Enter The Deuce, Part V

Wrist_Band

The text was simple enough: “Call me when u can”.

I’d not have seen it for a couple more hours had I not been pulled over at the side of the road. I was four hours into what was likely to be a five-plus-hour ride for the simple reason that I’d been unable to recruit anyone to turn around before Point Mugu. We had dropped a rider somewhere on the way back and leaving people for dead is something that violates my sense of the social contract among cyclists.

Put another way, in my mind that’s seriously not cool.

It didn’t help that I might have been part of the problem. I’d taken some long pulls at the front and wasn’t entirely aware of what was happening behind me. So once I was aware, I told my buddies to stop at the next gas station and I was going to pull over and wait for our rider. After about five minutes, I pulled out my phone to text my buddies to let them know I was still waiting. That’s when I saw the text from my wife.

I rarely see a text from her when I’m riding. She sends them occasionally, but they are always the same thing: “When will you be home?” She’s okay with not receiving a response most days, or at least I think she’s okay with not getting a response. Usually, I’m riding with breaks that range between few and none, so it’s not uncommon for me to see her text as I’m telling her about the ride—after I’ve arrived home.

That she wanted me to call, that she wanted me to call before I got home, that she wasn’t willing to text me whatever she had to say, well it all added up. It felt more like subtraction, like I was going to be losing ground, but I knew well enough what the call would cover. The call was going to concern Matthew. A day-and-a-half before doctors had discontinued his Octreotide (that I can say/type that word without a hiccup is kinda disturbing). The most likely reason for the call is that doctors had found more fluid in his chest. The call was going to tell me something that wasn’t surprising, but was a long way from good news.

Our rider was nowhere in view, so I dialed. As expected, my wife told me there was fluid in the Deuce’s chest. He was back on the Octreotide and they’d turned the suction back on to hopefully draw out the fluid around his right lung. I told her I’d do what I could to get home as quickly as possible and then on to the hospital. And with that our wayward sheep rolled up and we rolled toward our rendezvous. If nothing else, I thought the extra mile or two of company before reaching the gas station would be good for his spirits. My plan had been to tell him encouraging stuff about how strong he was and how sorry I was that we’d rolled away from him.

I managed to apologize, but after that I fell silent. I think I may have issued a forceful and lengthy exhale, the signal that something’s rotten in Denmark.

“What’s up?” Maybe he was concerned that there was no escort back home. I said something about “son” and “setback” and mentioned how my role was to keep my wife calm. I didn’t mention how I was two hours from dealing with any of this, that until I reached the hospital all I’d be able to do was obsess, and I mean that in every sense. The only thing I was going to do was obsess.

On the way to the hospital, traffic slowed on the freeway; I was doing roughly 40 when a few motorcycles came by me in the carpool lane doing at least twice my speed. The phrase, ‘As if I was standing still,’ rang in my ears until I saw the Roman candle of white plastic and rolling bike and body. At a break in the carpool lane a sedan swerved into the carpool lane just as the motorcyclist and another rider passed a car. The playback in my head suggests the rider who went down bounced off the car then clipped the back wheel of the other motorcycle before high-siding.

I called 911 and they transferred me to California Highway Patrol to whom I reported what I’d seen in bullet-point form. Location, direction of travel, vehicles involved, injury, high rate of speed. They asked me my name and I hung up. At that point, I was ready just to turn around and go home.

Wait, it gets better.

Shortly after I got to the hospital, a couple arrived in our pod—Matthew had been moved to G—to see the baby next to Matthew. Naturally, the nurse, who has never seen them before, asks to see their ID bracelets. They’re not wearing them.

Allow me a brief digression here: When Matthew was born, he, my wife and I were all issued bracelets with a number stamped in them at the point of manufacture. The number matched on all three bracelets. The nursing staff put something even greater than the fear of God into me: the fear that if I removed my band, I’d never be able to see my son for as long as he stayed in the hospital. So when edema caused my wife to balloon like a tube inflated without a tire around it and her hand started turning purple beyond the wrist band, they cut hers off, but not before everyone agonized about what should be done next. Should they issue a new set of wrist bands? Should she just keep hers? Would the hospital administrators get upset? We put the band in her purse and waited for someone to flip out.

So both the mother and the baby daddy aren’t wearing their wrist bands. The nurse says ‘fine’ and asks to see ID. ‘Do you have driver’s licenses?’ She doesn’t have hers. He doesn’t have one. At all. ‘Do you have any ID, a wallet with anything?’ No. ‘How’d you get here?’

“Oh, we drove; I got my car down in the lot.”

As this is taking place baby daddy has his back to the nurses and is staring into space. He gets mad points for being completely unperturbed by this (in the retelling my mother-in-law wondered if he was stoned, a thought that—inexplicably—hadn’t occurred to me). Perhaps he didn’t know that at this point the nurse should have just tossed them out. She didn’t do that. Instead, she gets out the mother’s records and asks her for her address and the last four of her Social—something she manages to deliver. Him? Nothing. He could have been anyone, but they let him stay. The rest of the nursing staff is walking around with the raised eyebrows of, “Can you believe this?”

To her credit, the nurse was just trying to avoid sending a child’s parents home. She broke the rules for as decent a motivation as one might have. Dispensing with their protocols didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that I couldn’t help feeling that this helpless child—one with an effusion far worse than Matthew’s—deserved better than these two fuckups.

The neonatologist sat down with me and we went over the Deuce’s situation. They had stopped the Octreotide and some 36 hours later they did a chest x-ray (he’s had at least one per each day on the planet) and found fluid in his chest again as I expected. The doctors would have been more surprised if there had been none. effusions usually take a month to resolve. Two weeks would be unusual. They backed the drug off less because they figured he must be well than they needed to check and see if he’d made any progress in that time. The doc told me that it seemed like he might have, but they couldn’t really tell because the fluid wasn’t draining and they weren’t sure why that was.

If I’d had any reason not to trust him when he said that Matthew was doing well, that they were pleased that he was stable and felt he was making progress, that evaporated when I heard just how frankly who could speak to the parent of a newborn. The parents of the 480gm girl next to Matthew had departed after a seemingly brief visit and the doctor was now calling her at home. I’m not sure what he said that caught my attention, but I’ll never forget the words he spoke as he walked out of our pod: “I’m not going to lie to you. The situation is not good.”

For those keeping score at home, my day had included a long ride with friends knocked out at a tick or two under race tempo. Win. A quick post-ride lunch consisting of Wahoo’s enchiladas with a buddy. Also win. A motorcycle crash on the freeway. Lose. Witnessing the clueless attempts of a couple of kids to verify their identity as the parents of a newborn holding the biological equivalent of a pair of twos. Big lose. Finding out Matthew was producing fluid, fluid that was currently staying put. Yeah, lose.

Wait, it gets better.

Next-door baby needed some procedure that I assumed was more than drawing blood but less than surgery. Staff drew the curtain around as I waited for the shift change; I wanted to hear what info the our nurse deemed important enough to pass on to the next shift, plus I’d have a chance to be around for his next chest x-ray. Matthew had been awake and I’d been talking to him, telling him about my day, the new skatepark I was planning to take his brother to the next day, how I was hoping to catch up on my favorite show, Archer, that night after dinner. Explaining satire to a newborn isn’t as hard as you think.

Then I heard a gasp and an “Ohmigosh.” I was too spent to keep track of what was being said. It washed over me like a heater set on full blast, a buffet of other peoples’ panic. Things weren’t going according to plan and things were getting serious, STAT. While I had every right to hang out with my son and wait for the changing of the guard, not to mention checking out the x-ray, I wasn’t feeling good about being an accidental witness to whatever was taking place eight feet away. Decorum suggested I leave. Well, more properly, my sense of decorum demanded that I leave.

As I drove home there was still a CHP cruiser with its lights on parked at the site of the crash.

An oxygen line has been taped to the Deuce’s face once again. It’s blowing normal air, but it is blowing at two atmospheres. Of course, his rest isn’t the gold standard it had been. The thinking is that air blowing in him will help the lung inflate more fully. That should make the Deuce breathe more easily and fully, and it may help push the fluid in his chest out. What I know is that either that outcome of his body reabsorbing the fluid are acceptable outcomes. Of course, I am aware that you don’t have to be too inquisitive to conclude that they doctors will take action if the fluid stays put with the same stubborn intransigence of my other son on the couch at bed time. But just what they’ll do is an answer I don’t have.

And right now, I’m not ready for it, either.

 

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29 comments

  1. Wisco

    We’re all in Matthew’s corner my friend. I’m not a terribly religous man, but I have silently prayed to my god to give the Duece the strength to continue to grow and get stronger.

    Keep writing. I know it helps you, but it also helps us as we continue on this “group ride” together.

  2. Luis Oliveira

    Man, I wish I could, but truth is that can’t help you much, if at all. Your column, on the other hand, helps me a lot. Thanks.

  3. P Poppenjay

    A fierce, incredulous few hours for you,Padraig.
    You hold your own, your composure, in the face of a series of incredible events.
    Deuce’s setback is, I pray, in the grander scheme, one that will be remembered as a slight marker in his progress to wellness.
    You took care of others on your race to be with Deuce. You backed off in NICU when you determined you must.
    You own the same stubborn intransigence of the doctors and both of your sons.

  4. Steve

    First I just wanted to let you know that I cannot fathom the magnitude of the challenge you are currently enduring. That you are sharing it so candidly is deeply appreciated as it helps to provide a sense of perspective for me. I was excited to see this edition and while the news wasn’t the best, it seems like every day with a bit of improvement is good news. That the Deuce is into Pod G is clearly a positive step. His steady recovery is like one of those long climbs that you just need to settle into and find your own pace… Having you right by him all the way, knowing you’ll always be there will help him.

    Thanks for sharing this – it is a very real reminder of the complexity, difficulty and fragility of life – lest we forget why pedaling a bicycle can give so much joy.

    I wish you strength, equanimity and peace in this most difficult time.

  5. Michael

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I wonder when I would have broken if my little Zachy had been in the NICU this long, the sweetness of birth against the horrors of the thought ‘what if…’, it is hard, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live through.

    If the Deuce is responding as expected to treatment, that is a good thing.

    Relating to your last post, I’m pleased to hear you are statisfied with the care Mathew is getting from the hospital. If there is anything we can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.

  6. Alex H.

    Padraig,

    I thank you so much for keeping us all updated on the deuce’s progress and your day to day feelings about this whole, shitty situation. I am pulling for you all and I know the rest of the RKP readers are as well. We are all here for you should you need help from this community and I can’t wait to finally hear the news that the deuce is healthy and happy and home. I am sure we will be hearing that from you in due time.

    Thanks again for all that you do.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks everyone. You’re the sort of readership everyone dreams of developing. Really, getting to focus on all I can think about and then document it for you and have everyone be so supportive of the work, man, this is the dream of a lifetime. Not that I can luxuriate in just how great this is, but knowing that I can write about where I am and not be rebuked for it is pretty incredible. Edgar Allen Poe wasn’t this fortunate. Damn. I just wrote that.

      I need to add that calling those “kids” what I did was a really unfiltered moment. I passed judgement on them and that wasn’t exactly a merciful move on my part. I’m aware that they probably got a rough deal in their upbringings and deserve more compassion than I was able to give them there.

      We all have our struggles, right?

  7. Ryan Hedemark

    Padraig,
    My son was born a month early due to his mother developing borderline extreme pre-eclampsia. Her bp was higher than I’ve ever seen recorded. They had to saturate her with magnesium to stave off seizures so he could be delivered via C-section. He missed going to NICU by about an ounce. I was terrified to my very core that I would lose him or his mother, or both of them that day. Despite that, I too, can scarcely fathom what you are going through. I’m with all of your other loyal readers in keeping a good thought for your family each day. You are a good man, that I can say without ever having met you. Keep doing what your heart tells you is right. Keep spending time with your older boy & try to put on a brave face for him. He needs his Daddy right now as much as little Mathew. God bless you, you spend as much time there at the hospital as you want. My heart aches for you brother & I’m keeping you in my thoughts. Godspeed to the Deuce on his recovery…

  8. Hautacam

    Good heavens, Padraig. That is one hell of a day by any standard.

    The gift of hope is that tomorrow might be better.

    I hope to hell you receive the gift of a better day tomorrow.

    I’m not a praying man but I pray the other folks you encountered will receive peace if they cannot have hope.

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  10. Michael Schlitzer

    Lots of people here have said “I’m not a praying man” or “I hope things work out” or “best wishes”.

    I am a praying man and I’m praying for you, your son, your wife, and you. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything and maybe it won’t do any good, but I’m going to do it anyway.

    I am riveted to this story. Thanks for letting us have this window into your life.

  11. truth hurts dont it

    Has it occurred to anyone the the other parents may have forgotten their id’s in the stress of having a severely ill child. Best wishes to your Padraig’s kid, but maybe he shouldn’t be condemning or feeling superior to others.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Truth hurts don’t it: What I saw on the faces of those two parents was anything other than stress. Regardless, had they actually been stressing, the solution was quite simple; if they had just paid attention to what they were told and had kept the wrist bands on, they’d have been able to read off the numbers, match them to the baby and then had their visit without a hitch. It’s impossible to forget something that is attached to your wrist. And if you’re referring to any other form of ID, I invite you to go back and reread that passage. The father had no ID. He didn’t forget it. He just doesn’t have it.

  12. Andy

    There’s a club out there, one nobody wants to be a member of. It’s the “my child has/had (insert situation)and (insert outcome)” club. It’s very similar, and crosses over to the “I (or other significant person” was diagnosed with (insert cancer) and (insert outlook/outcome)” club. In fact the two share a lot of members. Once you’re in, you get it and the world is never the same. You know what to do to help, you learn a lot of lessons no one wants. The best way to expand the outer edges of that club, and recruit more support for those in it, is to do what you’re doing so very well. Communicate the emotional rollercoaster, the feelings of terror & encouragement, helplessness and victory. People learn empathy from you and that’s a very good thing.

    Prayers for all your family, and everyone in the club.

  13. SWells

    @Michael Schlitzer – amen, brother. I echo everything you said.

    We’ll “support” you anyway we can Padraig.

  14. Rod

    Courage, Padraig. This is a very trying situation, but hopefully in a few years it will just be a memory while the Deuce is rambling away on two wheels.

    We’re all on your corner mate.

    And yeah – Andy’s description of the “clubs” that no one wants to belong to is spot on. I belong to the latter, but fortunate that my dad got to meet his granddaughter and still ticking after having the equivalent of a golf ball removed from his head.

    Rod

  15. Souleur

    from a Father, of a preemie who was in the neonatal ICU for a stint, hang in there. I did the same, not missing a visit for my sons protracted entrance into this world, having gone through the sleepless nights, feeling awkward, trying to strike a balance between family and self and newbie. The daily oddity of the routine and visits with nurses, docs and all and sense of who am I and where are we going, all takes a toll. Its like striking a balance between making sense Maslows heirarchy and Monty Python, it seems to be mutually exclusive, but the oddity is, the longer you go, you just get use to them, the new routine, the new language, the jargon.

    Brother, my son will turn 23 y/o this may. Mine was not exactly (of course) the same, but with mom’s chorioamnionitis and his subsequent premature entry into a 1990′s world, it is life changing. Struggles continue, but life is incredible. Fathering is timeless service, and I mean in the truest sense, with a sense of eternity’s timelessness, the trip you et. the Duece are starting transcends the ‘here’ and ‘now’. Its a pronounced relationship forever.

    In that, its all good. He is in capable hands, both you and those who are entrusted with ‘care’, the docs, nurses and you all. As a Father, we just simply have to hang in there, as we simply go from one fire to the next, to the next to the next. It what and who we are, and Fathers wouldn’t have it any other way.

  16. Jeremy

    Padraig, thank you for sharing your story with the world. i realize it’s probably more for personal therapy, than for our benefit, but it is appreciated either way.

    Having spent a significant amount of time in this same situation, my one bit of advise would be not to forget to let yourself breakdown now and again. You are your wife’s rock, and your son’s rock, and probably the rock for many people who should find another damn rock, but make sure you let your emotions out at some point. It may be in private, but it will help you to continue to be the Husband/Father/Rock that you are.

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  18. randomactsofcycling

    Keep the strength Padraig. There’s (as can be seen) a whole load of people you can lean on if need be.
    best wishes for your son(s) and wife.

  19. Ron

    I hope things work out for the best. Being somewhere between son & father status I’m now beginning to grow old enough to feel for my father & all that I put him through (when I watch sports now I cringe at hard hits, wondering if I’ll be able to stomach seeing my children play contact sports, and wondering how my own father stayed off to the side of the field during a summer league game when I broke my leg. He knew it would embarrass my teenage bravado to come to my aid) and wondering how I’ll do/feel/function as a father.

    A tough situation and I can only imagine how challenging it is to remain calm.

  20. Emil

    I’ve refrained from posting till today but I read of your family’s struggle with more emotion and attention than the previously important cycling websites. I feel for you all and continue to offer what support and spirit I am able.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I keep saying it but repetition doesn’t make this less true: I am truly fortunate to have such forgiving readers. You’ve allowed me a lot of latitude. I’m grateful to have this work welcomed.

  21. LesB

    Today I visited with a friend and was relating about your blog, and the continuing saga of Matthew Brady and his father and mother.

    My friend knows about this kind of thing, communicating with infants, and she said it would be good for you to talk to him when you’re there, as he will recognize your voice.

    Praying for him and for the first time he kicks your butt grinding up some dd grade.

  22. Steve O

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

    I try to live by that, but it’s hard.

    Those two fuckups? Let’s assume they’re the worst parents on Planet Earth. Their hard battle might be surviving their own bad parents, who left them with no parenting skills, short-changed them in the DNA department, and otherwise guaranteed them an uphill ride into headwinds with two flats and no spare.

    To put it in very generic terms: stupid people don’t choose to be stupid.

    I’ve been a foster parent for five years now, hopefully ending this year when we adopt our second little girl. Our first daughter will spend the rest of her life dealing with antenatal exposure to OxyContin (a problem that has increased 400% in this country in the last five years) and crystal meth. Her older brothers claim bio-mom used to hold their heads underwater in the bath tub. She did time for beating up her own grandma. I could go on. She’s the scum of the earth, ought to be sterilized. But bio-mom didnt choose to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. (We tend to forget that these kids grow up and become adults, adults dealing with shit that happened before they were born.) She didn’t choose to be beaten by her parents. She didnt choose parents with histories of depression and substance abuse. And she didn’t choose an IQ of 82.

    Our current foster care placement tested positive at birth for both THC and cocaine. Bio-mom dumped her at the hospital. Scum, yeah? Turns out, her own mom pimped her out when she was only 12. Her first three years as a teenager, instead of cheerleader practice and doing her girlfriends’ hair, she was doing 20 year old gang members.

    In the brilliant movie Buck, the real life horse whisperer, who was abused by his alcoholic father, says, at a certain point, you gotta put the excuses behind you and make the best of the rest of your life. I agree 100%. And yet, so many folks have “excuses” that I can’t even begin to get my head around. Everyone is fighting a hard battle. With some so much harder than others.

    (I say that like I’m some noble, compassionate, understanding person. But in reality, had I been the nurse in question, I know I would have thrown Mr and Mrs Fuckup out on their ear after the second shoulder shrug. I’m at my best in full lecture mode when I realize I’m really addressing my own shortcomings.)

    Matthew is blessed — whatever that means — with parents who want the best for him and will fight tooth and claw to get it for him. Too many others are not. And they grow up to be parents in their own right.

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