With the pandemic living situation still current, many of my days blend one into the other, only delineated by a music lesson here or an appointment there. Otherwise, I’m on a repeat cycle of writing, editing, and Zoom teaching. Breaks are no better—maybe even worse—because without the structure of teaching, I rarely remember what day it is. And these days that all still seem so much the same? Well, they’re moving both too quickly and too slowly somehow. All that is to say that the saga of Melina’s health issue has continued, but I’ve been slow to report about it because it seems like just yesterday that we experienced the last episode.
When we brought Melina home from the hospital on Christmas, she was still jaundiced. It was the why they weren’t sure of. “Stay tuned,” said the doctor. “Because of the holidays, I haven’t heard back from the doctor in Cincinnati. But I’ll update you.”
And he did. He kept me updated on labs and his thinking and told us to “be prepared to go to Cincinnati” soon. Cincinnati isn’t a far drive, but I’ve never had to go to the children’s hospital there (thank goodness), and city driving isn’t my favorite. “Let’s just hope we get to drive in the daytime,” I said to Melina.
We lucked out. On Tuesday, December 28, the doctor called. “So can you be ready for her to have the procedure tomorrow?”
Even though I knew she’d be scheduled for a procedure, without a definite date, the whole situation remained nebulous. His voice brought it all together, made it concrete, and epinephrine flooded my system: I was nervous. My youngest would be put under general anesthesia, and that carries risks. I could be ready for the procedure the next day, but was I?
Yes, I was. But having the procedure the next day meant hopping in the car two hours later, going to the ER to check in, and then being admitted. Why? I’m not sure, and no one in the ER could really tell me either. So while we arrived at Cincinnati Children’s at 3 p.m, Melina wasn’t admitted until 10 p.m. And then? We had a really lovely night in a hospital room, complete with beeping monitors, hourly vitals checks, and bathroom breaks every two hours (for Melina). The only one who got any rest that night was Tiny Roar (he made the trip with us again; he seemed to enjoy both the Dayton and Cincinnati hospitals equally).
And then, bright and early the next morning, we made the trek down to the surgery center, Melina in the hospital bed and me walking behind her. I held it together when I signed the consent papers, but I’ll admit to having a little dust in my eye as I smooched my youngest on the head before they wheeled her away to perform her ERCP.
Three hours later, I got the call to come back to the surgery center. The doctor said, “The procedure went well. We put a few stents in to help with the dilated ducts, we took a couple of biopsies, and we found that she has a stricture near the pancreas, hence the dilated ducts. We’re not sure what’s causing it, but it could be any number of things.” The doctor went on to list chronic pancreatitis, auto-immune pancreatitis, and a few other options. “We’ll have to do this again in six to eight weeks, but it’s all good.” Then he showed me some pictures:
Good? Melina didn’t look good. She looked a little like she’d been run over by a truck. But within hours, her jaundice began to dissipate and her appetite began to blossom, and after a couple of ultrasounds and more vitals checks, they released us (well, her) the following morning.
Since then, we’ve been assessing what’s going on with Melina daily. What do her stools look like? Is her urine discolored? Does her skin look jaundiced? How tired is she? How much is she eating? So much to monitor! And she’s had more bloodwork too, which indicated the enzymes that had been rising are on the way down. These days, I’ll take any good news I can get, so I was, of course, delighted.
So what’s next? She has a second ERCP on February 25, and I’m hoping after that we’ll have a definitive diagnosis. In the meantime, a little shoutout to both Dayton Children’s and Cincinnati Children’s. They’ve been nothing but kind, courteous, professional, and overall rock stars. I’ll say it again—I’ve been lucky to not need the services of these fine hospitals all that much. So, so lucky. I’m extremely grateful to have such great care so close to home.