Life Flight with Harold the Helicopter

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.  ~Thomas Keneally

Kyle-&-Pap-watching-TV-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-2003

Kyle with his beloved pap … they were always cuddling on the couch & Kyle loved his bottle … of water!

After reminiscing about My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University- ARTsylym, I couldn’t refer to that experience without including another, for they will forever be intertwined.

Even to this day, thinking about the events that unraveled on the evening of April 16, 2005 makes my heart race and pound out of my chest with fear and anxiety.  It has been nearly a decade, yet I can still remember that most horrible feeling sitting in my gut, but by the grace of God turned out just fine.

What happened?  Kyle was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let me set the stage to put things into perspective.  It was indeed Saturday night, April 16, 2005.  How do I remember the date?  Besides it being a horrible and memorable experience, earlier that day I was at Seton Hill University in Harlen Gallery with the rest of my group, Mike, Josh and Albert, setting up our senior show.  We left, preparing to return early the next morning, on Sunday to work throughout the day to get our art exhibit ready for Monday’s opening.  Sometimes plans don’t go as planned!

As I was leaving, literally pulling out of the parking lot around 11:00 pm or so, I got a call from my mom informing me, mom and dad had Kyle over at the emergency room in Latrobe.  YIKES!  Just hearing those words, your mind races through all horrible scenarios.

Graciously, mom clarified Kyle was alright but he was really sick and was throwing up massive amounts of mucus.  I knew when I picked him up on Friday, he didn’t seem like himself, so I knew he wasn’t feeling very good.  Even when I was hanging with him on Saturday during the day, he wasn’t a typical three year old.  Mom said he wanted to sleep with her and dad that night and as soon as his head hit the pillow, mucus erupted from his throat.  So much so he couldn’t breath.

Upon hearing this explanation for the emergency room visit, I was already in route to meet them in the waiting room.  You know the dreaded waiting room.  The one that seems to steal not only hours from your life, but it appears to remove days from the calender.

kyle-with-Aunt-Heather-Piper-in-hospital-11-18-03

My poor little sick man. He was at Latrobe Hospital with phenomenon again. I didn’t care, I would jump in bed & cuddle with my little man. 11/18/03

While barreling through the automated doors, I spotted Dad holding Kyle, a weak looking three year old, who fell asleep on dad’s shoulder.  Up until this point, Kyle was in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with sever sinus issues, respiratory problems, ear infections that sort of thing. (Don’t tell me smoking around a baby doesn’t affect a child)  We were all too familiar with a sick kid.  Eventually, Kyle started to join the land of the healthy, once he had tubes put in his ears to help the drainage.  That and he also had his tonsils and adenoids removed, and later scrapped again, twice.

Once the nurse called Kyle’s name, indicating he was next in line, I happen to be holding my little man.  I followed the procession and walked him back to a weighing station.  The nurse instructed me to lye him down so she could weigh the package.  As soon as his head rested parallel with his body, he began projecting strands and strands of mucus!  It was a horrifying site!  The nurse, who was closer to Kyle, grabbed him and set him upright and started clearing out his throat so he could breath.  Once sitting perpendicular to the bed he was fine, but the minute he was lying down, he was drowning in mucus!

As soon as that happened, the other nurses came rushing over and called the doctors.  Almost immediately, they whisked him back into his own room and started an IV, sitting him upright of course.  Mom, dad and me scurried after the medical group, following Kyle.  We wanted to remain at his side so he wasn’t afraid, and to calm our own nerves.  There was always something about Kyle, and still is that calms us and puts us all at peace.  Perhaps it’s because he is a part of Ryan, my brother.  Having Kyle around means Ryan is still beside us.

The doctor checked Kyle, made some notes, left, came back, made more notes, left, came back, checked him, left and came back again.  Nurses and doctors were entering and exiting the room every few minutes, either poking him with something, or sticking him with a needle or pushing a tongue depressor down his mouth, or inspecting his ears and so on.  You name it, Kyle had everyone’s attention, which under normal circumstances he would have enjoyed.  Not so much this time, but Kyle was a pretty good sport, except for the IV.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Gutchess-Picnic-Idlewild-Park-2002

Me & Kyle reading a book at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Company Picnic. c. 2002

Without much communication, the doctor finally pulled us out of the room to deal us in on the plans.  They had already called life flight from Children’s Hospital, they were taking Kyle as soon as the helicopter arrived.  WHAT?  I felt sick to my stomach!  Just hearing the words LIFE FLIGHT makes your mind race, especially when I didn’t fully understand the severity of the situation, nor the exact situation.

Please keep in mind I am no medical professional, so my details may be slightly off, but I clearly remember what he told us.  It appeared that Kyle had strep throat.  The doctor said he had to have had it for at least a week now, fever and all.  The infection caused his tonsils to touch, cutting off his airways.  He also had an ear infection (or both), which was compounding the situation.  So needless to say he was pretty sick!

The conversation was rushed, there was no time to stop and think.  They were in emergency mode and my head was in a whirlwind.

As I’m trying to comprehend what everything means, I got the weirdest question asked by the doctor, “How much do you weight?”.  What?   Really?  Apparently, they didn’t know how Kyle was going to be on the flight to Children’s Hospital, so they were considering having me hold him for the ride to Pittsburgh.  Without hesitation I agreed!

Almost immediately we were alerted that life flight landed and soon they would be taking Kyle.  I’m telling you what, everyone from the nurses, to doctors and the entire staff were all wonderful and very patient with us.  During our short stay there, they kept us informed and moved quickly for the sake of this little helpless boy.

It was at this time, I was informed that I couldn’t go with Kyle because they brought an extra doctor in case they needed to do an emergency tracheotomy.  What is going on?  Now hearing that, I about died!  This night went from bad to worse!

Mom, dad and me were allowed to go up to the roof to see Kyle off and to make sure he wasn’t going to panic or freak out.  As soon as he was wheeled out onto the roof and saw the helicopter waiting for him, he said, “Loot, Aiya it’s Harold!”  His eyes got big and a smile even made its appearance.  Going with it, we cheered Kyle on and built up the excitement, that he was going for a ride on Harold the Helicopter.

You see, for years, Kyle was a HUGE fan of Thomas the Tank Engines.  He had all the toys and miles upon miles of tracks, accessories and naturally he owned just about every cartoon video.  He LOVED Thomas the Tank!  The helicopter from the cartoon was named Harold, hence his association.  Almost too perfect!  God was helping us all through this ordeal.

Kyle-&-Joel-Planinsek-Pavilion-c.-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Joel Olczak (cousin) & a feisty Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion. In the back to the left is Benny Scanlon (cousin) & to the right Jim Olczak (cousin). Kyle has always been a regular at family functions! c. 2002

We stood in the doorway, for we were not permitted out on the launch pad, waved and smiled, putting Kyle at ease, even though we were completely on edge.  Once the helicopter door shut and Kyle was out of sight, we all darted downstairs to get the car.  I drove us into Pittsburgh going probably way to fast for even a race car driver.  I thought my parents might yell at me, but instead all dad said was, “There’s no cops out, let’s get there.”  Meaning, speed to get us to Children’s Hospital.

We were told it takes about twelve minutes for life flight to get to Pittsburgh, I made the hour and half trip in twenty five minutes.  Yes, one might have guessed I was speeding and to be honest, I didn’t care in the slightest, for the only important thing in my life at that moment, was getting to Kyle.

I dropped mom and dad off at the main door to find Kyle’s room and sit with him while I parked the car.  This all happened so fast, I truly don’t even remember entering the building, nor do I remember parking the car.  I do remember running through the hospital frantic trying to find my family.  Low and behold, who did I manage to find?  Yep, one of the doctors who was on the flight that I just talked to not even twenty minutes earlier.  She gave me a shocked look and simply said, “I know you didn’t obey the speed limit to get here so fast.”  I  just smiled and gave a look, ‘Where is Kyle?”  After her judgement comment, she was very gracious and led me in the right direction.

Upon entering the room, I found Kyle in ICU with a T-shirt hanging over the bottom of his crib/bed and stickers near him.  Apparently, they found Kyle’s weakness for stickers and hooked the kid up.  Did I mention they were glow-in-the-dark helicopter stickers?  Boy was he excited!  I was excited for him.

Kyle was looking a little perkier, I’m sure it helped that he napped on the flight and the IV gave him an added boost.  I remember the smile Kyle flashed me when I walked in to join everyone.  He couldn’t wait to show me his stickers!  It was a bittersweet moment of joy and excitement for him, yet uncertainty for being in the ICU.  He went on to tell me about his ride in Harold, even though the doctors said he slept the entire ride down.  Believe it or not, this kid was on cloud nine!  I owe part of that to the doctors who transported him and played up the Harold card.  They helped turn this nightmare into a dream come true for our little three year old.

Herold the Helicopter Aunt Heather PiperOn a side note, after this ordeal, Kyle played with Harold the Helicopter in a whole new way.  Even when I watched him play or when I joined in, Harold the Helicopter took on a whole new meaning and transported people around, even the other tank engines.

All night long, dad sat by Kyle’s side, never leaving.  I sat most of the night by Kyle, for we were only allowed two people at a pop.  Finally by morning, Kyle was moved to a room and surprisingly, by later that day, the doctors informed us that he was getting discharged.  I stayed until the paperwork was official before heading back to Greensburg to join my group in setting up the ARTsylum show at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University.

Even though is was a frightful experience, it was also a blessing in disguise.  Not long after that incidence, Kyle had surgery on his ears; tubes put in, eventually a permanent tube; his tonsils removed; his adenoid removed and then later scrapped and scrapped again.  He was closely watched for additional ear infections and bouts with the croup and pneumonia, all he suffered with severely up until that point.

Do you know, Kyle remembers that helicopter ride to this day?  Or at least he remembers the idea of it, fortunately not in a bad way.  He recalls getting to ride in a helicopter and he’s acutely aware that not many people have that opportunity.  Of course his was a good reason, which I don’t ever bother to bring up, I let him have his helicopter ride.  In fact, when I purchased flight lessons for Kyle for his ninth birthday, Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday he commented that he rode in a helicopter but never an airplane.

Without reservation I am truly grateful for the doctors and the complete medical staff at Latrobe Area Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.  Equally, everyone was wonderful, kind and sincere with Kyle and our family.  Mostly they helped to get him on the road to wellness while keeping him at ease.  They also started the process for his future medial procedures and monitoring, eventually getting him to healthy!

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Can You Hear Me?

If you treat a sick child like an adult and a sick adult like a child, everything usually works out pretty well.  ~Ruth Carlisle

Kyle-slushie-Avengers-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle with slushy & water in hand, ready for Avengers! 5/6/12

It’s no secret that Kyle’s been one sick child, mostly having issues with his hearing and his ears.  From the time he was about six months old or a year till he was about five years old, he was constantly in and out of the emergency room and hospitals with ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, scarlet fever, croup, and strep throat.  He was poked with more IVs, surgical equipment, and needles than any kid should be.  Now I understand that some kids have it much worse and we have been blessed, but it’s still hard to watch.

This past Saturday Kyle had to be put under again, this time for glue ear.  According to the Medical News Today website: Glue ear, also known as secretory otitis media, otitis media with effusion, or serous otitis media, causes a glue-like fluid to accumulate in the middle ear, which should be filled with air. Glue ear is a common cause of dulled hearing in young children. In the majority of cases symptoms resolve themselves in time without treatment being required. When symptoms persist the child will probably need some kind of therapy.

Now we’ve gone through a nice little break without any major incidences.  But don’t breath a sigh of relief.  Recently, Kyle has been getting a lot more ear infections.  The doctors had him on antibiotics for a couple of months, which did not make me happy.  Obviously, they were not working, and finally Kyle was seen by an Ear, Throat and Nose specialist.  This past Saturday, when the doctors decided to take a closer inspection of the problem, they discovered that his adenoids did in fact grow back, for a second time.  This was blocking his ears from properly draining.  Then, they added a permanent tube in his right ear, removed a polyp from his left ear that grew over his eardrum and drained it.  The left ear was so bad with drainage, they couldn’t put the permanent tube in.  Because of this, Kyle will need to go back in a few weeks for a check up and schedule another procedure to place the permanent tube, once it’s had a chance to drain and heal up.  All this to hopefully give him freedom from sickness, or at the very least decrease the issues and give him his full hearing back.

Did I mention he is back on antibiotics?  Poor kid, his stomach has been so upset from the variety of medications.  However, I am on it, I have been pushing yogurts on Kyle since he started this unfortunate escapade recently.  What really struck me as odd and kind of upset me, was that no doctor or medical professional dealing with Kyle mentioned this yogurt tidbit of information.  A really good friend of mine, who happens to be a nurse reiterated the yogurt eating necessity with ingesting such large amounts of antibiotics.  I’ve always said I love my nurses, their concern always stretch beyond their shifts for the good of people.

Now this brings me back to what Kyle thinks of all this.  I don’t care who you are, or what procedure you’re going in the hospital for, it’s nerve racking and scary.  Kyle was certainly no exception.  Early on in the week, he kept bringing up the surgery, but he said “I won’t need any needles, they are giving me a mask to make me sleep. No needles and if they do, I will be sleeping so I don’t care.”  That’s my man!  In fact, this must have bothered him so much, the idea of getting a shot that he mentioned it quite often over the week leading up to the surgery, and as they where walking him down the hall to get suited up.

The-Avengers-Movie Aunt Heather PiperOn the day of surgery, Nicole and I were there waiting for him.  I could tell he was stressed, but he was in good spirits.  After all he had an ipod Touch…Mission Accomplished!  When the nurse came out to put his wristband on him, he practically shot out of his seat, thinking she had a needle.  From my understanding, all Kyle was worried about was needles poking him.  Of course, I don’t blame him, he has been stuck with so many IV’s and needles over the course of his young existence, I’d be a bit skittish too.

As I sat in the waiting room and saw the time fly by, I knew this is was not a good sign.  Once the doctor came out to give a summary of the surgery, I felt so bad for my little man.  They had to give him an IV since they were scraping his adenoids.  All I could think of was the anticipation of his pain he would be feeling when he awoke, remembering when he had them removed and scrapped previously.

Approaching his bedside during recover time was a familiar sight, laying in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of his arm.  He was half out of it and wanted to rest, and was not happy in the slightest bit about the tubes and the IV.  Again, I would have taken advantage of a little R & R myself, since his body has been through so much.  On a side note, would you believe that once I got through the double doors into the recovery area, I got lost.  I was turned around going in to see Kyle, forget about making my way back out.  To me that’s shear anxiety!  I think you should have the option for a guide to walk you around hospitals, especially since I am Directionally Challenged.

Preparing for Kyle to come home was easy.  I stopped at the store and stocked up on ice-cream, Popsicles, Scooter Crunch Bars, soft food for breakfast, and fruit for smoothies.  My good friend Holsters, yep the nurse, even gave me her extra blender since ours has seen better days.  Even though I’ve witnessed Kyle after such experiences, it still doesn’t lessen the heartbreak I feel for his suffering.  He didn’t smile at all, not even an attempt.  At one point I was watching him sit in the chair and I swear it took him two minutes before he blinked.

The doctor said they encourage him to start eating, especially solid foods to work his jaw muscles and get things moving along.  As with everyone who has gone through a surgery, you get to pick what you want to eat, standard rule!  Kyle requested Jioio’s pizza with mushrooms and black olives, one of my favorite pizza’s ever!  You got it buddy!  I was just happy he wanted some solid food and he seemed to have a little bit of an appetite.

Kyle-at-Avengers-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle loves Iron Man and the Hulk, Avengers! 5/6/12

By the time I picked up the pizza and brought it back to the house, he was starting to doze off but woke up when he saw me looking like a delivery person.  He asked for a slice, but didn’t eat it.  Then he asked me to make him a fruit smoothie, but didn’t really want to drink it.  I felt so bad, Kyle was in pain and sore and miserable.  At this point, my heart was bleeding and I wanted to help in some way.  We were given a liquid pain medication, which normally I don’t believe in taking, but this time I think it was a necessity.  However, Kyle felt differently, he didn’t want to take it.  Convincing him to take his medicine certainly brought back memories of us encouraging a much younger Kyle to take the prescriptions.  We sat there holding the syringe type of contraption full of a pain killing solution, trying not to spill any, and cheering Kyle to ‘Hurry up, real quick’ and ‘Just shoot part of it in your mouth and take a drink of a smoothie’, the only words of encouragement we could muster.  At first we convinced Kyle to take some of the medicine and then take a bite of the pizza.  Win! Win! He would be getting food in his system, chewing and taking down the pain meds.  Well, that worked for two little sips.  Ok, onto plan B.  Next I took a small juice glass and mixed a concoction of fruit smoothie and the rest of the pain medication for Kyle to kick back quickly.  I don’t blame Kyle, I tried a drop of the syrupy solution, expecting to say it’s not that bad, but alas it was totally GROSS!  Yuck!  I would have had a hard time taking that stuff down, and I’m not a sick ten year old.

As the night approached and we finished watching Iron Man for the millionth time, Kyle started to feel the effects of the codeine and was ready for bed.  He slept all night and woke up almost back to normal, by 6:00 am.  That’s about the time we usually get up on the weekends, so I thought that was a good sign.  He was hungry, not quite one hundred percent, but he was on the road to recovery.  I made him a breakfast and we loafed around until we had to get ready for church.  Now I didn’t have him go to CCD, but I did forewarn him that if he didn’t go to church, then I was not taking him to the movies to see the Avengers, a movie I was also dieing to see.

This round of procedures wasn’t as bad as when Kyle was a young tyke, at least from my memory and from my observation, I’m not the one going through the hell.  He’s a strong kid and he seemed to bounce back pretty good, especially leading up to the movie.  Afterward our two hours of eye entertainment, Kyle was totally charged!  It was a great movie and he sat by his Aunt Nikki, who was home too.  Even on the way home, he wanted to make fruit smoothies. Yep, he’s making his recovery.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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