A Harrowing Grandma Experience by Chris’s mom, Lynne, guest blogger

With our children grown and living in Kansas City and Kentucky, we can seldom be all together. But this Thanksgiving was going to be different! We were going to take all our grown kids: our son Chris, his wife Michelle, their six-month old daughter Lydia,  and our son Brian, to Kentucky for Thanksgiving to visit daughter Liz and husband Dan. We had all kinds of fun plans; Churchill Downs for Thanksgiving Dinner, the Husker game on TV, the Louisville Slugger museum, seeing the tree lighting downtown, dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, pickup basketball at the YMCA and swimming. We were driving to Kansas City Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was going to fly to Louisville with Lydia and arrive around 2:30 p.m. Don, Chris, Michelle and Brian were going to drive and get in around 5:00 p.m.

We were all a little concerned that Lydia had had a fever starting on Saturday, of a little over 101 most of the time. Michelle took her in to the doctor on Monday; they did some blood work and gave her an antibiotic shot. I went Tuesday and took her in for a recheck, since Michelle had to work. Lydia’s doctor was out of town for the holiday. The stand-in doctor said Lydia’s white blood count was down. She also said “Since we gave her the shot and her temp is still high, it’s not bacterial.” Which sounded kind of odd to me. Also, when we asked about her eyes being so red and bloodshot, the doctor seemed unconcerned and said she was sure it was just a virus. She cleared her for the trip, which was happy news for all of us. Liz was so excited to have her happy, active little niece come for a visit. As it turned out, Liz and Dan didn’t get to see Happy, Active Lydia at all….none of us did….

On Wednesday morning, Michelle gave Lydia a little Tylenol, which she promptly urped up. The vomit was strangely green, but otherwise not too dramatic. Lydia nursed, and we got to the airport in plenty of time. Lydia and I went through security just fine. We were to fly Continental and connect in Houston.

At the gate, the troubles began!

The plane didn’t have an oxygen tank for the cockpit. We only had about 45 minutes between flights, so it soon became clear we were toast on that count. The lady at the desk took pity on me, came and beckoned me over. She said, “We found a United flight via Chicago that can get you in at 3:30.” So, we took a little bus, went through security again, and arrived at the United gate with over an hour to spare. While we sat at the gate, I decided to try more Tylenol. Lydia did not seem to want her bottle, and she seemed to have a sore throat. Upon swallowing the Tylenol, more green, slimy urp came up. All over me. All over her. Off to the bathroom to clean ourselves up. Ugh. Then, an uneventful flight to Chicago.

I still did not want to call Michelle, as she was several hundred miles away and I didn’t know what she could do, anyway. Maybe Lydia would feel better when we got to Kentucky and settled in to the hotel room?

Lydia and I made it to the gate in plenty of time in Chicago, so I decided to try more Tylenol and some more milk. Bad idea. She did take a few ounces, but then…..Much more green slimy projectile vomit now. Back to the bathroom to clean us both up. Now I was really concerned. I called Michelle and told her to call her doctor, fully expecting to be sent straight to urgent care upon landing in Kentucky.

Which landing was, of course, not going to happen anywhere near 3:30. Apparently, our plane had been in Canada, and someone didn’t know it was cold in Canada. So, he or she failed to clean out the toilet drainpipe in Canada and the plan sat overnight, causing the pipe to – surprise – freeze. On the way to Chicago, everything backed up into the plane. (It was clearly a day for disgusting bodily fluids.) However, the nice United people continued to assure us that everything would be fixed “soon.” 2 1/2 hours later, they put us all on another plane and we had an uneventful flight to Louisville. We got in around 6:00 p.m. Which equalled 8 hours in airports; 2 hours in flight. No wonder Don says driving is better!

The doctor hadn’t called back, and when Michelle called the office again, the nurse who she got a hold of didn’t seem overly concerned about the new developments.

Thursday, we had an great time at Churchill Downs, although none of us could stop checking on Lydia, who was mostly sleeping in her stroller. We had a wonderful family time and they served a delicious buffet. (I also won $52, and I only bet on one race – guess I should quit my law practice and move down there!) Lydia was still droopy, but no vomiting. She was eating a little better and seemed a bit happier. However, she was still pretty miserable and very tired. We were all really starting to miss Lydia’s smiles, and none of us, other than her parents, had even seen her crawl, except on Googlecam! Once again, this was not going to happen; not on this trip.

Thursday night, Lydia slept and slept and slept. 14 hours in all. “Maybe she’ll wake up and feel great,” we hoped. She stirred around a bit in the late morning, and we got her up, but she did not want to eat. At all. Finally, the doctor called back and suggested Pedialite. We went to the hotel room and watched the Husker game; everyone was glad it was on TV in Kentucky. We spent the day fighting with Lydia to get a few drops of Pedialite down her throat. After dinner, Michelle said she thought she better take her in to urgent care. Chris’s response was, “I’m tired when I’m sick, too.” I told him that Lydia needed to go to a pediatric urgent care just to make sure – Michelle was right – Lydia was not getting better. Chris wasn’t going to go with them. Dan looked at him and said, “Chris. You should go.” Which maybe clued Chris in that his usual laid back approach was not cutting it this time. At any rate, he agreed to go.

On the internet, we found Louisville, KY Kids’ Express Urgent Care, and off they went:  Chris, Michelle, Lydia and Liz. (The rest of this paragraph is hearsay; just wanting to be transparent here.) They tried to get an IV into little Sweet Pea’s arm, and they were having a tough time. Finally, Dr. Laney (bless his heart!) looked at her and said, “This poor little thing has been through enough. Take her to Kosair Children’s Hospital.” Chris was still convinced this was a bit of overkill. After all, Lydia’s doctors in Kansas City didn’t seem that concerned. Thankfully, Liz was there to run interference for Michelle. She told Chris, “Doctors see lots and lots of horses. Sometimes, they see a zebra, but they still think it’s a horse. Lydia might be a zebra; let them run all the tests and see so we can all sleep better tonight.” Chris’s response? “My daughter is not a zebra; she’s a horse.” But he was wrong; at that point, our granddaughter was, indeed, and unhappily, a zebra.

About this time, we started texting, calling and e-mailing people. I think Lydia was on approximately 7 church prayer chains.

They ran a test to see if this was a virus with similar symptoms: negative.

They ran a test to measure inflammation in her system. Normal: 3. Lydia’s: 250. Dr. Smith, the pediatric infectious disease doctor, said a result like that screams “Kawasaki Syndrome” if you see it on a med school test. (I will now apologize in advance for my lack of medical expertise to explain this all correctly; you can always Google it for a better explanation.)This is a disease where a virus or something causes a child’s immune system to screw up, causing inflammation in all the blood vessels. (Hence, the dry red eyes.) If untreated, this disease can cause aneurisms in the arteries by the heart. The good news is, 15 years ago, they came up with a treatment. They give a 10-hour immunoglobulin IV to help her little body fight off infection that is causing the inflammation. The really, really good news, and the part that shows God is Good and In Control, is, it HAS to be administered within 10 days of the onset of the symptoms. We were at day 8.

We all prayed over Lydia together in the hospital room. I wish I had Chris’s prayer taped. By now, his heart was broken for his little girl and he poured it out to Our Lord who, it turns out, was listening. Praise Him!

There were a few rough starts (she had a bad reaction and they had to get the doctor back in and slow the IV down; the nurses misunderstood the doctor’s orders and Michelle & Chris had to tell them to call the doctor back and get it straight, etc.) but she got through it. Dr. Smith was terrific; he came back to the hospital at midnight on a Saturday night to make sure everything was okay. Still, when we came to see Lydia Sunday at noon, she was still looking pretty “peaked,” as my dad used to say. It was possible she would need additional “IG-IV’s.” However, either Dr. Smith knew how to time it, or that little girl wanted to go home. For when he walked in, she sat up, looked straight at him with those beautiful blue eyes, and started grabbing for her books and toys!!  Hurray!!  Hurray!! What an amazing miracle from God!! Dr. Smith cleared her to go home to Kansas City and her own home, room and crib.

I flew back alone – which turned out to be very restful – and very deliciously uneventful. Lydia rode back in the car with her mommy, her daddy, her grandpa and her Uncle Brian.

And while we were in the waiting room to see the KC doctor on Monday, she nursed, looked up at her mommy – and SMILED. So, half of our short vacation totally blown. Two days and two nights crowded in to a hospital room. But that smile was worth it all. When I broke out with a little shriek of joy, Lydia arched over backward to see me better, and gave me a big upside-down smile, too. That’s when we knew she’d be okay.




The Voice of Remodeling Experience by Chris’s mom, Lynne, guest blogger

After 38 years of marriage, my husband, Don, and I are finished remodeling! (Well, except for helping our grown children with houses.) It has been a long saga, beginning with our starter bungalow, purchased here in Omaha, Nebraska one year after our wedding. The house had beautiful wood floors, but not much else to speak for it. My father-in-law helped us re-front the ugly kitchen cabinets, and he and my mother-in-law helped us paint the entire house, inside and out. The most disturbing feature of the home had to be the kitchen floor: vinyl linoleum tiles made to look like red brick. Ick! We replaced the floor with new inexpensive but pretty linoleum tiles. Knowing we’d be moving soon, we just wanted the floor to look decent.

Don had his first (and last) experience with ceramic wall tile there at our bungalow. The one experience must have cured him. I will never forget the choice words emanating from the bathroom as each broken tile was hurled across the hallway! We learned there is definitely a trick to using a tile cutter, especially around things like sinks, bathtubs, windows or anything else.

After five years and the birth of our first son, Christopher, we sold our home to some friends and purchased a beautiful “side split” home in the suburbs. It had a gorgeous one-third acre lot and terrific cathedral ceilings. Its most intriguing feature, however, was the driveway, which began at the street and sloped at an approximate 80° angle into the double garage. It also had a pronounced slope down our hill, sideways. The garage doors were separated by nice brick arches, making a trip up or down the driveway on the ice a venture not for the faint-at-heart! When planning to go up the icy driveway, the trick was to rev the car engine and sort of pop out of the garage and up the driveway. (A quick prayer was offered up that no traffic would be coming down our street….) When coming down the driveway, it was very important NOT to apply the brakes on the driveway, but to zoom on down into the garage before slamming on the brakes. It gave you the feeling of an Olympic luge event.

The driveway will always be a family legend. Christopher at age four watched his Grandma Millie coming down the driveway one snowy winter morning. She was coming over to watch the kids for me so I wouldn’t have to take them out on such a cold day. “Mommy, why is Grandma going sideways?” Christopher asked. I hastily went out to negotiate the car into the garage for her.

Over the next seven years, we wallpapered the bedrooms and family room and re-carpeted the house. It was a nice, airy home with great entertaining space. However, within four years, we had two more children: Elizabeth and Brian. The master bedroom was spacious, but the other two bedrooms were teeny and the kitchen was even teenier.
I began a campaign to take out the kitchen wall, turn the dining room into part of the kitchen and put the formal dining room in with the living room. There was still a huge family room just four steps down from the main level, and it sounded like a terrific idea to me. I was slowly getting Don, the change-hater, to entertain the idea.
Until the fateful day at little after 5:00 p.m. when Christopher and I felt a huge BOOM as I was getting dinner ready. Christopher ran over to the window and announced, “Daddy’s home!” Don came in the house hopping mad and said, “That driveway is the worst driveway in the entire city!” Indeed, he had broken the cardinal rule of driveway entry and applied the brakes smack dab in the middle of the icy driveway. The BOOM was the sound of the brick arch holding its own as the front of Don’s car slammed into it.

After that, I had no luck talking major remodel. The kitchen walls seemed to close in more and more as the kids kept growing. I began talking about selling, but Don, remember, does not like change. To shut me up, Don called my bluff and said, “Fine, if you can get anyone to pay a decent price for a house with a driveway like this, do it.”
I did it, and we found a large multi-level with tremendous curb appeal. The appeal ended abruptly upon entering the kitchen, which, although quite roomy, featured bright orange countertops and kitchen carpet with an orange, brown and red geometric design. The family room had a beautiful cathedral ceiling. Unfortunately, it was covered all the way up with very dark paneling. The basement was huge, but it had (can you believe it?) vinyl tile flooring which looked like bricks. The yard was smaller, but Don was tired of all the mowing at the old place, anyway. The bedrooms were huge and we moved in.

We did some painting to brighten things up. But installing new countertops and new flooring seemed way too expensive with three kids in private school. So we figured we’d wait. My dad was always helping us with plumbing problems, and he suggested sulfuric acid for a slow kitchen drain. Don poured the acid into an empty soup can. He put the can on the counter, and, low and behold, little white circles and drip spots appeared. I was furious at him, until my sister mentioned homeowner’s insurance. Hmmm; maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all!

With the insurance claim settlement, we could now afford new countertops. We decided to spring for linoleum, too. To save money, we scraped off the carpet, the black foam backing and about 8 gallons of glue off to expose the cement floor. We have happy pictures of us and our small children with scrapers. I found myself wondering how long it would take to totally remodel such a large house.

After five years in this house, I began to give up on the extensive remodeling necessary and started thinking of moving to a different school district where we liked the public schools. Don felt safe this time, however. He wanted a ranch so he could “Stay in the house until they take me out in a box like Uncle Clarence,” my deceased great-uncle who dropped dead in his dining room at age 94. And ranch houses in the area we wanted were very expensive. He insisted on a main-floor family room, most likely just to make the quest even more unlikely.

Undaunted, I began looking at affordable housing. One house looked like an Army barracks. One had orange shag carpet on the basement floors AND walls. Most were so small we would have had to send Chris away to boarding school.

And then one day, on a whim, I drove past a friend’s house in a neighborhood I’d always liked. And there it was on the corner: For Sale by Owner. I called the number and was over to look at it that afternoon. Don was out of town and not due back until the next day, Friday. I was afraid the house would be gone before then. His plane came in at 7:00 p.m. and I hurried him over to look at The Perfect House. My sister came, too. We went out for ice cream to discuss it, and she said (so I wouldn’t have to), “Don, either buy it tonight or you’ll lose it.” Another quick prayer and we took a purchase agreement over. The sellers were anxious to get out of town to visit a sick relative, and they signed right away.

Saturday, our seller called and said, “I think I underpriced the house.” He had had thirty-six messages on his answering machine that morning; all people interested in the house. Plus a couple of business cards in the front door! I truly felt like we had won the lottery with the price we got on that house.

Fast forward a few years, and we were in the midst of remodeling the main bath AND the kitchen simultaneously, and we were really not seeking a third remodel project at the time. We had a super nice contractor gutting the bathroom down to the studs, and gutting the kitchen down to the walls. I was coming home and coming unglued when he misunderstood certain instructions (he only spoke Spanish) and did things like spackling the back of my new cupboards. Plus, progress was so slow we could barely see any on some days. The kind senor was almost a part of our family after two months with us. Living off a dining room table loaded with what used to be in the kitchen cabinets was wearing on all of us.

So we really didn’t need the surprise when one of the boys left a downspout up after mowing. As luck would have it, we had a huge rain the next day, and a soaked basement carpet. Brian was having friends over after Homecoming, and we had to pull up the carpet. The carpet drier-outer men we hired had ripped up half of the carpet, being under the delusion that the insurance company would pay again, (ha,ha –wrong!), So, half of the furniture was squeezed into the dry half of the basement and the kids squeezed onto the furniture. We were having some good times now, and we ordered the new carpet.

But wait – now the basement carpet would be much nicer than the old upstairs carpet. That didn’t seem to make any sense. So, we re-carpeted the basement and moved all that furniture back. Then, we moved the living room furniture into the family room, re-carpeted the living room, and then moved the bedroom furniture out and re-carpeted the bedrooms. Then, we moved all the furniture back. Pretty much any time Chris had friends over during that time, they were conscripted into moving furniture around.

A month later, we had only two projects left: retiling the dreaded entryway, which, if you can believe it, once again, had the appearance of red bricks. And the cemented-on dated, ugly wallpaper in the family room and basement stairway. We saved these choice projects for last. It took three years to build up our courage to begin them.

I finally found a reasonably-priced tiler who needed work. He pulled up the “bricks,” lifting large chunks of floor. I mean, things in the ‘60’s were glued to last! I didn’t know he’d need to sand, but sand he did. He did make some feeble attempts to cover the doorways with plastic. By the time I figured out we should have stuffed something under the entryway closet doors, it was too late. Upon opening the closet doors, ALL our coats, snow pants, hats, gloves, games and miscellaneous items looked as if they’d been sand-blasted with a 2-inch coating of sand. After 10 loads of laundry, I figured I spent more time on the entryway project than the tiler man. His response: “Yeah; there was a lot more dust than I expected.”

It took Don and Chris two whole days just to remove the old wallpaper in the family room. Liz wanted red in the family room, so we got real brave and went with a dark rose. We were going to sponge paint the coral basement stairway. Don thought it was a little too bright. But Liz said it was just fine and she was right. I liked it. No more neutrals for us; we didn’t have to worry about resale: we were KEEPING this house.

Until 5 years ago….I saw an ad in the paper for some new lake villas being constructed out west…time to repaint all the rooms and downsize! Don keeps saying, “I thought we built a brand new house so I wouldn’t have to do any more remodeling,” as he is sanding, painting or installing light fixtures in the children’s places. The remodeling fun simply does not end!