Friday, September 24, 2010

An Endoscopy to Envy

After her last serving of gluten-full frozen pizza on Wednesday evening, Naomi and I gave some quick hugs and said good-byes. We left a screaming Toby with Daddy, Hannah, and Emma while we headed out on a "Naomi and Mommy adventure." It was still quite warm at 5:00pm so, as our van lost air conditioning this summer, we drove most of the three-hour drive to the children's hospital with the windows down. I tucked the mapquest directions under a bag beside me so they wouldn't blow out the window and Naomi had to keep a tight hold on the spelling homework she was doing. It was too windy for conversation so I set my mind on the drive and the sunset over the harvest-golden fields. Naomi soon drifted to sleep.

Our pastor had arranged for a family he knew to host us for the night. I pulled in just at dusk. We sat on their deck and shared some conversation over roasted marshmallows, then turned in for an early bedtime. I slept restlessly. The coffee I had drunk to help me through the drive left me jittery. I dreamed twice that I had slept in and missed Naomi's appointment, then woke suddenly to see the glowing red numbers showing just after mid-night. Somewhere around three am Naomi fell out of her bed onto the concrete floor and began crying. At 4:30 am I decided I was up for the day and shut off the alarm that had been set for five. I dressed and ate a bagel in the dark, quiet house, then hid any food and water from Naomi. She was hard to awaken. I pulled her clothes on her, zipped up our bags, and we snuck out of the house in the damp, foggy blackness.

After buckling Naomi in I took a minute to look over the directions to the hospital. The van windows were foggy so I rolled them down to make a turn onto a busy four-lane street. Just as I completed the turn, the directions were sucked out the window and out of sight. I was trapped in a rush of cars traveling 45 miles an-hour. There was no way to stop or try to chase the directions. They could be a mile away with the gusty wind anyway, and I didn't have extra time before Naomi's scheduled 6:15 arrival. I quickly reviewed the directions in my mind--the interstate entrance and exit, the four turns after that--and decided that I remembered enough to get us there. I was relieved as each turn played out as I had remembered it, and, except for a few extra minutes trying to find the right building on the medical campus, the trip went smoothly.

Naomi carried a stuffed pink bunny and her face showed a mix of curiosity and apprehension as we entered the huge building. I talked to her cheerfully about the glass art hanging from the ceiling and the other children we passed. After check-in Naomi settled in to reading "Little House in the Big Woods." When the nurse came to take us back to our room Naomi refused to put down the book and walked the length of several hallways with the book covering her face, still reading. The nurses laughed as we passed their station with Naomi whispering to herself about Pa and his fiddle. I had to pry the book from her fingers so they could weigh her.

The nurses were impressed by more than her love of reading. Naomi sat completely still and quiet, not even flinching, as they drew blood for her pre-procedure lab-work. She didn't complain about being hungry or thirsty. They brought her special presents as rewards for each check-in task she completed well. A child-life specialist came to show Naomi pictures of the procedure room and to let Naomi rub the inside of her "sleepy mask" with bubble-gum scented Lip Smackers chapstick so it would smell good. Naomi giggled at the idea of coloring with chapstick. Her pink bunny was outfitted with an ID bracelet like Naomi's, and was given a special surgical cap to cover his long ears. When Bunny and Naomi were all prepped for the endoscopy Naomi seemed completely at ease following the nurse back to the procedure room. I watched her pad down the hall in her pig-tails and green grippy hospital socks, chatting with the nurse, then settled in for the wait.

After about forty minutes the doctor came to show me some pictures from the endoscopy. She is a very experienced pediatric GI doctor and she felt confident that Naomi's intestines showed damage due to celiac disease and that the official biopsy results we receive next week would confirm this. She called for a dietitian to come and discuss the gluten-free diet with me right there. She said we should begin the diet immediately and that it would need to be for life. She also said that while joint pain is uncommon in celiac disease, it is not unheard of, and that Naomi's joint pain would likely go away once gluten was eliminated from the diet and the immune system settled down, in a few weeks or months.

A few minutes later they wheeled Naomi's bed back to the room where I was waiting. She was groggy but awake, and happy to have a cup of apple juice. A new pillow the shape of a dog's head, with a smiling face was lying beside her. After discussing the ins and outs of the gluten free diet, and reviewing Naomi's discharge instructions we were free to go. It was a hot drive home and I was tired, but it was good to know that the biopsy was done and that Naomi was on the road to better health.

She was upbeat as she described her experience to her sisters and was excited to show them everything the nurses had given her at the hospital: a bead kit, a coloring book, a doggy pillow, three books, and a surgical hat for Bunny. Matt handed me a piece of mail that had come that morning. "What's that?" Hannah said. "Oh," I replied, "it looks like it's the information for your biopsy coming up in November. "Yes!" Hannah grinned, "I can't wait!"

Naomi is back at school today, she took a lunch and a snack that she packed herself. She doesn't seem to mind the diet restrictions much because she knows it will help her to feel better, and I think she's looking forward to that as much as I am.


  1. My 12 year old daughter is going to undergo an endoscopy soon. I am wondering if kids are in a great deal of discomfort after this procedure. If she might vomit from the anesthesia a lot on the way home. Did you drive straight home? Or did you stay somewhere first, before coming home? If you did drive straight home, how did your daughter handle the drive? Was it hard on her? I'm thinking about getting a hotel room. My husband will be at work, and I don't have anyone who can come along to help. I'm in a better situation than you were, because of course my daughter is older- but still, I know how uncomfortable one can feel on the way home from the hospital. Please share your experience of your daughter's recovery and the trip home.

  2. Sure, I'd be happy to share. Naomi and my other daughter Hannah (see "Is this Heaven, Nope it's the Hospital" in October) actually had great experiences with their endoscopies and recoveries. I took them to the hospital and home by myself. Neither of them felt nauseous from the anesthesia, but I think they did put some anti-nausea medication in the IV as a precaution. You could ask your doctor if he/she is willing to do this for you. Both girls remained in the hospital recovery area for about an hour after waking up (they were sleepy, but not upset for the first 15 minutes or so)and then felt completely normal, except that Hannah had a slight sore throat. I put them in the car and drove a three hour drive home straight after we left the hospital. They ate snacks, drank juice, read books, and felt great.

    I know some kids can feel nauseous after the anesthsia and the nurse did give me some vomit-trays just in case, but we were fortunate. I hope your daughter has a good experience. Maybe if you share our stories with her she will feel more at ease with the procedure. If she is still feeling sick or nauseaous they may be willing to keep her in the recovery area longer, or you could check into a hotel room, but I think most kids feel just fine.

    I hope all goes well for you guys. I'd love if you'd leave a comment again to let me know how everything goes.