye surgery. We plan to schedule this after Christmas.

One of Sam’s many specialists is immunology. He only has this appointment once a year now. To make a long story short, one of his labs was very off at his last appointment. Both his immunologist and pediatrician thought the off labs might be the “c” word. Thank you Lord, after oncology looked over his labs, they were reassured cancer was not the case. This left everyone scratching their heads on which specialist we should see. It was narrowed down to nephrology. Thankfully, this is already a specialty Sam sees because of his hypertension (high blood) issues.

We had our appointment with nephrology and did lots of other testing to hopefully rule out chronic kidney disease (CKD). At this appointment, his nephrologist said, either way they would have to treat the way off lab results as they are at “too dangerously of a high level”. Unfortunately, we did recently find out Sam has CKD. The CKD is in the early stage so that is a bonus. We will have to see nephrology more often now so they can keep a close eye on his kidneys.

In the past month, Sam has also had a few seizure like episodes. He saw a neurologist for this and confirmed the episodes were likely seizures. He prescribed Sam a rescue med for if the seizures last more than five minutes. He will have an MRI and EEG done soon to rule anything serious. We are confident and praying there is nothing serious.

Sam will have endoscopy to check on his esophagus and tummy. We will be able to coordinate his MRI with the endoscopy. I try very hard to coordinate sedation procedures/surgeries when I can with this complicated little man! Just call me the CEO of Sam Inc.!

Sam gets poked a lot as is, but the past few months have been more than normal. He was pretty sick for a week in October so this made for even more poking. Thankfully we were able to schedule an appointment rather than having to take him to the emergency room like normal. After all the testing, he ended up being super constipated and had tracheitis. He was pretty miserable for about a week, BUT we stayed out of the hospital!

We will shoot for the Spring to go to Cincinnati again and hopefully get the hole in Sam’s airway fixed. Sam’s pulmonologist suggested we wait till after winter to go. Cincinnati thought that was a good idea too.

Now, let’s move on from the cruddy stuff and into the good stuff! My mama heart was full with the many firsts Sam had this summer.

Fun at Como Zoo.

He was finally cleared by his doctors to go back to school. He started summer school two days a week and loved it.

Sam had only been into a store one time in his life and it was brief. We decided to go big or go home for his first real trip to a store. Yep, the Mall of America. He was mostly in awe of the lights and high ceilings. We went to a dinosaur exhibit next to the mall. Let’s just say the mall was much more interesting.

We celebrated Sam’s fifth birthday! Swimming isn’t the best birthday activity for Sam, but he loves the water so much! If he didn’t have a trach, I’m pretty sure he would be in fish in the water. Some day!

Before Sam was born, we spent A LOT of time at our family cabin. Since he’s been born, we have brought him on a day trip once, there and back. Traveling with a medically complex child is no joke. Being on a lake with a child with a trach, again, no joke. It always feels a little odd when someone asks what would happen if Sam fell in the water and our response is, “He would most likely die.” We were also able to go to a friend’s cabin twice.

Thank you to all of you who have collected pop tabs for us! We didn’t turn them in last year because of Covid, but had a lot to throw in the bin at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Sam thought it was pretty fun to throw the pop tabs in the big bin. Although, they probably wouldn’t admit it, I think Will and Abby thought so too.

We took a spontaneous trip to Duluth. This was a really big deal for us and we were so glad we did. We had a blast!

Sam’s first day of Kindergarten! No words from this mama for this emotional day.

Another spontaneous thing we did was go to a Gopher Football Game. Sam didn’t like when anyone scored a touchdown. He got pretty scared with all the yelling, but overall had a great time.

He, of course, loved the apple orchard.

Sam’s first time EVER in a grocery store! I wondered what people were thinking when I was overly excited to put him in the cart. It’s funny what we take for granted sometimes. I remember when my other kids were little I was happy to leave them at home when it came to grocery shopping.

I can’t imagine what people were thinking when we taking all the pictures.

We were hoping Sam would be over his sickness before Halloween. He was back to himself the day of Halloween! He has been out on Halloween, but hasn’t been trick-or-treating before, partly because of being immunocompromised and partly because he can’t eat the candy anyway. I thought he would get a kick of people putting something into his bucket. I was wrong. The first house we brought him to, he tried to go inside. He got pretty sad when he realized we couldn’t go inside. This is where it’s okay to laugh. We did. We’ll try again next year! We had one neighbor who had bubbles and something else for Sam knowing he can’t eat the candy. That little gesture made my heart flutter.

We all have stuff, stuff that makes life hard. We can make a choice to see the beauty or focus on the pain. The enemy likes us to focus our time and energy on the pain. I believe when we see His beauty in the pain, our strength gets stronger and our hearts get happier.

Sam Strong and Faith Over Fear!