Last month I learned what it feels like to watch your child in pain and be utterly helpless to do anything about it.
I began to understand what parents go through when their children are seriously ill and spend months in and out of hospital, what it is like searching for a doctor who can tell you something… anything that will reassure you that your child will be okay, that your child will stop hurting and smile again.
I learned that friends can be like family. I learned that my cousin, Paula, knows how to turn fear into humour.
Molly visited Montreal from L.A. this month for a friend’s wedding.
On the Saturday the wedding took place she woke up with severe pain. She said it was the worst pain of her life. I could barely steady my hands to call 911. The ambulance drivers arrived and began to question her. She could barely talk so I tried, as I am wont to do, to intervene and answer for her. They were curt with me, telling me she is 27 and can answer for herself. As if this changed the fact that she was my baby and I wanted to explain to them what she was feeling.
The pain started to subside and they told her she could choose to go to the hospital or stay. She decided to stay and soon the pain went down to “1/2” out of ten.
Together we prepared her for the wedding. She looked like a princess in her Betsy Johnson dress, asked me for make up, and together we decided on the necklace and the gold earrings with the tiny rubies, her birthstone, that I had bought her in Greece this summer. I decided to accompany her and her date, Don Patton, a friend of ten years, to the wedding service. We drove her father’s car to pick him up. The wedding was beautiful.
The bride looked beautiful but no woman in that church looked more beautiful than Molly. Yes, I know I am her mother but now I am being perfectly objective.
We left the church and I said good bye trusting Don to take Molly to a hospital should the pain start up again. It did, not 30 minutes after I left them. It was intense and Molly ended up not far from the reception hall where she and Don were heading, the Santa Cabrini Hospital. I had never heard of it before.
I was on the metro going home, when Don called me. I left the metro shaking and got in a cab not knowing how far the hospital was.
After ten minutes of Molly being in great pain, a triage nurse assessed her and calmed me down, saying she had two children and knew what it felt like. I will never forget her kindness. Apart from being able to speak English she calmed me down several times during Molly’s 24-hour stay in Emergency.
The pain subsided and then it got worse. She was on a cot lying in a room, where the average age must have been 70 and no doctor was coming. She started writhing and moaning and I grew desperate, walking over three times to a nurse who was distributing cake among her co-workers, begging for a doctor or something to relieve the pain.
I wanted to change places with Molly. I wanted to believe in a god. I couldn’t imagine how this had happened or why no doctor thought my daughter was more important than people with gun shot wounds or the 87 year old lady, whom we later got to know well, who had fallen and was covered with bruises.
Finally Molly was given morphine and a harried doctor told me he was sending her for blood tests and an X-ray. I was so relieved she was getting something for the pain, I forgot to ask for his pre-diagnosis. I felt myself becoming overwrought and feeling more and more helpless. After another hour I begged a nurse to tell me more. She mentioned the area of the liver and a possible inflammation. When I heard the word liver, I freaked out. After the X-ray and after the two shots of morphine had taken some effect, the doctor returned at 11 pm and told me it might be gall stones or a stomach infection of some kind. He mentioned the word “virus” then too but I could only remember gall stones and liver and started to worry about surgery. He told Molly’s father and me that he was booking an ultra-sound for the next morning to investigate the gall bladder.
We decided to go home at midnight to get some sleep and leave Don to look after Molly till about 1:30 am. We were both exhausted but as soon as I got home my body became wracked with fear and regret that I had left my baby alone in Emergency.
At 7 am we were back with Molly. At 9 am she had the ultrasound. We had to pay cash for it, $180 and by the time we left the hospital that day, we learnt the hospital stay would cost $900. We paid cash $150 for two doctors. This was nothing to me but Molly commented that she marveled at our wonderful health care system and the fact that people pay nothing for all this care while people in the US have no access to healthcare. So much for our complaints about our health care system!
Finally after more hours of helpless waiting and a few jokes, and great relief from cousin Paula, who came to the hospital that morning and regaled us with her anecdotes of the trials of my uncle’s hospital stay (four days in emergency in great pain with no food) and generally lifted our spirits so that the fear in my body lessened to the point where I could laugh. Of course Molly, by this time, was in no pain at all but still connected to an IV.
After another two hours a 30ish doctor who looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine, wearing street clothes, appeared by Molly’s cot-side and told us she was betting on a virus because the ultrasound had shown no gall stones, that in fact, the area was clear.
I asked her, how could such pain come from nowhere? It happens, she answered. She gave us medication for the “spasms” should they come again, and told us if they do, we should return to the hospital.
What a scare! What relief! Monday morning as I looked at my beautiful daughter sitting beside me petting the cat, I thanked those who looked after her, my friends who were there for me by phone with kind words and reassurances, my cousin Paula, Don, who held Molly’s hand through the worst of it, Molly’s father who put up with my hysteria, and the doctor who gave us the good news.