I’d like to believe that I’m not too much of a wimp, a wuss, a pansy. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and spent years stomping through snow to and from school and driving through blizzard conditions. Pump the brakes, don’t slam on them. Yeah, I had it down. But, I’d also had enough. Like a great number of my classmates, I moved away for graduate school. I came to California with its palm trees, citrus fruits and year-round sunglass wear.
Except, I moved to Northern California. Amongst the pine trees. In the foothills of the mountains. And while it is a lot warmer here, occasionally, we will get some snow. Not a lot. Certainly, not as much as we did where I grew up. It’s somewhat of a novelty here. Everyone gets so excited when they hear that snow is in the forecast. And I scoff. I make fun of how the natives react to the snow and how they drive in it. I would never need a Californian to drive me around in this stuff. This snow is for babies!
So, yeah, my karma came back to roost last Friday.
I had been in lockdown with the kid for six straight days. At first, I was still healthy and he had the cough and runny nose. But as the days went by, and he got worse, so did I. I felt the tickle in my throat, and then deep in my chest, and despite the battle for my health, the virus won. In fact, it had kicked my butt by Friday. I had been up in the middle of the night nebulizing the kid whose breathing was raspy and wheezing.
My husband, who has some kind of immunity that should be studied by the Mayo Clinic, was healthy and had to be at a meeting at 7:30 so he was gone by the time I got up at 6:15. I faced my Lifecycle, and for the first time in five months, I did not have the energy to ride. I could not even muster the strength to get in the shower. I put on my sweats, brushed my teeth, attempted weakly to comb my hair and sat down at the computer to read and write, a box of tissue by my side. I’m quite sure I looked like hell.
The morning began with frost and dark clouds. Quickly, the wind picked up pace and the rain came pelting down on the windows. It was the kind of wind that causes the house to creak. Despite the volume of the storm, my son was in good spirits. He drug out multiple toys and was keeping himself amused while I did my thing. Then the snow/hail/ice storm took full force.
The husband finished the meeting and was on the way home. We had repairmen coming to the house and he had some bossing around to do and did not want them frightened away by my dismal appearance. He had a tough time getting up the hill to our house and ended up pushing his pickup truck in his suit pants up the hill through snow and ice to get in the driveway. No sooner had he come in than he decided he needed to run an errand and he left, this time in the SUV my son and I use to get around. The one with 4 wheel drive. The only one that had a child safety seat. And he forgot to take his cell phone.
Nearly to the second the husband had left, my son ran to the toilet. He was screaming and holding his crotch and squeezing with his hand. “T-R-A-I-N!!! MOMMY SPELL TRAIN—-MEDICINE!! MEDICINE!! MOMMY GET ME THE BUTT MEDICINE!!!” was the scream. (We use diaper rash cream when his little butt gets irritated). He was grabbing my hair and my face and screaming the above at me with one hand grasping himself. I told him to sit on the toilet. I examined him. He appeared perfectly normal. I thought it might be a bottom issue that could be resolved with a warm bath. So, that was the next step.
Inside, I had a hundred things going through my mind. What was going on? Is this the autism talking? Is he having a meltdown unrelated to his private parts? Does he hurt there? Is it his little baby butt that is sore from pooping so much while sick? Is he scared of the storm? He tried to pee but couldn’t. He repeated over and over that he wanted to use the restroom. He was wearing a pull-up.
These are the times that autism can become very frustrating. I had to remain calm. I was panicking inside. I had to try and figure out what was going on and whether it required immediate emergency care or could wait. Because of his sensory processing, sometimes things can be magnified a hundred times for him but they are not life-threatening. And I’m no doctor. And he’s cannot verbally communicate clearly. It was like a really intense, life-threatening game of charades.
I was pretty sure, based on the intensity of the screaming and grabbing associated with an attempt to pee and during the bath that he was having a major issue. We had no car. There was ice outside and no way to contact anyone to drive us in the remote area in which we live. It’s not like I could go next door and ask the neighbor to take us. There is no next door.
About an hour had passed once the bath failed to calm him and he had another failed attempt to pee. He was still intermittently but consistently screaming and crying. I called the pediatrician. My son was, of course, wailing and screaming the moment they picked up on the other end of the phone. The only words I heard were “answering service..” Yes. It was lunchtime. God forbid someone answer the phone during the lunch hour. I hung up.
I had to figure my next move. My husband had left the pickup truck he had to push up the hill to get home. I got the keys, bundled up the kid and headed outside with him. He got in the back. I was going to go for it with him strapped in the back minus the car seat but just as I went to strap him in, I saw something I’d never seen in the 20+ years I’d lived in Northern California come down my street. It was a snowplow. Get the karma part now?
There was no way that I was going to try and drive him to the emergency room after seeing that snowplow and knowing my husband had to push this very vehicle up the hill about an hour and a half before that moment. I needed to make a decision of whether to wait for my husband or the pediatrician’s office to reopen. I did not like my options. I took the kid inside. I bit the bullet and called 9-1-1 for an ambulance to take us to the local hospital.
I could not drive in that snowstorm. I did not have the right vehicle or equipment. I could not put my son in a car without the appropriate seat in the icy conditions. It’s tough when anyone is in any emergency. The concerns are probably universal with added, extra twists in handling an ASD child. You have to make decisions that most people don’t think about.
The hardest decision was whether he really needed to go to the hospital in the first place. It turned out to be the right call. (Check in for tomorrow’s post) There was the less important a series of less important decision of how many people needed to know his ASD condition to get him there.
I think I did the right things and made the right choices. I got him there in the safest manner possible. Communication is hard but he was pretty clear without the right words. And, aside from the horrible pain and the mini-meltdowns, he was very mature about the whole situation. One thing I will not do again? I will not make fun of native Californians driving in the snow, ever again.
To be continued…