June 14th, 2011 by Turner Simkins
Major General Urquhart: Hancock. “I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?”
Corporal Hancock: “Couldn’t hurt, sir.”
From the Film, “A Bridge Too Far”
All packed up and no place to go… Christopher has managed to scavenge the makings of a 101st Airborne uniform from a pair of camo-pajamas, a kid’s sized army ranger jacket with “Simkins” across the right breast (a garment which was determined essential among the list of things to stay with our overnight bags in Memphis, everything else having been shipped home last Friday) and his WWII helmet, complete with an Easy Company spade insignia on its side. A broken plastic rifle sits at his side wedged between two pillows. We are settled in with our TV trays in our Target House apartment (having been stripped void of any personal memorabilia, with the exception of a single construction paper collage from Brennan. It is covered mostly in hearts, made for me in his brief burst of constructive energy a week ago). “A Bridge Too Far” is on. I don’t have a cup of tea, but we are both enjoying a banana Popsicle while I try my best to explain to Christopher how one proud and hasty decision from General Montgomery made the war drag on for a lot longer than it should have. A little patience may have saved a lot of lives (but who will ever know).
It is a good night, except for the fact that Brennan is still in the hospital. Having stayed with him the last two nights, Tara is with him now. I would like to think that they are up watching a good movie like us; but knowing how he felt this afternoon, I have a feeling that he is experiencing a benadryl slumber while Tara reads a book.
The line-infection has not gotten any worse. Thing is that his new immune system is responding to it appropriately, therefore, throwing a lot of fairly critical components to his system out of whack. While the infection is isolated to his central-line/port, it is connected to his jugular vein indirectly, triggering his immune system to respond. As a result, he feels like you-know-what. With the notion of being home this week so close, he has done his best to show his mettle; but right now, he is just plain old run down.
Yesterday he truly pulled it together, having slept literally all day until he was awakened at 2:30 to make it to the ST. Jude Classic golf tournament by 3:30 in time for the closing ceremony. He looked splendid. They had a little pair of seer-sucker shorts for him and an “I [heart] Stjude” tee shir,t which he and 5 other kids wore for the 5 minute presentation (Unfortunately, three holes of overtime kept it off the air). But as soon as it was over he wanted to go back to the hospital where he has been ever since (there was a beautifully written article about this tournament in the Memphis Sunday featuring Brenny, see: http://cot.ag/lmmAzN ).
In addition, or maybe even as a result of, his diarrhea and nausea, the vital immune suppressant medications (tacrolimus, specifically) are not being absorbed into his system. He had been taking this medicine by pill. Given the essential nature of these medicines in preventing a major flare up of GVHD while his system deals with the infection issue, it is being provided to him via IV, in the hospital. He is still in his room at the transplant unit for the time being.
We expect the anti-biotic treatments intended to clear his line to last through Sunday. Since he is staying here, it will be administered at St. Jude, sparing me and Tara the stress of wondering if we are doing it right, but mostly keeping him where he truly needs to be until he gets back on his feet. Long term, we may remove the line and replace it with a port (under the skin) for occasional blood draws, etc.; but for now it is what it is.
Best case scenario, it looks like we may be able to plan leaving here first of next week. But it all depends on how he feels and how well the tacrolimus levels are holding, taken PR. On his scale, they should be between 10-13. Today, even at double the dose he was on two weeks ago they were at 5. I doubt he will take his first oral med until first of the week. It could be longer.
Even this morning Tara and I were thinking we were going to get out of here Wednesday. She was at “The Bluff” house managing a final “once through” of everything. Martha was making a last minute visit with Brenny, taking off for CA after another serendipitously timed visit just beforelunch. All plans early in the day were for Brennan to be discharged today and for us to be back on schedule for Wednesday departure.
Around 2pm, Brennan looked up to me and said in the same serious voice that he has done so prophetically three times prior, “Daddy, I think I need to stay in the hospital.” He was serious. The mood was weird. Tara had just arrived and I started to leave the room in order to facilitate the final shipment of our personal stuff.
With Brennan’s remarks the sky outside literally (physically) went black. Within five minutes, it was night outside. Street lights were on everywhere, people were all scampering to the windows. Then the wind started and a big time storm kicked in.
Because of all the commotion, I never made it to the St. Jude post office (I may have been swept off to Kansas or someplace). But walking through the corridors, watching everyone scrambling in awe of mother nature, I recalled that the last time Brennan made such a call. The greatest Mississippi river flood in US history crested almost to the minute. And I will never forget driving him to this hospital “because he said so” in January while the world seemed to be exploding around us, and inside him.
There is something about his little boy that even now the experts at the world’s finest pediatric hospital take seriously. Today, it was decided that it was serious enough to scrap the launch for the time being.
I have no doubt that this is nothing but a glitch. With every one of Brennan’s previous “premonitions” (so to speak) we were all able to avert what could have been “a bad situation.” The Brothers are surprisingly o.k. with it all. Nat gets his cast off tomorrow and will be able to enjoy swimming with his wonderful friends here in Memphis. Yesterday, he was actually getting down-right sentimental about leaving.
Despite our vanity and human nature’s often un-negotiable predisposition to run the show, God’s plans clearly do not align with ours. A year or two ago I think my “dam- the -torpedoes” perspective on things may have pointed us in the direction of home for all the wrong reasons. Now, it is what it is.
The right reason now is to heal this boy. In the meantime, and maybe even over a cup of tea, it may do us some good to look back over it all and pray over how we can do better moving forward. Press On.
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