Friday, January 14, 2011

Without A Net

Today, a very important person is celebrating his birthday.  Maybe the most important person on the planet.  Well, for Owen and me anyway.

The only gift I've ever given Uncle Rusty is a fake check for a million dollars.  If it was real money, it wouldn't be nearly enough.

When Owen was three months old, Rusty gave me an unexpected gift.  Owen's first feeding tube.  After the surgery, a grinning Rusty told me he had a surprise for me.  It was a Mic-Key Button, not the long tube he told us he always puts in first.  We were an exception to his rule.

And after a few months, I brought Owen in to have the tube changed; the nurse had us wait for Rusty.  He always watches the Mom change the first tube.

He thrust the box into my hands and told me to go home and do it myself.  I may have shot the nurse a dirty smug glare.

I talked to Rusty weekly during Owen's first winter.  An all too common side effect of the fundoplication surgery was making itself known.  Like twenty times a day.

Retching.  It looks like throwing up.  It sounds like throwing up.  But the top of his little stomach was wrapped up so tight to keep food in, that no food, or air even, could ever come out.

Nothing we could do but remove the air and formula with a 60cc syringe, watch helplessly, and wait for the episode to pass. 

Like twenty times a day.  Too many of those times?  Owen would turn blue.

I'd cringe as I fulshed the formula down the toilet, as it was the only nourishment Owen was getting.

Weekly treks to Children's for tests to monitor condition of stomach, to ensure the fundoplication was still intact.  Everything always checked out fine. And despite all the formula we took out of his stomach, he was maintaining, even gaining weight.  I resigned myself to the fact that the retching would be a permanent part of our lives. 

Rusty's nurse called me to give me his cell phone number.  He never gives it to Mommies she told me.

I never used it.

The retching would get better for a few months, then return for a few.  If he got an actual stomach bug?  We'd end up spending a couple nights in the hospital for IV hydration.

He eventually outgrew the retching when he was around 5.  Which was around the time he started actually eating.

And the g-tube?  Came out for good on his 7th birthday. 

Ignore me calling him by the wrong name, I was drunk.

I didn't worry that he'd eat enough to sustain himself.  I worried about his first stomach bug, with no way to empty his stomach for him. Knowing this inevitability, I was sad to see the tube go.

The week before Christmas, at work on Monday night, a text from Al.  Owen won't stop retching.


Tuesday.  Retching all day.  Even after sips of water.  Explosive diarrhea.  Owen reduced to the consistency of a limp noodle.

Wednesday.  Still retching, but drinking water.  Every time he went pee, I'd eagerly wait to see the color of it.  Too concentrated?  We're going to the hospital.  Checking his lips, his tongue, his skin turgor, waiting for the first signs of dehydration that would send us packing for some IV fluids.

Thursday.  Juice!  Progress.  But no food.  He admitted not feeling sick anymore.  He was scared.  I didn't blame him.

A few bites of yogurt, fed by me, like he was a baby.  I never fed him when he was a baby.

Friday.  Christmas Eve. A bite of a bagel, choking it down with a grimace and slamming it on the table.  Mad at food he was.  I didn't blame him.

"Don't want eat. Drink only juice and water!"

I threatened him with the hospital.  With a tube up his nose and into his stomach if he didn't eat.  Is exactly what would happen.

Moping around as our house filled with family, as we hosted the big Christmas Eve celebration.  A bite here.  Nibble there.  Still weak and taking frequent rests in his bed.

Bedtime, signing to Owen;

Tomorrow.  Open presents.  Finish.  Go hospital.  Ok?

Not want hospital!

You eat tomorrow.  No hospital ok?


Christmas morning. Subdued excitement while opening of gifts. Promise of hospital visit looming over proceedings.

Holding out mini bagel with butter, salt and pepper, per his request.


He ate it.

We'll see Uncle Rusty again in a couple weeks, for our yearly check in.  Owen will proudly display the scar where his tube used to be. He'll brag about how much he eats, and that his stomach got sick and he didn't eat. And that it got better, and he ate again.

And I'm pretty sure Rusty will consider that a gift.

Owen and Rusty, circa 2005.


  1. You slay me, every time. Happy Birthday Rusty, and many many, more.

  2. Happy Birthday Uncle Rusty, indeed. It's great to have that kind of support. Every once in a while you meet a Dr that's not really a dr. They're a super hero without a cape.

  3. I was wondering when you were going to write about the first tube-free stomach bug.


  4. Happiest of birthdays Uncle Rusty!

    Never in a million years would I believe the things that some moms have to go through just to nourish their beloveds. And I ain't talking sore nipples and "here comes the airplane into the hangar" either.

    The thought of you feeding him like a baby, which you never got to do - that makes me so happy/sad. It's the little stuff.

    Glad Owen is feeling better!

  5. Wow, you and the kiddo have been through so much. You are a much stronger woman than I.

    Happy Birthday Dr. Rusty!

  6. Happy Birthday, little man!!!

    What ordeals!!


  7. Happy Birthday Dr. Uncle Rusty!!! God bless you. I only wish there were more doctors out there like you.

  8. Happy birthday, Rusty!!
    What a beautiful tribute to a truly awesome guy ;)

  9. Of course, hard time finding the keys through the blurry vision here...the tears.

    All these words? Not even close to what it's really like,

    My guy just won't eat. Doesn't like the feel of food in his mouth.

    That's a whole nother story. Not for here.

    Here: here is for JOYOUS. God bless RUsty, you're going straight up, my man.


  10. Happy, Happy Birthday to Uncle Dr Rusty!! You are one of the treasures that make the medical profession still worthy of great honor and respect!
    Way to go Owen!! Retching sucks, I am well acquainted with it. But you got sick, you were brave, and you ate again!!! You are one very cool kid!!

  11. Happy Bday Rusty. The gift you've given this family can never be returned or repaid. You are a capeless super hero and the world is a better place for you.

    And Tulpen, you courageous bitch, you amaze me.

  12. I hope Dr. Rusty has a fabulous Birthday. And SO glad Owen did not have to go to the hospital!! Not fun at all. Also, WHO is Graham?? lol!

  13. Good thing you're not a mean drink :)

    Happy birthday to the good Doc. Glad you have supportive people around you. That's one tough kid you've got and cute as hell whatever his name is. My son is convinced it's a video of him and keeps looking on his own stomach for a bandage. He's not my smartest kid.

  14. Good to hear that Owen is okay after enduring the evil stomach bug. Happy Birthday to his Uncle Rusty and hats off to a guy who makes the world a better place. Your post shouldn't be labeled 'boring medical stuff' it could be tagged as ' yet another reminder of things most of us take for granted'.

    I hope 2011 is a good year for all!

  15. Happy birthday to the incredible Dr.Rusty.

    And you are an incredible mother, Tulpen. This is not an easy journey that you have been on with your son, but you are both amazing for having navigated it so well.

  16. Awww. I'm all misty now. I think I told you once I have an acquaintance with twins - one with CDH and one without. They are a bit over a year old and the CDH daughter has a Nissen fundo thingie but is eating some each day, and growing since she got her tube. I love happy fucking endings!! Your son's face when he tosses that thing makes me weep like I did today at Hannah's first dance class. Why does success pull my heartstrings harder than obstacles?? Fuck.

  17. OMG I was so stressed out reading this. Glad you all got through it. That's life, I guess. Glad things have turned around.

  18. The video is so priceless. You'll be looking at that one alot over the years. "All done!" He looked nervous for a half second before he realized how awesome it felt without it. What an angel.

  19. Aaaannnnd that's another punch in the throat I owe you for making me cry.

  20. awww...yeah that struck me just right...glad he is ok...and def a big happy birthday to rusty...

  21. Really something to watch that kid's expressions - from scared and what the hell are you doing?!?!?! to yah, that's what I'm talking about!

    Awesome. What a great guy. Owen and the Doc.
    You're such a cool mom.

  22. hooray for rusty!

    and i hope this is the end of the retching for good.

    p.s. a bagel with butter and salt and pepper? it sounds pretty good to me!

  23. I'm gonna hold you down for keely to make that punch. Thanks for the lump in MY throat. Although I do love the fact that he threw it out himself and how you downplayed the entire procedure. (I think you interrupted his viewing of Ice Age though. That would piss me off too.)
    Happy birthday, Dr. Rusty!

  24. Oh that Rusty. Doctors amaze me, especially GOOD doctors, not asshole docs with zero bedside manners.

  25. He got sick, and you all survived, and that's FANTASTIC. Though I'm sure part of it was knowing that you had such a great doctor to turn to. So glad you've been blessed with this man in your life.

  26. Good docs are the best, right?

    You made it through your first real illness. We weren't so lucky the first time Charlie had to drink or be hospitalized. These days, though, he does what he has to do. Baby steps and all that jazz.

  27. I'm so glad that another obstacle was surmounted. Every time he does something like this, he gains more knowledge about how to do it next time.

    I mean, I guess. What do I know?

    I'm so grateful for people like Rusty.


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