Today, the surgeon said Janey's bowel sounds were NORMAL---a wonderful thing to hear. It was the first time in two weeks that has been the case. It was also the first time we heard the work "discharge" in terms of her going home, not with a date attached, but she said something like "Now we can think about discharge someday!" We are feeling cautiously optimistic, although the surgeon made sure we understood it's still a long, long road to recovery, and Janey would not be herself for a long, long time. She said Janey has had one of the most serious conditions that a child patient can have in a hospital, in terms of length of stay and time to recover. But we are finally talking recovery, not just crisis after crisis.
Maybe with the getting somewhat better, Janey is acting more unhappy. When she was so sick she could barely move, she didn't seem as sad as she does now. I can think of only two times she has smiled since she's been in the hospital. She spends a lot of time just saying "Mama! Daddy!" and making a sad whining sound. It's hard to hear. The big challenge is knowing how much of this is pain. I feel like she's shown us that she has a huge tolerance for pain, and doesn't show it in normal ways. So it's up to us to figure that out. She is able to have morphine when the pain gets bad, but morphine slows everything down and also people develop a tolerance to it after a while, so you want to use it sparingly. We have seen the tolerance already, in that a dose used to get her to sleep almost instantly, and now it seems to help much less.
We have been trying to get Janey up and walking as much as we can, but walking tires her out to an amazing extent. We walk to the playroom, which is just a short walk about 10 rooms down, and once there, she is very, very tired, and slouches down in a chair alarmingly. Walking back, she is even more tired and tries to go into other rooms and sleep in other patient's rooms. It is hard to believe this is the same little girl who had endless energy and never, ever stopped jumping while watching TV.
Eating is the other challenge. Janey is finally on a non-restricted diet. She can eat anything she wants. She is still getting the IV nutrition around the clock, but of course we want to get off that eventually. We got her to eat more lunch today than we had in a while----about 10 kernels of corn, 10 bites of tomato chucks from salsa, a couple thin slivers of salami, a bite of cookie, a few bites of bread---actually a huge meal for her! Eating is an area where I think a misunderstanding of autism is common. Someone commented it's hard to get kids eating again that are picky eaters to start with, assuming that Janey would be one. But she isn't. She likes to eat a very lot, and eats a huge variety of foods. As we have found to be the case here, everyone listened to what we said. They put Janey on adult meals, so we can order more exotic foods than the child's menu would allow.
My biggest fears lately are about how this experience is going to change Janey, to maybe take away the things that were her sources of joy. Seeing her have trouble even walking, or seeing her not enjoy food--it's sad. Those were her "normal" joys. I have to admit I've had some moments of thinking this all just isn't fair. Within a year, Janey has first been hospitalized for autism-related issues for a long time, and now, for physical health reasons. Wouldn't one or another be enough? I try hard not to get discouraged, to feel put-upon, to cry much, at least until I have a day alone, but at times, I am having a hard time with it all.
The big bright spot, one I should have probably opened with, is that last night I was able to get away for a few hours to see Janey's brother Freddy graduate from Boston Latin School, class of 2015. It was a wonderful ceremony, and I am so proud of my newest high school graduate. Tony had to stay here, which caused me some tears, but my parents, Freddy's brother William, his aunt and uncle and some dear family friends who have known Freddy from the start were there to cheer for him. It is not how I ever pictured his graduation night being, but life is often not what we pictured. Watching him get his diploma was one of those moments when life was more than I ever expected. And Janey is getting better. She will get better.