Here's how it all began.
See that guy in the red shirt? That's Pastor Robert. He and a few other brave adults took a few van loads of youth to the mountains of West Virginia for youth camp at the end of July. It was supposed to be a life-changing week of Bible teaching and soul searching, with plenty of fun, fellowship, and fabulous food thrown in for good measure (that is the Baptist way, is it not?).
Well, the best intentions often have a way of going astray. Praise God, that He can use the most difficult times for His glory and the good of His people.
I'll say this. Life changing, it was definitely that. Fun with lots of fabulous food thrown in for good measure...not so much. At least, the fellowship was fantastic.
This is the only picture we have of Tex actually at camp.
He says the first two days were amazing. He had a blast. But alas, he did not have a camera, so this picture with a guy in an orange shirt (that's him) walking in the background, well, that's it.
I'll bet you are wondering what happened after day two, since Tex does not think days three and so on were so great.
Well, here's the story from my point of view.
Ring ring. "Yes?"
"Um, Mrs. Tex's Mom?"
"Yes. This is me."
"Hi. This is Pastor Robert."
"Oh, hi, Robert. How's it going?"
(Me, thinking Tex just wants to check in and thinking it is sweet).
"Um, well, it was fine, but there's been a problem." (Did you catch that "was fine?")
Uh oh. Me thinking it is strange that Tex would get into trouble at camp. He's usually such a steady kid and he worked so hard to earn the money to get to go to camp. I can't imagine him doing something to mess it up. "Oh, okay, what happened?"
"Well. the kids were playing soccer and Tex got hurt."
Oh. Sports injury. Not so bad. They just had to call and tell me. It's what they do, right?
"Well, we have the paramedics here and they are looking him over and I think he will be fine, but they are taking him to the hospital just to be sure."
WHAT? Paramedics? The hospital? "What happened?"
"Well, Tex and another camper were both heading for the ball at the same time and they both slipped and fell into each other. The other boy is fine, but he accidentally kicked Tex in the (ahem) and the stomach, and Tex took it pretty hard."
Well, yeah. Any guy getting kicked in the (ahem) takes it pretty hard.
"Anyway, he seemed fine once he caught his breath, but then when they tried to help him off the field, he passed out twice and then threw up twice. The camp nurse insisted we call the ambulance, but the paramedics are very calm and not acting like they expect any real problem."
"All right, Robert. Sounds like you have it under control. What do you think will happen from here and how should I react? I am not there, so I don't know what to think."
"Well, everyone seems pretty calm, but maybe they are always like that. I don't know. Tex is uncomfortable and keeps saying he just wants to go lay down. We are sending him in the ambulance anyway. What do you want me to do?"
"Well, he knows you, so I'd prefer if you would stay with him and keep me informed. Do you think it is serious?"
"I don't know. I can't imagine why it would be, but you never know. They hit each other pretty hard. I will go with Tex to the hospital and call you from there and let you know what they say. If it seems like it is anything serious, I will let you know."
"Thank you. How is Tex?"
"He's uncomfortable, but he says he wants to stay at camp."
(Of course...he'd been looking forward to it all year).
"Okay, I will hang tight here and call his dad. We won't come right away (it is a four hour plus drive) unless you think there is a need to. Keep me updated often, please."
Well, Robert was true to his word and kept me updated. I called my folks and Hubby, and they arrived at the house before he did. By the time they arrived, Pastor Robert was thinking it might be more serious than just the kick to the (ahem). Apparently, the adrenaline had worn off and Tex was extremely uncomfortable and in considerable pain. The pain meds they gave him in the ER weren't working, and they were taking him to X-ray to explore whether the knee to the stomach had caused an unexpected problem. That's when my dad and I decided it was time to leave. (Hubby was still over an hour away).
After talking to Robert, it was obvious that even if they found nothing, Tex would be too sore to enjoy the rest of camp, especially since the beds were cots and there was no air conditioning (if I'd have thought of that an hour earlier, I'd have left then, I think). I grabbed a bag of reading materials (I always grab something to read when going anywhere) and a Dr. Pepper and we started the four hour drive to camp.
It's a good thing we left because about an hour and a half to two hours later Pastor Robert called and said that they'd found gas/air under his diaphragm, which meant there was PROBABLY a perforation in his gut somewhere. Yikes! Who expects that from a soccer accident? Certainly not poor Tex, and certainly not Poppy nor I. (I think that at this point they knew it was a sure thing that surgery was imminent, but would not say since I wasn't there yet). Robert said they were taking Tex for a CT scan to pinpoint the problem and see if there was actually a tear and where it was, but he didn't know how long it would take to get him in.
It turns out that we arrived not too long after they read the results and finally determined surgery was imminent. Once we arrived, Pastor Robert excused himself to return to camp, and we are very grateful he stayed with our Tex for so long and bore him up with prayer for all of that time.
We were only at the hospital for about a half an hour before the surgeon finished with another emergency surgery and was able to talk with us. She seemed very nice and explained that they were only able to pinpoint an area of probable injury, and that she'd need to make a eight inch incision to open Tex up completely to make sure all problems were addressed. She had to tell us that the best scenario was finding a small tear and repairing it quickly (two to three hours), and that the worst case scenario (other than him not making it through surgery, which was a possibility...it always is) was that they'd have to remove a lot of his colon and put in a temporary external bag until he could heal enough to do more repairs.
My goodness. All that from a SOCCER MATCH? A friendly one at that (the two boys who collided were on the same team and tried to avoid each other...Tex told me when he was a bit loopy from sedative that he'd prayed nobody else got hurt as he was falling, and nobody did. He was happy about that).
Once we explained the story of the accident to the surgeon as it had been told to us (and told her he'd fallen twice after passing out), she decided he needed a CT scan of his brain to make sure there was no cranial bleeding before surgery (she was very cautious and thorough and we are very grateful), and after he came out from that fine, they prepped him for surgery.
We walked with him to the pre-surgical area and were able to pray with him, then they took him into surgery about midnight. By that time, I think the scared had gone out of him, and been replaced with relief that something would be stopping the pain soon.
At around two a.m., the nurse came out and told us the surgeon had found a tear and a damaged area, so had removed about six inches of small intestine. She had stapled together the two ends, and was currently cleaning the abdominal cavity very carefully. I thanked God profusely, and then I think I fell asleep for about forty five minutes (I had a migraine by then), and an hour after the nurse came to see us, the doctor came out and explained what she'd done in detail, and told us we could go see Tex in the recovery room as soon as they finished closing him up.
We went in and saw our poor boy, and he looked pretty sad lying there with all of those tubes and lines everywhere, but we were praising God that he'd made it through such an unexpected circumstance. Who sends their kid off to camp and expects them to need emergency surgery?
God was good and Tex made it through the surgery with flying colors. He had a few tough days on only IV fluids (no food or water) and an antibiotic (tasty), a small fever (to be expected), and discomfort from the incision and the tubes he was hooked up to...but then they finally gave him ice chips and he thought he was eating ambrosia (his words).
Before his NG tube was removed, he had some visitors from camp to cheer him on, and they even brought him a huge card (signed by all the campers), balloons, and candy to think about eating at some uncertain point in the future. ;-)
He was definitely a model patient. Once he heard that walking would help "get things moving" so he could get that dreaded NG tube out, you could hardly keep him in the bed. He was up and walking every few hours, in spite of the pain of his incision and the 22 staples (that's just the external ones). He spent many hours in this rocking chair, rocking and rocking, hoping it would do the trick and help him get better faster.
He was upbeat and gracious to his visitors, including the poor young man who collided with him (6'4", 280 lbs vs. 5'7", 139 lbs), who was terribly worried about him. He even (I hear tell) organized other campers to pray four times a day for Tex. Tex, of course, did not blame him one bit. He told everyone that his own shoes slipped on the wet grass and the other young man slipped on his shoelace, and they both tried to avoid each other, but it just was inevitable and nobody's fault.
Hubby's folks drove up to see Tex, which was a thoughtful surprise. Hubby met them along the way and we visited with them for as long as Tex could manage, then took them out to dinner. They wanted to go back to our house to spend a few days with the other grandkids, so Hubby went back with them (besides, someone had to feed the animals), while Poppy and I held down the fort at the hospital.
I was ready to hang out for the long haul, if necessary, as a kind gentleman from church who came up to help drive the youth back had brought me a suitcase from home. Clean clothes make everything look better, eh? A previous meeting at a halfway point had scored Poppy a suitcase full of clothes from Nanny earlier...unfortunately, my clean clothes remained on the seat of Hubby's car while the suitcase I received contained four blankets and three pillows (and thankfully, my toiletries). I think Hubby was a wee bit stressed when he packed my bag. What do you think?
Tex was very hopeful that first weekend that they would try him on clear fluids and he'd do well. Once they finally removed the NG tube and Foley line on Friday night (he felt like it had been in forever), he was much more comfortable. He got to have water and he said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted.
He seemed to do fine with that, so in the morning, they gave him sweet tea, broth, and his favorite, raspberry jello. Since he seemed to be tolerating the jello and a popsicle fine, they started talking on the second day like they were going to release him after the weekend, once he'd had a "full fluid diet" (which meant pureed oatmeal, pudding, and ice cream added to the list).
Poppy and I stopped worrying so much, and went to the cafeteria for a relaxed lunch of our own...no more feeling guilty that we could eat and poor Tex could not! Besides, I needed a break from the ice cold temperatures in the hospital...the outside patio was a nice warm break and I think it inspired Poppy. He wants this picnic table, that fountain, and the hanging baskets and double-sided garden hook, just in case anyone is interested (someone's anniversary is coming up soon, I think, hint hint).
Honestly though, Tex was not eating that much. He was taking it very easy and it sort of made me nervous. He'd had a great visit with friends from camp before they left for home, though, and other than being tired, which seemed normal, it looked like we might be getting out on Monday.
However, Tex did keep talking about how things were sloshing around in his gut and felt like they were fighting and jumping in there. And he wasn't eating much...for someone who acted so desperate for food just a day ago, it seemed a bit odd he was so reluctant to eat.
I can't say I really thought anything about that other than it sounded pretty normal after surgery to feel that way, but I did have the feeling that he needed to prove he could really eat REAL food before we left because I did not want to have to handle a relapse on the road or at home (for his own sake, as well as the rest of the family), so mean mom that I am, I told him he had to eat his pudding and his mush, and he did.
That did it. Within five minutes it was back up, along with multi-colored remnants of the jello from the previous day. Ugh. Twice. Ugh again. Poor Tex. They stuck that NG tube right back in and said he was back on no food (only limited ice) until they figured out why he couldn't keep food down. I felt bad, but also figured we were better off in this wonderful hospital where we were the only folks in the pediatric ward for much of our stay, than at some small facility on the way home after a mid-trip explosion (if you know what I mean).
The weekend doctor decided it was an ileus...just a blockage, probably due to swelling, and the food and bile could not get past it. Nothing to be alarmed about. Tex just needed to slow back down and let his body have time to heal. Unfortunately, an NG tube down the nose (to drain the area and protect the bowels) means no more food. Or water. Only ice chips. Sigh.
Fortunately for us, the Olympics started around that time, so at least he had something to occupy his attention. Not to mention visits from his "fan club." I forgot to mention that his "team" got behind him and they all made shirts in his honor and went on to win the camp volleyball championship.
The camp also decided to award him the Sportsmanship Award for being such a trooper and a truly good sport about what he was having to go through. He rarely complained, even to me, and only about the NG tube because it bothered him so much (it hurt and he was VERY hungry...after all, he is a boy). He was very touched that they thought so highly of him to give him such a special award...just for getting hurt, he said. (Silly boy, that's not why they gave it to you!)
He smiled and tried to make the nurses laugh whenever they visited. He was always apologizing for causing them work, and asking what he could do to make their jobs easier. He really did deserve that Sportsmanship Award, and I am pleased that his fellow campers agreed. They gave him a lovely devotional Bible which he started reading immediately and afterward read every day at least once a day.
I heard later that they awarded the young man who collided with him the Most Christlike Award for his determination to seek forgiveness and to pray diligently for Tex. I am sure he did many other things at camp that also contributed to his receipt of the award, but those are the ones that are important to us. You could tell he is a good guy, and I grateful he was not injured and am happy to have met him.
Some of the kids from camp.
The pastor and his lovely family
We wound up being in the hospital for another week, and the fine folks in the picture above visited us several more times. Once they heard I liked Chinese food they bought me a gift card for their favorite local Japanese/Chinese/Sushi restaurant (their daughter's idea) and the food was WONDERFUL! I even saved some of my Sesame Chicken and Tex got to try it the day we finally were released from the hospital.
During our stay, the folks from camp and those you see above (they were involved with camp, but also have a local ministry) were an excellent example of being Christ's hands and feet and meeting the needs of those around them. I was very impressed by this minister and his wife and all they do with the youth of their church. They regularly serve others, and the youth stay active and involved in many aspects of the church, instead of living separate lives being "entertained" in a youth center. I think that is the way it should be...our young people need to be a part of "bearing up one another" as they are growing in Christ and maturing as individuals, rather than being treated like they are separate from "real" church.
Poppy and I tried to entertain Tex, but after a while, puzzles, the Olympics, card games, Netflix, and video games (he and I had a seek and find game tournament using our own computers and one of those free game sites...WildTangent, I think) got repetitive. Thank goodness for his visitors. I know how grateful he was for their fine company!
On Wednesday, several of the young ladies (that pastor's daughters and a friend of theirs) asked if they could bring Tex a movie to watch and sit with him during visitation hours (the rest of the youth group had visitation elsewhere that night). So the four kids watched The Pacifier and had a few laughs. I know the ladies' company made the waiting for his body to heal that much easier for my son. Thank you, girls.
Tex's room. See his poster card under the TV and his candy stash and balloons?
His surgeon stopped by before leaving for a weekend with her family to check on his progress and I got this excellent shot of her with Tex. Isn't she lovely? Both inside and out. Her talented hands saved my son's life. Thank you so much, doctor.
And let's not forget the nurses...they were the best. They were kind, upbeat, helpful, friendly, and treated us like family. We grew to really look forward to seeing the different nurses during each shift change and they were always trying to do anything to make our stay more comfortable and Tex's day brighter (other than the regular sticking him for bloodwork and such...ah well, there's always a down side.)
Finally, that next Friday, one week later (nine days after surgery), the doctor decided to remove the NG tube again and try clear fluids. This time Tex did fine, just as before, but it seemed obvious to me that it was different. No more complaining about sloshing...just calm and ready to go.
The next day, full clears (that pudding and porridge again, including cream soups) were a success, and mom snuck in a Snickers Ice Cream bar for the patient patient (well, they said ice cream was fine, didn't they?).
The following morning brought eggs and bacon and a HUGE smile from Tex. He gobbled that bacon up in ten seconds flat. Trying to set a new Olympic record, I suppose.
They de-IV'd him, and took out his staples (all 22), and pronounced him fit enough to go home.
Oh happy day...
He had a final visit with his new friends...wearing "real" clothes for the first time in almost two weeks. It's hard to say "goodbye" to new, good friends, but at least we are leaving for a good reason...homeward bound at last!
Before we all headed out, the new friends had to share a "Mystery Quart" from Dairy Queen that I had bought for Tex. You can't take it with you, and it's more fun to share anyway...
Hubby arrived to take us home, having left the Amigos with Nanny and Poppy (who had left to go home a day earlier). We managed to get a few photos with me in them, just to prove that I was there.
I am praising God that Tex has come through this trial and I know that he will be blessed and be a blessing to others somehow because of it.
In fact, during this time we received notice of a potential HUGE blessing for our family...but that is another story that will have to wait for another day. *Mysterious, but good music, plays in the background* Check back soon for some AMAZING news. ;-)
I am so proud of you, Tex, and how you reacted to this "test."
As far as I am concerned, you passed with flying colors and we are all so impressed.
I love you, son...friend. You are one of my heroes.
In the picture above you can see a bright room where I spent quite a bit of time when Tex was sleeping during the day and he needed dark and quiet. We were very fortunate to have such a lovely facility to stay in. They even had sleeper chairs in the rooms (and they encouraged family to stay with their kids, so we did not have to pay for a hotel for the twelve day stay...can you imagine what it would have cost?) and showers we could use (and towels, and shampoo, and all sorts of other cool stuff...even coffee!).
The staff was top notch, doing everything they could to make our stay pleasant and our distressing experience easier. They made us smile many times, and offered quiet reassurance when we needed it most...what more could we ask for, other than a healthy boy when we left, which we got. Praise God. Hallelujah.
We're not sorry to say goodbye to this place, but we are grateful for all that was done here and for the fine people who helped us every step of the way. God was clearly at work here, and we are so grateful and so aware of the blessings He has heaped upon us that Tex can walk out of here (even if a bit slouchy) with a smile on his face. Thank you everyone for all you did, and thank you, Jesus, for being there every step of the way.
FYI: We just had our follow-up appointment with Tex's pediatrician (who is amazing) and he said that in his 30+ years of practicing medicine, he's NEVER seen this sort of injury in anyone except an automobile accident victim. The amount of force needed to compress the intestines against the backbone is immense and he was absolutely dumbfounded. He said the injury is basically the equivalent of receiving a gunshot wound, so Tex can expect to feel tired and out of sorts for at least six weeks...or another three weeks, since he wound up spending almost two in the hospital and that was a week ago. We realize even more how we are blessed beyond measure to still have him with us.
Tex is recuperating happily at Nanny and Poppy's house where he is safe from the enthusiastic hugs and noise of his younger siblings, and where he has more freedom to rest as he needs (and plenty of good food...and lots of loving care). He's eating up a storm, trying to put back on some of the twelve pounds he lost.
He is planning on remaining at their house for another week or so, then heading over to his brother's place for a week, to pass some time playing games when Bubba gets done with work each day. In the meantime, the rest of us are happy to do his chores for him, but we miss him a lot (and talk to him every day on the phone...but it's just not the same without his smile).
All of your prayers and words of encouragement are appreciated greatly. Thank you so very much.