When the doctor said, Rush her to the Children's Hospital....
Part 5 - Days in the life of a grandpa
When the doctor said, "Rush her to the children's hospital"....
Wednesday was the day we were to look after Joseph and Vicky for a few hours. Our oldest son Ray is taking a two-week summer school course during his summer break from his school-teaching job. He's working towards his master's degree.
On Wednesday and Thursday of each week, his wife Jessa works an afternoon shift at a local shelter for the homeless, run by the Salvation Army.
So we had Joseph (almost 6) and Vicky (almost 2) here from about 4:00 PM until Ray got here about 6:00. Rather than have him just pick up the children and go home, Beth had supper ready for him and we all ate together. They headed home around 8:00.
One of the highlights of each week for me is to be able to take one of my grandchildren out for a walk. I take turns, and take them one at a time.
Since a bad accident I was in a few years ago, ongoing effects of a head injury I sustained give me headaches and various other symptoms and problems. I have some long-term memory loss, and I find it hard to concentrate in noisy or crowded situations.
Sometimes even a family gathering becomes almost overwhelming for me, and I find it hard to carry on a conversation if I am having "one of those days". That's why I find it so much easier and more enjoyable to take the grandchildren out - one at a time.
Thursday was Amanda's turn.
Amanda is our oldest granddaughter. She just turned six.
She is very special to me for a very good reason.
Five years ago, as she approached her first birthday, Amanda was sick a few times off and on. Blood tests were done. She was put in the hospital once overnight to be put on IV fluids for dehydration. She seemed better. Then she got sick again.
More blood tests were done.
This time something showed up.
My wife got the phone call from our doctor's office. All of our grown-up kids go to our family doctor of many years, with their spouses and children. We all love our doctor. He is more than a doctor. He seems like a friend.
He delivered our youngest son Mark when he was born - 26 years ago. And he has delivered each of Mark and Serena's three children in the same hospital.
Plus most of our other grandchildren.
His office phoned that day, and his nurse asked my wife to come straight to the office, and meet Daren and Jenna there.
We knew there was some bad news.
Our doctor gently told them that they were to get in the car with Amanda and drive straight to the Children's Hospital about an hour away in the metropolitan center.
The hospital would be expecting them, and more tests would be done, but it looked like Amanda had cancer.
That was the day before her first birthday. The tests were done, and the final diagnosis was made on her first birthday - she had leukemia.
That started a very hard two years of chemotherapy treatment for our precious little granddaughter. We almost lost her twice. Once from a complication (liver damage) from one of the chemotherapy drugs, and once from a pneumonia when her immune system was so weakened.
Of course it was like living a nightmare for our son Daren and his wife Jenna. It seemed like a nightmare sometimes for us all. But we pulled together as a family.
Beth and I visited as often as we could on the occasions when Amanda was hospitalized. We gave Daren and Jenna a break when we could. Beth slept over at the hospital once or twice just so Jenna could get home for one night after living in a little hospital room for days on end. Daren had to keep working during this time.
During the sessions of chemotherapy (which could usually be given at home by her parents), Amanda would lose her appetite. The doctors emphasized that it was especially important for her to drink lots of water, to flush the drugs out of her system. But she didn't feel like eating or drinking much at times. The drugs can lead to nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.
And Amanda was only a baby, so she couldn't even tell us where she was feeling sick.
For some reason it happened that I could get Amanda to drink water out of a glass through a straw for me. First three sips at a time, then 10, and then finally (months later), I could get her to take 20 sips (as I counted out loud) at a time - and then do it again a few minutes later.
I remember the days when my son or daughter-in-law would phone us and say, "Dad, can we drop off Amanda for a couple of hours? We're worried about her - we just can't get her to drink anything today."
They would drop her off, and she would walk down the hallway to me with her arms out ready to be picked up, and with a smile on her face unless she was feeling too sick to smile right then.
And over the next hour or so we would get down 10 or 20 "sets" of water - 20 sips at a time, through a pretty colored straw that I would let her pick out of the box.
We shared lots of other moments together over those two years (and since) that I have written about elsewhere. Someday I may share more of those stories....
We are thankful that Amanda went into remission and remains cancer-free to this day. She is a beautiful little girl who is even more precious to us because her life was threatened.
I continue to pray that she will remain healthy and be allowed to grow up and even grow old, living her life with full gusto and joy and health.
To this day there is a special connection between us. I love all my grandchildren, but because of almost losing her, Amanda is very special....
But I digress....
I was about to tell you about my walk with Amanda just last week!