A Mother's Day to Treasure (Now that My Son is Home from the Hospital)


Where do I begin? I thought my next blog post was going to be about Costa Rica. (We went from April 14 - April 21.)  The trip, which included activities like hiking, snorkeling, rafting, bike riding, and ziplining, was fun but exhausting, and each of us (including my fifteen-year-old son) arrived home feeling like we had just run a marathon. Our flight arrived in Hartford early Monday morning, so I told Lewie he could use the day to sleep in instead of going to school. (I still had to go to work.)

We all arrived home a little banged up. I had a few minor bruises from rafting, Lew's knees were swollen (he had to use a wheelchair at the airport), and Lewie had an injury from bike riding (he took a header) and felt sore from ziplining. On Monday, Lewie's arms, back, and shoulders continued to hurt, and he said he felt some type of 'pop' in his chest.

As the week progressed, Lewie's soreness was getting worse instead of better. By Wednesday night, he said his chest hurt, and it was hard to breathe. Being the great parents we are, we told Lewie to stop exaggerating. "Lewie, you probably pulled a muscle," I told him repeatedly. "Doctors can't do anything for pulled muscles." My husband, too, kidded him--"Toughen up, fluffy!" Surely, my husband had a right to tease him as he was hobbling around on crutches with not one but two bum knees.

My mom was the voice of reason. "I think he should get checked out." It was decided that Lewie would go to school on Thursday, but instead of going to tennis practice in the afternoon, my mom would drive him to the walk-in. There, they could take a chest x-ray if needed. 

On Thursday afternoon, time stopped. It's as if our normal life was paused and a dramatic movie took over. It started with my mom's phone call at work. "Annette, it's Mom. I'm here at the walk-in clinic with Lewie, and the doctor wants to talk to you."

Before I could respond, a sweet, angelic voice took over the phone. "Hello, are you Lewie's mom? We just finished taking an x-ray of Lewie's chest, and he has a collapsed lung. There's no need to panic as I have a smiling kid looking at me who otherwise appears normal, but we need to rush him to the emergency now. Do I have your verbal permission to send him to Yale Children's Hospital?"

"Of course," I said in shock. There was some confusion about whether the ambulance would actually take him to Yale because the drivers were typically instructed to take him to the nearest hospital; unfortunately, the closest hospital didn't have the capacity to deal with a collapsed lung. I called Daddy Lew in the meantime and asked him to rush over to the clinic.

The next phone call came in while I sprinted to my car to leave work. "The ambulance is taking him," my husband blurted, "I'm driving there now. I'll keep you posted."

The next 48 hours were a blur. Upon his arrival at Yale, Lewie's medical team had to puncture a hole between his ribs to insert a chest tube. (My husband, who was allowed to stay in the room during the procedure, nearly fainted as blood was spurting everywhere.) When one incision didn't work, they made a new one. Lewie received a dose of Ketamine to be used as a short-acting anesthetic, but it gave him bad hallucinations, and he remembered waking up out of the hallucination only to see his blood everywhere. "Two bodies, one brain, two bodies, one brain," Lewie said over and over again while waking from one of his hallucinations.

When the procedure was over, there was a sigh of relief. His lung had filled itself back up with air--hooray! The doctors kept taking x-rays and monitoring him only to explain that Lewie wasn't in the clear yet. "We need to perform another surgery. His lung is losing air, and if we send him home right now, he'll be back again in the same situation."

I can't say exactly what they did. It sounded like they needed to scrape the lung to create scar tissue so it would attach itself to his chest cavity. It wasn't until after the procedure that the doctors and nurses said this surgery was a particularly painful one. My mom and I were there when he woke up from his anesthesia. When he first woke up, he seemed almost like normal Lewie, but within twenty minutes, he became violently ill. The poor kid was miserable--an intravenous in one arm, a chest tube in his side, and a sensitive stomach that was rejecting the anesthesia. I wanted to sob.

On April 29, Lewie was released from the hospital. We would need to bring him back for follow-up visits, but his surgeries were considered a success. He received a huge outpour of love and support from his friends, family, and high school. (In fact, some friends visited him in the hospital!) Now, we are in rest and recovery mode. His side, especially the area of his chest tube incision, is sore, and it hurts him to ride in cars, walk, and do simple tasks. It appears he won't be able to play tennis for the rest of this season, and only now have we been talking about him getting tutoring and seeing if he can attend the last few weeks of school. One mistake I will never make again is to downplay Lewie's physical feelings. If he says something hurts, I believe him, and if he says he's not ready for school yet, then he's not ready.

Lewie leaving Yale with one of his favorite nurses.

As for the cause, it appears that Lewie had an air blister (a bleb) on his lung that ruptured and caused a spontaneous lung collapse. (He thinks the rupture happened on Monday when he felt a "pop" in his chest.) There is no known reason for this happening, and it appears that our trip to Costa Rica wouldn't have caused it in any way, but I am so glad this didn't happen while we were there. Would they have had the technology to take care of him? Would we be charged out-of-pocket for the whole thing? Would he have been able to fly home? The doctors tell us we should avoid flying for the next year, so how would Lewie have been able to come home? 

We are supposed to eat at a restaurant this Mother's Day, but we'll see if Lewie feels up for it. Right now, I just thank my lucky stars that I get to celebrate Mother's Day with my precious "Little Lewie" (and my mom and Daddy Lew, too). As parents to teenagers, we think our kids are invincible. I won't take this fragile thing called "life" for granted for any of us again.


  1. What an amazing outcome to a terrifying ordeal! Thinking of you all and wishing Lewie strength as he continues to recover.

  2. wow, that's quite a story! I'm glad Lewie is ok and hope he recovers well.

    1. Thank you, Dara. We're taking it day by day. We're just grateful.


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