Monday, May 11, 2015

Things I Learned in the PICU

 Recently, my son Matthew had cardio-thoracic reconstruction surgery. Even though he’s almost 19, it’s considered a pediatric surgery, so he’s been in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) for eight days and counting. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the PICU.

1. PICU has the nicest nurses. Hands down. Bar none.

2. Laughter is still the best medicine.
  •    Matthew asked me to call Miracle Max while Matt was still only “mostly dead.”
  •    Matt got so tired of the respiration monitor alarming because he was breathing too slowly that he’d occasionally pant just to mess with the machine.

 3. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the baker’s dozen of technological marvels that monitor and maintain post-surgical health will inevitably malfunction, but only between the hours of midnight and four am. Also, these wonders have alarms that squawk every two seconds and are only fixable (or mutable) by a specialist who lives 700 miles away.

4. Eye rolling is a good thing. The other day, the physical therapist said, “Sweetie, I know you’re feeling a bit better—you just rolled your eyes at me. Yay!”

5. Healthy hospital food isn’t healthy if it’s inedible. Nothing is as unappetizing as a plain, microwaved boneless-skinless chicken breast sitting on Styrofoam. (Except meals that don’t even arrive. Yeah, that happened more than once.) Eventually, we told them we no longer required their food, and we brought Matt food from home. The nurses apologized profusely for the horrid food. But it wasn’t their fault.

6. When a visiting great dane licks your hand, it’s better than morphine. A hospital employee (who will remain nameless) may have offered to get our black Lab Jezebel into the hospital to visit Matthew. We assured said employee that this would not be wise.

7. The ability to walk should never be taken for granted. Because the surgery reshaped Matt’s chest (and consequently his spine, giving him one or two inches in new height), it has completely altered his sense of balance. As Matt practices walking, Cal and I stand very close on either side so he can “ping-pong” off us as he moves down the hall. It makes him look like a drunken zombie. But as he lurches through the PICU, the nurses cheer as he relearns balance. (Like I said earlier, best nurses ever.)

8. One of the amazing things I learned is that aside from the single incident of eye-rolling, Matthew is the most gracious, patient person I know. He bore the pain, setbacks, and discouragement with quiet dignity that was a wonderful testimony to Christ’s strength. I know I wouldn’t do as well.

So now that we’ve learned these lessons, we’d really like to leave. Soon. 

Before surgery!

Several days after surgery with pain under control.
Matt's dinner. I don't think our dog would eat this.
Calvin and I having a picnic with good food.
 (Yesterday, I got a Mother's Day gift from the PICU. They gave gifts to all moms who were spending the day in the PICU. Did I mention how great the nurses are?)


  1. What wonderful nurses! Their job is so difficult and yet they still manage to do it with compassion and humor. Crossing my fingers for a quick recovery for Matthew!

  2. Thanks for your kind thoughts for Matthew. Hopefully, he'll be able to come home soon.

    The nurses are amazing. I can't imagine how difficult their job must be, but they always come in Matthew's room with a cheerful smile.

  3. Wow the nurses do sound wonderful! Matthew sounds like a hero, to put up with so much trouble with grace.

  4. Good stuff, thanks for sharing and best wishes!

  5. So glad to hear your son came through the surgery and is on the mend and cheerful (and TALLER! how disconcerting that must be!). Thankful that you were surrounded by caring staff during this ordeal. What a gift from God!

  6. Glad it all went well! Sounds like Matthew has a great attitude about it and friendly nurses definitely make a difference.

  7. Oh, I love this post! It's so sweet and encouraging, and your humor is wonderful -- probably exactly what Matthew needed to help him get through the pre-surgery fear and post-surgery pain. So glad everything is going well.

  8. When I had surgery at 15, I also had very nice nurses. That is definitely the best quality in nurses who work with kids.

  9. We are praising the Lord that He was gracious to Matt and all of you. We will be praying for all of you. Colleen for all us Bells in CT & elsewhere

    "Pleasant words a a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Prov. 16:24

  10. Matt sounds like a great guy. I read your next post, too, and his attitude is great. And so is yours. You sound like a strong family that can get through anything. Best wishes for the day when Matt is completely recovered.