Today we received one of the worst calls a parent can ever receive. Meredith & Drake have been visiting the O’Tool homestead in Carroll and we were scheduled to drive up there today to watch the Carroll playoff game and pick up our two munchkins. Since it was our last day without them, and since we were up late participating in an Alumni game at FBBC, we decided to sleep in this morning.
At 9:00 am the phone rang, and we were not aware that we were the only ones home (we are staying with Bob & Susie Niehoff). By time we realized that we should answer the phone it was too late. Now Amber & I both have cell phones. Unfortunately neither of them receive reception at Bob & Susie’s house, so anyone calling them was unable to get through.
About 15 minutes after the first phone call we received a 2nd, and this time we were able to grab it before the caller disconnected. It was Brian Niehoff, calling us to say “Call your mom right now, Drake might be in the hospital.” This is never a good thing to hear, and considering what it takes for the O’Tool family to go to the hospital we were a bit on edge. If you don’t know my family, just understand that when I was about 7 and got hit in the face twice with the sharp end of a shovel, my mom just grabbed some tape and patched me up herself.
With bated breath we immediately called my mom. She quickly explained the events of the morning that brought Drake to the hospital. He had been eating a bit for breakfast and had taken a nice bite of apple. He needed to be put in the highchair for his next course and decided that isn’t where he wanted to be. Drake’s favorite method of communication is currently a loud screech, so he prepared himself for that. Unfortunately that required a deep breath, and with that bite of apple still in his mouth it was an ill advised move, and he ended up sucking the chunk down into his throat where it lodged just below his vocal chords.
Fortunately, my mom and brothers immediately knew he was chocking, so they pulled him out and patted him on the back. This didn’t work so they tried the Heimlich. Since he didn’t really have air in his lungs to begin with this maneuver didn’t work either. Timothy called 911 and let them know to prepare the ER in Carroll, and then they jumped in the car and drove him to St Anthony’s. Praise the Lord that there were no trains or any other problems on the way.
By time they arrived Drake was starting to turn a little blue around the edges of his mouth, although his airway was never completely blocked. The doctors later described it as “like a potato chip” that with such jagged edges allowed just enough air past to prevent severe problems.
At St Anthony’s they intubated him, and in so doing saw the apple chunk wedged down in there. They didn’t have the necessary equipment to ensure everything was removed properly, so they contacted Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. They directed us to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, and determined that Drake would be Life-Flighted from Carroll to the UofI.
We immediately left for Iowa City, with Brian & Lois coming to drive for us and offer support. On the way we made and received several dozen phone calls, a humbling experience to see how quickly word spread and how many family members and friend were praying for us. My brother Tony offered to come along, or to go get Meredith and bring her down, and many other people offered their support as well.
When we arrived at the University hospital we were directed to the ER. The receptionist there took a bit to track down where he was, and then directed us to the 5th floor. Once there we were told that he was actually in the O.R. and we were directed to another floor to wait. No parent wants to hear that their child is in an operating room, especially when we had been under the impression no surgery would be necessary. Finally, a 35 year volunteer of the hospital got us connected by phone to the doctors in the O.R. and we found out everything was fine.
Later the operating doctor told us they had removed the one large piece and didn’t find anything else in there. To this point we still hadn’t seen our son – going on 5 days actually – the longest time we had ever been away from him. We were directed to the Pediatric ICU and Drake arrived up there about 5 minutes after we did. Anyone who has experienced something similar knows the helpless feeling when you see your child hooked up to so many tubes, machines, and monitors. He was immediately swarmed by 8 nurses and 3 doctors making sure everything was hooked up and running correctly.
After spending the last year and a half in Africa and having some intimate knowledge of the public and private medical systems, it was amazing to us to see the efficiency of it all. Seeing equipment with all the lightbulbs working, watching medical personnel have enough latex gloves for everyone, and the immediacy of treatment was both amazing and comforting. We have seen both sides. We have seen a young man with broken vertebrae sit in an ER for over 7 hours before a doctor, we have seen a doctor use his cell phone to check a child’s eye dialation, and we have seen a doctor wear rubber bands on his own wrist so that he would have something to use when drawing blood. Again, we praise God that we can enjoy such capable medical care.
They kept Drake intubated until about 6:00 pm, and when they removed it they also cut any sedation. He revived awfully quickly, even the nurses and doctors were pretty shocked. One described him as a crazy ball of muscle. Obviously he gets that from my side of the family. It took three of us to hold him down and keep him from pulling everything out. Amber & I restrained him for the next two hours until he finally fell asleep. All he wanted to do was nurse but they wanted to wait for a bit. At 9:00 they allowed him to drink some juice, and he quickly downed 4 bottles of it before falling back asleep. That’s what is allowing me time to write.
Currently he has an oxygen tube running into his nostrils, and still has the monitors and I.V., but he is pretty calm and getting his voice back. When he was first coming out of sedation he kept saying “hi, hi” to the nurses.
We are so thankful for the prayer support and encouragement we have received. Already we had my brother and siser-in-law visit, along with Amber’s cousin Anna. So many people have shown so much love for Drake and our family and we are grateful. Most of all we are humbled by the grace shown by our Father in heaven, and His constant care and provision for us.
We hope to be discharged tomorrow, and we’ll post updates as possible.