I’m Dreaming of a Normal Christmas. . .

. . . one where my husband isn’t out of the country, isn’t out of the state on med hold, where we are all together at home and celebrating.

But wait, there’s a catch.

On December 18, 2008, Sean came to my classroom in a panic.  He had suddenly lost his vision and could only see colors and shapes around him.  There was a stabbing pain in his eyes that he described as an ice pick jabbing them.  I made arrangements to leave work and we went to the ER. 

Sean had an MRI and a CT scan.  They gave him several shots of pain medication before the pain finally backed off, though it never fully went away. 

God bless the ER doctors, but let me just say that I wish we had a VA facility nearby.  The doctors we saw wanted to “fix” the problem. We spent a lengthy time going over the history and where this all started.  They did not have access to his medical records, so they were doing the best they could.  After five hours I finally convinced them to send us home so we could consult with Dr. H and the neurologist at the VA after they had a chance to see the test results in the morning. 

The VA doctors could find no evidence from the tests to explain what was going on.  We were referred to an optometrist in town the next day.  Following the exam he said he could find nothing wrong with the health of the eyes despite Sean’s vision now being 20/800.  We were advised to treat the pain as best we could and follow up with the doctors at the VA.

Dr. H made an appointment with an opthamologist in Sioux Falls for the end of the month.  However, Sean’s eyes had other plans.  On December 22nd we returned to the ER just before bedtime.  The stabbing pain was back with a vengeance.  This time they did a CT scan and a spinal tap, both with unremarkable results.  We spent another five hours in the ER before returning home with Sean again having received several shots of pain medication. 

After a very late night I dragged myself to work in the morning and desperately needed a caffeine IV.  Dr. H called and said he wanted to see us in Sioux Falls the following day (Christmas Eve!) and had also arranged the opthamology appoinment with Dr. W and a neurology exam with Dr. F.  So once school was out for the day I packed us an overnight bag and we said goodbye to the kids, reassuring them we would be home in plenty of time to spend with them on Christmas Eve. 

There were several conflicting ideas involved with seeing so many doctors in one day.  Dr. F said it was optic neuritis, and ordered a dose of IV steroids to calm the inflamation of the optic nerve.  Dr. W and Dr. H wanted an MRI to be sure.  Dr. F said he is the neurologist, he doesn’t need an MRI to know what it is.  Dr. H ordered it anyway.  Dr. H also thought Sean should be admitted to the hospital to receive steroid treatment over several days.  Dr. F said it could be done in a couple hours.

I had called my dad to let them know we weren’t sure if we would make it home for Christmas, or if we would be staying.  The kids were calling all day to see when we would be home, what we were making for dinner, were we going to open any presents.  I never told them that we might not make it back in time.  I didn’t want to disappoint them, or myself.

Finally, we had an order for the MRI.  It took almost two hours at the local hospital to finish.  When we returned to the VA hospital, there was almost no one left.  All of our doctors had left to start the holiday.  There was an order at the ER for Sean to have IV steriods before he went home and we were to come back the following week to see the doctors. 

We finally got on the road late that evening and arrived home around 10:30 PM.  The kids had fed themselves.  We let them open the Wii we had purchased for a family gift and everyone went to bed, cranky and tired.  It was hardly the Christmas we had been wishing for. 


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