A Case of the Flu?
This week’s post departs from the current Wisdom from Wibaux series; however, I trust that the “Wisdom from Woodlawn Wesley” will reveal how, at some level, everything is connected. On January 19, our son Andrew (whom we call Drew) called me at 7:30 a.m. Meredith, my wife, had already gone to work at Northeast Magnet High School where she teaches art. Drew told me he was feeling very nauseated and was vomiting. I indicated I would call Walgreen’s and see if they could get him in. We typically go to the Walgreen’s health care clinic for what we perceive is a minor health problem. I scheduled the appointment for 2:00 p.m. because I thought the vomiting would cease by then which would allow me to take Drew to the clinic.
At 9:30, Drew called and said he was sicker now than earlier. He indicated the vomiting was more frequent and that he could not move without creating for extreme nausea and vomiting. Having heard reports of others experiencing nausea, vomiting, dizziness and so on, I wrongly assumed he was experiencing a bad case of the flu.
When I arrived at Drew’s home (he lives with two other guys at 15th and Woodlawn), the front door was locked. I rang the doorbell, called Drew’s cell phone and there was not any response. I thought I needed the fire department to come and break the door down. Fortunately, in a matter of minutes, Drew came to the door in the most unusual posture, crawling to open the door the while holding the bucket because of his incessant vomiting.
A Trip to the Emergency Room
I knew we could not get to the ER without assistance. I called 911. The fire and EMS arrived. Every time Drew moved his head the vomiting would begin. By 11:30 Drew was in the ER. The physician came into the room immediately and starting his examination. He gave Drew the highest doses of anti-nausea medication. Nothing was working. He ordered an MRI. Upon telling me what he had ordered, he left the room quickly. I said to the nurse, “Don’t you think it is premature to run an MRI?” I was falsely assuming again, that the doctor was trying to “pad” the bill. The nurse very firmly yet professionally said, “I trust him. If he orders a test, there is a reason.”
I had texted Meredith after calling 911 but knew she wouldn’t receive the text until later because the concrete walls of Northeast Magnet drastically compromise cell coverage. So, my mistake was not calling the school, but I really thought Drew would be dismissed after a bag of IV fluids.
A Shocking Diagnosis
Meredith arrived about 3pm and shortly thereafter the doctor came back into the room and announced to us that Drew had a stroke and that it likely happened early that morning. We were beyond the window of time to give Drew a particular medication for treating strokes. Drew needed another test, called an MRA, which focuses on the arteries. The vomiting was still so severe he could not proceed with the test because he could not lie still without vomiting. Every time Drew moved his head, ever so slightly, the vomiting would begin. Whomever invited the new-fangled vomit bag is a wise person. I wish we could buy some for home. . .
Later on, Drew asked me if he was dying. There was something about his question which immediately brought a keen awareness of the fragility of all of our lives. I assured him he wasn’t dying but he said he felt so sick he really believed he was dying. Some of you know what that foreboding feeling is like.
The Wisdom from Woodlawn Wesley
Wesley Woodlawn ER was amazing. The nurses were terrific. One of them has her son enrolled in our preschool. And, the physician. Thanks be to God for an attentive physician who is not willing to leave any stone unturned, as the saying goes. And then, another of God’s surprising gifts, came in the form of Dr. Ed Lucas, a radiologist, who is a member of Chapel Hill and a member of the radiology team at Via Christi St. Francis. He came to Wesley Woodlawn on his own personal time, read the MRI, and told Meredith and I all Drew was experiencing and where. He went back into the MRI room and provided guidance to the person running the test, who looked younger than Drew!
The Wisdom from Woodlawn Wesley, if you will, is that God shows up in amazing ways just to remind us we are not alone. When the Psalmist says “God is near,” (Psalm 145) I not only believe it, I’ve experienced it.
It was incredibly moving to Meredith and I when, within a few hours, Drew’s friends, from a variety of places, started pouring into the ER. The staff was incredibly patient with us. Drew will never forget the people who showed up and waited in the waiting room until knowing what was going on. I believe in our young people for a variety of reasons, one of which is their capacity for compassion and genuine care. I will forever be moved by their moving toward rather than away from. Thank you Millennials for reminding me what Christian compassion really looks like!
At 11:30 that evening, we were transferred to Wesley, main campus, to the stroke unit, which is the 10th floor of Building 4…
More to come next week.
–Rev. Jeff Gannon