FROM THE SERIES: AUTISM PARENTING
This is the true story of a day in the life of our friend, Kathleen.
To the outside world, Kathleen’s life looks perfect. She has a stunning home on the water. She has all the material things one could need. She has a beautiful family. However, once you step into Kathleen’s world, you realize appearances are deceiving. There is nothing relaxing about her environment. Upon walking through her door, you immediately feel a frenetic energy. Your adrenaline starts rising.
To give you a glimpse of what we’re talking about, we wanted to tell you about a typical day in her life.
Kathleen has three sons. She asked her oldest son and his friends to watch Charlie (her son with autism) so that she could get some things done. She was in her kitchen (downstairs) making supplements and trying to do the dishes. Next thing she knew, Charlie showed up in the kitchen. She yelled for her oldest son to ask why he was not watching Charlie. She got no reply.
Not knowing how long Charlie had been left alone, she worried perhaps he got into something he shouldn’t. Charlie is 6 years old, however, he functions at the level of an 18 month old. He still puts EVERYTHING in his mouth. Kathleen has to lock up any toys with small pieces and tape her remote controls, etc. so that Charlie can’t put any small pieces in his mouth and choke. She always has to be “on.” She lives 24/7 in a state of high alert.
When she got to the playroom, Kathleen saw duct tape all over the floor. Charlie had peeled it off the remote control. She then noticed a lone battery sitting on the ground. Heart heart sank and she panicked. She screamed for the other children to help her look for the missing battery. She then looked over at Charlie, and by this time he was curled up, in a fetal position on the floor, moaning in pain. She knew then that she could stop looking for the other battery. Charlie had swallowed it.
She thought about calling 911, but was a afraid. Just the day before, she had to call 911 because Charlie stopped breathing from a major seizure. He has seizures approximately 3 times a week. Kathleen was worried Child Protective Services would take Charlie away from her because of too many 911 calls. So she called her pediatrician instead. He told her she would have to get Charlie to the ER right away.
But she couldn’t just load Charlie in the car and go because she had a house full of neighborhood kids. She had to track down the parents of each child and make sure they would be picked up. Luckily, a father in the neighborhood offered to stay with her 4-year-old and all the other boys until the other parents arrived.
At long last, she was able to start her trip to the ER. About five minutes into her journey, she looked at Charlie in her rear view mirror. He was slumped over in his car seat. He looked gray and she didn’t think he was breathing. She panicked. She looked to her left and right and noticed an Urgent Care. She peeled into the parking lot, left her car running, went in the Urgent Care and screamed, “My son has autism. He swallowed a battery and has stopped breathing. You have to help me!”
They said, “We don’t handle emergencies like that.” She screamed at them, “You must know CPR. Help me or my son will die.” They reluctantly came out to the car and did CPR. Charlie started breathing again and his color perked right up. They sent her on her way to the ER.
Strangely enough, Charlie seemed like he was no longer in distress and was back to normal. He was doing his typical hand movements and verbal stimming in the back seat. She was grateful for his noises because she knew this meant he was still breathing.
When she finally got to the ER, she carried Charlie in, along with about 4 different bags. She had the bags pre-packed, standing by, ready to go at a moment’s notice since they have so many emergencies in their household. She has one bag with an epi-pen and medications. Another with Charlie’s supplements, written dosage amounts, and snacks. A third bag with a change of clothes, since Charlie has constant diarrhea. And a fourth bag with toys and books to keep Charlie occupied.
She announced to the receptionist who she was and expected to be ushered back to the ER immediately because her pediatrician had called ahead and had forwarded Charlie’s records/medical history. Unbelievably, she was instead told she needed to sign in. She said to the lady, “You’re kidding me, right?” She pointed out that she didn’t have a free hand and asked the lady to sign her name for her. The lady refused. So she sat herself right down on the lady’s desk, flung her bags everywhere, and scribbled her name. Then, the doctor came out from the back. He was clearly expecting her and was much kinder.
They did an X-ray to see where the battery was and remarkably, the battery had already traveled to bottom of Charlie’s intestines. In this particular case, his unusually speedy digestion was a positive because it meant that the battery did not have time to erode from his stomach acid. However, it showed Kathleen how messed up his system is because one should not be able to process food (or anything else) in 45 minutes. This is one of the reasons Charlie is so sickly. He doesn’t absorb any nutrients from his food, it just passes right through his body and gets eliminated.
The ER doctor told Kathleen that if Charlie didn’t pass the battery in 2 days, he’d need surgery. Luckily, he passed it the next morning.
You might be thinking this is a freak occurrence in Kathleen’s life. But it’s not. She faces life or death struggles, just like this one, on a daily basis. Kathleen is another face of autism parenting. She is an amazing mom and we are proud of her strength and fortitude.
For more posts from our Autism Parenting Series, http://ventography.wordpress.com/category/autism-parenting-2/