Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Not to Postpone Packing the Emergency Bag

I was all set with my long to-do list Thanksgiving weekend, excited for days to accomplish things that have been wasting away on that thing for months.  Something I kept chastising myself for postponing was the chore of packing the Emergency Bag -- that is, the bag that stays full of everything we would need in event of having to fly to the hospital in Bethel at a moment's notice: changes of clothes, diapers, toiletries, travel toys & crayons, etc., as well as IDs and credit cards and things that I never need on a day to day basis here in Hooper Bay -- I only need those things when I travel.  Every summer after we come back from our travels, I need to reorganize and get everything in the leave-in-a-moment bag. I hadn't done that yet this fall, and recognized I was tempting fate leaving it unpacked.

Also Thanksgiving weekend I even planned a special snowmobile drive down to check out the frozen beach and let the dogs have a run and I would take pictures of it and blog about it! Especially since the snowgo is new to me -- a couple other teachers and I went in on it together and are sharing it, and I was excited about its purchase and the outdoor adventures we could do with it.  And please don't be picturing me hot-rodding through fresh powder like the snowmobile commercials, because it's more me puttering along looking for fox tracks as I go. 

But then it doesn't matter because it didn't happen. Because on Wednesday afternoon we crashed on said snowgo.  And then, wouldn't you know it, we needed the emergency bag, yes, the one that was not packed yet.

So now, instead of reflecting on a weekend productively spent with a nice outdoor adventure,  I'm going to post the story of our crash and and any pictures I may have squeezed out of the whole experience.

First of all, I don't think I've written about the most amazing thing that has come to Hooper Bay, yet (even more amazing than the windmills and the black plastic road)  :  The Sub-Regional Health Clinic, our link to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC).  It has been a long-awaited and highly-anticipated structure, here, because all time before this, we have only had a tiny trailer-esque health clinic staffed by medical professionals called health aides.  I wish I'd thought to get pictures of the inside before the clinic officially moved; we happened to be seen there a day or so before they moved over to the new building.  But here is a picture of the outside of the old clinic:
The appointments for the day are always filled by 9:am, and the health aides are overworked, underappreciated, and stretched in 15 directions.  They are the people who keep the village sewn up at the seams, and yet they only get a few weeks of training a year.  Now there is a proper facility and many more medical professionals to support them -- we get itinerant physician's assistants, doctors, and dentists, but it's still the health aides who are the spokes of the wheel. Here are pictures from the grand opening barbecue of the facility we had in August, where the whole community was invited for a Halibut Barbeque, with other delicacies rarely known here (like salad!):
Above is Tuluk anticipating the great eats while we wait in line by the entrance, and below is Esther with her cousins Avery and Jasmine and her uncle Alex:

And the building is so freaking beautiful -- it's just like a real, normal medical clinic somewhere else closer to civilization. I took these pictures of the waiting room while I was waiting for Iris's appointment before all the calamaties began:
It even has a child play area:
So on Wednesday afternoon we had an early release from school, so we scheduled an immunization appointment.  It was time for Iris's MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) and Varicella (Chicken Pox) shots.  These shots make me nervous anyway because they are live vaccines and because anecdotally I've heard of many reactions to these shots -- but since we live in a town with no running water and a plane's ride away from a hospital, we do our vaccinations.

But, actually, all goes well that afternoon, Iris is not happy to have the shots, but gets it overwith, and she was running around the waiting room while we waited our mandatory wait time after the vacs.  My good friend Amy over at Pretty Babies gave us a call; her daughter Mary Grace wanted to ask Esther why she wasn't coming to her house for Thanksgiving, and by then it was time we could be released.  I had driven the new snowgo to the appointment, with Esther in front of me and Iris in the hip carrier, strapped to me. I only drove it so that I could get gas for it, since the gas station was going to be closed the rest of the week for Thanksgiving, and I had the trip to the beach planned, remember?

There is a significant dip between the parking lot of the clinic and the road if you don't hit it just right, and the way the snowgo was parked, since it doesn't have reverse, I would have had to physically drag the skis around to make it hit just right.  Why oh why am I always so lazy to do that sort of thing?  Well, whatever, I decided to go through the dip because I saw other snowmobile tracks go that way and I figured it would be ok.   Ugh.

So at the top of the dip, right at the edge of the road, I had to accelerate to get up on top.  Being only the second time I've driven the thing, I didn't know something crucial about it:  it has a belt that is too small and makes it leap into its acceleration at times.

So it did the leap -- it hit ice on the road -- and there was no stopping it.  Way too fast for belief, we skidded across the road and sideways-hit a metal pole that prevents people from driving over the above-ground water pipe on the side of the road:
Actually, my arm hit it, as I was trying like hell to turn the skis.  But I didn't even feel it at the time -- since my arm was around Iris, what I felt was Iris smashed against me as we ran into the pole. I was sure we were done for, especially when I felt the snowgo flip out from underneath us and dump us to the side.
Somehow Iris turned out, facing away from me, while still in the carrier, when we fell.  That's the moment her leg was broken. I think she took the brunt of the fall for both of us.  It's so wrong!  It's supposed to be me that takes it -- whatever hurt -- for the both of us.

Meanwhile, Esther was fine.  I don't think she felt anything but a nice little topple onto the ground -- but she was freaked out as I was incredibly freaked out, thinking I'd killed both of them.

Being a few feet from the clinic, we turned around and ran back.  I was too panicked to say anything so I laid Iris down on the desktop of the registration cubicle , and tearfully said, "We crashed!". 
Wow, those health aides can move!  It was pretty amazing how we were immediately surrounded and supported. The new urgent care room was well put to use.  It was clear pretty soon that Esther was just fine, and I was OK besides my banged-up arm.  They were able to x-ray my arm right then and there with the fancy, brand-spanking new x-ray machine that was installed in the clinic, and it was not broken. Here is the picture of the gnarly bruise several days later:
Not too pretty, but at least it didn't end up looking like this (sorry, fun with photobooth):
Because if you think my arm looks bad, check out the tilt in the pole, now!:)
So anyway, Iris seemed fine -- she was responding well to all their tests, all their movements of her body -- except that she was inconsolable, crying so sad and pitiful.  But that might have been expected since she had had immunizations (and she always goes downhill for the evening after immunizations) and also experienced the crash and watched her mom freak out AND had not napped well earlier.  So it was really hard to tease out what exactly was going on with her, especially since she would move all her limbs and joints just fine.  Here is a picture of us in the urgent care room:
So once she had calmed down and actually slept a little in my arms, and we had spent another mandatory waiting period, we were able to go (Tuluk driving us slowly on the 4 wheeler) home, where we were shaky and sad and freaked and went to bed as soon as possible.  However, before we went to bed we realized that Iris would not stand on her own.  We said we would reassess in the morning.

Thanksgiving Day was a perfectly funked up day. I woke up feeling shaky and anxious, but I had invited 10 people over for Thanksgiving, and I didn't feel like cancelling, as it would just make me feel worse, so I decided to just get started and then I might perk up.  But I was not at the top of my game; everything I cooked was just a little off.  The rolls had burned bottoms, the pumpkin pie was bitter, the turkey got done an hour after we got done eating (I promise it was thawed!  Thank goodness John & MaryEllen brought turkey, too.), and there was a cranberry incident involving the kitchen floor and all of us walking around with the bottoms of our feet dyed purple.  But we got through it; it was fine. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food I had cooked, even if it was not quite the level of what I usually produce.

Iris still would not stand on her own, which was worrisome, but there was no swelling, no bruise, no redness anywhere.  We kept doing little tests on her, like me holding her towards me and Tuluk would come up behind her and touch or move various parts on her body and legs to see what got a reaction.  We could do whatever we wanted and it did not hurt her, seemingly.  So even though she spent the day scooting herself around, we couldn't isolate the problem --  we pretty much all agreed that it must be a reaction from the vaccinations.  Again, we decided to reassess in the morning. 

Friday morning was no question. I noticed during the night that while Iris kicked her right leg, her left would stay still. It felt hot to me, and so we called the clinic right away who told us, despite the fancy new x-ray machine that had cleared me of a broken arm Wednesday night, that I would have to fly with Iris to Bethel to x-ray her leg.  The x-ray technician has not been trained in infant legs at this point.

This was bummer news to me, because a trip into Bethel means several things.  First, there is always the chance that you will not be able to return the same day, because weather can change during the day and cancel the evening planes, especially since we were on weather delay in the morning already (usually the morning flights arrive in Hooper around 10:am; and we actually got out of Hooper around 12 that day).  The next thing is that the ER in Bethel gets really backed up and the wait times are extreme sometimes -- also a contributing cause to missing evening flights home and having to spend the night in Bethel.  The third issue is cost -- right now it is $209 one way from Hooper Bay to Bethel.  It's not pocket change, and it's not something that I'm likely to have lying around, and it also meant that I couldn't just bring Esther with me, and I've never left her behind.  And it was likely that I was leaving her for overnight, since I would most likely get stuck.  And it all came to fruition, just like I thought.

After we finally got on the ground in Bethel, I was lucky to have awesome friends Marta & Frank were waiting at the terminal to help us.  It was only a moderate wait (a couple hours) at the ER, and here are some pictures of our wait with Iris in her precautionary splint:
After Iris got her x-rays, the doctor summoned us to the computer where the images had come up.  He pointed to a little line above her knee and said, "That's a fracture."

Oh, the guilt. It was an avalanche, crushing, horrible weight.  I broke my poor baby's leg!

However, the doc had plenty of reassuring things to say.  It is a stable break, which is why it didn't hurt her when we were moving her leg around, and it is above the growth plate, so it won't interfere with how her leg grows.  Also that infants' bones mend so well at this age that the fracture won't be visible on an x-ray a year from now.  The nurse said that a common adage of bone doctors is that at Iris's age, you can put two bones in the same room and they will grow together.

However, there is a chance it could kink as it grows, especially since it will be hard to keep her from using it.  They chose a fiberglass cast (in a sparkling blue color) and put it at a certain angle to try to discourage her from using it, but you and I both know that it's not going to slow this child down for long.  She has already developed an adept butt-scoot, which thankfully has been cleared as an OK activity for her, because this is not a child who will sit still.

But in order to make sure that the bone is not "kinking", the bone doctor wants it x-rayed once a week.  And since we have already been through it that the brand-spanking new x-ray machine already installed in Hooper Bay is of no use to us, I guess that means we are going to have to be gifting the airlines with $400 a week until Iris's leg is healed.

Not that I want anything to compromise Iris's health, and of course the money is nothing if it means she'll be healthy, but it still is a huge financial undertaking, not to mention the other things listed above -- especially leaving Esther behind.  However, at the time of this post, I'm not giving up yet.  I still have some paths of inquiry to explore,  so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.  Till then, here are the pictures of poor little scoot-scoot in her cast:

 (She's not allowed to crawl, but she can pull it along, which she's doing here)

And finally, with her sister, the queen:
Oh, yeah, and on the homefront,  Esther had a fabulous time staying home while we flew to Bethel, making cookies and going to the school gym to watch basketball with Tuluk, and with Melody and Katie, going to Katie's son's birthday party. She was no worse for the wear when I returned home Saturday morning.

BUT then as if we didn't have enough going on already, pretty much the moment we got home from the plane on Saturday, Esther woke up from a nap (which she never takes) with a rocket-high fever and signs of what we thought was swine flu, but the folks we got it from were tested positive for Influenza A, so I guess that's what we've got.  Tuluk fell prey to it on Monday, and for the past two nights Iris has been battling it.  No fair to have flu AND a broken leg all in one week.  And I refuse to go down -- somebody has to keep this crew alive! :)

Of course this set me off into high overcompensation-mode and had me dragging out all my (child safe) herbal and nutritional remedies.  One of the tests run on us after the accident said we all three were slightly anemic, and so I latched on to this as something I could fix, so I tortured my poor children some more making them eat wierd combinations of vitamin C and iron-containing foods ("Here, have a spoonful of molasses right after you sip this home-squeezed lemonade" Blech!), before I got hold of myself and calmed down.  (While I get that iron and calcium compete in the body for absorption, why is that both calcium and iron are often contained in the same foods? Anyone out there nutritionally savvy that can answer that question?)

Thanks for sticking with me on this long and involved post!


strwberrryjoy said...

Aww! Don't feel bad though! I broke my foot in 7th grade and my mom wouldn't take me to the dr. for 3 days, saying it was just a 'bruise'...but when it no longer fit in my shoe, she took me. Also, I did PE one of those days. YIKES! I enjoy keeping up on your blog. Hope everyone is on the mend soon!

TwoYaks said...

Nakleng! I hope Iris' leg heals up well! When this is further past, I'm sure crashing your snowgo will be funny, even if it isn't now. :) If not, well, Iris can always hold it over yourhead. :p

Finnskimo said...

OH MY GOSH...that is so sad and funny at the same time. Ugh, I feel for you. I once fell while my son was in my back...down the stairs and he was the one with the awful bruises on his back and me...nothing. Ugh.

Heal well sweet Iris. Howcome IHS doesn't pay for your plane tickets, especially if Iris is a minor...??? I know here, if we get "sent" to the big city, they pay for it. And if the patient is a minor, then they pay for the parent's ticket too. Check into it.

Good luck. :)

Anonymous said...

How scary! Alls well that ends well, and I'm glad your story had a happy ending and the baby is doing well!


Terria Fleming said...

Get well fast everyone and, Iris especially, heal quickly.

I have chosen you as one of the recipients of the Best Blog Award.
Please check out my post for details and a link to the picture that goes along with the award.

Terria Fleming
Daily Good

Safire said...

Just browsing your blog from Finnskimo's blog. My baby also broke his leg but it was because I fell carrying him down the stairs! Your Iris' cast is much nicer than my boy's. At least it's not around the diaper area. You'll be amazed at how mobile she'll get with that cast stopping these little ones!

Here's a picture of my boy's cast.

I'll be checking back to see how she's doing!

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